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Garden Design Forum - page 2

Free 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 advice. People don't regard the time it takes in years to gain the expertise or the time it takes to write the advice in text for the unqualified enquirer's understandingPlease read the website terms and conditions.


Topics on page 2:

  1. How do I get into the landscape design profession?
  2. Can I have a load-bearing wooden fence?
  3. Do you do diplomas?
  4. Can you help me design a Japanese garden for a school project?
  5. Hedge advice required - alternative to Leylandi.
  6. Accessing the back of a border
  7. Choosing a garden design course
  8. Spiral designs for a garden
  9. What questions does a designer ask when planning a garden?
  10. Brown patches in a Leylandi hedge
  11. Wisteria drying out
  12. Adding a swimming pool
  13. Wisteria flowers poorly
  14. Knot Garden Path Materials
  15. 28 year old wisteria suddenly dying
  16. Dawn rose and clematis Montana growing together. A bad idea?
  17. John Brookes MBE - thoughts on researching a garden designer
  18. Tips on site orientation and aspect
  19. Building a bund
  20. Gabions and vermin/insects

Go to page 1 topics


Forum Page 2


Choice of Materials for Knot Garden Paths. Jeniffer, USA:
Good afternoon! I'm working on a formal garden in the English style at my home. We are at this moment planting a knot garden and here is where my question comes in: What material would be typical for pathway? brick or gravel? And if it is gravel, what kind, colors and size?

Forum (Hugh): You asked about typical materials for pathways, this really depends on the “period” of the piece and its geographical location, in The English style in those Centuries the horse and cart was the main form of transport this restricted the economic distance materials were carried. If the house was brick built the paths might well have been made out of the same material - brick, or they could have been gravel, or stone, laid rough or to a pattern

There is a modern design danger (especially in the US as the culture is so mixed) in getting the build composition out of balance by just focussing on the “English Style”, and introducing a material to be used for its own sake rather than contemplating what the effect of that material will have within the overall composition of your knot garden, then arriving at an “Over The Top” result and not really knowing why. Doing a “Bolt on Composition”. “The old English style” has subtle variations not immediately noticeable at first hand, paths are for walking on, they all grow algae and moss up over time, even with gravel. This time factor should be considered as you will lose any colour you may introduce after a time.

The knot garden plants therefore are the more important consideration than the colour of the gavel, as to grade provided it is normal to what you are used to using and is fairly local to your location and used for drives and paths that should be acceptable to get the necessary balance and to make your work seem to have spanned the Centuries and location.

Forum(Sally): I agree with Hugh's comments on using local materials which would link the garden back to the site as well as "grounding" the house to the garden. The end decision will dependent :- 1) your personal preference and 2) overall cost of purchasing the chosen material and cost of installation.

If you choose gravel, the cheapest is pea-shingle, a rounded stone of multi-colours. But there are many more attractive gravels to use. I personally prefer using a rougher gravel (approx 10-20mm) as this deters cats from using it as a lavatory. Nevertheless you have to be wary of using any form of gravel as it does travel on the base of shoes and can cause havoc on wood floors, etc. Any natural clay paving is suitable, bricks or tiles, but again you have to be careful to use one that isn't too soft and can take the onslaught of our weather. Stone is of course very beautiful but is the most expensive option especially good quality reclaimed York. There are less expensive imports from India - but make sure you choose one that has fettled or irregular edges otherwise it could look too contemporary. (The alternative of course would to be to put in a “modern” parterre with clean edges and new perennial planting which is proving to be very effective when set against older properties.)

For your interest I would suggest that you read “Restoring Period Gardens” by John Harvey and “Creating Small Formal Gardens” by Roy Strong.


Wisteria Flowers Poorly. Phil, UK:
I have a 5 year old pink wisteria on a NE facing wall with a spread of 20 ft by 15 ft (ht). Unfortunately it only produces about 6 flowers, 5 of which are on the right hand side. What do I need to do to make it flower more prolifically and on both sides ?

I have another wisteria ( blue) on a SE facing wall which flowers prolifically. I prune and fertilise this the same as the other. Your advice would be appreciated.

Forum (Hugh): Wisterias like a situation where they get full sun or very light shade or they will not flower, yours sounds as if it is not getting enough sun hence the few flowers. You should note that all plants are under the greatest stress when in flower and flowers are produced to propagate the species (not to look pretty), if the plant does not get the sun light conditions it normally needs to produce many flowers it does the best job it can and produces a few - enough to propagate the species even if they are sterile, as that is the nature of things.


