Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Stylish Birds.

Nope, nothing to do with well dressed women, but nice looking accessories for our feathered friends. Was looking for a feeder and bird house for a garden I'm working on - a couple who are very design savvy and didn't want the average wooden ones that most of us have in our gardens. Found these and they are really reasonably priced. The first is a wall birdball, its  hole is large enough to allow easy access for Blue tits, Coal tits, March tits and long tailed tits but small enough to keep out predators:
Next is a peanut feeder, really like this blue glazed one. According to the blurb its  specifically designed to allow small birds such as tits, sparrows, nuthatchers, finches and woodpeckers to feed yet deter larger birds and squirrels.

This branch bird feeder stand is beautiful too - its made from English Ash and made in Cornwall.

Can find them on: http://www.modetwentyone.co.uk/garden-c-27.html and http://greenandblue.co.uk/branch_stand.html

Plants glorious plants.

Been thinking quite a lot about plants and planting plans over the last few days - we had an SGD (Society of Garden Designers) meeting in Edinburgh tonight where we all discussed how we take care of the planting part of the design process - everything from how we gather the brief, draw up the plan, source the plants, planting itself. There were about 14 of us there, all with different levels of experience and it was fascinating to hear how everyone goes about it. Here's what we discovered:
1) most of us gather a basic planting brief when we first meet our clients where we'd talk to them about colour, maintenance levels, style. It helps with the initial garden design, but many of us went back to the clients once the final garden design had been agreed to firm up the exact plants for the garden. I tend to have a minimum of 2 meetings with them - first to take an electronic moodboard with me (where would I be without my trusty laptop??), where we can get a flavour of the plants they'd like. I find photos help a huge amount. Next we'd meet to talk over the final list before I go and order them. At this stage I prepare an Excel spreadsheet with all the plants listed - give this to the nursery for them to price plants for me and also give a copy to client so they can see how their money is being spent. So here's the kind of thing I did for a client who wanted a purple, blue and white planting scheme, one side of the garden was in shade, the other side sunny. They wanted colourful foliage and a good mix of shrubs and herbaceous planting:
2) Most of us seem to try to do a full planting plan for each garden (as opposed to visiting the nursery and just trying to pick out plants by eye).  I use a combination of Sketchup and Photoshop to create the planting plan - not only does it provide a guide for me to lay out and plant up the garden, but it makes it easy to change the final plan should I tweek and move plants around a little when I am actually on site. In Sketchup I have a master file that contains plant circles of all the sizes I will need, and can drag them into the Sketchup model of the garden design outline I'm working on (more on that process in another later blog methinks). So I can ultimately create this:

3) Sourcing the plants - many of us had learnt the hard way about creating a plan with all the plants in that we fancy using and then realising we'd have to go to 3, 4 or maybe even more nurseries to get hold of them which really isn't a good use of our time as designers we reckoned. In the central belt of Scotland we've got a decent choice of places to choose from, with some very helpful nursery owners. One discussion was around the topic of whether there is ever truly a 'One Stop Shop' nursery where you can get all your trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants from. A few folks used McLarens on the far side of Glasgow, and they are happy to deliver to Edinburgh and beyond. Macplants is a great herbaceous nursery in East Lothian (http://www.macplants.co.uk/home.asp) and Binny Plants (http://www.binnyplants.co.uk/index.asp) in West Lothian has a very knowledgeable owner and a great online catalogue.
4) There was a mix of experiences when it came to planting up the garden. Around two thirds of us planted the gardens ourselves and if a contractor was going to be planting it, we would usually lay out the plants for them. Most of us agreed that we looked forward to this part of the process and if we were able to plant up with either the client or another helper that it made it even more enjoyable.
5) Whilst discussing how we charged for planting there seemed to be agreement that most of us gave the client a fee for doing the planting design at the start of the planting process and an estimate on the cost of planting up. We agreed it often took longer to plant than we might initially envisage so would charge the client hourly for this part of the job, whilst giving them a maximum amount of hours we might take.
The planting for the design above was done early last summer, so need to go back and photograph it this summer. But for another project I was working on last spring looked like this after only a month or two:

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Somewhere over a rainbow...

Ian sent me a link today to a web based application from Adobe called Kuler - it's for generating colour schemes (from either a single base starting colour or even an uploaded photograph). People also post colour themes that they've come up with on their which you can save on your list of favourites. I was a bit confused at first about what it was for, but have been playing with it for a couple of hours (yes I do know it's sad on a Friday night) to try to figure it out. As an avid Photoshop user I was interested to see that it allows you to add the saved themes as swatches in there and also in Illustrator and Flash, so loads of uses of it from there. Not exactly sure what I can use it for yet, but it sure was fun looking at everyone else's samples and playing with some of my own. I searched for Scandinavian themed ones and got the first of these.
I then uploaded a couple of photos with plants and flowers in, the software is clever enough to choose the dominant colours in the image and you can choose or alter these as you see fit. The planting combo I posted on the 8th of February with Japanese Bloodgrass and other dark coloured plants turned out like this:
And the Bunny Tail grasses and Catanache like this:

Couple of other nice ones:
Now all I have to do is figure out what to do with all the piles of combinations I've created. If you too want to waste hours and hours of your time then the Kuler website can be found at:

Thursday, 18 February 2010

New build starts today.

