Archive for the ‘Urban and Copntemporary’ Category

London Based Garden Design and the City Influence

Forget the Chelsea Flower Show, the Grow-All-Your-Own-Food-in-a-Bucket movement and old Uncle Alan Titmouse and all.  This elusive creature, the London fashion, is moving into minimalism in gardens.

How very stylish some of these gardens are.  Cool grained marble slabs combined with the clean lines of clumps of green bamboo and built-in hardwood benches.  A waterfall over granite rocks, clumps of dripping ferns, pale grey limestone slabs, a topiary corkscrew yew.  A central thick-glass-covered pool of clear water above blue tiles, warm honey-coloured sandstone slabs, and a single grey-green olive tree.  These are all descriptions of award-winning gardens, although gardening had very little to do with them.  All are carefully enclosed and screened – completely private.

 Another Designer of the Year award-winning garden on a roof terrace outside a penthouse combines smooth pebbles, hardwood paths and slate slab seating areas together with formal planting of palms, grasses and bamboo to create an extraordinary sense of being on top of the world.  No need of screening for privacy here and one of the best views of the city.

The more exciting London garden designers have moved towards a much more austere concept.  This is in keeping with modern trends in architecture, where pure functionalism has at last been banished and deceptively simple classic lines are once again making London one of the finest cities in the world.

The strict architectural elements, the use of water, the carefully controlled and sculpted, and rather sparse, vegetation, have nothing at all in common with the English concept of a garden, the exuberant, slightly lawless, flower-filled embarras des richesse. The more recent London garden is not a recreation and even less is it a green space dedicated to mowing and  keeping the stomach muscles in trim.  It has little to do with gardening and a great deal to with art. 

This is the cultural centre of the world.  London is where fashion begins, but, as always, London fashion is a distillation of all that the great city garners from other cultures.  These gardens have faint memories of the great enclosed gardens of early Islam. They owe something to Japan.  But they are neither Islamic not Japanese gardens.  There is a new originality in these designs, with their use of smooth stone, empty space, curving walls, sculptured plants, and above all – lack of clutter – that is very modern London.

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London City Garden Design: some cool city tips

What you did not want was anything that would involve you in actually gardening.  The lawn-mowing, the hedge-cutting, the digging in of manure and the digging out of potatoes was, quite simply, not what you meant by having a garden in London

What you meant was having a place outdoors where you could imagine, on a summer evening,  that you were in the Mediterranean.  You could sit and relax with a glass of dry white wine and imagine the cicadas.  You could invite some friends for dinner, sit under the olive trees with a couple of good bottles, chilled to perfection, and eat trenette al pesto – al fresco.  That is what you meant by having a garden –  in that rather unpromising area at the back.

It can be done.  Hire a garden designer, making sure that their main interest is landscape architecture rather than gardening – OK, your 16  by 14 feet patio is hardly a landscape, but you need a landscape architect, not someone who is going to advise you on how to turn it into an allotment.

Explain that you want a hard surface, not a lawn or a mud-bath.  A number of designers have become fixated on the use of Indonesian hardwood and will try to sell you the idea.  It’s a lovely material for permanent outdoor benches and tables, but stick to stone or slate as your lawn substitute.  Any form of wooden decking etc provides the dream paradise home for London sewer rats – avoid it!

Ask what your designer is doing about drainage – an undrained hard surface could turn into a skating rink with present winter temperatures.

Once you have decided on the surface and the permanent seating – not these awful garden chairs that need to be stored somewhere else (wherever that could possibly be!) in bad weather – you need to think about ….. the “garden” element.  There should be something growing.

Tall bamboos in huge pots, olive trees in pots, even banana trees and palm trees are all possibilities.  They don’t make mess, they have greenery through the year and they might even make you believe you are in the South of France. 

Consider the possibility of hiring a garden.  There are companies that specialise in providing the plants, looking after them, changing them when they become tired or bad-tempered, and charging you a great deal for the service!  This is, however, the completely trouble-free garden.  You can probably even buy a CD to give you that genuine cicada background.

