I was asked by a lady who practices alternative medicine to help with her garden. I should say at the outset that I personally do not believe in anything ‘other’ so this is not an endorsement but it was an interesting, and challenging, project. The lady is of Indian descent and incorporates ‘chakras’ into her practice.
Chakra is derived from the Sanskrit word for wheel or circle. A chakra is a ‘psychic-energy’ centre in the body found in esoteric Indian religions.
There are seven chakras:- the root chakra, sacral, solar, heart, throat, third-eye and crown. Each chakra is associated with a set of characteristics, for example, the root chakra, located at the base of the spine, is associated with security, safety, survival, basic needs such as food, sleep, shelter, self-preservation, etc., physicality, grounding and foundation. By contrast the crown chakra, located at the top of the head, is associated with consciousness, awareness of higher consciousness, wisdom and of what is sacred, communion with higher states of consciousness, ecstasy and bliss etc. Information on the other five chakras is plentiful on the internet!
Each chakra is also associated with a colour:-
root = red
sacral = orange
solar – yellow
heart = green
throat = blue
3rd eye = indigo
crown = violet/white
The lady has a treatment centre in the centre of her garden. I surrounded this with seven bowls each planted up with a separate chakra colour. In a nearby raised planter I planted a rainbow of chakra colours from red through to violet.
The top line in the image above shows the seven plants in the bowls; the bottom line the plants in the planter. The plants are, (top line): Sedum purdyi ‘Red Cauli’, Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’, Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’, Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’, Alchemilla mollis, Penstemon ‘Catherine de la Mare’ and Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’. The plants in the bottom line are: Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, Hemerocallis ‘Burning Daylight’, Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’, Euphorbia amygdaloides var. Robbiae, Polenium ‘Stairway to Heaven’, Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ and Iris ‘Black Swan’.
Two new beds created to redesign part of a lawned back garden after the removal of an unused trampoline. The garden is looked down on from a veranda. The customers both have more contemporary than traditional taste so we took a sort of Zen minimalism as our initial inspiration.
The top line represents the larger of the two beds, an L-shaped bed running down the side and back of the garden but set back from a conifer hedge to allow for maintenance of the hedge. From left to right:- Phyllostachys aureosuculata f. spectabils, (7 no.), (a yellow stemmed bamboo), planted as an evenly spaced avenue to give a kind of cloister effect; Liriope muscari, (14 no.), (Japanese Mondo grass); Ophiopogon planiscarpus ‘Black Dragon’, (13 no.), (Japanese black grass); Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, (7 no.), (a golden Japanese grass); Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’, (6 no.), (Japanese Blood grass). All the grasses are used as groundcover planting under the bamboos. The bed will be mulched with black, angular, slate.
The bottom line is the second smaller bed at the front of the garden. (The left hand side of the garden is formed by an existing rockery sloping down to a stream. This bed has already had Japanese Shield ferns and black stemmed bamboos added to it as a transition from the ‘Zen’ borders down to a more natural, waterside area.) From left to right:- Acer palmatum ‘Little Princess’, (1 no.), (Japanese Maple tree), a single plant planted next to an entrance area of paving; Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’, (3 no.), (dwarf Spindle tree), planted in a short avenue in line with the Acer; Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Carpet’, (12 no.), evergreen groundcover beneath the Spindle trees; Epimedium x youngianum ‘Niveum’, (4 no.), groundcover planting to the Acer; Athyrium niponicum var, pictum, (3 no.), (Japanese painted fern), planted in a row of three next to the garden’s paved entrance; Nerine bowdenii, ( to be planted), these bulbs will be planted in three clumps between the Acer and Spindle trees to add an intense splash of Autumn colour. This bed will be mulched with white, rounded, pebbles.
Both beds have been edged with steel edging to keep edges sharp and crisp. Between the two beds there are 6 no. paving slabs to provide an entrance to the lawned area within the planted beds.
Total number of plants used: 70 no. Total cost of plant material: £670. Cost does not include for steel edging, paving, compost, ‘Rootgrow’, mulches, Nerines or labour.
The above photos show before and after the redevelopment of a small front garden. The gardens at this property are maintained on a fortnightly basis and the works were carried out over a number of weeks as part of the routine visits.
The original inspiration for the scheme was a Mediterranean feel – this was requested by the customer. A curved path with Thyme interplanting – seen at the back of the photos – had previously been installed and we wanted to build on the Thyme with Lavenders and other herbs.
