Time for some Spring’tastic colour

Time for some Spring’tastic colour

I was very kindly approached by the lovely team at Foras to contribute to their blog about ideas and how to inject some Spring colour into your garden. Foras are a Norfolk based award-winning business that provide clients with an exclusive range of natural stone, garden accessories, flooring and tiles to dress country homes, city terraces and courtyards. Thank you Clare Brutnall for asking me....

Here's my blog contribution:

 

Round stone bowls, flat ones,  zinc onesslate ones, large ones, tall ones… What am I talking about? Beautiful planters, that’s what! And if you’re anything like me, you can’t have enough planters crammed full of simply gorgeous plants, especially at this time of year. And boy, we could all do with a splash of Spring colour to cheer us up. So, pop down your seed catalogues (for a minute) and stop browsing for some late winter sun and thank March it’s time to get busy filling your planters with some instant Spring colour.

As a garden designer, I’m always looking for inspiration and I recently took a wander around the gorgeous garden showroom at Foras and fell in love with so many of their planters.

Being somewhat of a plant pot addict I got slightly swept away by the vast collection.

Planters are a bit like shoes, you can never have enough…..So here’s my top tips of what to plant up now:

  1. Treat yourself to a gorgeous new planter (or ten)…! I particularly love the Morston Vintage Zinc Planters.
  2. Think about where you most need some colour in your garden and position your planter there, so you then don’t have to move it once it’s full of soil and plants. My planter is going by my front door so it makes me smile and stops me in my tracks with a gorgeous scent.
  3. Skip along to your garden nursery. My favourites here in Norfolk are West Acre Gardens and The Romantic Garden Nursery, Norwich… and back on my old stomping ground in Wiltshire, West Kington Nursery (trade only)…
  4. Now, at this time of year your choice of colourful plants isn’t huge, so my top selection would be:

    Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis – Dwarf sweet box / Christmas Box…….This sweet flowering shrub wafts a heady scent right up until March, it’s happy in most conditions apart from full sun (not much chance of that at the mo) and being the dwarf variety it’s perfect in a pot.

    Skimmia ‘Rubella’ – Japonica  Sarcococca coupled with a Japonica – is a marriage made in heaven. You’ll marvel at the dainty clusters of red buds that open to fragrant white flowers in April and May. More scent? At this time of year… surely not….!

    Helleborus × hybridus Lenten rose / hellebore – ‘Harvington Shades of the Night’  And no planter is complete without a shy nodding hellebore. I love the deep aubergine colour of this particular hellebore and with about 45 varieties in flower right now, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

    Heuchera ‘Obsidian’ (PBR) – Coral bells  Foliage. There’s some stunning evergreen (or purple) foliage on plants, so why not fill any gaps with a stunning heuchera, trailing ivy, black grass or hart’s tongue fern

    Galanthus ‘Limetree’ – Snowdrops  Now, I love snowdrops, so I’ve decided to plant them up on their own in a stunning planter. These Limetree snowdrops elegantly tower over the native ones we see in our woodlands, so why not do them justice and add a row of them in a simple natural slate trough.

  5. Obviously you must spoil your plants with some super nutritious, peat free, water retentive delicious ‘woolly’ soil made by the lovely people at Dalefoot Compost and don’t forget to add a few broken bits of ‘dead’ stone planters to add some drainage.
  6. Give your plants a good drink, preferable rainwater, as some tap water can contain high levels of lime (often referred to as hard water) that plants don’t really like to drink. Stand back and admire.

 

 

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Zinc Planter Foras Stone
One of Foras stunning showroom gardens

One of Foras stunning showroom gardens

'tis all change

'tis all change

It took us a long time to make the decision to 'up sticks' and literally move to the sticks! But late last year saw us head 200 miles east to West Norfolk. Our new woodland home backs on to nearly one thousand acres of woodland managed by the Forest Commission. Perfect for walks, bike rides, horse riding, king fisher spotting and runs... we just need to get a dog now and we'll be set. Or perhaps a baby panda to help keep the huge clump of black 15 year old bamboo ( Phyllostachys Nigra) we have growing in check...

