Wednesday 23 December 2020

Happy Christmas from The Urban Hedgerow

 A pretty challenging year all round in 2020 and also a busy one - my thanks go out to suppliers and contractors who kept going in restricted times, and to all my lovely clients who entrust me with their gardens.

Wishing everyone a peaceful and happy Christmas and better times in 2021 -

Monday 17 August 2020

A front garden on a hill

A hilly site brings its own challenges. This sloping front garden in Weybridge, Surrey, has three partially submerged retaining walls built with sleepers, with the above-ground rocks performing a more cosmetic job of keeping the soil in place.

We planted mainly evergreen shrubs, forming neat domes, to create undulating waves of greenery from the house down to the street. Once established, their roots will also help with soil retention.
The centrepiece is a multi-stemmed Amelanchier lamarckii (Juneberry) tree, which will give the clients starry white blossom in spring and wonderful red and orange foliage in autumn.

Our timing wasn't great, planting up just before the mighty heatwave and drought, but we also installed a simple short-term irrigation system and the clients have done a fantastic job of keeping the plants watered. The new shrubs must be happy - the climbing rose (Rosa ''Pilgrim') has flowered since being planted up in its new home -

Thursday 2 July 2020

The versatile Pittosporum Golf Ball

Giving these Pittosporum tenuifolium Golf Balls a trim this morning, I reflected that while it's a pretty unassuming plant, it's also probably the first shrub on the team sheet for most of the planting schemes I design.

It seems to do well in the London clay soil, and is happy in anything except deep shade. They're good mixers too: the bright-but-not-showy green leaves blend well with other greens and different textures. They can be clipped, not too tightly, into spheres, or left to grow out into shaggier spheres - they're a naturally tidy plant.

And versatile: I've planted them as standalone shrubs, as hedges, as focal points in a border, and as Buxus substitutes. And they're evergreen, so look good all the year round.

Sunday 14 June 2020

Flowers for midsummer

 Midsummer flowers, from my own garden for once, revived by a bit of midweek rain -

Lilium martagon 'Arabian Knight'. It has taken me a while to get these to establish and I would love to fill my borders with them. They like well-drained soil - this one has popped up in the sunny bed that never gets watered, even though I have always though of them as a plant that liked partial shade.

Left: bee ascending Allium 'Mount Everest', a tall, stately pure white-flowered allium that contrasts exceptionally well with the purple varieties. Right: sweet peas catching the morning sun.

Viburnum opulus 'Compactum' in the foreground; paeonies and Geranium 'Rozanne' towards the back. Rozanne will carry on flowering all through the summer and into the autumn.

Climbing hydrangea - Hydrangea anomala subsp petiolaris - takes a while to establish and get going, but once it does, it gives it back in spades every spring. The white blooms surround tiny foamy white flowers, and last for a couple of months before beginning to fade. The bright heart-shaped leaves cover the fence beautifully too. 

Paeonia lactiflora 'Bowl of Beauty' - just about going over here - on the left, P. lactiflora 'Bowl of Cream' (I think) on the right, overseeing the Geranium nodosum.

Rosa 'Iceberg' climbing up the fence. The new flowers don't aways show these pink tips and the colour soon fades to pure white -

Saturday 18 April 2020

Creating an outdoor room in north London


When we first saw this small and rather hemmed-in courtyard in north London, it was immediately apparent that the space would be best served by using just a few well-chosen materials.  The client was overseeing major interior decoration as well and wanted style of the new garden to flow effortlessly from the house.

The client wanted a garden to sit and relax in but also for socialising. Plenty of seating space despite the size was a priority. A small recessed area to the right of the courtyard will be used to house a barbecue and outdoor kitchen units. The client also wanted to be able to grow herbs for the kitchen, and we installed the green wall, using vertical garden pods from Green4Air, and with a solar-powered irrigation system supplied by Irrigatia.

The patterned tiles were chosen from the Sorrento range supplied by Fired Earth. The intricate detailing might have been overwhelming in a larger patio but in this compact space they brought light and texture.

The cedar bench was designed by The Urban Hedgerow built from scratch onsite by Graham Thompson of Creative Landscapes London, creating enough room to seat 8-10 people comfortably - or for fewer people to stretch out on cushions. The fence to the right was also built on site using materials from Jacksons Fencing and the corten steel screen, covering an unsightly gap in the rear wall was supplied by Stark and Greensmith.

The handsome bamboo plant was already in the raised bed to the rear, which was giving new edging and coping to match the cedar bench and the soil reconditioned. The bamboo was thinned and trimmed to let in the light and give it a boost, then underplanted with Choisya ternata 'Aztec Gold', an evergreen shrub with fine dissected leaves to throw interesting shadows against the fence and screen and with long-lasting white flowers in spring and summer.

We installed uplights in the raised bed to highlight shapes of the bamboo and other plants after dark.

The dark blue colour of the fence echoes the colour scheme inside the house. Exterior wood paint from Little Greene

The individual living wall pods are fixed to a framework on either side of the doors to the garden. The 1ltr pods each hold culinary herb and salad plants, including rosemary, thyme, oregano and rocket. In summer the pods will also hold a number of colourful edible flowers.
Plenty of seating with the bespoke cedar bench and the bistro table

Left: the old softwood deck was replaced by the patterned tiles, right. The built-in deck provides plenty of seating without clutter, and uses the existing wall of the raised bed as a backrest.

