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  • How to create a Moroccan courtyard design.

    For centuries Moroccan couryard design has been much copied and admired. With roots stemming from a rich Moorish heritage, Moroccan gardens feature a delicious array of beautiful colours, textures and accessories. The timeless tranquility of the style makes Moroccan themed gardens the perfect refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life. Whether you are going for a full-on authentic design or want to combine elements of the traditional Moroccan garden with a more modern finish, there are a few intrinsic features that are essential for crafting a senstational Moroccan space.

     

    Suggestions for nailing a great Moroccan courtyard.


    Get the look.

    Moroccan courtyard designs are mainly formal and symmetrical. Use bold geometric shapes, split the garden into quadrants and position furniture around the edge of the space where you can get a good view of the rest of the courtyard. Where possible, create a central feature. Raise the height of your boundaries to enclose the space and create more of a courtyard feeling. Include rendered raised planters, painted white and adorned with optional decorative tile detailing, to form the framework of a knockout Moroccan courtyard.

     

    Add water

    A decorative fountain water feature is essential in any Morrocan inspired design and should be the main focus of the space. Running water gives the garden a tranquil quality Water feature will reflect the sky and give them a record of the sense of space. It also offers the chance for an aural experience in the space.Whether you opt for a tap on the wall, or an off-the-shelf feature, water is a must.

    Plant it well

    Modern Moroccan courtyards often draw inspiration from the Majorelle gardens in Marrakesh. Once owned by the late fashion designer Yvest Saint-Laurent, this iconic gaden is packed with Moroccan delights. It features highly architectural, sculptural planting packed full of texture. To recreate the look in your own Moroccan courtyard use lush green tropical and sub-tropical plants. For an instant ‘established garden’ use mature evergreen spiky plants. Add succulents and cacti in terracotta pots that can be bought in during the cold weather. Some suggestions for the backbone of your planted beds are:

    • Cordyline
    • Agave
    • Phormiums
    • Palms

    Then fill out with texture and colour by filling in with:

    • Kniophofia
    • Geums
    • Stipas
    • Alchemillia mollis

    Accessorise to excess.

    Add heat. It will extend the usability of the space. We liked this small chimnea. You can really max out on the rocking accessories. Add a wrought iron gate or several ornate mirrors to the wall and pepper the space with small groupings of Moroccan lanterns around the space in small groups. Arabic themed throws, cushions andrugs are a simple and cost effective way to accessorise your theme and add colour, texture and pattern.

    The devil is in the detail.

    Some detailing using Moroccan tiles is essential. However Morrocan style encaustic tiles can be expensive, so if your budget is tight consider using them to accentuate features of the garden, as we have done in this Malcolm courtyard. Add a single row of border tiles around the the top of a raised planter, or inlay individual tiles at random within stone paving. Also consider painting your boundaries/fences. Opt for a dark deep blue unless you have white rendered raised beds/walls, in which case go for a palette of cool blue and terracotta. Cobalt blue will give stunning results with an authentic feel.

    Wide seating

    Try and make the seats as wide as you can – it will make the space seem luxurious and exotic. Deep seats also enabke you to include lots of cusions, adding to the sensuous feel that is a feature of Moroccan gardens.

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  • Scented flowers create nostalgia

    scented flowers

    Scented flowers in a garden add nostalgic value. For most people the sense of smell is very strong. I open an old book and instantly transported me to another time in my life. My first perfume takes me back to my teenage bedroom. For me garden smells are the same. The heady mix of sweet peas and mint remind me very much of my grandmother’s garden. Roses, geraniums and lavender remind me of my parents garden. There is actually a science to do with our noses sniffing out nostalgia. When we smell with our nose it travels through the cranial nerve through the olfactory bulb which helps the brain processes smell. This plays a role in the emotional memories, (it’s also where the fight or flight reflexes comes from). Smell can bring back memories, smell goes into the emotional parts of the brain and the memory parts, whereas words go into the thinking part of the brain. This could explain why memories sparked by smell feel nostalgic and emotional rather than concrete and detailed.

    The kind of smells that you can find within the garden are varied. The deep musky smell of the rose, the aromatic smell given by lavender and rosemary, the sweet deeply scented smells of jasmine and honeysuckle and of course not forgetting cut grass. I would suggest that wherever possible plant at least one or two flowers that have a heady scent. It will make your garden deliciously nostalgic and stimulate that extra sense.

