Gardening a railway bank

Reclaiming an old railway bank

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Site: A mews garden in the heart of old Harborne, formerly the old ‘Chad Valley Railway’, latterly a coal yard and garage.

Brief: When the mews was built the railway bank was hidden by a log wall, covering trees, bricks and a coal bunker. The clients wanted access to the banked area for planting and sitting out.

The plan was to give the clients access to the top garden and make space to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables. I mapped the garden and created the flowing design in a mixture of new matching landscape logs and timber to provide steps and bark paths around and up to a bench set looking down over the rest of the garden and towards the house.

I managed both the construction and the planting.

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Reconnecting a glasshouse

Re-imagining a garden to regain symmetry

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Site: A large detached house in Henley, with a large lawn and border.

Brief: The clients had a lovely curved garden but felt that the recent construction of a glasshouse detracted from the simplicity of the original design, particularly as the differing levels within the garden no longer worked.

To bring the glasshouse and garden back into symmetry I redesigned the garden and it was carried out by a local contractor.

The new circular terrace, with its strong design overcame the problems of the levels and incorporated the glasshouse within its own kitchen garden style, walls and mature box hedging.

The rest of the garden was improved with new lawn upgraded planting and new pergola. Much time was spent fine-tuning the design and this, together with attention to detail in the finishing, resulted in a delightful garden.

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Safe access

Enabling full and safe access to the garden

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Site: A large, mature garden surrounding a 1930s detached house in Dorridge.

Brief: The client’s needs were changing due to reduced mobility and she was no longer able to access or maintain parts of the garden as she wished. My brief was to make the garden safe and accessible.

For the main structure of the garden I created a brick path which wraps around the garden to allow access throughout. At the same time I re-modelled the terrace, removing steps and adding ramps and non-slip materials. This provided a good framework for access, as well as numerous planting pockets.

My client is now delighted that she can use her garden to its full extent again. With the framework provided she has been able to access the garden and replant it to her own specification, using her favourite plants.

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Coastal climate

Dealing with coastal conditions

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Site: A large, open and windswept garden on the coast of North Wales. Although the garden is near the coast, the strongest winds are down from Snowdonia, making the garden colder than would normally be expected.

Brief: I have worked with the clients on numerous occasions over 16 years, adapting and improving the garden according to their developing needs. Most recently the clients wanted to install a greenhouse, to meet their interest in growing begonias and photographing butterflies.

With the coastal location, a wooden greenhouse would not last. I helped the clients select an appropriate aluminium model and resolve issues with local planners because the original location was too close to an internal boundary. 3D drawings helped to visualise the necessary changes, and plan how the greenhouse would interact with the remaining garden.

One of my services was to find a reputable contracts supervisor for the client, to act as project manager. This was vital for the success of the scheme as the client was out during the day.

Now the greenhouse is in place I have redesigned borders to tie in the new building, reusing some of the existing plants and bringing in new ones to complement them.

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Maintaining eye levels

A garden that works from wheel-chair level

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Site: A small garden, with an extreme slope that towered over the house.

Brief: My client uses a mobility scooter, and so the entire scheme needed to be planned so that it could be appreciated from that eye-level.  The two priorities were visual impact and easy maintenance for the gardeners.

The challenging slope of the garden meant that 3D visualisation of the plans was essential both to resolve accessibility issues and to show how the garden would look from different eye levels. This would not be possible from a flat plan.

A flat terrace outside the door made the immediate garden area fully accessible on the same level. I also worked hard to make the remaining slope safe for the gardeners to access and maintain the planting. Timber logs and sleepers were used to create smaller pockets for plants and provide interest. They also provided spaces where new topsoil could be brought to the site to reduce problems caused by the extremely heavy clay soil.

The garden was planted by the client in stages, based on my planting scheme.

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Maximising the space

Creating a plant-filled garden in a very small space

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Site: A tiny, new garden with very poor soil.

Brief: The clients wanted to make the garden look larger, with substantial planting that was easy to maintain.

I chose a simple, angular theme, to maximise the sense of space, as the eye is drawn to different focal points in the garden. Timber sleepers were used to create raised beds, with new top soil giving better growing conditions.

Plants were chosen for their colour and shape and included specimen plants and the use of wires along the fence to train plants.

A number of details contributed to the success of this design, including gravel edges between sleepers and paving and a drainage channel along the centre of the garden.

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Re-claiming the borders

Helping the clients maintain and enjoy their garden

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Site: A mature garden in Moseley, Birmingham, with large trees, and a lawn that slopes gently away from the house.

Brief: Make the garden really colourful; Improve the soil; make it easier to maintain.

The framework and shape for the garden was by a previous designer, who didn’t provide a full planting scheme. However, the difficult and stony soil meant the clients couldn’t maintain and enjoy the garden as they wished.

I worked with them to reshape the borders, removing stones, clay and roots and replacing it with new topsoil. A new planting scheme brought in lots of colour, with a focus on perennials to provide colour and structure year after year. This brought back enjoyment in the garden and removed the maintenance problems.

The garden is poorly drained, which is always a problem for climbing plants. To tackle this I designed planters to be created around existing pergola posts, with new well-drained topsoil. These were painted black to add visual interest.

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