Ann and I were sitting down planning a new season of information shows, that we are calling ‘Gardenesque’ on our ‘Growing Trends’ podcast ( you can find us on iTunes) when an interesting question popped up.
‘How long should a garden makeover last?’
There are really two parts to this:
The first is how much durability should we design and build into a project?
I recall many years ago, when we first started our ‘Designer Drives’ division, using the now almost standard dry lay method, we consulted the manufacturers and settled on a standard that was expected to last 2 million yup 2 million axle loads – that’s a lot of traffic in case you wonder.
In the case of a brick drive as above, it would also depend on climatic conditions ( although this drive is built with an engineering brick so basically impervious to normal cold conditions), as well as vehicle actual weight ( again this drive should withstand easily a 20 ton load).
I think we had two occasions where a client called to ask what they should do because the drive had deflected about 20mm ( 3/4 inch) in an area, we simply lifted and relaid the area without charge for the client.
So for a dry lay paving the construction is likely to outlast the clients .
A mortared terrace like the first picture or a mortared brick area such as below is a little different.
The most likely area to fail first is the pointing, which by definition is a weaker area than the bricks, here we are using a 23kn second hard stock brick, with a 1:1:3 cement,sharp sand, soft sand mix. My feeling is that it should comfortably last 20 years. After which it might need some re-pointing.
This leads on to the second part.
After how many years would a project be considered old enough to change?
This timber step detail is definitely a point in case, being made from old sleepers that contain among other things tar – something to avoid in today’s garden landscape.
The answer would most likely be when the client wanted a change or a new owner was looking for something different.
Would this then mean completely changing the entire area, or perhaps utilising some of the materials in a newer look, particularly if they were ‘natural materials’ such as natural bricks, and stone which tends to last for a great many years?
This white trellis, terracotta pot of herbs and brick paving was completed 30 years ago, it’s not really that out of place today is it?
So now the question becomes, over the past twenty five or so years what has really changed in how we approach a landscape project – is it just where we live and work?
Here we have what I would considered an ageless feature, which being in the UK is probably subject to a preservation order. I can only imagine how much this wrought iron and stone feature would cost to build today – that;s if you could find the wrought iron and someone to ‘lead’ caulk the uprights into the stone !
Is it the availability of skilled labour?
Or is it the availability of new tried and tested materials or methods?
This very old ‘knapped flint’ wall requires some age old skills to build, not least because it needs a lime mortar ( one that doesn’t contain cement) for it to work, this is because the flints are impervious to water and without some movement in the joints the wall would crack.
The flints are not really suitable for many of today’s landscapes as they are very sharp and likely to harm someone who casually ‘knocks’ against them.
One area that we probably do need to keep for many more years are mature trees, although I’ve seen some pretty large specimens moved.
I guess as always it is in the hands of the client as to what they would like to achieve, and for us to ‘solve the practical problems’ that may arise…
Which is why for almost 40 years I can honestly say it’s been really good fun……… what say you?
We have all rather taken water for granted over the years. Today for some it is becoming a topic of conversation, for others it is a topic of concern, and for yet others they are not sure if or when they will see enough potable water again.
Many European countries have developed system to recapture and reuse water more than once, others have quite simple systems of returning water as quickly as possible back to the aquifer ( it’s still a long process).
North America is waking up to the idea that extended droughts mean much more serious water conservation, something South American countries have been struggling with for quite some time.
As homeowners there are a number of ways to help preserve our dwindling water supplies, some are very effective others not so, but as they say every little helps.
The simplest is, I suppose the rainwater barrel, it will collect up to 40 gallons of water ( which means it just needs about 1/3rd of inch of rainfall for each downpipes to fill one). It’s best to keep out of full sun as in hot areas the water could become rather too hot for use on plants.
A slightly improved version of this would be a cistern, as seen below, they were often circular for strength. – this particular one would be quite costly.
Today a much more interesting wrapped interlocking framing system has been devised – the ground is excavated and a waterproof membrane is laid on the sub base then filled with rectangular ‘Versitanks’. – These tanks can be from very small single units to many hundreds as seen here.
These can be almost any size or shape.
To get the surface water to these storage vessels requires a few more modifications to the current surface water run off arrangements.
The first is a simple slot drain to divert the water from a surface, such as this car parking area.
They can also be used at home to collect water from a driveway, here the downpipes will also be connected to the slot drain and probably then run to a soakaway.
So what’s a soakaway? well most folks in England will know this, however my colleagues in the USA are just not as familiar with these simple victorian solutions to collecting water for returning to the aquifer.
In it’s simplest form all that is required is a hole filled with porous material – such as the brick version above. Drainage pipes run to this and water then is able to slowly seep back into the sub strata. ( Not a good idea in heavy clay soils as it will take way too long)
This much larger version is able to hold a huge amount of water, which can be reused for irrigation or just returned to the aquifer.
The collection method from say a down pipe is quite simple, involving a gulley pot .
A simple gulley pot is used to ‘grab’ the water before directing it to the drainage pipe. Below the gulley pot has a downpipe collector, and a slot drain collector and localized surface drain all in one unit.
