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Garden Design Forum

Tips from the Associate professionals.
 

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Welcome to the Garden Design Forum, in which the English Garden Design Associates are happy to give you some tips and ideas gained from years of experience. If you would like a quick answer to a short question, just drop us an email by clicking here hugh.oconnell@btinternet.com and we will get back promptly. Please tell us where you live and your local weather and soil conditions. It would be very good if you could send us before and after photos where appropriate.

The Forum is provided on the understanding that we cannot accept liability for any consequences regarding your actions relating to our free advice. Please read the website terms and conditions.


Topics raised so far:

  1. How do I totally kill off all the existing grass in a field, so that I can re-level and eventually reseed it all?
  2. Have you suggestions on colourful plants and shrubs that grow in shade?
  3. For my GCSE project I have decided to design a garden. Can you recommend books on the subject of garden design?
  4. Is there something that we could mix in with the soil in our back yard to help it drain and not stay wet?
  5. Do you know of any source of Japanese stone urns?
  6. Should we have to remove the pots off our shared boundary fence?
  7. Can you help me look for information on becoming a landscape designer from my home?
  8. My garden is only 7 to 8 yards wide and has steps that go all the way up to the top - is there a design that would suit?
  9. I am hoping that you can suggest references on history, locations, and methods of layout of landscaped large ellipses?
  10. Can you suggest a climbing plant that I can put in a deep tub that I have on a north facing wall?
  11. I'd like to get some more practice in a company, which designs and builds gardens.
  12. Do you know the source of any large containers?
  13. What is the most common form of stone or brick that is used in an English country garden?
  14. Just how much of a problem is it if a sewer runs through my property?
  15. Planting drought tolerant areas on a budget.
  16. Removing a swimming pool
  17. Siting of vegetable beds
  18. How do I go about getting a nice lawn?
  19. Plants for a small front garden - and discouraging cats.
  20. Designing a garden in France
  21. Overgrown wisteria

More questions - go to page 2 topics

Now - what is your question?


Forum Page 1


Overgrown wisteria
Dear Hugh, I am attaching picture of wisteria at back of my house. You can see that is an old one, and I can't get anyone who seems to know what to do with it. It is so overgrown and heavy and is now almost covering a door. What should I do?
Forum (Hugh): With regard to the answers I sent you about the overgrown Wisteria you illustrated in the photograph you sent me from your I PAD the process may seem easy to understand doing it is not simple in reality.

As previously said the root system under the existing paving has been established over many years, if the top growth is removed the plant will try to replace the lost growth with new growth and go berserk making training new shoots above ground difficult if not impossible.

Training the new or old existing growth correctly has never been done to the Wisteria in its life on your site.

What is required has been said in brief for your basic understanding.

The method to do it and also control the plant growth to allow the plant to develop a balance between its roots and top growth can be done but has not been explained. It is experience not found on Google.

There is now a standard charge of 25 one off upfront payment for design or garden related questions/ answer from me. I can login to my Pay Pal account and create an invoice which will be emailed to you allowing you to pay online using Pay Pal. When paid the information will be sent to you.

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Designing a garden in France. Hugh and Mimi Kilgour, France:
Dear Hugh We have realised a dream of building a house in the Var in the south of France near a village called Carces. The house is set in an old ploughed up vineyard approx 5000sq. metres. Do you know of any student garden designers who would like to have a go at designing this area into a garden. We are now short of funds but thought this might be an interesting project for a student with some fringe benefits.
Forum (Hugh):I don't know of any student garden designers! However Brain Davis and myself are in the process of setting up a service whereby we could do the design "on the web" - this would be much cheaper than our normal rates, and will probably not require a site visit. Brian is a world expert on plants. On the other hand we would be interested to do it in the normal way, this would require a site visit by one of us, and survey. (The fringe benefits sound interesting!). Thereafter the design could be done in the UK. Best regards, Hugh
Mimi: Thank you so much for the reply. Our house we believe should be finished in July/August. The builders say July but we guess a bit longer. We wish to have an idea of the costing of both options. Can you give us some idea of your normal rates with a site visit, and what it would cost if you did a design "on the web". We would want a design and an idea of planting in a dry mediterranean setting with sandy soil. regards Mimi
Forum (Hugh): I have sent your reply onto Brian Davis, and we will let you know as to costs on both options. My normal rate in the UK in the West of England-which is the lowest rate, is based on a flexible £45 an hour (one can't charge for every hour). The planting is no problem-however I need to know the site details, the amount of slope, level, and variation there is, plus very importantly the house proportions, heights and style, and how it "sits on the site". I would be prepared to do the survey on the site visit-this will require staying over for two or three days (this affects the price of the plane ticket greatly, as quick turn rounds cost more) depending on the complexity of the site. I have found before in France it is very difficult to obtain or hire a theodolite-they don't seem to use them-preferring lasers-however they don't have much idea on the requirements for designing gardens either, and trying to take levels with a laser is a nightmare over long distances. I would bring my theodolite with me on the plane, also can you let me know the nearest airport to your site location. For cost reduction accommodation would be best once your house has been completed. As such only the actual hours required to do the site survey and draw itup in the UK, would be charged. Per my web site the first visit is not charged - except travel and expenses. Hope this answers some of your queries. Regards Hugh