We've inherited a lovely south facing garden that whilst it's sadly been neglected for the past ten years, there's a framework of a loved initial design that the first original owners had implemented. I gather she was a garden designer and you can tell. We keep unearthing interesting things, like the forgotten veg garden beds and this Spring we've been dazzled by a carpet of beautiful primroses. I am really looking forward to breathing life and love back into the garden, and add my own design twists to make it a beautiful family garden to enjoy. I have plans to create a secret play area for our son and baby brew #2, complete with treehouse platform, sunken trampoline and grassy slide. To introduce and shape new borders and resurrect the veg patch. Of course, we've bigger dreams to build a proper treehouse where people who want to escape to the woods can come and stay. But all in good time. 

For now, I'm sharpening my pencils and brainstorming all the possibilities that might evolve into our new woodland wonderland.

Oh, and did I mention we're a hop, skip and a pedal away from the beautiful norfolk coast line!

Hunstanton Beach

Volunteering at Woolley Grange

Volunteering at Woolley Grange

Over the past few months I've been fortunate to volunteer along side Head Gardener, Eliza at the Luxury Family Hotel Woolley Grange, in Wiltshire. I decided that the best way to increase my knowledge of design and gardening is to learn from the best. Eliza is bursting with creative ideas and happy to share her knowledge and gardening tips with me, which is brilliant. I've learnt to how to look for pesky bind weed roots when dividing Iris's, transplanted seedlings from borders, planted up veggies and so much more. 

It's a real privilege to spend time in Woolley's beautiful gardens and I also hope to be able to get the chance to design aspects of some of the planned borders and suggest ideas of plants around the alfresco dining area. So come rain, or shine I hope to continue to volunteer alongside Eliza and soak up as much gardening knowledge as I can, whilst my son does the fantastic Woolley Sheep trail!

Big thank you to Eliza for all your guidance and laughs.

 

Marching through March

Marching through March

I love March. There's always a sense of child-like excitement when you know, just know, you're about to be spoilt rotten by a riot of colour, scent and magic as nature starts to emerge from her deep slumber and dish out months of treats and delights. 

I've already planted some seeds in my green house last month as I couldn't wait. I'm not quite sure if they will work, but hey, I can always plant more seeds. Everyone is muttering 'It's really lovely out there!' and today my son and I played outside, catching bubbles, squirting water pistols and racing cars down drain pipes. Spring really is here. 

I love being busy and I'm really excited to be designing and sourcing plants for three new clients. They've mainly asked me to help them source the right plants for new beds or borders and I'm looking forward to plant shopPING(!) at West Kington nursery over the next few weeks and getting my hands dirty! 

My biggest design challenge is for a large area of an established garden in Norfolk. It's a troubled spot, which bakes dry in the summer and the grass which currently is there always dies. The sand is very free draining and not very fertile, plus a few cheeky tree roots from the bank of firs sap most of the water away. So I'm going for a simply planting scheme, combining Verbascums, Fox gloves, Salvias, Grasses, Cornflowers, Euphorbia and Lavender to create a naturalised, yet beautiful border with a birch lined walk way leading to a seated area and on to a secret woodland hideout. I'm also enjoying the Garden Planner software designed by ShootGardening and seeing my ideas come to life.

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold. When it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. Charles Dickens

 

 

Scrumdiddlyumptious Autumn

Scrumdiddlyumptious Autumn

Around designing my new website and juggling building lego with our son, I have also been enjoying the incredible delights of Autumn. Heading home to my Mum's place in Norfolk is always a delight. The colours of the leaves on the trees in their field always takes my breath away. Autumn is such a busy time in the garden as we slowly put our garden bed's, well, to bed - tidy up the borders, admiring those plants that are still desperately holding on to their colour before Mr Frost zaps them away with his frosty wand. I simply love Autumn, and this year, it really has been an incredible one, like this wonderful quote says: 

Autumn is a second Spring where every leaf is a flower. Albert Camus

I've taken some more photos and popped them on instagram !

Spring to the rescue

Spring to the rescue

As March, marches on, the sun is definitely beginning to get its warmth back, which means Spring is just round the corner. I can almost feel my flip flops on my feet, although I think that would be a tad premature.

I really enjoyed filling up my new raised beds with compost, which we won from Jackson's Fencing after coming runner's up in a photography competition. My son, equally loved getting his hands (and his nee naa's wheels) nice and dirty. And I even managed to find 5 minutes (while he was napping) to bask like a cat in the weak, yet perfectly warm sunshine to read my magazine and have a mooch through the latest Crocus catalogue...Perfect... role on spingummer! 