    Try some of the following in your garden:-

    Lonicera periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’ (honeysuckle)
    Lilium ‘Muscadet’ (oriental lily)
    Cosmos atrosanguineus (Cosmos)
    Rosa ‘Buff Beauty’ (rose)
    Rosa ‘Cornelia’ (rose)
    Sarcococca confusa (sweet box)
    Lavandula angustifolia ’Hidcote’ (english lavender)
    jasminum × stephanense (stephan jasmin)
    Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)

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  • How to give your front garden design curb appeal

    Front garden design is tricky. On the one hand you want space to be able to showcase your interior. Something to tantalise your visitors before they arrive at the main event. Sort of an amuse bouche to the bigger picture. On the other hand they need to be desperately practical. In small spaces the front garden design needs to accommodate pathways, bins, access from front gate to side gate, bikes as well as potentially vehicles. They are open to the elements, yet need to provide privacy. They need to be neat and tidy but also harder to control. Here we give you a few pointers and to lead you to triumphant terrain.

     

    Creating curb appeal with your front garden design

     

    Keep it clean

    It may sound obvious but jet washing can make all the difference. It’s a bit like running the vacuum cleaner over dirty carpet. It will make it look like new. Re-point paving setts that are looking a bit tired and consider breaking up the path by lifting any broken slabs, refill with gravel and re-plant with evergreen ground cover.

    Plants

    I think evergreens are the way forward. Sale price shrubs will triumph time and time again. Keep it simple. Maybe stick to one colour. Consider using planters to give you winter colour. Put one either side of your front door adds balance and harmony and frames the entrance. You can always paint your front door and gate if you want to pick things up a little. Unless of course, you’re are a very keen gardner with a big front garden then the world is your oyster.

    Hide it away

    When I lived in London, front garden design always needed to include somewhere to put the dreaded wheelie bin. These huge pieces of kit that plagued every small garden in every city needs to be addressed. No matter how beautiful your paving or stunning you’re planting is, a huge smelly black wheelie bin will not do wonders for the space. Consider a bin store. In this garden we had one that housed two wheelie bins and recycling crates. It makes all the difference.

    Stick to paving

    It is by far the most low maintenance surface you can use. Coming in a wide range of colours to suit any facade, it is practical and hard wearing. Easy to clean, it can be modern or traditional, depending on what paving you choose. Use a sealant and it needs cleaning even less, it look better and lasts longer.

    Work with your surroundings

    Unless you live at the Taj Mahal, don’t try to recreate it in your garden unless you are blazingly confident or an eccentric artist. It will look naff. I’m always one for pushing the boundaries but in this instance don’t rip up the book, just put a small tear on one of the pages. If you live in a Victorian terraced street, stay true to that style. Don’t try to create the cottage garden if you live in a council tower block. Be proud of what you have, look at the architecture of your building, the materials in the street around you and tone in with that.

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  • How to create a modern Japanese garden

    Modern Japanese gardens, how to get the zen right time and time again.

    I often get asked to create a modern Japanese garden. The trend towards Japanese gardens have started becoming very fashionable in the last 10 to 20 years. Many people loved the simplicity of an asiactic style of space and wanted to replicate it in their own urban patch. Personally I can find Japanese gardens twee and unless executed properly and cared for diligently they can turn into downbeat rather than retreat

    .Here I give you some tips to create jawdropping Modern Japanese garden space.

    Modern Japanese Garden


    Paths

    How does a path give structure to a garden? Keep them simple. Allow them to create mystery by masking the end of the garden or make the user turn the corner to another garden area. Legend has it zigzag paths open pathways to protect you from spirits. Spirits can only travel in straight lines. Here the path passes concrete statues, disappears around the corner and isn’t visible from the main house.

    Planting

    Focus on texture and shape. The art of Japanese planting is it’s simplicity. Go for a monochromatic green colour palette. Flowers work to highlight the green, making the garden feel balanced. This is what gives modern Japanese gardens the calming appeal. Here we used white to create an uplifting and yet relaxing scheme. Box hedges and box balls were used to create restraint and order.