Initial works included the removal of the large conifer, (by another), and other plants and a small area of lawn. Plants retained were a Crataegus prunifolia tree, (out of picture), and a prostrate Juniper. Three Helicrhysum (curry plants) were potted up and re-planted, after growing on, as part of the scheme.
A design was then developed. The design process, outlined in the images below, involved preparation of a measured survey; the production of some initial concept options; refinement of the chosen design; various options for plants and finally the preparation of a planting plan.
The scheme evolved to have a back ‘hedge’ of Sanoltina incana (23 no.) then four ‘waves’ of Hebe ‘Purple Princess (9 no.), a dwarf Perovskia ‘Little Spire’ (9 no.) and purple (‘Hidcote’) and white (‘Arctic Snow’) lavenders (9 no. of each). Three Phormium ‘Evening Glow’ are interplanted between the waves.
The whole scheme was then given a mulch of beach pebbles.
Costs for the scheme, not including the design process or labour, were £65 for tree removal, £340 for plants and £200 for beach pebbles.
A customer wanted a scheme for a small rockery front garden beneath an established beech hedge. Inspired by typical hedge bottom plants such as foxgloves and ferns, I chose plants that were cultivars of native plants, that would survive in the dry soil conditions and that would provide the requested ground-cover. (I have suggested that in Autumn we mass plant the dwarf Narcissus ‘Hawera’ and a species Tulip to provide Spring colour.)
From left to right:- Lamium maculata ‘Beacon Silver’ – a dead-nettle, excellent ground-cover; Primula vulgaris – native primrose; Digitalis ‘Dalmation Purple’ – a foxglove cultivar; Thelypteris decursive-pinnata, the wood fern; Pulmonaria ‘Trevi Fountain’ – a lungwort, good ground-cover; Ranunculus ‘Brazen Hussy’ – a cultivated celandine, good ground cover; Vinca minor ‘Atropurpurea’ – periwinkle variety, excellent ground-cover; Convallaria majalis – lily-of-the-valley, again, good ground-cover.
All plants were planted in threes.
Total number of plants – 27 no. Cost of plants – £115.
(Bulbs not costed. Labour not included.)
(Ok Narcissus if you want to be posh!)
A scheme to add a changing ‘river’ of daffodils, with plants in flower from late February through to mid-April. 100 no. each of six varieties of Narcissus were planted down the side of a long driveway in blocks of the individual varieties.
From left to right:- Narcissus ‘February Gold’; Narcissus ‘Hawera’; Narcissus ‘Ice Wings’; Narcissus ‘Jenny’; Narcissus ‘Pipit’; Narcissus ‘Petrel’.
Total no. of bulbs – 600 no. Total cost of bulbs – £300.
A scheme to add some colour to a very long herbaceous border. The border has many established shrubs/plants but has been planted up over the years in a rather haphazard manner and lacks any strong visual structure. Last year an avenue of seven no. Crab Apple tree was planted to start to address this. The latest planting adds colour, (the owner likes strong colours), and further structure through repeat planting.
From left to right:- Spiraea japonica ‘Shirobana’ (5 no.); Allium sphaerocephalon (4 no.); Agapanthus africans ‘Charlotte’ (5 no.); Monarda ‘Garden View Scarlet’ (3 no.); Phlox paniculata ‘Purple Eye Flame’ (3 no.); Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ (3no.).
Total no. of plants – 23 no.
Total cost of plant material – £200.
A new border in an established garden. The client asked for blue flowering perennials but was otherwise very open on plant choice. The new bed completes a circuit of planting around a central lawn and also ties a ‘wilder’ bed at a distance from a patio area to more floriferous borders near this seating/dining place. The bed also provides a new view through a window in the ‘garden room’ in the adjacent house.
Agapanthus and dwarf Delphiniums, both with an intense blue colour, were chosen to which softer blues/mauves/rose colours were added with splashes of white and yellow for contrast. Ferns were added to tie in with the ‘wild’ border. Narcissus bulbs were added for Spring colour and the bed was top-dressed with a thick layer of gravel to set off the plants, provide some slug protection and match a gravel found elsewhere in the garden.
Customer reaction:- “I love the flowers you have picked and can’t wait to see them in their full glory.”