Adding a swimming pool. Sandy, UK:
Good afternoon, I am most impressed by your web site - evidently you have had some fascinating jobs. Mine, inevitably, is rather mundane by comparison, due to financial constraints and the nature of the project. I am going to build a swimming pool in my 2.5 acre garden in wet Surrey in the very near future and want to start by making a plan so it is an effective part of the garden, in the right place and 'works'. I can send photos of the location within the site and discuss what I have in mind, about which I am fairly settled. What I need is help putting it on paper and filling out the detail for planting / materials etc. All without breaking the bank! Easy. If you think you are able to help please let me know. thanks Sandy
Forum (Hugh):Dear Sandy, Thank you for your enquiry, yes I would be interested to help if I can. Can you get a local surveyor to survey the site showing the garden levels? This can be done topographically by satellite, as the garden is 2.5 acres it is worth taking in the whole area. Photos will be helpful taken "located to the house" that is the garden area showing parts of the house where possible with the rest linked to these. I don't require hundreds, and can always ask for more specific detail as the design progresses. Location, North position, soil type clay, gravel, sand etc. Regards Hugh
Sandy:Dear Hugh Thanks for you prompt reply, excellent news. I will see what I can arrange for the survey. What is the basis on which you would charge? I would like to know what I am getting into financially, I realise you are not familiar with my project as yet but I do not want to waste your time if your charges are outside my constraints. How does it work? Thanks Sandy
Forum (Hugh):Dear Sandy, Depending on the amount of work my drawing hours are based on £35 an hour - thinking time is not charged! Once I have seen the survey I will let you know a price, but say a guide price of £1000 if you require a full planting plan. You will need a survey if you have any other designer. I will produce a scaled outline concept drawing, with a separate planting plan scaled at 1:50. As a cheaper alternative I can set out the basic key plants to which you can add plants later under my guidance - see my web site. Regards Hugh


Wisteria drying out. Sima Lee, Canada:
Dear Sir, I am in Canada. I planted a wisteria in the early spring and it grew well in the first few months. But now I see the leaves are starting to dried out at the end especially the young ones. I searched a few web sites, but did not find any information about it. Do you know anything about it? Thanks. Sima Lee
Forum (Brian):Dear Sima, Hugh has asked me to comment on your Wisteria problem. I believe what has happened is that the pot root ball has dried out. Often even if the plant is regularly watered the area directly within the pot root ball zone can become dried out. When it does the plant reacts as you describe. All is not lost though! Keep the pot root ball well watered until Fall. Next spring continue to water until end of May and if drought is experienced keep watering. The plant will grow away in early summer. Come back in November 2005 or visit Knowyourgardening.com and we will help you with the pruning Brian Davis
Sima:Dear Hugh and Brian, Thank you very much for the prompt reply. I am Toronto, Canada. The wisteria is about six feet high and I planted it at the backyard just besides the deck. Yesterday I tested the soil PH in which it is planted. The sample soil was got from about 4 inches below the surface. The PH is around 7.0, it seems not bad. The problem is the plant seems to have stopped growing as it is the same size as it was in the spring. The young leaves dried out even before they start open and the old leaves start to shrink and dry out at the end. There are no visible insects on the tree.Also the soil is quite moist. Thank you both again for your help. Regards, Sima
Forum (Hugh):Dear Sima, Do you have any other plants growing near the Wisteria, or is it on its own? How long has the deck been up - as I am wondering if any wood preservative could have got into the soil where the Wisteria is. If the soil is quite moist this sounds like 'salts' in the soil inhibiting the plants take up of moisture. You could try digging out a section of soil and replacing it with new soil then check the plant to see if it is putting out fibre root after six weeks. Regards Hugh
Sima:Dear Hugh, Thanks a lot for the email. The deck was built one year and a half ago and there are no other plants near the wisteria. I will try your suggestion and see what happens. I will do my best to save the plant. Regards, Sima


