Garden Reveal

The big reveal at last.  After our mammoth renovation project and new garden installation it is time to share!  The interiors are being finished in the next few weeks so in the meantime here is what we did… all photos by me on the iPhone!

My plan – Firstly look at what you need and want. These are two separate things!

What was it we needed? – Shade because it is SW facing. Space, I wanted to open the garden to its full potential, and use it to extend the feeling of space in the house. We have a long narrow living room 10m x 4m and the garden runs the length of the living room. With many full length windows I wanted to extend the feeling of the house

What was wanted? –  I wanted a space for dining with family and friends and sitting quietly to admire the plants and relax. The shape was a rectangle so the space immediately by the house was laid to paving and since I did not want a lost space and I wanted to add charm. I designed a  stepping stone walkway around the outside of the sitting area, to see the plants and a bench to sit on and give the garden more depth since this happens when you create an area to draw your eye through. 

Gardens not only add a great deal of charm to a house they are also a good investment!

Reflect your interior especially if like me you want to increase the feeling of  your interior space.  I wanted a calm restful mood, casual to reflect the style of the interior.  Luckily we have a forest as the backdrop to give instant greenery, on a new build landscape you need to work much harder to achieve this.   Connecting your garden to the surrounds and blur the lines is also a good way to give the impression your garden is bigger. We have sloping areas that connect with the forest beyond and I wanted water to connect to the lake we see. It is not exactly infinity style but nevertheless still works.   The sound of slowly moving water also creates a calm mood.

Lake of Zurich from our house in Erlenbach

I gave the gardener a mood board showing the plants and style of planting I  wanted. I gave him a plant list based on the orientation to the sun and shade given by the structures around.  Some plants had to thrive in full sun and others needed shade. This was a simple scheme.  You can find everything you need on Pinterest.  If you are making new beds as we did we could choose any soil we needed so that gave more freedom.  You need to know if you have chalk or clay soil and once that is done you can choose.  By comparison to our garden in London, which is sheltered and not too cold in winter I had a few compromises to make!! 

I sourced the stones locally, it was about -10 degrees that February day!! I wanted grey with some warm tones.

Designer Tip: always consider the surrounds of your home – the Vernacular –  otherwise your  garden will look out of place and faux.  When you have cold long winters warm coloured Mediterranean stones look quite out of place so I sourced landscaping granite locally. The seasons are reflected in the planting with some evergreens for structure when winter comes and all plants are cut back and sleeping under the snow.   Unless you live in a permanently warm climate you really need to consider how things will look throughout your seasons and plan to have something happening in each.

How I maximised space:

  • cutting back old shrubs and pushing the garden further towards borderlines
  • re-planting around the edges of the property with plants that takes less space but create screening.
  • I moved the steps to the lower pond garden and gained a large patio area
  • created zones and planting that made the area feel larger

So without further ado, even though its a brand new garden with fairly young plants, this is what it looks like now! Starting small….


BEFORE: was an overgrown area only to store our bins.AFTER: a larger, looking lighter area to grow herbs and teas and sit in the shade on hot sunny afternoons.  All pots are terracotta and the flowers (hydrangea/geranium/hosta) are all white.  This pops in the shade. In my mind I think I may add some raised vegetable beds then I remind myself to be serious!!



BEFORE: Shady grassy area not really used much.  Large copper beech had grown too large for the garden and was touching the roof.  It’s big plus was shade.  This garden was a legacy of past owners. There was no form/structure, no contesting textures to add interest, and a lack of colour. It all had to go!

So we removed everything …..BEFORE: We moved the existing stairway down to pond garden across the garden to make more space. AFTER: a much more open interesting space…. don’t you think? 

Design is about form/structure.  This was achieved with the paving/gravel areas, creating a stepping stone pathway and fencing area around.  The flower beds had 5 plants repeated this makes things more calm. Contrasting hard and soft. 

Below in the Living room garden shade lost by the removal of the tree is given now by large awnings which span 40m2 fully extended.

Decked Terrace outside Kitchen/Diner: S/SW

We took away the steps down to this terrace,  and raised all on decking to create a larger space.

A focal point in the garden is the stone water feature, it really anchors the area. The swiss grey granite has warmer tones which blend well with the gravel and wooden elements making things softer/warmer and less hard landscaped.  I selected plants that grow tall and that sway, you can look through them and this makes the garden feel deeper by making you eye look through something… Being a new garden it will take a few seasons to grow up into itself, but the Verbena bonariensis (Purpletop vervain) carried the garden this summer whilst the rose bushes and lavenders and grasses grew. Over the summer the garden was full of hummingbirds, dragonflies, bees and butterflies. They definitely approved of the choice of planting! We do not use any chemicals in the garden so perhaps that is why we were so well visited. 

Above –  Pleached trees around and behind bench.  They are grown on a large trellis and trimmed to be flat.  You gain screening without losing space.  They are also great windbreakers and are very popular in the Netherlands which are quite flat and windy. Having the bench in the corner lengthens the space, and gives a reason to walk around the stepping stones. All of the space is used.