Well, here we are, second build of the year. First one went swimmingly well, and finished a few days early so we were able to get started today rather than next week. It was a client who I did a design for late last summer. After an extension to their house the builder added a stone terrace & steps which ran along the length of the house. The rest of the garden was lawn. Although the terrace was in a good position, it was very dominant. So the brief was to retain as much of this terrace to allow seating for 6 people and a place to dry clothes, but to add a place to enjoy the evening sun (in the far corner), raised planters, some moving water, keep some lawn and link the various elements together too.
So I cut into the patio at several points - a combination of planting in the ground at the lower (grass) level and raised rendered block planters make the shape a bit more interesting and helps integrate it with the rest of the garden. There is a shallow step off it onto the lawn. A west facing hardwood deck with block and wooden topped seating will be built in the corner. It's backed by a higher block planter which acts as a backrest and provides yet more height interest. A steel water blade and pool will be sited near this seating area, and a large stainless steel water ball reflects light in the opposite, more shady corner. A curvy organic shaped lawn finishes it all off.

All marked out today, foundations start getting dug tomorrow.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Turquoise is colour of the year 2010...?

From a Press Release I read the other day: 

Global colour authority Pantone has this week named its 15-5519 Turquoise as Color of the Year for 2010. Pantone says that turquoise is a colour that most people respond to positively, having appeal for both men and women, and which translates easily to interiors and fashion. 

Turquoise picked as 2010 Pantone Color of the Year
With both warm and cool undertones, it pairs well with any other colour in the spectrum, adding a splash of excitement to neutrals and browns, complementing reds and pinks, creating a classic maritime look with deep blues and livening up other greens, and is especially trend-setting with yellow-greens.

"In many cultures, turquoise occupies a very special position in the world of colour," according to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. "It is believed to be a protective talisman, a colour of deep compassion and healing, and a colour of faith and truth, inspired by water and sky. Through years of colour word-association studies, we also find that turquoise represents an escape to many - taking them to a tropical paradise that is pleasant and inviting, even if only a fantasy." 

Wonder how it'll impact the world of garden design - not many turquoise plants out there. Or are there? Good colour for accessories in the garden this year though...

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Gardens of Vladimir Sitta

I was lucky enough to get a lovely gift from him indoors today, which was a book about Vladimir Sitta's work - a Czech born designer/architect who has been working in Australia for years (since the 1980s I think). He came to my attention a year or two back, and I was lucky enough to see him present at the Society of Garden Designers Conference a few years ago. His body of work is inspiring, his use of materials and the way he plants is right up my street. One day I'd like to get a chance to work on projects as amazing and challenging at these.
It's full of beautiful photos of his completed projects and his designs & drawings (or doodles as he calls them). It's interesting to see his finished designs, black and white and in amazing detail. One of my favourite elements he uses are the curvy decks that double up as sun loungers, and his repeated use of stripped black bamboo is 

I'd highly recommend and encourage people to buy it!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Sleek outdoor pot plants.

In the process of looking for some contemporary pots for a garden I'm working at the moment. Remembered an assessment we had to do at college to specify the planting and pots for an internal space (a climbing and activity centre near Edinburgh) and these Lechuza pots came into my mind, as they can be used indoors and out.
Client is looking for both tall and shorter ones in same design, so these fit the bill (height ranges from 18 - 95cm). I love the white ones (of course!), but the brown/black high gloss ones are fab too.
Check out:

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Oooh, nice outdoor fabric for cushions and the like:

Let's start at the very beginning....

This was one of the first proper commissions I got when I left college. The client was brilliant, willing to experiment and wanted to go for something contemporary and low maintenance. There are 3 'rooms' - two stone terraces (one for breakfasting, the other for sun bathing) and a dining deck for entertaining. These are seperated by a variety of plants (in raised rendered planters as well in the ground). Planting is structural - box balls, phormium, palms and the like. There is a limited colour palette of purple & red via foliage and flowers. We've also included lighting (inset into deck and along paths/steps), making it a garden that can be used all day & night.
It was a hugely enjoyable project to work on, I learned loads and on top of working with some great people, the experience was topped by getting chosen for one of the gardens in the Garden Design Journal Review of the Year 2008 - the only one in the whole of the country north of Sheffield!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Favourite Plant Combinations..

Some of us had a get together where we chatted about our favourite plant combinations. I stupidly brought a memory stick with my images on, but no laptop to show them on, so thought I'd post a couple up here. The first contains Astrantia 'Ruby Wedding', Penstemon 'Huskers Red', Imperata 'Red Baron', Lobelia cardinalis 'Queen Victoria', Phormium tenax 'Bronze Baby' and Libertia grandiflora.
The second is Orlaya grandiflora, Catanache caerulea (Cupid's dart) and Lagurus ovatus (Bunny tail grass).

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Tracking my time!

Read about this on another person's blog - a piece of software to allow you to track time on a project (against time you projected to carry out task) and create reports. Something I ought to use a lot more of (replacing scribbled entries in my diary!).


Friday, 5 February 2010

Primary School Eco Garden Project.

Thought I'd write a little about this project that I got involved with a couple of years ago when I first started as a designer. It's a primary school in the central belt of Scotland, who had a 2 acre piece of land beside their school that laid mainly unused (for occasional sports day). Coupled with that was their membership of the Eco Schools project (http://www.ecoschoolsscotland.org/) where they wanted to adopt the healthy eating, recycling, wildlife awareness and other categories into their everyday schooling. 
The children at the school had a competition to draw what elements they'd like in the garden, and these along with great input from the teachers involved gave me a design brief containing the following:
- education (an outdoor classroom, with a covered roof and seating for about 25)
- growing (raised beds for vegetable/herbs, container gardening, bulbs, orchard)
- recycling (composting bins, greenhouse built from plastic bottles, water collection)
- wildlife and biodiversity (wildlife habitats, bird feeders & houses, nectar rich planting, organic gardening, large  wild-flower meadow)
- healthy eating (growing produce that children could eat, picnic tables, orchard to eat from)
- play (space for sports day, willow maze, treasure hunts, growing the tallest sunflower)

My Tiny Plot website.

Like what this lady writes about...http://www.mytinyplot.co.uk/