Top row, from left to right:- Armeria ‘Ballerina White’ – a white thrift (3 no.); Achillea ‘Marmalade – a yarrow (3 no.); Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ – a blue grass (5 no.); Eryngium bourgatii ‘Picos Blue’ (3 no.); Agapanthus africanus ‘Blue Giant’ (1 no.); Delphinium excalibur ‘Dark Blue Black’ – a dwarf delphinium, (3 no.).Bottom row, from left to right:-Nepeta nervosa ‘Blue Moon’ (3 no.); Campanula portenschiangiana (3no); Origanum ‘Rosenkupple’ (3 no); Erisynum ‘Bowles Mauve’ (3 no.) – a perennial wallflower; Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata the King’ – a fern; Narcissus ‘Hawera’ (70 no.).
Total no. of plants – 33 no. Cost £215. No. of bulbs – 70 no. Cost – £30. Total cost of plant material – £245
Cost of gravel mulch – £105
Total scheme cost (excluding labour) – £350
A simple scheme to edge a newly shaped lawn. The lawn has been edged with a sheet steel product to keep it crisp and angular; the planting is intended to complement this sharp effect.
A line of 7 no. equally spaced, architectural ferns set within simple ground-cover. The ground-cover is underplanted with elegant Spring bulbs. More dramatic red tulips have been planted into two cube shape planters on an adjacent stone flagged terrace.
Customer’s reaction:- “The ferns look outstanding – I really like them. We are really happy about how things are looking.”
From left to right:- Polystichum polyblepharum; Crocus ‘Vanguard’; Narcissus hawera; Tulipa ‘Typhoon’; Lamium maculatum ‘Silver Beacon’.
No. of plants – 13. No. of bulbs – 330.
Total price of plant material – £200.
A suburban back garden with established plants. The customer’s brief was to add back some theatre and colour. A decked seating area has had climbing plants added to green-up the timber fences on two sides of the decking.
Customer’s reaction:- “The plants look fantastic by the way.”
Top row – Caryopteris ‘Heavenly Blue’; Echinacea purpurea ‘Rubinglow’; Agapanthus africanus ‘Charlotte’; Santolina virens; Lavendula angustifolia.
Bottom row – Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’; Jasminum officinale ‘Sunbeam’; Perovskia ‘ Blue Spire’; Parthenocissus veitchii; Clematis montana ‘Wilsonii’; Heuchera ‘Sugar Frosting’.
Total cost of plant material – £200.
A small front garden with many established/mature plants but with some gaps and a request for an injection of colour.
Customer’s reaction:- “The plants look lovely. Fills up the spaces really well.”
Top row:- Nepeta ‘Junior Walker’; Origanum ‘Rosen-keppel’; Verbenna bonariensis; Achillea ‘Marmalade’; Heuchera ‘Melting Fire’.
Bottom row:- Digitalis ‘Illumination Raspberry’; Geranium ‘Blue Sunrise’; Lavendula angustifolia; Hebe ‘Margaret; Lythrum salicaria ‘Robert’.
Thirty plants in total were planted – three of each. Total cost of plant material – £200.
A scheme for a small area of wetland. The area is at the bottom of a sloping suburban garden, next to a stream and backed by a beautiful bluebell wood. However, it has always been a problem for its owners, in terms of what to plant there, because of severe annual flooding. The owners have now been persuaded to work with nature, rather than fight it. The area will now be managed as a wetland meadow by carefully controlling unwanted species and encouraging desired ones. To help accelerate the process 150 suitable wildflower plugs have been planted. All plants are true wildflowers of UK provenance. From left to right:
Water avens; Devil’s Bit Scabious; Meadowsweet; Primrose; Purple Loosestife; Ragged Robin and Sneezewort.
Cost of plant material: £185.
A scheme to under-plant areas of woodland either side of a entrance driveway with bold sheets of spring colour. Plants were either ‘in-the-green’ bulbs or plugs. All plants were true wild flowers of British provenance.
From left to right: Primula vulgaris (native Primrose). This is planted either side of the property’s entrance gates under two established Yew trees. Anemone nemorosa (Wood Anemone). Planted on one side of the driveway just after entering the property. Hyacinthoides non-scripta (native Bluebell). Planted on the other side of the drive. Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop). Planted further down from the blue bells. Narcissus pseudonarcissus (Wild Daffodil). This is planted on a large rockery elsewhere in the garden.