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Plants for a small front garden - and discouraging cats. Jackie, UK:

hello, I have a little garden in the front. I would like to have some bushes, plants and gravel ( white or dark rocks) What should I plant? The garden will take approximately 3 different plants. I presently have mulches down and cats are constantly going to the bathroom in there. Please help me make my garden beautiful this summer. Thanks, Jackie
Forum (Hugh):
Hi Jackie, we have sent you a plant list. The names are in Latin which is usual for plant names-just take the list to your garden centre. You require your garden this summer-the plants will be small and need time to grow to show something - say three years, you could bulk up by planting closer-but you must remove the extra plants after three years or they spoil.
Regarding the cats: Perhaps if you purchase some strong plastic, or wire chicken netting to cover the bed area, and peg down with short timber posts hammered into the ground flush to ground level, then staple the netting to the posts, this should stop the cats. The plants could be planted through the netting by cutting out a flap-then cut the flap in two and fold back flat around the plant and secure to a peg. You could put the gravel over the netting. You need to put some fertilizer around the plant when you put them in-ask your garden centre.

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How do I go about getting a nice lawn? TP, Dublin:
Hi I’m a bit frustrated with the time and effort I have to put into my lawn at the moment, and I think when it was seeded a four years ago the gardener used some pretty cheap lawn seed. I spend a lot of time getting rid of weeds, there’s some rogue grass beginning to spread and it’s also a bit bumpy. Recently I have seen advertisements for some “super” lawn seed, which grows very thickly (so thickly it chokes weeds), is resilient, slow growing and always stays green. Seems too good to be true. Have you seen these and what is your experience? I’m keen to get a nice lawn and am happy to put the work into it, but if there is a nice easy solution that would be great. Is it OK to sow new seed over and existing lawn, or should I rip it all out (about 100 sq m) and start again? What is the best way to level a lawn? Hope you can help
Forum (Hugh):It sounds as if you have a mess. I have not heard of the super lawn seed. The RHS Royal Horticultural Society do a book on Lawns. Getting a good lawn is not easy-if you can afford it get prices from contractors who are associated to BALI British Association of Landscape Industries. Regards Hugh
TP: It's not as bad as it sounds :-) but I'll see if there are any BALI affiliated landscapers here in Dublin. Thanks for your help.
Forum (Hugh):If you don't get any luck with contractors, or want to know the principles-as I said the RHS book. Plus look up under 'Garden Design Forum' the Martin Mackay emails. Use Roundup to kill off your existing lawn and weeds, depending on the soil type you could rotovate-the problem is if it is clay it is a pig to rotovate and get a tilth, unless the weather conditions are dry (which seems impossible with the weather we are getting). Then rake to a tilth and level raking out all stones larger than a pea to a depth of 5 cm. Then with your feet you 'tread' the area using a shuffling motion by sliding the foot over the ground the width of one foot and bring the other up to it (go to Dublin's bowling green and ask the head groundsman to show you how he should know). You do this over the whole area taking it in strips-this action levels and settles the soil, it also brings up any hidden stones-once done rake again, tread again, and rake this should do it. You can then seed with a good quality grass mixture or turf with a good quality mix avoid too much rye grass. (The groundsman should be able to advise). Seeding can be done in the summer if you have light irrigation-too heavy washes the seed out and pans the soil, if not sow in late August to mid September. Turfing can be done in summer but use planks to access the site. That is why I said it is difficult-especially on the legs if you are not used to it! Don't use a roller to settle the soil - your gardener probably used a roller that is why it is uneven, the action of the roller does that. Best regards Hugh
TP: Thanks! Just the advice I needed. I'll start the leg exercises :-) Really appreciate the advice, Hugh. The gardens changed from being a chore to a bit of a labour of love now, so I'll try and do it myself. Great idea about the groundsman. Thanks again. Regards, TP .
Forum (Hugh):Dear TP, I forgot to say the shuffle is done sideways, ensuring the full weight of the body comes on to the ground. Best of luck and take it steady to start with, also raking gives you backache. You will find it helps not to press too strongly on the rake which makes it dig in, and a long handle helps. To start off use a wooden hay rake if you can find one to get out the large lumps. Best Regards Hugh
TP:Thanks Hugh, your time is much appreciated. I'll let you know how I get on! Regards, TP