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A designer who can transform your garden and outdoor space into something you couldn’t even imagine!

Urban Garden Design London – Some city style tips

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Think in terms of adapting Japanese styles, based on relationships between plants, stones and water.  Japanese gardens are not geometric in form; they have flowing lines and are intended to be meditative. Sand and gravel are used as the surface. Choose a couple of stunning small trees to plant in the gravel. Japanese maples are ideal for city gardens because they do not grow large. They have stunning leaf colour which changes throughout three seasons and in winter they have even more interest because of their spreading shape and delicate branch structure. Japanese gardens aim to recreate the landscape, but do this in terms of large stones representing mountains and gravel swept into waves representing water. Gravel, two little trees, a couple of large rocks well bedded into the gravel, a rake and a bit of contemplation. What better for city life!

A rose garden, on a small scale, is quite possible in a small city space. A square bed in the middle of the garden can be planted with repeat-flowering roses.  It is best to plant three bushes of the same rose close together to get a rich effect. For an example of a scented bed, flowering for six months, plant 3 of Graham Thomas (yellow), 3 of Claire Austin (white-pale yellow), and 3 of Shropshire Lass (pale pink-cream). Underplant the roses with geraniums (cranesbill), not the kind grown in window boxes but the hardy outdoor kind, Johnsons Blue, Album, Lili Lovell – there are dozens of varieties which will flower from May till September and quickly establish themselves as ground cover. Around the bed have a path of sand and crushed shells on all 4 sides, bordered by a lavender hedge – this will grow into a bushy hedge 3 feet high.
A city garden needs to have good drainage, which is one reason for preferring a gravel garden to a patio-style garden. A gravel garden is ideal for a free growing herb garden – unusual, different, and bee-friendly. Order your plants from a herb nursery. Plant creeping thyme and chamomile as paths to be walked on.  In between the paths plant as many other varieties of thyme as you can find, bee thyme, culinary thyme, white thyme.  Plant marjoram, hyssop, lavender, fennel, bergamot, and leave them alone to self-seed, which they will, wildly.

Urban Garden Design UK – What’s working in the UK?

Gardens in London are increasingly extensions of the living space outdoors. D.I.Y. decks and patios are now commonplace in suburban gardens together with the ubiquitous barbecue. Few of these gardens, however, are the restful oases of calm that they should be. The move to a more outdoors style of living and dining has not been universally accompanied by a sense of style. In some circles, however, there is a growing awareness that it is not enough to extend the house with a hardwood deck. It also needs landscaping.

There is a reaction among busy city workers against the high maintenance garden, with grass-mowing every Sunday, weeding and flower bed digging. Londoners are going for low maintenance outdoor spaces, designed primarily for entertaining in. At the same time it is recognised that to live and entertain out of doors, the surroundings need to be something more than an empty space and a view of the neighbours’ washing. This is increasingly leading, amongst those in the know, to a courtyard garden style.

Designers are using stone slabs, concrete paving or hardwood decks to give a maintenance free surface. A combination of wood and stone or slate can increase the feeling of space. Lush planting round the edges with tall bamboos, palms and grasses is quite possible in the London climate and not only helps to enclose the garden but lends an exotic atmosphere. The planting is minimal, but the plants themselves are generous in their proportions.

The use of a water pump to create a splashing fountain or rill adds to the feeling of remoteness from the city. Smooth pebbles with water flowing over them in a raised channel or around a fountain add to the relaxing and calming effect.

Contemporary outdoor furniture, in modern steel, glass, or hardwood, is chic and stylish as well as practical. Discreet lighting is now a normal part of the garden design. The bamboos and palms or other surrounding greenery are lit from below. Light plays on the water, often also with lighting from below through glass blocks.
These London gardens are a far cry from the high maintenance cottage garden style so beloved of English gardeners. These are gardens in which all the work is in the initial landscaping. Once done, there is a minimum of effort and a maximum reward.

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