Brown patches in Leylandi. Colin Board, UK:
Dear Hugh I have a leylandi hedge around my house & since last summer several large brown areas have developed where the ends of the tree are dead. I have raked the areas to get rid of dead stuff & fed (blood F&B and Seaweed) & watered the areas & some green growth is showing through the brown. Am I doing the right thing or wasting my time? Is there anything else I can do? Regards Colin Board
Forum (Hugh):Dear Colin, Leylandii respond to flooding watering covering the root area within the canopy with a hose in the months of July, August, September. It could be your ground conditions have dried out with the evergreen canopy. April is the time to apply fertilizer, dried blood has no salts - beware of salts with fibre roots as they scorch. But I think it is your watering that has started the growth. Regards Hugh O'Connell


What questions does a designer ask when planning a garden? Paul Riding, UK
I am currently studying National diploma in Horticulture. I have received a project in design principles. I hoped you could give me some advice. I am to design a questionnaire for the initial visit to the client to gain info about what they are wanting out of the garden. I was wondering what type of questions to ask. Upto now I have asked questions like what the main use of the garden is, if they are wanting a focal point in the garden or if the garden is to be used for entertaining guests. Could you suggest some further questins that i could ask. cheers Paul Riding
Forum (Hugh): Dear Paul, Design Principles! There is no short answer - as every garden and their problems are different, with the owner / clients being individuals - to generalize on such a questionnaire would be cutting your design ability short. For example - to ask if they 'want a focal point' you should first consider the uses of a Focal Point to draw the 'eye' as part of your design concept for that specific garden. Is your focal point vegetable or mineral? Is it strong or light weight? To develop this concept is part of your job as a designer - to decide what or where (if at all), a focal point, or points, are required to help make your design work. As objects and plants can be used as Focal Points, you may therefore safely enquire what object and plants the clients like in general terms, that is before you have surveyed the garden and determined the site problems. Have a look at the pages on my site www.ukgardendesigner.com and ask your friends to do the same. Consider each of the projects that are illustrated and see if you all have the same ideas as to what the client requirements and design solutions for those projects are. I hope that you all have different contributions to make. Look at as many gardens as you can and discuss with your fellow students - generate ideas amongst yourselves. Furthermore, from experience, I would say you cannot fully determine the garden design principles in the first visit, and only during, and after doing, the survey can you start to understand the problems. Only then will you be able to apply those Design Principles as an integral part of your design solution. Hope this helps Best Regards Hugh O'Connell


Spiral designs for a garden. Nancy Simpson, Wisconsin, USA:
Dear Hugh, I am interested in spiral gardens. I was led to your site with that reference.
Forum (Hugh): Dear Nancy, Further to your enquiry I do have some reference to spirals in the Forum pages as you rightly point out and although not 'gardens' a full description on spiral construction can be found in "Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction" by George Bain (Constable 1996) ISBN No 0-09-476900-1 price £9.99. "This book deals with the Pictish School of artist craftsmen who cut pagan symbols like the Burghead Bull and in the early Christian era designed such superb examples of monumental sculpture such as the Aberlemno Cross and the counterparts in the Book of Kells and Lindisfarne, the amazing jewellery conceptions of the Ardagh chalice and other masterpieces". See here for a UK review and for other Celtic subject books. "For those who have attempted to draw Celtic patterns and have found the task difficult or impossible this book is an invaluable guide to how the patterns were set-out. Once the design is complete, the underlying geometry is almost impossible to decipher, so it is greatly to the credit of the author and illustrator that he has achieved his task so well. This he has done with hundreds of immaculate black linear illustrations showing the basics of the patterns followed by the additional layers to show how the art work can be created. There are also sixteen photographs and six new colour plates. Though the work was first printed in 1951 it is still most relevant today with the great blossoming of interest in Celtic art-work. In addition to the patterns there are many alphabets and numerous figures, animals and mythological beasts. For those interested in this highly sophisticated artwork from the supposedly "Dark Ages" this is a very thorough guide to the subject and probably one of the best currently available". I am also very interested in spirals and I will shortly be posting links to gardens of interest. In the book on page 61 are some methods for the construction of Spirals of the Pictish School of Celtic Art. The first three are 'One coil Spirals' which actually rarely occur in Pictish Art. However this is the spiral that Thomas Chippendale illustrates in 'The Gentleman & Cabinet - Maker's Director'. Regards Hugh O'Connell