A few months earlier: we used recycled granite blocks to extent towards the street and create something that looked like it has been here a while.  Recycled materials can work our more cost effective if you don’t mind the limited supply and randomness.

To screening the street and neighbours opposite instead of the standard laurel I planted a slow growing and dense Prunus Lucitanica (Portugese Laural) hedging. This does the same job taking less space.  Topped off by pleached Evergreen Photina (Red Robin) to screen above.  This is more interesting that just a larger laurel,  both evergreen with red stem interest in winter/spring. I carried the Photina around the garden where I needed screening about the fence. In a couple of years this will be dense and we will remove the bamboo frames.

You can see how the recycled granite was blended into the rockery. The stones create a soft fall towards the street with swaying grasses to soften the look and evergreen Japanese Ilex (a great alternative to Buxus Sempervirens (Box) which needs chemicals to combat moth blight)  to give some interest in winter.  These will grow larger in time.  These stones were a mix of all the colours at the stone yard blending cool and warm – they will also look good in the snow!


As mentioned I repositioned the steps to our pond garden. This is the view from below. I reused all of the existing granite blocks and added a few more recycled ones and new granite steps.  I designed minimal handrails to match the rest of the railings.
We only needed to add an new wood deck at the pond and a few flower beds in the lower garden to link the two gardens and it all worked out as if it had been designed like that from the beginning! The area behind the pond (not really seen) sloping down to the forest will be a project for next year! 

Before: A granite cobbled area and large laurel hedge taking up a lot of space in the garden.  There was an evergreen sloping garden which was not very interesting. After: By setting the garden more to the right it opened up the house and made it more welcoming. The front stone garden was continued around to the front door.  The block paving remained. We added a new porch area with new doors to balance the house.  A new doorstep, mailbox and little pathway into the garden was added.
Hope you’ve enjoyed a sneak peek at what I did!

If you want more design advice regarding gardens check out my blog on The RHS Chelsea flower show here 

Thanks for reading!




Chelsea Flower Show 2017 – how to recreate 3 of the best gardens!

The Chelsea Flower show starts today. Those who have followed the blog a while you will know that I am as passionate about the exterior as I am about the interior. Every visitor who goes to Chelsea wants to take away a bit of Chelsea magic and recreate some element in their own gardens. Taking 3 of my favourites from this year I will show you how to do just that.

Before that, for those unfamiliar, I feel that you need a little bit of background information to realise what we are dealing with here! The Chelsea Flower Show is no ordinary garden show – attended by visitors from all over the world for 5 days every May, many regard it as the best there is.

The atmosphere there is quite extraordinary and you feel as if you are walking in a paradise on earth! There is a gravitas in the air, this could be because its origins are steeped in history; in 1307 the current site belonged to the Knights Templar and was used to grow their roses referred to by Shakespeare himself in Henry VI Part.

The show as we know it today started out as The Great Spring Show, in the 1800s in west London. Due to transportation problems and low visitor numbers the show moved into central London, and found a permanent home in the Grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea  in 1912 – just a 5 minute walk from Sloane Square and overlooking the Thames. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has been organising the show since 1905. A bit of Royal patronage never goes amiss and since 1954 Queen Elizabeth II (or I if you are Scottish!) has attended all but 5 shows. At the beginning of her reign the show symbolised an optimism after the great wars and has gone from strength to strength ever since.

1954 – The Queen visiting Chelsea Flower Show photo credit: Reuters
2017 – The Queen visiting Chelsea Flower Show

Today the show comprises of various show gardens designed and built by the most prominent, established and new up-coming garden architects. There are tented pavilions housing the most spectacular specimens of flowers and plants. Cultivators spend the whole year nurturing the plants to be in perfect condition for judging at Chelsea. You can buy seeds and get advice from the very best. There are also sellers of all the quality garden accessories money can buy…..

To keep the standard so high, the RHS give awards to the very best and these are highly coveted. Many a famous career has been built on a Chelsea Gold Medal!  There is a stiff judging process before the show officially opens. The Best in Show is announced a few days in. Gardens are judged on; how the brief was executed, the overall design with choice of plants and arrangement amongst other things.

Again this year the trend is towards the natural garden, with a keen eye on preservation of water and natural habitats.

Show Garden Gold Winner – The Royal Bank of Canada Garden designed by Charlotte Harris and built by Landscape Associates 

Royal Bank of Canada – Reflecting Canadian protected boreal forest. Gold Winner

Burnt larch path and copper lined canopy with angular paving formed from slices of glacial granite boulders. This is to emulate the primitive wooden shelters and ice that formed the backdrop for early hunters and travellers. The damp woodland reflects the fact that 25% of the world’s unfrozen water is found in Canada.

The Royal Bank of Canada Garden

How simple and timeless is this garden, a look that can be recreated in a smallish town garden too!

