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A VERY dull garden..


One of my clients has a garden designed by a man who is fairly well known around these parts. His signature plants are Phormium, Bamboo and evergreen shrubs…(surprise, surprise). She asked him for a fairly low-maintenance garden and ended up with something that is so butch and BORING. The path is made of some horrible material that resembles cat litter – compressed. Of course, weeds grow in it and when raked, it comes loose. This work of awfulness was completed about 2 years before I appeared on the scene and I have been doing the regular maintenance for about the last 4 years.

I went there this morning and stood looking at the dullness . No autumn colour to speak of yet , no annuals (except for a few pathetic petunias in pots – she likes to do those herself!) no colour to gladden the heart and excite the eye. For a moment I felt like just packing up and going home.

At this time of year, my own garden and those that I have designed, are a positive riot, a fanfare, a huge ORCHESTRA of amazing blooms. Dahlias, Crocosmia, Cannas, Salvia (shrubby types) to name but a few – grasses such as Miscanthus sp are all covered in delicate candy-floss type seed heads and the acers (yes, had to metion them again) are flaming away.

How can this “designer” man (who shall remain nameless, lest he were ever likely to read this and sue) get away with it? He charges HUGE sums of money, drives a large 4×4 (very necessary in suburbia – to get across all the speed-humps) and is IMHO, unworthy of the title “gardener”.

Anyway, rant over, I have slowly been working a bit of magic – at least there are now Tulip and allium in spring, a beautiful Forest Pansy (still a baby but outstanding amongst the dull green) and I have been given licence to introduce some more bulbs – shall I slip in some yellow just to give her a shock?!

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I would also be tempted to throw down various seeds and blame the birds for it.

2 Oct, 2008


The sad thing is that when you've improved the garden,
Mr Mystery Gardener will take the credit,
and tell clients that it was his design...

2 Oct, 2008


Yeah, throw in the yellow Claire :) and Purple. ive bought some Bright in your face purple tulips to go with the black ones i bought...Magic..

2 Oct, 2008


Its very tempting to chuck in a load of seed - he he! Don't worry TT, Mr Boring would def not get the credit as the last time he had anything to do with it was 6/7 years ago - and I've already dug out a load of stuff he put in...

Daisy, I adore yellow and purple together! I have also got orange and purple tulips...

2 Oct, 2008


Go for it. I'm sure you can convert your client to low maintenance shrubs with flowers. How about hibiscus, clematis, caryopteris etc. Theres plenty of them that don't need a lot of attention if you avoid the ones that need a lot of dead heading. I know you know all this, I'm just encouraging you.

2 Oct, 2008


There seem to be two types of garden designer around. The first comes from a design background and has limited plant knowledge; the other is someone who loves plants and then learns about design to add to it. It sounds like someone from the first school designed it and someone from the second school is now maintaining it.

What I also found fascinating a few years ago on a tour of gardens was that one, owned and maintained by a man, had very few flowers but lots of interest from shape, texture and coloured foliage. I was the only person who liked it; everyone else said it didn't have enough flowers in it!

2 Oct, 2008


It's nice that most of us can appreciate both the flower-filled style of garden and the more green, textured look.

I've studied Grenville's earlier photos and left 'likes' and comments of praise on some of his intricate, attractive greenery designs, which are constructed exclusively of interesting foliage.

Maybe a garden with less flowers needs more thought put into its shape and design. Some of Grenville's photos demonstrate how to make 'green' look good.

2 Oct, 2008


Well of course Claire the real problem is that wealthy clients often university educated. Along come garden designers convincing them that brain power more demanding than the labouring of gardening.

The Americans have a wonderful phrase called blowing smoke up someones a*** this exactly what designers do massage the clients ego draw up plans that any idiot can follow and subsequently charge them a fortune for a plan.

They actually convince clients that a plan more expensive than all the labouring costs to implement it.My answer to them - get the guy or gal who drew it to do it!

2 Oct, 2008


What interesting comments!

Its funny what you said Bonkers, I also have a degree - in Earth Sciences - and its amazing how many clients are impressed by that. I'm glad to say tho, that I don't do much smoke blowing...I usually just show them pics of lovely flowers and that seems to do the trick!

Yes, I agree that if a designer has the right car, an impressive logo and a "posh" accent (especially a man) this will usually win over a certain type of wealthy client rather than someone who is more down to earth (me - knackered old VW Golf and business cards from vista print). The lady who's garden I was moaning about has quite candidly told me that the designer was a very charming man who was able to talk the talk. Such a shame, as she loves very pretty feminine plants and ended up with something that really did not reflect her personality at all.

It makes me mad when I see tv celeb designers such as Diarmuid Gavin and LLBowen, taking NO notice of what the client says they like or dislike - and in some cases, deliberately introducing things that the person has said they would hate.

By the way, I do like architectural gardens with strong foliage and contrasting forms, but only if there are some flowers to keep it changing throughout the seasons.

3 Oct, 2008


I'm going to take Claire to task on two points in her last reply.
Firstly, it is not just men who can impress with a "posh" accent. Several years ago, we had a woman come to give a talk at our local garden club - her topic was "Drought Tolerant Plants". She had a very posh accent and lived in a 'varsity city. Part way through her presentation, pictures of blue meconopsis suddenly appeared - "because I like them". It turns out that every year, she flies off to the States for three months giving a lecture tour. Most of our members knew more about plants than she did.
Secondly, why did the client accept what was presented by the designer? If she didn't like it, why didn't she say so and, if necessary, sack the designer and get someone else in? If I am employing someone to do a job, I want it done to a good standard and to my satisfaction.

3 Oct, 2008


Yes Andrew, you are right on both points. What I think you should realise is that ALL my clients are women (i.e. they employ me and their hubbies are rarely seen - usually working in the city) and therefore they can be impressed or swayed by an attractive man (I am sure that the reverse could be true..!) I think she accepted the design due to her temporary infatuation imho.

3 Oct, 2008


Interesting comments here. We designed our garden ourselves as our friends on G.O.Y know. We have lots of evergreens, but we also use masses of colour in the summer, and we also maintain it with winter bedding plants as well.I would not be happy with a totally 'green' garden, but I love to use architectural plants with huge textured leaf forms.
Thanks T.T for your kind comments about our tiny plot.
I don't think we would ever ask a garden designer to design a garden for us as the garden would not really reflect our personal tastes and personalities. We know several folks who are garden designers and they have won numerous gold medals and received accolades in the major U.K flower shows. They are often given huge budgets to create 'show gardens', but they also have a big team working with them in the background who do all the real hard work, the construction, the landscaping and styling. We decided to do it our way and its worked, and its far more creative and satisfying!

3 Oct, 2008


I wouldn't use a garden designer either Grenville. It's MY garden and it's MY ideas that have gone into it. I may have made mistakes but they are MY mistakes. But at the end of the day, it's MY garden, not someone else's.
For anyone who doesn't have the knowledge or confidence, I'd say visit gardens, read about gardens, look at pictures of gardens, talk to people about gardens. Then one day, you will wake up and know what you want and have the confidence to go for it.

3 Oct, 2008


Andrew and Grenville, I totally agree, if you are a true gardener you would never get someone else to design your own patch. Sadly, many people in this world have a garden (or yard) and either don't have the time or inclination to look after it themselves - (HOORAY , otherwise I would be out of a job!) but they do still want a beautiful garden to relax in.

I must say that since I changed careers, despite being subject to the elements, I adore my job and its so satisying to put a smile on someone's face when they come home and see a beautiful garden. You certainly don't get the same sense of achievement as an Insurance Broker (my previous job - YUK).

4 Oct, 2008

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