Choosing a garden design course. Satomi Narui, Japan:
Dear Mr.Hugh, I am writing to ask for your advice. I am at a crossroads in my life,please help me! I am 26 years old and Japanese who study English at a language school in Cambridge. I love garden and I am really interested in garden design. I want to be a professional garden designer. I would like to study garden design in England. However,I have never studied about garden design at school. I have already graduated from University in Japan but my subject was music, I researched some University or college which I can study, But I have nobody who knows about garden design very well. Therefor I have no idea which school is good or which qualification is necessary..Could you give me any advice about school in England? What should I study to be professional ? I really want to be professional garden designer.Please, please give me some advice!! I hope you have time to read this and don't mind reading this. I wish you every success. Yours Sincerely, Satomi Narui
Forum (Hugh):Dear Satomi, Yes music does go with gardens. On my web site in the Links page is a link to the University of Gloucester They have several courses on Landscape and Garden Design. I would advise you choose one that incorporates Landscape design as well as garden design to be able to broaden your horizons in this multi discipline profession. I am also sending this reply to the Head of Department who will probably send you an email with some more information. Best of luck, Hugh O'Connell
Satomi: Dear Mr.Hugh, Thank you very much for your advice! It's very kind of you. Now I try to get information from school which you recomended. I'll do my best to be garden designer, You helped me without any reason, I'll never forget your kindness. I wish you the best of luck in the future.Best regards, Satomi Narui


Accessing the back of a border. Mrs J Beers, UK:
Dear Hugh, We have recently moved house and my husband has dug some fairly large borders as I love cottage gardens and want to buy a suitable mixture. One problem is how do I reach the plants at the back of the borders. We thought of laying flat stones in between the plants, but surely the plants and foliage would grow over them. We would very much appreciate your advice if you can help us with this problem. Thank You, Yours Sincerely, J Beers
Forum (Hugh):Dear Mrs Beers, You are accentuating the problem - as there is no problem! You won't be walking to the plants very often, so just tread on the ground, it will have settled down firm after planting in any case. Best regards Hugh


Hedge advice required - alternative to Leylandi. Allan Hadley, Scotland:
I have a detached house on a corner plot bordered at the front and down one side by a 1M high wall. I am looking to install a hedge along the wall at the side of my house to give privacy and security. I do not really want to plant Leylandi, can you advise a bush or shrub(s) substitute to a height of 2M that will give me the same results as the leylandi. I live just outside Aberdeen. Many thanks Allan Hadley
Forum (Brian):Hi. Allan. Without question my choice would be Thuja plicata planted at 1m apart in a single row. The best size to start with is 60-80cm and they should be container grown. In your location I would try to purchase from a forestry nursery such as Christies of Fochabers. Come back if you need more info.


Can you help me design a Japanese garden for a school project? Simeon Miller, UK:
Dear Mr.O'Connell, I am doing a coursework project on garden design. I was wondering if you could give me some information about the processes that are involved in designing a garden, how much do the materials cost? How much does Sand cost? How much do Rocks and boulders cost? How much do Trees and plants (such as evergreens) cost? I am going to create a Japanese garden with rock and water features. Do you have any advice? Thanks for your time Yours sincerely Simeon Miller
Forum (Hugh):Dear Simeon, Go to your builders merchant to find out prices of sand, stone, timber etc. To your garden centre for plants, Trees rocks, and boulders etc. to your local library on Japanese culture. Don't be influenced by western ideas of Japanese gardens - look to the real thing - you can find this on my web site under the 'Some World Gardens' pages. Best of luck, Regards Hugh O'Connell


Do you do diplomas? Norman, Sri Lanka:
Dear Hugh I hope you can help. I wish my son to take one of your diplomas in garden design.
Forum (Hugh):Dear Norman, My company is not an institute for education. However I recommend you look under www.rhs.org.uk/education/docs/Diploma1.pdf This is The Royal Horticultural Society Colleges offering Courses Leading to: The RHS Diploma in Horticulture. These colleges also offer many other courses. Best regards Hugh O'Connell


Load bearing garden fence? David Brown, UK:
Dear Hugh I hope you can help me ? I wish to replace a wooden fence on my property that was erected by the previous owner. My neighbour's patio is approximately 3ft higher that my patio and the general height of his garden (running downhill) is generally about 2ft 6ins higher than mine down its entire length. I would like to erect a new wooden fence, but I must take into account my neighbour's concerns. He has quite rightly said that his garden drains onto mine and a wooden fence (however well treated) would decay. He has also mentioned that I have a duty of care not to damage his property. My belief is that he is right and I should erect a fence that will prevent his garden and patio from slipping and allowing it to drain by natural means, ie weep holes or similar, and the fence should be of substansial strength to allow for load bearing of his different garden height. I would appreciate any advice you could offer me. Yours sincerely Dave Brown
Forum (Hugh):Dear Dave, It seems to me that you should take the advice of your solicitor. Wooden fences are for dividing off property-not for load bearing. The question to ask is - should your neighbour's patio and garden be held up by your fence? Should there not be a wall on his side to hold up his patio? Does he not have a duty of care not to damage your property? Regards Hugh