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Siting of vegetable beds. Sharon Clark, Wales:
Dear Hugh I am moving to SW Wales within the month, and am already planning changes to the existing garden! I need to know the best part of my new garden in which to build raised beds for successful growing of lovely fresh veggies. The garden faces south, and is a plot approx 20ft long by 80ft wide. The kitchen is at the rear on the eastern end of the bungalow, and we plan to build a conservatory on the western end. I am told most of the bad weather comes from the west, and the garden is quite windy from that direction. Also, how high can I safely build my raised beds, bearing in mind that I am arthritic and have chronic back pain, so bending is out of the question for more than a few minutes, although I could manage quite well sitting down? Eagerly awaiting your reply Sharon
Forum (Hugh):
Dear Sharon, The main thing with vegetables is they require light, and shelter from wind. Building the raised beds best with concrete blocks set on edge to one block high mortared in on a footing, you could go to a timber edge made to fit the blocks to take the edge higher (half round fencing posts with a strong waterproof membrane on the inside between the post and the soil) (beware of the tanalizing get advice from your supplier) widen up the top edge to make a safe seat the full length of both sides and ends. Make the paths wide enough to push a wheelbarrow. Keep the beds narrow no more than 1m wide so that you can work them from both sides. Never stand on the beds or compress the soil, this will make it warm up quicker, with good structure, easer to dig with a hand fork for short times. Fill the bottom layer with deep well rotted dung, and top with 300 mm or 1ft of soil, allow at least a month to settle, top up again until the soil has stabilized. Always use the fork full size or small-put the spade away it hurts your back unless you are used to it! Put wood chips on the paths to suppress weeds. Hope this helps, Best regards Hugh

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Removing a swimming pool. Tina Jones, UK:
Hi, I have a 24x12 foot swimming pool which I would like taken out of my garden. My question: do I need professional help to redesign my garden or are there sites I can access for help? We do have a fish pond and wonder if it's ok to move the fish into the swimming pool!
Forum (Hugh):
Hi Tina, You can move the fish into the swimming pool provided the water is not contaminated. You should be aware however as the sides are sheer it is dangerous. Also frogs and wildlife would not be able to get out, or climb the sheer sides. Swimming pools have been made into sunken gardens by half or three-quarter filling them up with soil and stone. You could call in a designer, or you could do it yourself. Regards Hugh

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Planting drought tolerant areas on a budget. Cheri Kulhanek, San Diego:
I have a retaining wall 30' long with 80+ diamond shaped areas for potting. Do you have any plans I could take advantage of? I live in San Diego and need to plant drought tolerant on a budget. I'd like to give it some character, not just planting all ice plant. I'd appreciate whatever info you could suggest. Thanks, Cheri
wall
Forum (Brian):
Hi Cheri Sadly I do not have personal knowledge of San Diego and its climate but the following two alpine plants could be worth trying. Campanula portenschiagiana and Campanula poscharskyana. The US Sunset Book National Garden Book suggests Hellianthemun nummularium, Cerastium tomentosum, Gazania Agave and Aloe could also work. Some of the dwarf Cytisus and Genista might be worth looking for. Hoping this helps. Let us know how you get on. Brian

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Just how much of a problem is it if a sewer runs through my property? Margaret Collingson, UK:
Dear Hugh Can you give me links to appropriate professional associations of landscape designers from which I could locate designers and constructors in my area who are known to achieve certain standards of service and quality. Also I am just prior to the exchange of contracts stage of a new house purchase and have discovered from sight of the plans that a sewer runs through the middle of the small garden. Just how much of a problem is this likely to be for landscape design and construction. Is it ' total disaster, forget this property' or is it 'bit of a nuisance but nothing desperate'. From whom could I seek advice about this? Margaret.
Forum (Hugh):
Dear Margaret, Where are you? This with regards to your question location of designers and constructors. Regarding the sewer presumable it is piped therefore would be located underground to a minimum local authority depth, (check with your local authority) and is the garden level, or on a slope? Provided it meets local authority standards I can't see a design problem. My web site under the Society of Garden Designers banner (click it) will bring up the Society web page. Also on the Garden Forum page I have BALI The British Association of Landscape Industries (in one of the email strings, click it) who list all their contractor members. You should be able to find a contractor, and a designer. Regards Hugh

