Flamenco fun

The maddest and most fun commission of 2013. Could I please design and plant up an existing pair of beds for a special occasion and could I do it in the next two weeks? This at the busiest time of the year! But how could I refuse this tempting brief? Read on.


To design and plant two hot, tarty borders evoking flamenco skirts and Caribbean sunshine. The borders are not required to perform in the winter, giving of their best in summer. The long view beyond the borders should be preserved in the winter and can be interrupted in the summer.

The Design:

Well I threw the rule book out of the window and instead of the usual drawings, plans and meetings with the client, I spent a few merry days trawling nurseries for plants and designing the beds in my head, from what was still available on the stands. There were a number of key plants I’d have liked that were unavailable (gladioli, Rheum palmatum) and hopefully we’ll add those in this year. I had to settle for more tasteful varieties of some plants where I would have preferred their more blousy, brash sisters and no one plant was available in large quantities but overall, I was pleased with the result.  The constraints of any project always add to the excitement and the disappointments. A few hastily sown seedlings didn’t make it past the slugs but, again, this year I will be able to raise them earlier giving them a good chance – Leonotis leonurus and Tithonia rotundiflora were the worst hit, depriving the beds of the height they needed in places. The client generously gave me carte blanche (except no tulips or grasses please) and I had a blast pulling it all together. The drama didn’t stop with the torrential planting day as I waited anxiously to hear whether the beds would mature and perform for the special party – they did. Phew!

Going over old ground

I’ve been looking back at some of the gardens I made in 2013.

In this city front garden what had seemed to the owners to be a small, awkward space lent itself well to an open, shingle garden.


 I chose humble materials that sat comfortably with the house and budget. We concentrated on aromatic plants that welcome visitors with their scented foliage all year round. An apple tree and crab-apple add height and depth to the planting, providing a much needed screen from the road.


By placing the bin store between the car and the doorway I was able to effectively screen the car from the living room view and provide a pleasant, private courtyard at the door. This increased sense of privacy is balanced by the general openness of the front garden, in keeping with other properties up and down the street.


A specially designed log store under the window allowed us to make a sun-absorbing succulents bed at eye level as seen from the living room window.


This bed is the domain of the children who are adding new treasures to it regularly.


We had a very small budget and were delighted with the final transformation. Our simple, effective approach allows for seating to be added in time and is already a popular playground for the children. The front garden has gone from a dreary, cat litter tray to a fragrant, practical, welcoming space.


I’m looking forward to seeing the trees and plants mature and our creatively pruned hedge take on a pleasing form. It was very neglected and bare to a third of the way up – I’ll be back with my shears this year!



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