How do I get into the landscape design profession? Cami Zaugg, Utah, USA:
I am a stay at home mom in Utah and would like to get into the landscape design profession. Do you need a degree or certificate to do this? If so, where can I get info. on distance learning? If not, where do I start? I would also like to know about the field. Is there need for landscape designers or is the profession saturated? Any information you could give me would be very helpful. Thanks, Cami
Forum (Hugh):Dear Cami, There is a need for dedicated professional garden/landscape designers - on qualifying your success depends on your work attitude - "it is the job that counts, not the money", is the best mind frame to have. I recommend you to apply to the Association of Professional Landscape Designers at info@apld.org APLD 1924 North Second Street Harrisburg, PA 17102 Fax 717-238-9985 As I am an APLD member in the UK, I am going to pass this email to another member who lives in the US, and ask her to contact you, especially as the APLD started in the US and has most members there. Best regards Hugh O'Connell
Forum (Hugh) to Denise Calabrese for APLD USA: Dear Denise, Please can you get in touch with Cami as per the enclosed email? 'Always encouraging APLD membership even from across the pond'! What is the membership now how close to the target? Please keep me informed - and you might like to have a look at our new pages under Environmental Projects. All the best Hugh PS Cami's enquiry and my reply will go up on the Forum pages.
From Denise Calabrese, on behalf of APLD USA: You are the BEST, Hugh! We currently stand at 954 dues-paying members. I really want to hit 1,000 members, so thank you for encouraging membership! I'll answer Cami right away. Denise p.s. The new pages look GREAT!


28 year old wisteria suddenly dying. Barbara Keast, UK.
dear Hugh I am so desperate. Our beautiful wisteria planted when we married as a spindly thin stem has flourished rapidly into a massive tree, planted centrally at the front of our bungalow and spanning both ways over windows and it has raced around one side too. Since day one, a mass of flowers, even written about by someone in our local newspaper, it is amazing.... but suddenly this week i returned to see about 35% of it totally shrivelled, in a few hours, just like a plant left for weeks without water. What on earth has suddenly happened do you think. we note dampness at the base of the bark near the soil, and have cleared away wet leaves now and scraped off loose bark, but the main trunk is firm. I was asked on the phone by someone about the graft, i dont quite know, but the base has two trunks now, one upwards no doubt the main, and a sideways branch which shot vigorously around the house some years ago, which has the damp bark, that is the branch too, where all the dead bits seem to come from. The upright trunk still has healthy leaves. The plant is massive and wonder should we saw off the sideways trunks which is holding all the dead branches... would the main one have a better chance of surviving, or will the main trunk succumb also to the shrivelling.. i just dont know what to do. Please help if you can. i have taken some pics as well. regards and thanks so much for any advice, i feel the rest of it will die any minute! barbara keast
Forum (Hugh):Dear Barbara, Sounds 'strange'. Before you do anything I suggest you ask the RHS at Wisley and may be someone will come and look at it. Regards Hugh
Barbara:Hello Hugh I am just sorting all my very old emails, some need to go... and came across this one. I thought I would let you know that we did rush along to Wisley with some pics etc. and a really helpful man on the advice desk confirmed our fears that the (massive) trunk which spurred off of the main trunk about fifteen years ago needed to be removed. He advised a sulphur treatment for the open wound and we also bought a large sprayer and recommended fungicide for the whole plant. We returned home and my husband and son spent hours on the operation, it is so close to the house wall that it was rather difficult and a huge intertwined plant.
This year we have had the usual amazing display of flowers and the main trunk seems to have survived ... at the moment, although we are worried about the open wound perhaps getting infected and still put sulphur powder on it from time to time. fortunately the dying part had rushed around the bungalow and the original stem was holding the main branches across the front of the bungalow so although thinned out a bit, still is balanced and very bushy.
Thanks so much for your advice about going to Wisley as we really did not know what to do and would perhaps not have been brave enough to 'operate' without that expert advice!! Regards Barbara Keast


