Archives for category: plant photography

041 I always wait for a frost or two before commencing my winter work.  In addition to pruning and removing perennials which have outstayed their welcome,  I am mulching borders and  placing  vast amounts of bamboo canes in gardens to imagine places for new plants and trees.

Amelanchier, Birch, Magnolia and  Sumach are amongst my favourite garden trees –  I particularly like their multi-stemmed forms.  Sadly, not everyone I work for  is as enthusiastic for planting  trees in their borders as I am –  which I consider to be a great opportunity missed.

Recent December  images of gardens in my care include.

My recommendation is ” make a realistic winter garden plan, and within that plan attempt to plant at least a couple of trees, and vast amounts of bulbs ”






Every November, for at least an hour or two, I question why I chose to become a gardener?   The answer is always quite simple in that  I have packed neither my ever faithful thermals or waterproofs, and I  am either cold or wet.   Once found  I am set for any winter gardening eventuality as a  happy, warm and dry gardener.

Gardens are gaining their winter definition, whether through their sturdy structural form or the demise and decay of soft plant material.   I love being an all year round gardener








I recently spent a day at Scampston learning how Professor Nigel Dunnett’s planting design philosophy has been guided through intricate research studies of the dynamics and characteristics of the natural landscape.

Nigel’s creative response is stunning.  Naturalistically inspired planting schemes are being created from annual seed mixes, perennials, shrubs and trees.  I took away several new thoughts to work on including:-

  • Successional layering. Taller plants rise above the previous season fading flowers, creating a successive flowering effect.  For example  Verbascum and Achillea will leave long-term structural interest through their sturdy stems and seed heads after flowering.247
  • Creating a  planting matrix.    The entire planting scheme is set out species by species.  Planting a small group (of say three) followed by  an individual (of the same cultivar)  a short distance away enables the overall desired intermingled effect to be created;  rather than the more traditional  English style of planting in  formal  blocks or drifts.  I thought the natural formation of moss on my Dad’s shed roof depicted a planting matrix  quite well !053
  • Using two  or three harmonious colours,  then throwing in a contrast, which visually lifts the colour impact of the overall scheme.  Just  imagine if there was cornflower blue as a contrast.260

Restraint and simplicity.  Through limiting the numbers of plant species, will create  cohesive planting, that stops you in your tracks to photograph.275 All these images are from the woodland planting and pictorial meadows at Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire.  This is  design and implementation at the highest level, which filled me with childlike wonderment.  It truly was a superlative, dynamic and immersive experience.

How can  I transfer this without becoming a pastiche or a token effort, into smaller domestic garden landscapes ? My friend Judy says I can use her garden to experiment in – Thankyou Judy.


002003005I have finally rounded the once sharp edges of my lightweight, tough and  ergonomically designed Fiskars spade. This has taken ten years of  border creation  and soil turning to achieve; and as a gardener I feel a true sense of pride and accomplishment.

Last week my  spade and I  dug out a new border, which now wraps around the Wilde’s home here in Shropshire, it was here that I observed this beautiful new curved edge.

In my constant quest for superlative planting inspiration for this particular new border, and all the gardens in my care,  I am off to Trentham Gardens  in Staffordshire with my great gardening friend Judy.  We will  immerse ourselves  within the stunning planting by  Nigel Dunnett, Piet Oudulf and Tom Stuart Smith.  There will be a  blog about our visit.

On my last visit to Trentham, these were  my favourite images.  I wonder what Judy and I will see next weekend ?



I am fascinated by the vibrancy of late autumnal colour,  followed by foliage and flower disintegration and subsequent formation of stunning seedheads.  Have you checked your garden out recently?


005I came across this stunning sculptural  Japanese anemone today in Diane and Dom’s garden in Much Wenlock.  I was particularly taken by the curvature of the stems.  This has now become my favourite flower image so far for this year.



This garden is particularly vertical,  to work here you definitely require a head for heights, as these earlier images hopefully depict.




On the 26th March, I sowed these  Thompson and Morgan and Sarah Raven seeds in my unheated greenhouse,  I am so happy with the results,  flowering just in time for my recent 50th birthday.




Where there was once turf,  gravel parking areas,  forgotten borders and gardens in need of drastic renovation,  there are now  vast tracts of colour, shape and form. Over the last ten years these gardens have all  become special and memorable places.  Why ?   Because the owners have allowed me to create great big beautiful borders for them.

Intense colour vibrancy for Selina.

A true sense of  place, peace and elegance for Martin and Judy.

I spend half a day each week pruning, weeding and being immersed in the heady scent of  countless roses, spectacular Spring Magnolias, Peonies and Cherry Blossom expertly chosen and planted by Mary – Geoff’s late wife.

Ten years ago the flowering period had almost finished in Wendy and Alan’s garden by mid-May  – not now.

Being able to plant Gunnera and create  borders that stretch as far as the eye can see for Eleanor and James.024 A chance conversation six years ago led me to work for Diane and Dom.  A head for heights and balancing on the top of narrow walls is essential, this garden is  particularly vertical in places.080

Growing the majority of the flowers, both for the table decorations and the garnishes for Suree at The King and Thai restaurant in Brosely.

What excites me, and will keep me as a professional gardener and horticulturalist for life, is knowing  that there will always be an alteration that can be made through new planting  to continue the development of these gardens.

I read garden design journals by the mound, and visit specialist nurseries searching out plants to increase my knowledge.

With this in mind I recently made my first visit to the Wildegoose Nursery in Shropshire.  What an incredible horticultural find.  This place will definitely provide the answer for my decisions on how I can continue to improve the structure and visual impact of many a garden.  The plants are incredibly well sourced, beautiful and extremely well priced.  There is also a great cafe.

My only other decision is which mug to have my first cup of tea from ?   I think it might be my Waltons mug.  After a long hot summers working day a shed load of tea will sort me out.040

The vast  majority of my plants spend their lives in large containers rather than a border, as our  garden is a hard paved yard.  This has provided a  rare opportunity of being able to completely redefine the spatial composition  on  a regular basis, as I move the containers around, aiming to create a perfect series of spaces.


I  allow the plants  to self seed.  Consequently  there is  a wide  selection of many of my favorite hardy annuals, perennials and grasses, which grow  in between the brick paviors.     This creates interesting combinations as I place containers alongside  the self setters. Favourites include Verbena bonariensis, Valeriana officinalis,Squirrel tail grass, marjoram and Ammi majus.


So how did I  design my garden ?  I  made a list of what I considered important.

  • Two seating areas –  one  close to the house, the second  further into the garden.
  • An area to grow vegetables and salad.
  • An outdoor cooking area.
  • The planting  would be informal in its design style and required  to provide year long food and shelter for wildlife.

Using these design principles I created my garden.

The only constant is the  greenhouse which sits at the end of the garden. Even the new veg beds could be moved if I decide they are not in the right place.

My favourite place is the seating area closest to the house, as from here you can look through the garden.  This space is no more than 6m2 and enclosed by my favourite grass Anemanthele  lessoniana which comes right up to the table.  I  created additional spaces by using the containerised plants and weld mesh to divide up the garden.

Our garden faces west, slowly through the day the sun moves round, with  certain areas being literally baked during  Summer.  In  Winter light levels are really quite low due to the  angle of the sun.  Aspect is a crucial consideration in design.

My garden is a place of great peace, I truly love spending time in it.








It is true, I have known it for years.  There is a reasonable amount of ground elder in  the gardens in my care.

Even though I continue to mulch and weed out the borders regularly  it still remains.  I do admit to the fact that I quite  like the white umbellifer flower.


If you look carefully you can  spot the ground elder in a few of them.