    Water

    Water in the modern Japanese garden is essential. Make it flowing. Add plenty of texture but include rocks, pebbles and gravel. Traditional Japanese gardens often use bridges and dry river beds. Here we use the pathway to cross pebbles to create an authentic feeling with a modern twist.

    Structure

    Think tea houses or a private pavillion. Use structures in the garden to add drama. Keep it simple and try and partially obscure it. Make it inviting and intimate. Bend the rules here in order that it doesn’t become trite.

    Screens

    A fabulous opportunity to rip up the rulebook and take it to a new level. Rather than opting for traditional designs we use this opportunity to work with reflection by using a lot of black Perspex screens. It’s great at giving depth and reflection but also hide the utility area behind. Screens are essential.

    Statues

    Statues are an artful addition to any modern Japanese garden. Ideally they need to have a connection to nature, be simple but also add plenty of texture.

     

    If you live in London, or the south-east you can possibly attend of our garden design workshops. Please visit our sister company, From Bud to Bloom.

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Artificial lawn provides fuss free green all year round

    artificial lawn

    Artificial lawn. I am a huge fan. When we first started as a garden design build company in London back in 2003, artificial lawns were in it’s infancy and as such wasn’t of outstanding quality. However over the past 15 years they’ve come on leaps and bounds and I would say that it is now in my top five materials to use in gardens. It works beautifully in small space gardens because it is so versatile but also for family gardens as it can take a fair amount of abuse in terms of placing paddling polls, sand pits, climbing equipment on top of it without worrying that the grass will yellow. Obviously it is more expensive than real grass and does not necessarily have the same smell, but in a small garden it also dispenses with the need for a lawnmower thereby freeing up extra storage space. It goes without saying that it is low maintenance, and actually when we had a dog we even used bleach on it and it used to stand up to that. There are loads of companies online now selling artificial lawn and you call any one of them and request a sample. Some look like they have bits of dead grass and moss in them and some look like they are the most beautifully manicured lawn. There is a different variety to suit every taste. They make the perfect surface for any child’s playing area, a shady corner and area under a pergola for example. It is soft to sit on and to the naked eye can really look like real grass. Looking for a multi-surface option? I would really give this some serious thought.

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  • A handy garden bench – zombie style!

    earth designs zombie bench

    Zombie bench

    I love something kookie. I think adding something into a modern garden design with an edge creates a talking point and packs the garden with pow. This ‘Zombie bench’ was originally built at the Pontoon Dock East London. It challenges the stereotypical idea we have a public and as well as being slightly apocalyptic you could also look at it as being quite cheeky. This London garden design bench was a winning entry into RIBA London’s design competition. The London Festival of Architecture launched a competition entitled “Pews and Perches” and this was one of the winning entries. It was aimed to create one of the seats to be installed at the London Pleasure Gardens which was earmarked as a festival venue for the Olympic games. The Zombie bench was designed by creative London based Agency NEON and constructed by specialist manufacturers Gray Concrete. These arms and hands are highly detailed as real models were used. Details such as fingernails, veins and fine lines on the skin are visible. The arms and hands are positioned in such a way that they create a long seat. Eerie and beautiful. It’s really got me thinking about other concrete projects for the garden. Great if you could fill nylon tights and make a table or bench for the garden. I wondered if a series of rubber concrete filled gloves could make a jardiniere style planter. Denim jeans, make a tall tapered planter. Whatever you feel you can make, a cracking quirky piece of furniture can make or break any garden. I think the possibilities for using things for poured concrete seems to be endless, the the limit is your imagination.

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  • Garden Design Idea: Inspired by a Buddhist’s Robe

    Buddist Robe

    We get inspired by all sorts of things when it comes to design. For this garden design idea, I was inspired by a Buddhist’s robe from around 1800. Ideal for a small London garden design, this design features sumptuous textures across the whole space.

    Textures
    The series of circles are interconnected by decking walkways which echoes symmetrical patterns within the fabric. The first circle is made from pebble mosaic. This deeply textured surface could either be set into concrete, a pre-bought a product or a loose aggregate depending on your budget. Aged sandstone setts makes a clear and deeply textured surface suitable for patio furniture, sun loungers or simply as an area directly outside the back door.