Friday 17 April 2020

Tulips and other spring flowers - jewels of the garden

 It's a visual feast in the garden at the moment: spring flowers dancing in the breeze and adding delicate pastel shades to borders, verges and containers.

Crocuses in a makeshift container.

Left: Prunus Kojo-no-Mai brightens up the patio with early spring blossom; Right: Leucojum aestivum, the summer snowflake, arches gracefully over the border.

Ipheion uniflorum.

Fritillaria meleagris 'Alba', the white-flowered version of the snakeshead fritillary - the checkerboard pattern appears as though embossed on the petals.

Tulips are the jewels of the spring garden. Available in so many colours from pure white to deepest midnight purple, with reds, yellows and pinks in-betweem. Tall stems can lift the flowers up to a metre high, while dwarf varieties will sit snugly in a pot.
Vase-shaped, frilled, open or closed, tulip blooms have been cultivated into different shapes since the 17th century when they became wildly fashionable with bulbs commending ridiculously high prices (The resulting tulip market crash in 1637 wiped out fortunes overnight).
These days, they make a colourful, low-maintenance addition to the garden. Plant bulbs in the open ground, or in pots, in the autumn, keep the squirrels off them (I use netting, or upturned hanging basket holders), and you will be rewarded in April with a colourful display -

Thursday 19 March 2020

Ideas for planting containers

Your outdoor space, whether it's a balcony, courtyard, or garden, is precious. It could become a lifeline and a haven in the next few weeks and months for anyone who is self-isolating, whether as a precaution or in quarantine.

Simply brightening up your space with a plant in a pot, or growing some herbs, or combining a few different plants in a container or border, will give you pleasure and something to nurture.

Plants in containers can be a mix of foliage and blooms, or a pot filled with one glorious blossoming plant.

Grow herbs, such as this mix of basils, indoors on a sunny windowsill.

Left: Tillandsia, or airplants, survive without soil and just the occasional mist of water. Right: a simple arrangemnt of plant pockets on a wall can house a mini-herb garden.

Various succulents can live happily in a shallow bowl.

Try repurposing mugs, cups, bowls or tins as miniature plant pots - just remember to drill a hole in the bottom for drainage.

Breathing fresh air, hearing birdsong, seeing spring flowers in bloom and new leaves unfurl, is life-affirming and raises the spirits.

Thursday 12 March 2020

Topiary at Felley Priory

An early spring visit to the walled garden at Felley Priory, Nottinghamshire today. Parts of the priory date back to 1156, and today, the garden is justly renowned for its incredible topiary, the snowdrops (now just going over) and the summer herbaceous borders.

I was particularly struck by how beautifully tended and cared-for the plants were overall, from the carpet of hellebores to the magnificent wall-trained Magnolia grandifloras. Well-stocked nursery, too -

Wednesday 22 January 2020

January containers - brighten up the garden in the depths of winter

Many garden do not look their best in winter. Bare branches, or perennials which die down completely in the dormant season, can leave you with some rather grey and flat spaces. There are however, plenty of plants which look their best in winter and while you may not have the space or the inclination to create a dedicated winter garden such as those at Anglesey Abbey, you can certainly brighten up a shady corner or a dark chilly patio with some large containers full of winter colour. 

The bare red stems of Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire', above, provide a vibrant framework for this container which is full of warm colours. The amber-bronze winter foliage of Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald and Gold' complements the fiery stems and the soft yellows of Primula vulgaris add a cooler tone. The fern, Blechnum spicant, adds contrasting texture to the display and the snowdrops - Galanthus nivalis - complete the woodland vibe. There are also bright yellow aconites in here which will be pushing upwards and flowering within the month. 

These plants are all happy in shade and so this is a display which would be happy in a dark corner of the garden. Once the season is over, you can plant them out in the garden: the snowdrops and primroses will spread over time to give you bright ground cover at a time when the ground can be a  bit bare.

Other possibilities for this container, following the colour and texture themes, could be a Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress' with its fine foliage and yellow candle-like flowers, or a small flowering Hamamelis (witch hazel).

The silvery notes in the container above combine the dwarf Pinus mugo with Helleborus niger with its pure white flowers, lavender and Hedera helix 'Glacier', a variegated trailing ivy. This can bring light and texture to patio space and will be happiest out in the open. You could also add some white cyclamen to the planter, which also has Fritillaria meleagris in both its distinctive snakeskin purple and white flowered forms just pushing through the soil surface now to flower in early spring.

Other variations on this theme add white-flowered Hebe or Festuca glauca to accentuate the blue-grey notes of the lavender and ivy. Given a large enough containers,these plants could be grown all the year round in the pot, or replanted in the garden once the flowering season is finished.

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire', as in the container at the top of this post, is used extensively in winter gardens such as those at Anglesey Abbey, above, the avenues of flamecoloured stems creating a dramatic display. Anglesey Abbey also has impressive stands of bright white birch trees and at this time of year, the ground is carpeted with snowdrops.  Red- and purple-stemmed Cornus will also give the same effect - see the winter garden at the Cambridge Botanical Gardens, below.