 

Roll on Spring

Roll on Spring

I'm currently plant shopPING! for my back garden as I was very spoilt for my christmas and birthday in December with Crocus Vouchers... so I've decided to create my plant mood board via Pinterest. It's such a fantastic tool to use and it helps me work out what plants might work well together. Obviously I need to take into account soil, position etc etc... but I feel like a child in a sweetie shop right now and it's also helping to cheer me up during this very dreary and very soggy January. 

 

Bumble Bee's

Bumble Bee's

Every year my home town open's its gardens doors to the public to have a good ol'nose around. It's called Bradford on Avon Secret Garden's Festival. It's a lovely event that runs over a period of three months in the spring and summer. Here are a couple of photos I took whilst I wandered around. One day I hope my garden might be included in the mix, but it needs a few more years of growth yet!

 

Small but beautiful

Small but beautiful

When the RHS selected our proposal for Chelsea 2014, my initial idea for Chris's garden stand was grander on scale and much more ambitious. I wanted to share with you the design for Plan A, which I called 'Sense to Touch'. The idea came from one of Chris's collectors who is blind and the inspiration for his work to be accessible for the public to touch was very important to Chris. I also wanted Chris to feel at ease on the stand during the week of Chelsea so I came up with the idea of a pop-up workshop where he could carve and polish a 'working piece' and for visitors to the stand to watch him at work.

I divided the space into four themed garden settings to help give visitors an idea of what kind of planting would compliment his work and how his sculptures look in actual planted settings. It's a real shame we didn't get the sponsorship this year to carry out my 'Sense to Touch' garden idea, but all is not lost, as we hope to secure a sponsor for Chelsea 2015 and create this garden concept next year.

Sculpture Garden

Sculpture Garden

'Sense to Touch' - Design concept for Chelsea 2014

'Sense to Touch' - Design concept for Chelsea 2014


Four themed garden settings

Plan B! When we had to make the tough decision of scaling down the size of our stand, I went back to the drawing board to see how we could retain some of the original concept yet on a smaller scale. The RHS amazingly found us a brilliant spot right on the corner of Pavilion Way, very close to where our original stand was and right next to one of the main entrances into the Great Pavilion, so when we were offered plot PW36 we jumped at the chance. Our new space, which Chris is currently up at Chelsea building today, is 6m x 3m and has two access points which means that people can step up into the space and it also allows us to 'borrow' the walk way space for people to pause and watch Chris polishing and working on his sculptures. 

The 'Sculpture Garden' as it is now known is a simple design that I like to think of as a roof top garden of a collector and who is proudly showing off his amazing collection of Chris Webb sculptures. The planting will be mainly a beautiful mix of luscious green foliages, with soft bamboo creating a natural screening along one of the planters.

With the welcome feature of the stunning Garden Retreat Shelter, which our key sponsor Jacksons Fencing very kindly contributed to my design. The retreat will not only give us much needed shelter from rain, wind, snow or blazing hot sunshine (who knows what the British weather will throw at us in May), but it also creates a wonderful, welcoming space for us to entertain interested collectors/buyers.

I'm really looking forward to meeting up with the two Liz's from Oak End Nursery next week and start planting up the stand. Can't believe how fast it has all come around... and I'm also really looking forward to my good friend Masterchef Quarter Finalist Theo, who's very kindly agreed to unveil Chris's latest work that have been sculpted specifically for Chelsea.

Carving his way to Chelsea

Carving his way to Chelsea

It's been all hand's to the deck over the last few months. Chris has been busy constructing the stand, carving more sculptures and running around like an Easter Bunny on a double strength expresso.  I on the other hand have been beavering away getting publicity for Chris for his debut exhibition at Chelsea, seeing that even the local Somerset papers don't appear to want to run his story, I thought I'd publish the press release myself on my blog and see if anyone picks it up!

Press release

Chris Webb Stone and Bronze Sculptor

In just a months time, renowned sculptor Chris Webb will be unveiling his stunning new collection of works at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Chris will be exhibiting for the first time at Chelsea and is over the moon to be showcasing his sculptures at the greatest flower show on earth!