Royal Bank of Canada Garden

For gardening buffs here is a list of plants used:

Planting key
Gold winning garden from The Royal Bank of Canada – Plant list

How to recreate this look

  • Use random sized pavers in a natural pattern and run decking paths into them at an angle.  
  • Don’t lay out items symmetrically, use asymmetric paths and planting.
  • By treating the timber with a fired method it is more hardwearing and impervious to pests or fire. Alternatively you could use a blackened wood stain.
  • Small ponds  in natural formations with rocks breaking the surface.
  • Step the height of your planting up the further you go from the paths or patio area.
  • Simple gravel paths.  

Artisan Garden Gold Winner – Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara Built by Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratoray Co Ltd Sponsored by G-Lion 

This garden is a tribute to the Kyoto residence of Japanese Emperors. A garden that could never be attacked, therefore peaceful and without moat or walls.

The modern copper structure stands on stilts in the shallow pond.

Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War Garden – Gold Winner

This perfectly curated Japanese water garden where rock pools with moss encrusted rocks are filled from a soft waterfall and surrounded by acers, bonsai conifers, sedum and iris.

Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War Garden – gold winner
Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War Garden – Gold Winner

Modern glass steps allow you to see the rock pool below and create a bridge from old to new. A mini garden is planted in a Japanese lantern base.

Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War Garden – gold winner

The amazing colour combination comes from the bright acer leaves, against the weathered copper.

How to recreate this look  

  • Use a variety of acers, vibrant lime greens and dark oranges. 
  • Keep the shapes trimmed so that they form umbrellas.  
  • Conifer trees can be trained into bonsai shapes.
  • Mini gardens can be created in containers or as borders.
  • Having a shallow water garden and placing an open garden structure over it.  
  • Stepping stones or a glass and metal step if budget allows.
  • This garden works best in a shady spot and ideally build a stone garden wall with moss in the gaps if you can’t stretch to a waterfall.
  • Use moss and sedum to cover rocks.
  • A few Japanese lanterns would also not go amiss!

Feel Good Garden – The Jo Whiley Scent Garden designed by Tamara Bridge & Kate Savill built by Bespoke Outdoor Spaces

Lastly, gardens are not just about looks, smell is just as important. Jo Wiley (BBC Radio Presenter) and Jo Malone (scent lady extraordinare) have joined forces. Emotions evoked by scent, sent in from the public are cast into the concrete seating/wall structure.

The Jo Whiley Scent Garden (background shot of Royal Hospital Chelsea)

Astrantias beneath this amazing field maple is just as it would be in a woodland. Nature reconstructed.

The Jo Whiley Scent Garden

The concrete structure and box balls are a perfect form to root the multi level planting.  Aliums contrast well with the father ferns.

The Jo Whiley scent garden

This round organic water feature is underplanted with Alchemilla mollis and Thymus serpyllum.

How to recreate this look

  • Use a restrained colour palette to allow you to have much variety of shapes and heights.
  • Use box or taxus balls to give structure to the planting around and the built elements. 
  • Curved concrete elements create an enclosed cocoon feeling and provide raised gardens with seating.  If budget is a restraint use wood fencing cut into curves and wash it with a grey stain. 
  • Rounded raised pools like giant bird baths reflect the light and bring a coolness to the warm air be sure to plant around to softened into the landscape. 
  • Don’t forget to choose plants with amazing scents along pathways and near seating. 

Click here for a list of scented climbers

Click here for a list of scented flowers

Hope you have enjoyed this little trip to Chelsea!

Thanks for reading,

Amanda x

Eco Garden Design Part 5

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In the last part of the eco garden series I want show you how to use the basic principles of interior design in your garden.. I do have to say I am not a professional gardener but a happy amateur for circa 20 years.  I have always had a garden, even my little flat in my single days in London had a small (s/w facing of course) garden!  With our big renovation in the pipeline I decided to properly design my own garden (future post as it is a work in progress) and thought why not apply all the same rules as with interiors… hence my garden series….

Garden Design Balance

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Garden Design Rhythm

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Garden Design Form

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I hope you have enjoyed the series, it has been fun putting it together I learned a lot researching and writing it!

Please feel free to share with any friends who might be making changes in their own gardens…

Thanks for reading,

Amanda x


When undertaking heavy or construction work I would recommend:

  • Always consult the professionals and take advice and help with the lifting! Consider employing a contractor belonging to a professional organisation.  Ask for references photos and ideally speak to previous clients (anyone in London I highly recommend Ginkgo Garden Design who did my garden in Wimbledon) can’t think why I have no photos on post but this section is an afterthought!! The RHS also has lists of companies click here to see
  • Check with your local council planning office to avoid expensive mistakes/disputes – fences and garden structures if they are near a boundary wall often have height limitations.
  • last but not least with an eco spirit let us all try to re-use, re-vamp, re-cycle and use previously loved material where possible…. 😉