Dawn rose and clematis Montana growing together. A bad idea?
Dear Hugh, My new dawn rose is looking pretty peeping through the clematis montana it is growing with, but it is showing few flowers compared to previous years. Is the clematis killing it? If so, how do I go about rescuing it? I'd be grateful for your advice, as many sites recommend planting this combination but very few tell you how to manage it! All the best, Sarah Brown.
Forum (Hugh): Dear Sarah, Most sites are written by people who copy text from other people!
From a good book now out of print - Clematis montana use: "As a free-flowering, rambling climber for large walls or fences, or to grow over large shrubs and small trees. Ideal for pergolas, trellis archways, in fact wherever a climber is required. It is also good as a widespreading ground cover with or without support".
Problems. Often outgrows the area intended for it. An extremely vigorous climber.
Pruning. Normally requires no pruning until five years after planting and then can be heavily reduced after flowering, quickly rejuvenates itself giving a better display of foliage in the following season and good flowering performance the following spring.
The plant combination you have was chosen 'by the original writer' for the flower combination only with no consideration for plant growth after 5 years. Plants grow more between 5 and 7 years than they do in the first 5.
Suggest in the late autumn when the plant is dormant you move the rose out of the Clematis and possibly plant it within sight of the clematis but not with it. Kind Regards, Hugh O'Connell
Fiona Hopes: Dear Hugh and Sarah, I would NEVER EVER plant Clematis montana with a rose, even New Dawn, which can be very vigorous. Clematis montana will take over everything for about 30ft or more if left to its own devices, so it is best used as a feature on its own.
If you want to leave the rose where it is, I suggest moving/totally removing the clematis, and replacing it with a different clematis, one of the late flowering jackmanii type. They are easy to control, as you cut them down hard (to about 1ft or so) in the spring, and you do not get the woody growth within the rose that you get with Clematis montana. The rose will still be flowering later in the year, especially if you dead-head regularly, so you still get a stunning flower combination, but later in he summer. And you will be able to train and prune the rose in the spring, and tie it in ready for the new season's growth and flowering. (I do have a book on pruning available, if you get stuck here!). Now you have two options. Both plants are excellent 'doers', but together they will 'do' each other to death. Best wishes, Fiona


John Brookes MBE - thoughts on researching a garden designer
Steven: Hi, I am a student attempting the put together a presentation based on the garden designer John Brookes. Through desperation I am asking for any help you may be aware of. I know this is not the purpose of your website but would really appreciate any hints you may have regarding finding information about him. Many many thanks. Steven
Forum (Hugh): Hi Steven, Go to your local library and ask for garden design books by John Brooks then read the write ups on the rear covers, or browse through a book shop to do the same. He has written many books.
Steven: Thanks for taking the time to reply. I do have many books by him but none about him. Thanks again though.
Forum (Hugh): Good start. Also see page 175 about John Brooks in Influential Gardeners by Andrew Wilson ISBN 1 84000 512 2.
Forum (Hugh): Hi Steven, When I first started design I undertook deep analysis research on a garden designer now deceased. Many of his clients were kind. As a consequence I learnt lateral lessons that have enhanced my design without copying his work. Suggest you contact the Inchbald School of Garden Design as John Brookes was a former director and explain your problem. As he  is alive try contacting John through the Inchbald.
Try to get to see some of his gardens. His clients may be private people. Be careful and respect their privacy.
When observing gardens try to look to see the garden's design planting longevity (even if you don't know the plant names). Look at the plant species. Take a camera. This is a good way to see mature plants not generally grown in public gardens. Do the clients value the design as a design? As much of John's work is in London and houses change hands fairly regularly, has the garden's design lasted? Is the design 'dated' to a period? Try to see what changes the clients have done without the designer's knowledge - the clients generally won't tell you about direct changes, but as changes occur through consequence not in their control you might be told. If there are employed gardeners try to get on with them. You learn a lot, always respect the gardener. The problems will teach you to avoid them in your work - don't ask directly regarding problems. Many employed gardeners are the 'make or break' of a garden design however good it is, or however well known the designer is. If the gardener can't cope with the work he/she will 'kill' the design irrespective of the client. As 'good' gardeners are difficult to get the client will generally back them. Not all of them are plant knowledgeable, or are employed solely as gardeners. Best of luck.
Steven: Wow! You have given me many original angle from which to approach this that I had never considered. Your help and ideas are very much appreciated especially as it is not something you had to do. Contacting the man himself is something that had not occurred to me. You are very kind, thanks a lot.