    The central circle features three specimen Acer trees planted in a triangle and it is surrounded by a gravel aggregate again, another garden design idea, echoing the deep textures in the robe. The circle to the top right of the space is a wall mounted water feature with a spout. This creates a real courtyard garden feel and the senses are stimulated by the running water. This is particularly useful in the plot where there is ambient noise such as traffic or a school playground. The last circle is a paved sandstone circle, this would be suitable for entertaining or relaxing and the finished surface could be sandstone, slate or any other hard standing paving.

    Planting
    The planting here can be can feature highly textured plants such as Stipa Gigantea, Buxus Sempervirens balls, Santolina Chamaecyparissus and other planting combinations where their juxtaposition creates a dynamic impact. Great plants for adding textures include Allium ‘Red Mohican’, Deschampsia Cespitosa ‘Goldschleier’, Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’, Hostas and other large leaf varierties. Muted colours dominate on the scheme, the straw light colour from grasses, the deep green from the buxus balls and the feathery line leaves of an Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Sunset’. Bees all complement the chosen hard landscaping materials which in turn echo the textures woven into the fabric.

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  • Leigh Landscaper

    leigh landscaper

    This client in Essex was looking for a Leigh landscaper to give them the family garden design they’d always dreamed of. The client had renovated their house interior and were now keen to make some changes to the exterior. They were looking to open up their garden and make use of their space. They needed the area to work more for them with clear areas for adults and children.

    The existing trampoline currently dominated the grass area and was obstructing the view down the garden. By changing the trampoline location to the side of the house and placing a pergola over the top with some added raised beds, it allowed for the rest of the garden to be opened up completely.

    The patio was to be extended slightly and topped with six dividing planters which separates the patio from the grass. A path leading down the garden to the back left hand corner allows the client to make use of the evening sun. This patio was to also have a pergola over the top with strutted beams of varying lengths jutting out into a plant bed by the side. The shed was to be retained in the back right hand corner.

    Planting in the garden was to be bold and simple, with big drifts of architectural plants.

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  • How a garden showpiece can transform your space

    pergola-roof

    Adding a garden showpiece can transform your space from drab to fab! It can really add some garden oomph that allows you to be a little bit daring. A really easy way to achieve this is to add a bespoke item. It can be a total game changer. Simply by adding for example, a laser cut screen to a pergola, especially the roof of the pergola, will create beautiful patterning on the ground. It will be something that your friends and family have never seen before and will certainly give them something to remember. There are so many amazing garden products out there at the moment just by doing an extra bit of research and adding one item that really packs some POW can make all the difference to any space. It could be for example that you add a great piece of sculpture to the space. There are so many different types on the market that really individual taste and style comes into play here. What you do need to be careful of is that you don’t add too much to the space. Too many items commanding attention can actually detract from a show-stopping piece. Use planting wisely and it will really make these showstoppers stand out. Using repetition in the space also helps add drama. A colonnade of trees, a series of planters, a run of pleached trees all of these used en masse can really help to add a designed feel and unique quality to your space. Shop around, be playful, embrace that all-important talking point and your garden will stand head and shoulders above the rest.

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  • Garden Designer in Leigh-on-Sea

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    This garden build was for a retired couple. They were looking for a garden designer in Leigh-on-Sea to give them an outside space to enjoy their later years in. They had recently bought their property as their retirement home as a downsize from Romford. They bought the property for the large garden and the aspect of the woods beyond. As a result the back of the garden was extremely shady and the client was keen to maximize as much sunshine as possible to the space around. It was a well maintained garden but had little interest to offer its current state. It was wide and steep in places so we suggested adding two dimensions of lawn. If the lawn was laid at a 45° angle it would make the garden seem much larger. A sandstone patio was to be placed in the side return and jutting out into the main garden space. Planting would be nestled in around the edges in the form of evergreen shade loving shrubs which would provide a low maintenance solution. The heavy oak timber frame Pergola was to sit over the table to allow for staging an outdoor room. To maximise the space in the evening, we would utilise the framework the soft lighting. Steps down from here to the path would take you across the lawn would lead to gates and the back fence providing access to the woods. The path would continue and take you to a second seating area in the bottom left corner. This area can be used for sunbathing, relaxing, as well as possibly including a fire pit in this area. The bed next to the house could be flush or if necessary raised to combat the different levels and to provide a retired couple easy access for gardening.

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