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What is the most common form of stone or brick that is used in an English country garden? Barbara Welling, Washington, USA:
I live in Spokane, Washington. I have a cement slab patio outside my back door. I want to begin to create an English Country garden look by changing the cement to a traditional English patio. What is the most common form of stone or brick that is used in an English country garden. Could I place this material directly over the cement, or would I need to remove the cement first. Thank you.
Forum (Hugh):
Dear Barbara, The height level of your DPC - Damp Proof Course will determine if you need to remove the existing slab, the DPC must be a minimum of 2 courses above finished level. There are no common forms of brick or stone in the UK, all traditionally vary from County to County depending on the local stone or brick the house is built out of. Therefore match to the material on your own Spokane house rather than introduce something strange from the UK. Although Old English Bricks are traditional, and might be substituted for Old American bricks. The point to watch with brick is in freezing winter conditions if the brick has absorbed ground water it will 'blow' shatter due to the water expanding in the brick when freezing. Hope this helps Hugh

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Do you know the source of any large containers? Suzanne Overton, UK:
I have a solid chalk garden and therefore need to have almost everything in pots. I have some bigish trees and shrubs that I would like to display in really big beautiful pots but I am having trouble finding anything big enough. Please could you give me some leads.
Forum (Hugh):
Dear Suzanne, Very large pots are difficult to make-and very expensive to buy. Trees and shrubs have an expanding root system-if grown in a pot in time they could well break the pot. You could construct large timber containers, or build large containers in block or brick. On the other hand sink holes in the chalk and fill with good soil as planting pits. These plants will have to tolerate a PH of over 7. Going this way you could evolve an attractive layout of plants in the ground with differing containers at various levels. Hope this helps. Best regards Hugh

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I'd like to get some more practice in a company, which designs and builds gardens. Anna Lecka of Poznan, Poland:
Hallo! My name is Anna Lecka, I'm a student of horticulture on Agriculture University of Poznan in Poland. My faculty is Landscaping and garden architecture. I'm on fifth (last) year of my study. Before graduating I'd like to get some more practice in a company, which designs and builds gardens. I was looking for addresses of such companies on internet's sites and I've found you. I'd like to spend some months and work for you if it's possible and learn as much as possible about designing and building gardens. It wouldn't be my first job - I have a lot of experience in horticulture which I've received not only on my University. My parents have their own company - they produce ornamental plants, pot plants and vegetables. I've helped them since I was a child. Besides I worked as a cherry picker in Germany for some weeks and also in England as a berry picker on Mr Pascoe's farm (East Malling, near Maidstone in Kent). Last holiday I worked for 365 Nursery near King's Lynn, where I worked in glasshouse with tomatoes. I had there various kinds of job, including biological protection (I wasn't a picker this time). Of course I've got a lot of practice during my studies, but I'd like to get more from garden designing. Do you think, it is possible that I could work for you for some months as a student? Thank you! Anna Lecka
Forum (Hugh):Dear Anna, Thank you for your enquiry. I am passing your enquiry onto someone who might be able to suggest some contacts for you. You could also contact BALI - they are The British Association of Landscape Industries. They do help students, you require to contact a Landscape firm who designs and builds gardens - there are many of these firms in the UK. The BALI site has a Company Search section which gives you the addresses of members and also has a Job Vacancies search bar as well. Best of luck, Hugh O'Connell
Anna: Thank you very much! And greetings from Poland!
Thank you very much for your help. It's very kind of you. I've written many e-mails to Polish companies and got only one answer. And to England I've written 2 e-mails so far and I've got 2 answers, one from you even though I wrote to you by mistake. And you also help me without any reason. Thank you again! Thanks to you I've collected many very interesting addresses from web pages and I've found BALI. Now I just have to send e-mails everywhere. I hope I'll find a company which invite me to work with them. Best regards! Anna