Total number of plants – 510. Total cost of plant material – £335.
This scheme creates a small area of ‘woodland coppice’. The area planted up is in a garden with a strong emphasis on management for wildlife and is adjacent to existing woodland on a neighbouring property. The scheme makes use of an otherwise difficult to maintain steep bank. It seeks to be of value as wildlife habitat yet also have strong ornamental value, especially in the winter months.
From left to right: Sarcococca humilis (Christmas box), this forms a low evergreen ‘hedge’ adjacent to a paved area and gives the area a strong boundary. Christmas box has a beautiful scent in winter. Cornus alba sibirica (Siberian dogwood). This has bright red stems in winter. Cornus ‘Flaviramea’ (Yellow stemmed dogwood). Viburnum opulus (Guelder rose). Beautiful white flowers in spring; red berries in autumn. Corylus avellana (Hazel). The Hazel, Dogwoods and Guelder rose will all be managed by coppicing.
Plants were a mixture of container grown and bare-root stock. Number of plants – 19. Cost of plant material – £70.
The second part of the scheme at the weavers’ cottages. This is for the bed on the opposite boundary to the first bed planted up as described below. The second scheme reflects the owner’s business selling outdoor clothing wear for children, and also the location of the cottages, through its plant choice. The bed is to the left hand side of a long cobbled path which rises up from a lane, (after a small flight of steps), to the front door. The slope of the bed was first terraced into four rectangular compartments using stone blocks found in the garden. The bed is backed by an existing holly and privet hedge.
Each compartment was filled with a block of a single species like a block of colour in a paint palette. Adjacent to each of the three stone ‘walls’, at the changes of level, three specimen shrubs will be planted.
From left to right the images show: Primula vulgaris, (native Primrose). This was planted by the client in a clump just by the entrance gate to the garden to make a splash of welcoming colour. Blechnum spicant, (Hard Fern). Erica carnea ‘Myretoun Ruby’. There are two blocks of this winter heath separated by the ferns. The aim was to include two intense blocks of winter colour. Dryopteris erythrosora, (Japanese Shield Fern). Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’, (Compact Winged Spindle Tree). These have yet to be planted at the time of writing but will form the three specimen plants. This slow growing small tree/shrub has several interesting features: winged corky bark; intense red autumn colour, small flowers followed by purplish-red berries, which split to reveal seeds.
Number of plants planted to date, (not including Spindle Trees and Primroses) – 64. Cost of plants – £200.
The first part of a scheme for a pair of old weavers’ cottages, (part of a terrace of cottages rising up a hill). This is the planting for one of three beds, being one of the side beds to the garden. The bed was essentially bare but a holly, (now toparied into a cube shape), a hydrangea and a couple of paonies have been retained. To this have been added three different areas of ground-cover each with highlight, specimen plants and mass bulbs. The planting is designed to look its best through winter and early spring but some bulbs are included for late summer/early autumn.
Top row from left to right: Cornus ‘Mid-Winter Fire’, grown for its outstanding winter stem colour; Sarcoccoca humilis included for the beautiful winter fragrance of its tiny white flowers; Daphne mezereum, again included for stunning winter fragrance; Bergenia cordifolia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, planted by a door to the cottages as a ‘full-stop’ plant.
Middle row, left to right: Epimedium sulphureum, ground-cover; Vinca ‘Gertrude Jeykll’, groundcover; Waldsteinata ternata, the last of the three ground-cover plants; Colchicum autumnale, the first of three bulbs mass planted for strong seasonal effects.
Bottom row from left to right: Narcissus ‘Thalia’, the main bulb included in the scheme; Erythronium, the final bulb included in the bed; Pachysandra terminalis, this is planted separately as ground-cover at the foot of the front boundary stone wall to the cottages along a lane; Galanthus nivalis, snowdrops have been mass planted amongst the Pachysandra.
Number of plants planted – 70. Number of bulbs planted, (to date) – 80. Cost of plants and bulbs, (to date) – £370.
A mostly white scheme for a border at the edge of a garden which is predominantly in shade. White is a colour which glows in shade and twilight. From left to right the plants are:
Vinca minor ‘Gertrude Jeykll’; Alchemilla mollis; Geranium sanguineum album; Hydrangea ‘Lanarth’ and Bergenia ‘Silberlicht’. To these will be added mass Narcissi bulbs for spring colour.