Tips on site aspect and orientation
Alan: Hiya, I am doing C & G gardening certificate and am looking for straightforward description of aspect and orientation relative to the site analysis. Any help, tips or websites would be of great help. Regards Alan, Cheshire
Forum (Hugh): Alan, 
Site Orientation: Use 'Never Eat Shredded Wheat' easy way to remember the correct orientation of North East South West clockwise that shows you where the sun comes from, and not for deep shade.
Site Aspect: Marked position north. Prevailing wind direction. Tree and shrub positions for shade relative to sun position. Slope of ground level increments set to a Datum requirement. Drainage fall position. Boundary fence, walls or bank/hedge position protection or not from wind. Shade cast or not for planting. Existing view directions out from site or not.
Hope this helps. Regards, Hugh O'Connell


Building a bund
Lucy: Can you advise me on how to build a bund in front of my property to lessen the sound of traffic on a major road? The builder who is converting the property has heaped up his brick rubble along the boundary fence but even if we put loads of topsoil on top how can the bund be stabilised (i.e.. rain may wash the soil away) and what could we grow on the bund to make it look attractive and provide even more sound proofing? Thanks for any advice, Lucy
Forum (Hugh): Hello Lucy, Heaping up bricks around the boundary is NOT the way to build a bund - it's a cheap way for your builder to dispose of his waste at your cost. Access Google and put 'Acoustic barriers' in the search bar for supply firms. Barriers require to be high, over 2m, and you may require Planning Permission from your local authority. If you don't get success from Google for suppliers get back to me. Regards, Hugh O'Connell
Forum (Hugh): I don't normally follow up a reply especially if I don't get feed back from the sender. This is an exception. In your case I advise you instruct your builder to remove the rubble. Plants however small require water for their roots. If soil is put over the rubble it might dry out and only the toughest undesirable plants will grow in these conditions. I assume you know little about how plants grow, or you would not have asked the question. Below the ground line plants have roots that are required by the plant for anchorage and food location. Growing on top of bricks they will have difficulty in finding the ground and the water they require. Kind Regards, Hugh O'Connell
Lucy: Thank you for your replies. I have as you suggested "googled" acoustic barriers and have found a few useful sites, but not many. The reason I have raised this question is because I have serious doubts myself of how the growing mound will ever sustain plant life. However it was my husbands idea and one to be challenged with care, which is the reason for my research into the matter.


Gabions and vermin/insects
Archer Building Consultancy Ltd: I have been asked a question by a client and am seeking expert advice in terms of a response. Having searched for a suitable forum, I discovered your website and the offer of a response to a question.

My client’s question is;

“A comment was made that the gabions would be an attractive home for vermin, bees, wasps etc

My argument was that they would be too sterile for such a purpose. Has it ever been a problem?”

The context is that we are proposing a gabion wall seat to run along the perimeter of a raised ‘Bund’ at a school. Clearly my client wishes to be assured or at least mollified that Gabions will not harbour or attract vermin (such as do not already exist on site) and promote the nesting of insects. Given that this is an educational facility, I can understand this concern.

I have initially responded to my client with my thoughts on this matter (below) but would greatly appreciate some expert advice.

  • The gabions are filled with a large aggregate within a wire cage, the cage should prevent larger vermin accessing the gaps between the aggregate, the gaps between the aggregate will be minimal
  • I will specify that the gabions are to be covered with a smaller gauge wire mesh to prevent the ingress of vermin and also the insertion of rubbish into the cages
  • Given the nature of construction, gabions do not hold water and considering the climate and regular precipitation, water will flow freely between the aggregate
  • Both bees and wasps prefer dry living arrangements and are more likely to create nests within buildings, in trees or in the ground and away from damp and wet places
  • The presence of smaller insects and arachnids is something that I don’t believe any of us can control, without resorting to the regular application of appropriate chemical treatment
  • I would consider the prospect of the gabions harbouring vermin or nesting insects to be minimal.

Forum (Hugh): I think you have thought through the subject and gabions filled with stone to the manufactures specifications should not present problems. Problems with wasps, rats, mice, and rabbits could occur if smaller fill material stone to dust or timber mixed in to pretty it up was used. It's surprising how much weather protection is afforded if the air gaps between the fill material are reduced to allow compaction to occur within the mass.

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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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