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Can you suggest a climbing plant that I can put in a deep tub that I have on a north facing wall? Kevin of North Wales, UK:
Dear Hugh, I wonder if you can suggest a climbing plant that I can put in a deep tub that I have on a north facing wall by my front door. I have tried an evergreen clematis, but this has got wind burnt and never seems to flower. I would welcome any ideas. Thank you. Kevin.
Forum (Brian):Dear Kevin You describe the most hostile environment for any plant. All plants, and in particular those that climb, need root run. The formula is that for every metre of height the plant needs the same in root run in the soil. So I can think of no true recognised climber you can use - but all is not lost because you can get the effect by purchasing pre-grown standard trees that will give you at least five years of good service. However, the range is limited as far as types are concerned. My first choice would be Cotoneaster salicifolia purchased as two metre high or more, as pre-grown standard. Alternatively you could chose a lollypop shaped standard Chamaecyparis pisifera plumosa aurea. The shrub Eleagnus punges 'Maculata' grown as a standard may have the height you need. But remember whichever you chose they will not grow any taller than from when you purchase them. Apart from these be very careful. If you find other standard grown trees you like. contact me before you purchase and I will give you my wisdom. Hopfully preventing you having yet more failures! Brian Davis

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I am hoping that you can suggest references on history, locations, and methods of layout of landscaped large ellipses? From Clark Kimberling, Professor of Mathematics, University of Evansville :
I am hoping that you can suggest references on history, locations, and methods of layout of landscaped large ellipses. The main example seems to be the Ellipse in President’s Park, near the White House? So far, I’ve been unable to find any description of a method for laying out an ellipse (at least 100,000 sq ft).
The Ellipse in President’s Park was first laid out soon after 1851, and it was almost certainly redone in the 1880’s. Can you suggest where a description of method of layout for this particular ellipse can be found? (The National Park Service 2001 book, “The White House and President’s Park mentions the Ellipse on several pages but does not tell the method of layout.)
By “ellipse”, I mean an ellipse in the mathematical sense: the locus of a point P such that the sum of distances from P to two fixed points stays constant. (There are some landscaped “ovals” that are called “ellipses” but are not really elliptical.)
Thanks. Clark.
Forum (Diana Harris, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Architecture, University of Illinois):Dear Hugh, This is a bit out of my range, so I don't know of any manuals or guides to this problem's solution. But it was a compelling problem for architects during the 17th century in Italy. Gianlorenzo Bernini adored the elipse as a form. His piazza in front of St. Peter's Cathedral is one of the most famous elliptical outdoor spaces in the world. There is a book about its design and the use of the elipse by Timothy Katao (I think that's his name) which was published in the 1980s I believe---the title is something like _The Circle and the Square in the Oval at St. Peter's_. Good luck, Dianne Harris
Forum (Bruce Rawles, Elysian Publishing): Hi Hugh & Clark: If my memory is correct, the simplest method is to make a loop of twine one of whose triangular sides is the (fixed) major axis, the other two dynamically changing to reach all the various points tracing the surface of the ellipse. Maybe there is invisible twine between the planets and the sun and the invisible other focus of each elliptical orbit. I think there should be lots of web sites with a graphic of this, if a search on google was done. This method would work well with two tall poles at the focii, and not much existing other landscaping! If twine (or a suitable substitute) is chosen with minimal elasticity, it should still work for large areas as you suggest. I hope this is helpful! :-) Cheers! Bruce
Clark Kimberling: Dear Hugh and Bruce, Thanks. Since writing to Hugh with the Ellipse (Washington DC) in mind, someone has mentioned that Bernini's "ellipse" in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican is another possibly-accurate ellipse for which I'd like to find a record of the method of layout. Bruce, it would be interesting to know if the method you described was what was used on the Washington Ellipse. The major axis, according to the National Park Service, measures 1057 feet, and the minor axis, 880 feet. These measurements yield a distance of 567 feet between the foci. So, the length of twine required would be 567 + 1057, or 1624 feet. If that's the method that was actually used (in both Washington and Rome?), I hope that a record can be found confirming this. That seems like a remarkable way to lay out such large ellipses! The NPS also gives the area of the Ellipse as 696,960 sq ft. However, when area is computed from NPS's measurements of axes (Area = pi times "a/2" times "b/2"), the result is 6% larger than 696,960. I've written to NPS about this and am awaiting an answer. (Perhaps the Ellipse isn't one - but at this point I suspect it is, and that possibly the axes were measured with the walkway included, whereas the area may have been measured without including the walkway.) Conclusion --- if the Washington and Rome ellipses were laid out by the twine method, that is interesting enough to warrant a search for historical confirmation. If either ellipse was laid out some other way, that's also interesting, both historically, and I hope, "landscapingly". Best regards, Clark
Richard Sneesby, University of Gloucester: Interesting. Any ideas about setting out spirals?
Forum (Hugh O'Connell):There are two good illustrations of setting out spirals - one can be found in "The Gentleman & Cabinet Makers Director" by Thomas Chippendale, the other illustrating the use of the logarithmic spiral is in "Landscape Design with Plants" Edited by Brian Clouston. Best Hugh
Forum (Hugh O'Connell):Dear Clark, This link http://www.xahlee.org/SpecialPlaneCurves_dir/Ellipse_dir/ellipse.htmlalso shows some ellipse layout methods. When it is drawn out on plan to scale, it should be possible to set out on the ground by using a theodolite. Best Hugh
Clark Kimberling: Dear Hugh and fellow correspondents, Thanks, Hugh, for assembling the messages into a thread. I’ve got some deeper-than-email inquiries out regarding the manner in which the Ellipse (President’s Square South, Washington, DC) was laid out. Eventually, I may write an article for The Mathematics Teacher (journal of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). Meanwhile, an interesting interlibrary loan book has arrived: Timothy K. Kitao, Circle and Oval in the Square of Saint Peter’s: Bernini’s Art of Planning., New York University Press, 1974. The author notes that the “Ellipse” in St. Peter’s Square is composed of circular arcs and is not an ellipse. From page 34: “The ovato tondo was, in short, the standard oval in architectural practice—at least in Bernini’s Italy. The true ellipse was not unknown…but awkward to plot…” From page 71: “The ellipse is a conic section; the oval, composed of circular segments, is an approximation. (The terms ellipse and oval are interchangeable in common usage, but…) The true ellipse is awkward to plot and build. The oval suffices in architectural design unless a property peculiar to the ellipse is specifically sought. Kitao does not specifically name any post-Bernini true large landscaped or other architectural ellipses. His reference to awkwardness of plotting and building lends more interest, I think, to the possibility that the Ellipse in Washington is a “true ellipse” and that the laying out or plotting must have been quite a feat. Within mathematics (as contrasted to art, gardening, landscape, and architecture), the properties and methods of generation, as nicely summarized on Xah Lee’s highly respected and often cited website – well – all geometry teachers know what a “true ellipse” is. Best regards, Clark

