Monday, 16 August 2010

One year on

There is always a bit of anxiety over seeing a garden design after it has spent a year establishing.  Will it have the intended effect?  Does the design work as hoped?
In the past few days I have I revisited a garden that was redesigned and built last year in Ely.  This is a garden for a weekend cottage that is prone to being left for up to a month at a time - the design and plants needed to be structured and low-maintenance, giving maximum impact throughout the year.  The focus of the garden is the new gravel terrace catching evening light at the end of the garden, surrounded by a simple planting palette of grasses and alliums with agapanthus, daisies and salvias.  The theme of grasses is continued in a block of the frothy Deschampsia flexuosa on the left which will offer a contrast with two blocks of yew clipped into severe rectangles within the grasses.  The yews need another year to bush out and establish before we attempt the initial shaping, so this sculptural element of the design is not yet apparent.  The Deschampsia is backed by a ribbon of the vertically-accented Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' against the wall.  A familiar component of grass plantings, this variety makes a curtain of vertical stems to offset the billowing Deschampsia - the foxy red flower spikes make a lively wind-tossed screen behind the new line of birches which march along this side of the garden.  The trees have had a rough ride this summer, and a couple of them are looking very autumnal already - the twiggy growth still has green beneath the bark, however, and my instinct tells me that these individuals have responded to the stresses of their first summer by shutting down early.

Overall I'm pleased with the result - there are some minor adjustments to the planting I would like to put in place this autumn, but within a couple of years the woody elements of yew, laurel and birch will be established and contributing to the structure and lines of the design as intended.  The best outcome is the satisfaction of the client, who is able to use the garden as a recreational and entertaining space for the first time in 15 years.
There are more images of this garden transformation, from conifer-riddled jungle to the present in my website portfolio here.
Paul Ridley Design
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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Images now available for sale!

If you enjoy my images, they can now be yours in the form of cards, prints, posters and canvases by visiting Redbubble and searching for 'paulridley'. You will find a gallery of flower images and others, regularly updated.
I hope you like the images on offer - bookmark the site and revisit occasionally to see new work.
Paul Ridley Design

Monday, 2 August 2010

Summer Planting

As summer progresses into August in the Northern hemisphere, light quality changes - by the end of the month the sun is lower in the sky, and afternoon light is tipped towards the red end of the spectrum.  This is the most evocative time of year for me - grasses, seedheads of earlier-flowering perennials and the drumsticks of spent alliums are all ripening, and the tone of the colours softens.  The plants that are still doing their thing may have gloriously coloured and vibrant flowers, but with a gently fading background and less strident lighting these accents are not the eye-popping additions that they might have been a month or two earlier.  We are at the cusp of autumn, and as large numbers of plants fade away, the performers that are really hitting their stride become increasingly valuable.
Many umbellifers (now grouped in the Apiaceae) shine at this time of year - fennels, dill, angelica  and the rest invariably stand well through autumn, and even into winter, their skeletons gradually leached of colour and the seeds eventually released and dispersed.  The heleniums, or sneezeweeds, contribute their mixed warm palette for months - the buttery yellows through to velvety mahogany shades in the petals, via burnt orange mean that there is something in the family for almost any situation.  To extend their season I am experimenting next year with the 'Chelsea chop' - by taking a third off the tops of these plants in May I hope to push the flowering back to August, and reckon that if I do this for a third of the plants I will also get some valuable shorter, sturdier specimens to support those plants that escape the shears.
Eryngiums and thistly plants are all in full swing at present (see my earlier post) and Dahlias are beginning to have an impact in mixed borders.  Plant dahlias with dark foliage and you won't go far wrong .  Crocosmias, with a similar colour range to the heleniums, offer a valuable option for partially-shaded sites, or an interesting contrast of foliage and habit if mixed in with the sneezeweeds.  My all-time favourite is Crocosmia 'Emily McKenzie' - petals in two shades of rich orange, with a purply-tobacco shaded throat.
Many herbs continue well into August - ornamental marjorams (Origanum) are good value, especially O. laevigatum 'Herrenhausen' with its glaucous foliage and clusters of purply-pink flowers.
The best thing about all these plants?  They are crowded with masses of insects at this time of year, so the garden is alive with sound, movement and interest.
Paul Ridley Design

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