The customer for this planting scheme has a small rectangular border looked directly onto from her conservatory. The brief was to revitalise the bed so as to provide summer interest for viewing when sitting in the conservatory. All but a few plants were removed leaving just a backdrop of winter jasmine trained against a fence, a hardy geranium, (to be divided this autumn), and a hellebore. A range of herbaceous perennials was then introduced together with bulbs and, in summer, pots of annual tobacco plants will be placed on a paved area in front of the bed to provide strong fragrance. From left to right, starting with the top line, the plants are:
Aster ‘Monch’; Polystichum ‘Jade’; Digitalis ‘Carillion’; Achillea ‘Moonshine’; Kniphofia ‘Wrexham Buttercup’; Astrantia ‘Star of Billion’; Anenome ‘Honorine de Joubert’; Echinacea ‘Virgin’; Narcissus ‘Hawera’; Narcissus ‘Ice Wings’; Nicotiana alata.
The number of plants planted was 27. The number of bulbs planted is 30. Total cost of plant material, (excluding proposed further bulb planting and annuals), is £220.
A simple planting scheme to introduce late summer colour into a steeply terraced garden. In time, each terrace will be treated with a different palette of plants to celebrate a different season of the year. From left to right: Heuchera ‘Chocolate Ruffles’; all the plants are set in a mulch of grey/blue slate chippings which shows them off really well; Persicaria ‘Blackfield’; Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ and Potentilla ‘Monarch’s Velvet.
Number of plants planted – ten. Cost of plant material £85.
The owner of this garden wants to enhance its wildlife value. As an experiment therefore, two areas of grass on steep banks were left uncut this summer as wildflower meadows. The hope is that in time, and with careful management, they will become species rich. The prospects for this are helped by the fact that the grass is on very thin soils and doesn’t seem to have been ‘improved’ with fertilizer at any time. (The garden was originally farmland.) Species recorded this year have included bluebells, knapweeds, yarrow, bird’s foot trefoil, ox-eye daisy and scabious and the areas have been very popular with butterflies, bees and other insects.
For the sake of neatness an area at the bottom of the first meadow, in front of the house and along the driveway, was kept close cut. This can be seen in the first photo. A similar technique was used in a meadow at the back of the property. The few weeds that appeared in the meadows over summer, mainly ragwort and thistles, were removed by hand-pulling.
In September both areas were strimmed, the arisings raked into heaps and, after a week of drying out, raked up and removed. (This helps to keep the areas nutrient poor, which is good for the wildflowers we want to encourage and less good for vigorous grass species, thistles and other unwanted ‘weeds’.) The front meadow was then mown. This can be seen in the second photo. (The back meadow is on a slope too steep to be safely mown so this was only strimmed.
A promising start!
This garden had become somewhat overgrown after a period when the owner was unable to work on it. The plant beds had become infested with couch grass, nettles and other weeds. Lawns had areas of long grass where they hadn’t been cut. Shrubs needed pruning. Paved areas had become weedy.
Work included: progressively strimming the long grass back until it could be cut as a lawn again; hand weeding plant beds and borders, and forking through the plant beds to remove as much couch as possible; transplanting and saving plants wherever possible; formative pruning of trees, shrubs, climbers and roses; minor planting; putting up wire supports for climbing plants; weeding the drive, paths and patio areas; re-use of existing stone for edging; re-siting a compost bin; general clear up and neat stacking of existing materials; the removal of rubbish to tip, (with the owner’s assistance). Total time spent: 30 hours.
The owners of this garden are very busy people with many commitments. As a result a once beautiful garden was suffering from some neglect. Some shrubs, such as snowberry, had got out of hand and brambles were establishing themselves in various places. Fruit trees and bushes needed significant pruning.
Work included: clearance of invasive shrubs such as snowberry; formative pruning of trees and shrubs across the garden; pruning and winter wash of fruit trees and bushes; removal of a derelict fruit cage frame; construction of a leaf compost bin; the removal of significant amounts of green waste to tip, (with the owner’s assistance). In spring, plants susceptible to silverleaf disease, such as plum and cherry trees, will be pruned to complete the renovation. Total time spent (to date): 50 hours.