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My garden is only 7 to 8 yards wide and has steps that go all the way up to the top - is there a design that would suit? Lady based in Nottingham, UK:
Dear Hugh, I have been reading some of the questions people have sent and wondered if you could help me, I live in Nottingham, I have been looking on the internet for a garden design that I could do in my garden, the council have just put new fences up in the back gardens and my garden is a mess, so my husband said we will change it, it's difficult as my garden is only 7 to 8 yards wide and has steps that go all the way up to the top, we have a patio at the top which is only small and one at the bottom I have only seen designs for flat gardens, have you any idea where I can find a site that has designs for gardens like mine, thanks Patricia
Forum (Hugh):Dear Patricia, You won't find a garden design on the internet to fit your needs! OK, The best approach is NOT to fight the problem but go with it. The steps, are they the full width of your garden, or are they a part of the width? If they are part of the width the ground on each side could be used, and stepped in wider sections reflecting the steps. Rose arches could then span the steps, these planted with roses, clematis, wisteria, etc,or you could put pots on the steps. Doing this would link the two patio areas you have with a colourful corridor. Hope this helps, Best wishes, Hugh

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Can you help me look for information on becoming a landscape designer from my home? Lady based in UK:
I am searching the internet looking for information on becoming a landscape designer from my home. I have life experience in horticulture and landscape but was injured and am trying to stay in this field. As I am going to be healing for a while I was trying to find courses at home.
If you could find the time to offer some professional opinions on this I would greatly appreciate it. Also, You have a fantastic site!
Thank You Cynthia
Forum (Hugh):Dear Cynthia, I have passed your e-mail onto Brian Davis, and Robin Templar Williams. Courses in Design and Landscaping vary, on my site Gloucester is illustrated - if you can get a course through them they are good, and I will send your e-mail to the head of department. Likewise The English School of Garden Design I know do a correspondence course on garden design -but I would recommend looking at the broader issues of Landscape as well. There are correspondence courses - you have to write round the Universities, and Colleges.
Forum (Robin Templar-Williams): Hi Hugh, I have as requested contacted Cynthia regarding distance learning courses
Forum (Brian): Hi. You might like to try the English Gardening School who run a correspondence school. Contact in the first instance Simon Pyle simon@egs.diccom Come back if you need more help.