Chris has been a sculptor for over thirty years and selects his stone personally from the quarry at Portland Bill, near Weymouth. He works tirelessly carving into the stubborn stone then hand polishes all the chisel marks until they lose their hardness and become soft to touch. He does not theorise about his work, instead he believes in creating beautiful sculptures that people want to touch and make them smile. 

From recent commissions for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to many private commissions from around the world, his work is certainly catching the attention of many collectors. He has recently turned his skills to casting bronzes from his stone carvings and this new collection of bronzes will also be on show at Chelsea. Chris says ‘It’s a real honour and privilege to be invited to exhibit at Chelsea. I’m really delighted to be positioned right by the entrance of the Great Pavilion and excited by what hopes to be a fantastic few days - let’s just hope it doesn’t rain!’ His Sculpture Garden, which has been designed by aspiring garden designer Liz Brewer, also features a beautiful new Retreat Garden Shelter by Jacksons Fencing.

Collection of Sculptures


Getting down to business

Getting down to business

We had a brilliant meeting about Chelsea with the two lovely Liz's who run Oak End Nursery and Potager in Chalfont St Giles. We got outside in the very, very fresh air and paced out our stand, using buckets and posts to mark where the key features on the stand would be. It was great to pick their brains about exhibiting at Flower Shows as they both have experience designing medal winning show gardens at both Hampton Court and Chelsea. So we knew we're going to be in very safe hands. They have the coolest office and although the potager area is looking at bit sleepy at this time of year, it is such a fantastic space to grow veg and flowers. It's amazing to see what they have created and they've only been open for two years! I just wish they were based in Wiltshire and not Buckinghamshire.

 

Money, Money, Money...

Money, Money, Money...

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Tough past few weeks. It's been all hands on deck trying to source a sponsor for our stand at Chelsea. We've had some fantastic response, but it looks like we needed to have sorted out sponsorship last year as most businesses have already allocated their marketing budgets. So although it's a bit of a knock, the RHS have been fantastic and unearthed a lovely new stand allocation which is still in an amazing spot on Pavilion Way only a little bit smaller. This means I only need to tweak our design a little bit and create a smaller, yet, perfectly formed Sculpture Garden for Chris. We've decided to park our 'Sense to Touch' concept and offer businesses that we've been in discussions with the opportunity to sponsor us instead at RHS Chelsea 2015! 

The planting concept is now more along the idea of an opulent, stunning foliage roof top / city garden where a collector proudly shows off all his wonderful sculptures that he owns.

We do however have a very generous contribution from my garden design course The Blackford Centre for Garden Design and another lovely business is soon to let us know if they will contribute too... so all very exciting!  

All is good.

 

 

First things first

First things first

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It's been a busy few weeks. As I've been pulling together a sponsorship package to entice business's to sponsor Chris's stand at Chelsea. So far so good...we're getting lots of interest which is fantastic and hope to secure the support we need to create a wonderful space that will showcase Chris's work. I've also found a wonderful nursery called Oak End based in Oxford and run by two Liz's who are going to be helping me source all the lovely plants for my concept 'Sense to Touch'. We hope to have a planning meeting soon and start to get a picture of how which plants we'll be using for each garden setting on the stand. Very exciting!

I must be dreaming...

I must be dreaming...

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... because just before Christmas I found out that a garden design concept I created for one of my lovely clients (Chris Webb) who is an amazing sculptor and whom I'm helping to promote his talent through various channels of marketing, has been accepted by the RHS Chelsea Flower Show!

(faint)

It's all a tad bonkers when I come to think of it as I still haven't finished my garden design course and I have little experience in designing gardens, but the RHS seemed to like our proposal and have given Chris a fantastic stand and position at this year's show and we're in!!! Holy crap! 

Chris basically needed a garden designed for his trade stand as he wanted to showcase his beautiful work in a garden setting, so when he told me he was looking for a garden designer, I piped up and said I could send him a couple of ideas and see what he thought.... anyway, to cut a long story short, my concept for Chris's stand 'Sense to Touch' is going to be on show at Chelsea. This year. Still pinching myself? Yes. So the next four'ish months are going to be busy....! Holy crap!

So, I have pulled this little blog together to document this crazy adventure and share the highs and I'm sure somewhat wonky times ahead.