Thursday, 25 February 2016

A new garden in a new(ish) house.

Landscaping needs to be done with an eye to the future!

I have just finished a design for a client for his 2 year old house and we are excited about how much of a difference it's going to make but it was partly prompted by patio done by another local landscaper that is already failing after 2 years.
When we build patios we guarantee them for 5 years because we build them correctly and stand behind them. Unfortunately when landscaping is bought on price then often it is going to be sub standard as quality means time and materials!

Anyway, the rant is over, lets show you the design:

Garden design in Penn - view towards the house

We will flatten the lawn, retaining the bed with vertical sleepers and introduce some gentle steps. The hardwood frames will have steel wire on the top section and we will train Roses over it. The base will be planted with 50% sun loving perennials and  50% evergreen structural planting.

Landscape design in Penn - view towards new patio and planting 

The top section of lawn will be lowered and part of the existing patio raised allowing a new section to be added that will connect the house more effectively with the oval lawn. The giant lily bowls will be water features and a new bench will be shaded by umbrella trained trees. 4 large Acer trees will be placed around the lawn to create symmetry. 

Garden design Penn- View from living room towards new patio and pergola 

The new section of patio with bench will be visible from the house and a new pergola trained with roses helps frame the view into the lower garden, connecting the two spaces. 

Even though the client feels let down by the previous contractor, I'm very glad that they are trusting us to put the situation right and have decided to use the situation to really move this garden and its house onwards and create something spectacular. Looking forward to building this one! 

Monday, 8 February 2016

It's February already and green shoots are appearing!

Another year starts and we are looking forward to what it brings - lots of new delighted clients hopefully and some wonderful garden builds that we can get stuck into and enjoy with our clients. We are still looking for more projects for the summer build slots so if this year is the year you want to treat your house and family to a new out door space, do contact Stephen or Rob to discuss how we can help.

One of last years gardens in Beaconsfield 

Designing a garden is an exciting process and we love that stage as much as handing it back to them once it's all completed.

The first design of the year has already been approved by the clients with two more on the drawing board and one more yet to start so the studio is buzzing at the moment.

The build crews are still braving the weather and our big build from last year continues with a series of smaller builds running in parallel. It has been too difficult to plant in water logged ground since October so our planting projects are on hold until things dry out but thats the nature of working outside!

Wishing you a fabulous 2016 and do get in touch!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Can't anyone design a garden? Then why don't most gardens 'work'?

A garden is supposed to be a place of relaxation and enjoyment and complement the house it surrounds so why don't most gardens work?

An average boring British garden? 

Most gardens have no structure nor shape and when viewing it from a window, we stare straight ahead at the nearest fence. Hardly an inspiring view.

I believe that a garden is for people first and plants second but most of all, it needs to help the house 'fit' into it's space and invite you out of the house into an area of enjoyment.

A well designed space lures you out of the house.

House builders rarely considers what will make the garden space work well and many of my clients live in new build houses with inadequate or unplanned outdoor areas.

The garden should always be treated as another room and these days one would never see a designed interior with the sofas next to the walls and nothing in the middle of the room yet this is how most gardens are laid out. When most people renew their garden they simply redo what the builder put in, spending a fortune to repeat the mistake and then wonder why the garden is still not used.

Structure and planting defines the space and gives the garden a sense of occasion!

So often my clients are surprised where I move patios and planting areas around to but as soon as they move a chair to where the seating areas should be and try it out then it's totally obvious why.
This is where a designer helps to maximise the garden 'spend' and totally change the space and how you use it.

Monday, 23 November 2015

A new project in Beaconsfield and what the client thought.

Garden design is one of those odd professions where it should be obvious what it entails and yet I constantly have to explain WHY it's a useful and helpful tool to employ when renovating your garden.
Firstly, when done properly, building a garden is expensive! A good garden designer will save you money, make the end result much better AND help avoid mistakes.
Here is a great explaination from recent clients Mr and Mrs Mitchell in Beaconsfield that I hope gives a good impression of what a garden designer can do for you:

The garden in question!

"We were first introduced to the work of Stephen Ryan as a garden designer through a number of articles he had written on the subject. Reading the articles caused us to appreciate that we really needed expert advice and help if we were ever to succeed in getting what we really wanted from our 110 year old garden.
    We needed to be inspired, guided, educated in the art of the possible, and helped to appreciate that a garden, if successful, can become a dramatic and indispensable extension to the built component of what one calls home.
    Stephen agreed to take us and the project on, and we are delighted by the result that he and the Contractor have achieved. We were soon engaged in discussions centred on early drawings suggesting possible ways forward, identifying shrubs which might be retained or disposed of, together with ways of creating a sense of greater space more clearly related to our living space throughout the year,

The view from the house.

    Stephen is gifted with patience and good humour. He knows when to stand firm and work for agreement on what he knows to be right, and when to give way with good grace so that everyone feels that they are helping things forward. His skills of this kind extend to the way in which he seemed to achieve good relations with the Contractor’s team and involved them in discussion of aspects of work being done.