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Should we have to remove the pots off our shared boundary fence? Lady from Stafford, UK: We have a dividing fence between our houses, I have some half sized pot holders screwed onto the fence with pots in them on my side. My neighbour has asked that we remove them because they are spoiling the fence (only water drips down and marks the fence-they are not bending the fence). Should we have to remove the pots off the fence?
Forum (Hugh):Who owns the fence?
Lady from Stafford: They say it is shared. We are going to see our solicitor and look at the deeds.
Forum: Deeds, solicitors, and boundary disputes can be expensive. We suggest that you build a strong frame in wood not attached to the fence, put larger pots on it, with bigger and better plants.
Lady from Stafford: Good idea thanks.

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Do you know of any source of Japanese stone urns? Gentleman from Stroud, UK: I cannot find a source of Japanese stone urns. Do you know of any?
The Forum e-mailed the Japanese Embassy in England and asked the question. They gave us the web site address for Herons Japanese Garden (now on this site) for stone urns and 7 acres of plants, plus much more

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Is there something that we could mix in with the soil in our back yard to help it drain and not stay wet? Rose Hendrixson of Tennessee, USA: We have a condo and a small yard in the back with a privacy fence. The space is about 20 x 40 feet. We have a problem in that behind the fence are large trees that shade our yard. When it rains the ground takes a long time to dry out. I fear that plants we put in there may stay too wet. Is there something that we could mix in with the soil to help it drain and not stay wet? I was thinking sawdust or sand or something that drains well. Thank you for any advice
Forum (Hugh): You must NOT mix sawdust with your soil, because the soil bacteria will use all the available nitrogen in the soil to break down the sawdust. This will make the plants go yellow, because they also need the nitrogen. As your yard is small, you could construct beds above the soil level with timber boards six inches wide (deep) to hold the soil. The paths could be on a lower level, thus taking the soil from the path to put into the bed, mix with garden compost well rotted, or bought from the garden centre. Allow the plant roots to root into the damp soil.
Forum (Brian): I agree with Hugh's comments 100%, although you might use it as a surface mulch. First lay a weed retarding woven permeable fabric on the soil surface to prevent contact with the soil. Some authorities recommend a dressing in the spring with Sulphate of Ammonia to overcome the nitrogen loss, but there is still a risk. There is also a high risk of spreading Honey Fungus or Boot Lace Fungus. Both comments can also be laid at the door of bark A coarse sand could be used to good effect- add at about 20% by volume If the trees roots infiltrate the soil lay a weed retarding woven permeable fabric sheet 15 to 18 inches below the soil as well.
Forum (Fiona):Hi Hugh - Tennessee is hot in summer, cold in winter, and humid. Probably heavy clay. Raised beds should work.

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For my GCSE project I have decided to design a garden. Can you recommend books on the subject of garden design? Louise from Standish, UK:I am a student at Standish Community High School and for my one of my GCSEs I have chosen to take Graphics and Design. For my GCSE project I have decided to design a garden. If you have any leaflets, brochures or information on the subject of garden design, I would be grateful if you could send me some.
Forum (Hugh):As in all design and drawing, work develops with practice. Give yourself plenty of time to develop - don't force it. With Garden Design, because there are so many aspects to a garden, your result will probably seem to come as an accident - ideas evolve, and evolve other ideas with gained knowledge. Initially free yourself up - always free up, then control the best ideas. Don't be afraid to scrap your own work - sometimes ideas come better that way!
Forum (Brian):There is a very good book you may like to use for reference A Handbook for Garden Design by Rosemary Alexander ISBN 0-7063-7204-2 1994. £18.99 In my lecturing I use this as my main work book as it leads the reader through the process of garden design stage by stage. Designing the hard landscaping areas of a garden is relatively easy, the shortfall sadly comes very frequently in the selection of plants to grow and develop in the garden over many years. If you forward your college address details, I may be able to help with a few surplus small publications I have. Feel very free to come back if you need more help. Good luck with your project! You might like to look at car boot sales for copies of the Expert series of books by Dr. D.G Hessayon. These will give you an background range of plants which you can select for planting in your garden.