    We were invited to visit one of his finished projects just as practical work on our garden began to get underway and, for us, this was at just the right time when site clearance can appear to be pretty destructive. In order to see us through this stage it was reassuring to see him regularly on site and be able to clarify any issues with him.

    A major objective of ours was to try and achieve a garden with as low a maintenance burden as possible and we think that Stephen has achieved this with beautiful granite paved areas softened by a small circular lawn. He has exploited a brick wall and made a feature of it by planting two apple and two pear espalier fruit trees along it. We are looking forward to flowers in the Spring and fruit in the Autumn. We missed the flowers this year but the trees were fruiting on arrival and we have enjoyed quite a few apples and pears already.

    We mention this last detail, it being that we probably would never have thought of fruit trees and that is an example of how Stephen has guided us to an end which we feel sure will bring us great pleasure and satisfaction in years to come.   Stephen is good at what he does. He does it with such enthusiasm and style and we are very grateful to him."

Friday, 3 April 2015

Inspiring visit to National Trust property - Greys Court in Oxfordshire

I have often been disappointed by National Trust gardens but love visiting the good ones. Especially in Winter where you can see the structure and shapes without the distraction of colourful perennials and foliage. Today I went with my son and wife to look around Greys Court and it was full of wonderful ideas..
No more words needed, i hope you enjoy them.

 Lovely walkway 

Fabulous supports from willow

Espalier heaven 

A bare wall? build one of these and fill with seasonal offerings! 

The gods of gardening...

Leading you down the garden path


Box balls -still my favourite structure plant

And used in many different ways.

Colour in winter? Yes, if you plan well

Old fashioned water attenuation. Great idea

The mulch masters at work here.. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Fabulous planting is complicated- or why do amateurs rarely achieve the look they wanted?

Probably because it's really rather complicated!

A planting scheme that works is something that we can read about in any gardening journal and (almost) all gardeners have good taste, but one that is particular to them of course, so why do so few flower beds look great in reality?

My theory is that the average gardener pays too much attention to the flower and too little to other aspects that are in fact more important.

Summer perennial planting scheme in full sun designed by Stephen A Ryan

A gravel garden bed in a front garden in Gerrards Cross that is thriving - designed by us last year.

1. Shape - If you want a bed to look good then it makes sense to mix or repeat plants that have different overall profiles or shapes

2. Foliage -  The shape, size and even the colour of the leaves affects the impact of a plant in it's place. Lots of small leaves can look "messy" where as mixing shapes and sizes can look better in a single area. On a long border, repeat the pattern along it's length or use repeat in drifts interspaced with specimen plants or a tall perennial or two.

3. Season - Choose plants that work hard for a living and their spot in your scheme. If you choose a plant for it's flower, does it flower over many months or just 1-2 weeks. If you choose it for the foliage does it maintain it during the period you care about and add structure, evergreen or not? 

4. Position - Will it thrive where you want to put it or will it struggle? For example, plants that need poor soil will grow too tall and flop over if they are put into rich soil and plants that need shade will dry up and wilt in the full sun. Look to see where it likes to grow.

5. Size and competitiveness. -Just like us Humans, some plants are placid whilst others are aggressive and like to take over. Get this wrong and within a few years the bed will end up with one or two main varieties rather than the 10-12 that you started with!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A new garden on the Algarve in Portugal

In May this year we completed our first garden design in the Algarve in southern Portugal utilizing local materials and drought tolerant plants totally transforming an unused and unloved area into an example of lifestyle design.
Portugal is blessed as the country in Europe with the most sun hours and the warmest overall temperatures. One article I recently read compared it's climate to California and certainly the residents here live much more outdoors than we do in Northern Europe so this was a great challenge.

Sunlight and dancing shadows in a new Algarvean garden

Before- an unloved and unkempt garden ready to be transformed! 

 Before: An unloved and unused space that was unconnected to the pool area. Land prices here with views over the Atlantic are very expensive so not using it to enhance the villa seemed rather a shame.

New wide projecting steps connect the pool and garden together

We pulled down part of the wall and added large steps and suddenly the area felt enormous and the areas connected. I have to admit, I do have a 'thing' about large projecting steps!

The garden cleared and ready for a transformation

The entire area was then cleared and prepared for the build. This is the scary and exciting part of  designing - when the idea that started in my imagination and then went down on paper starts to emerge in the actual space.

Laying out the new garden

The Patio takes shape using local algarvean calcada stone and granite

The patio was laid out and build using a local stone called calcada. A daybed was built from cedar wood with encompassing sides and top. This was designed to make the shadows dance around when you're enjoying the bed, reading a book or just relaxing.

Cedar daybed in the Algarvean garden

Finally planting with irrigation was carried out and the whole area mulched with a local gravel.

Calcada patio links the daybed and pool area

Cedar daybed with walkway through to calcada patio

Gaura and Pennisetum 

Calcada is so textural!

After 3 Months it looks like this.

We found the whole experience to be inspiring and would love to design another garden down there, the Algarve really is Europe's outdoor living paradise!