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Have you suggestions on colourful plants and shrubs that grow in shade? Kirk Kuntry of US/Canada: I am building a cypress cabin in the woods with lots of shaded areas, I want lots of color besides the cedar trees that surround my place. (tired of year-round green). I plan on thinning out a lot of the cedars but still little light will filter thru. Suggestions on colorful plants, shrubs that grow in shade (partial sun). Soil type 1/2 & 1/2 top soil mixed with lime. I am most positive that I will have to bring in lots of top soil but I am willing to take the time & work hard - I am a outdoors type of person.
Forum (Brian): Hi. Kirk I asume you are in the northern staits of the U.S or in Canada. If I have it wrong let me know. Therefore I have chosen plants that should work in planting zones 3, 4, 5. although care will be needed if you are in the northern areas of zone 3. Your might also like to look out for :
Lois Hole's Book. Favourite Trees and Shrubs.1997 ISBN 1-55105-081-01
Simon & Schuster's Guide to Trees 1977 ISBN 0.671-2425-PBK
Sunset National Garden Book ISBN 0-3760 - 3862-4
Or even my own title
The Gardeners Essential Plant Guide 1997 Brian Davis Published by Laural Glen ISBN 1-800-284-3580
The following are a number of ideas you could consider. The chalk is a problem and you must stay away from any plant that is not lime tolerant Grow up in to the trees to display autumn colours and to achieve this I would look for the following:
Vitis Brant
Vitis Coignetiae
Celastrus orbiculatus
Wisteria (In most sunny spot)
Clematis Montana varieties
Rosa 'Fillips 'Kiftsgate'
Rosa 'American Pillar'
Depending on the soil carpet, you could look to planting many different spring flowering bulbs.

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How do I totally kill off all the existing grass in a field, so that I can re-level and eventually reseed it all? Martin Mackay of Ireland:Dear Hugh, I visited your uk garden designer web site, very interesting. I have bought a 2 acre plot in west Ireland, my house is under construction and I am planning the garden already. I want to totally kill off all the existing grass eventually, re-level all with a plough/digger and eventually reseed all. The field was once used for young calfs and is very weedy. Can that be done. Sprayed to kill off? Left for a while? Then turned over to rot away? That is my best guess. We have excavated spoil for a large natural pond at the bottom lowest end where the land slopes away. I am considering using bentonite clay or a EPDM Firestone liner to manage the water retention. Your advice on the grass question would be helpful, if you know any good sources of info for me to better plan that stage I will be very grateful. I work in France in the winter and will be doing all the interior house building as well as the grounds. I am planning to turn our new house into a very desirable property, the grounds must be neat, hence my love for level neat lawns.
Forum (Hugh):The best way is to use a weed killer called Roundup or glypsophate. Your farming neighbours should be able to advise as to where to get it from, and which contractor to put it on. This chemical is broken down by the soil bacteria-so it leaves no residue in the soil. It is active in good light conditions, therefore it 'works' from April-September, you have to wait until April before you can spray. The chemical takes three weeks to work. Do not plough, allow the secondary growth to grow-you will probable get thistles, and other weeds, spray again on the advice of your contractor as to which chemical for thistles, you could follow this up with another application. When the ground is clean plough in the autumn-it is easer to plough clean ground-grass is not killed by ploughing and the sward leaves a mess making it harder to till afterwards. Your agricultural contractor should be able to advise as to cultivation.
For the pond butyl is the best liner with a 100 year guarantee. Clay has the disadvantage of having to be kept wet-if it dries it cracks-and you lose all your lovely water, this can occur when the water evaporates around the margins. Once it cracks it can't be repaired. Also roots can grow through it-whereas butyl will stretch. Therefore it is worth the extra expense. Hope this helps, come back if want any more information.
I will pass your enquiry for Butyl to my supplier-they will contact you. They will need to know the size of your pond-they can advise as to depth but 1m should be sufficient. You should also be able to get it in Ireland-but these are big suppliers who work overseas as well as the UK. Yes leaving the pond natural is the best way-it will need planting with oxygenating plants, and should have as much sun as possible. If you are to use a digger don't plough first. Soil structure can be easily damaged by over working especially in wet conditions. Keeping it un-worked until you require it is the best way, shape it once if possible, and let the result settle. Doing it in the summer months when it is dryer is best, after settling cultivate with a power harrow, level, and allow to go stale. Let the weeds grow and spray off - this is all helping to clean the ground for your lawns. (the problem is not only the existing weeds, but the seeds accumulated in the soil from other similar weeds over the years-one year's seed, seven years weed). Sow grass on your prepared lawn areas in early Autumn - September with a lawn mix, in the next year-or the Spring of that year.

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If you would like to discuss the work of the Associates further and arrange a visit by one of the Associates, please contact:

Hugh O'Connell, 78 Queen Street, Seaton, Devon, EX12 2RJ

Email: hugh.oconnell@btinternet.com

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