Once the water has been collected it’s a simple matter to design a recycling system.
In it’s simplest form, often used by early Egyptians a localized storage vessel often made of clay was used right next to say a fruit tree.
Next came a slightly larger arrangement, although if you try this remember water can heat up, this might not be healthy for plants…
Finally a rather more sophisticated system that addresses many issues and is virtually hidden from view.
This next system requires , quite a lot of time, planning and expense, but in warmer climates it is probably the future solution. Perhaps the lawn will need to be re thought as, it would seem to me that growing more fresh produce is a much wiser use of the space.
Patti is one of those rare ladies, an expert bee keeper and a fascinating speaker. Listen to her explain the intricate lifestyle of the honey bee, it's truly fascinating and very educational. We visited Patti at her lovely country home … Continue reading →
What one item or feature would you add to your or your clients garden today?
When we started out with our then new company back in 1984 we identified designer drives, especially with ‘In & Out’ drives as the most important – sure enough within 6 months our order book stretched out into the following year, other firms descended on us for information and our advertising showed sporty cars sitting on interlocking concrete block and brick paving..Soon even the manufacturers were calling wanting to take pictures of our drives. Here we used stock brick paving. Although fairly soft, with somewhat irregular shapes, it kept it’s color very well
Here a much harder engineering quality natural brick is used to good effect.
The next was concrete block paving, these were very hard, initially with limited colors, and the color did fade quite quickly. They were also quite slippery in the ice.
As our order book enlarged we started offering more expensive solutions, such as granite setts – something the Romans introduced.
These drives were very hard wearing, color fast, strong and again a little slippery in ice. it wasn’t long before we included ‘Fish scale’ versions, these took quite a long time to set out, but looked absolutely amazing when completed.
Then these circular natural sett patterns became popular, with their sense of movement – just look at them long enough and they seem to ‘move’
What new trend, item or feature do you think will be the favorite for 2015? We will interview the top three on our radio show Growing Trends during the year.
I was reading an interesting article the other day, it was discussing what today’s children know about plants.
The part that caused me to sit up and wonder was this line.. “Today’s children can identify about 1000 company logos but only identify 10 plants outside”
I wonder how accurate this statement is?
So a quick test – could you identify the plant below?
or perhaps this one.?
Thinking a little about it, brings to mind the simple realization that many children do not really understand where much of our food comes from.
We really need to change this for many reasons, perhaps our internet radio show, can help?
We want to engage ‘Granny Growers’ and introduce them to the ‘Growing Uppers’ , to start this rolling we’re heading off to interview a few senior citizens in our retirement community, to ask them what they learned and how they think we can help our grand children.
if you have some ideas , we would love to hear from you to… just drop us a line
As autumn and winter move in, with leaves changing into many hues of red and gold before falling to the ground.
The weather starts to turn chilly, the growing season is coming to an end or is it? Some plants will head towards dormancy, others being more frost resistant will provide the last gasps of color, before winter sets in.
For the luckier ones living in warmer climates, not so much changes
and for some others the climate has changed enough to wonder if it’s time to convert the ubiquitous lawns
into something more akin to a dessert landscape or perhaps a Mediterranean or Xeriscape landscape.
Now is a great time to start planning any changes as you can follow some simple guidelines.
First establish a budget, then look at the existing and consider what you might want to change and why. Write down a wish list of likes and dislikes, add if I could I would do this, etc,.
Now it’s time to decide if you want to do the work your self, find a contractor to start gathering information on materials and costs etc or engage a designer who can work with you to produce a plan and a program?
Each method has it’s pros and cons, and is often decided by available budget and or available time to allocate to the project.
My experience has been that most busy people are also quite successful and can therefore afford to engage a designer, they also tend to like to know what they are getting into before they start , so a design works great for them, they also like detail.
Practical people can often gain most from actually working on the project themselves, they tend to be natural problem solvers and enjoy the discovery of ‘how to achieve something’
The best advice I learned was to consider what you would like in say 5 years time, as this is often the time when any changes are going to look their best, it is also a time to consider where you may be in your own life cycle, for example age of children, type of free time available etc.
There is a “Growing Trend’ towards sustainability, and growing one’s own food, now is a great time to look at all the methods available and how much time should be allocated to such endeavours.
Many years ago, we often introduced new ideas and products into our designs on a fairly regular basis. Some were because we developed our own ideas, products and subsequently ‘different’ offerings, we then ‘sold’ them to our customers.
When we started offering irrigation systems, we had to find a way to sell them to our more affluent customers, without making the costs too high, but most importantly by not disrupting or destroying the landscapes we had put in only a few years earlier.
We achieved this by finding a rather interesting hydraulic mole from Germany that used compressed air, it worked really well at a depth of 900mm and was pumped a distance of around 5m , which when reversed pulled the water pipe back through the drilled hole. This simple tool saved huge amounts of time and reinstatement costs – more importantly it amazed our clients who were thrilled that we could install such sophisticated systems without a huge amount of disruption.
Next came low voltage lighting systems, which made landscape lighting safe and easy to instal, the picture below isn’t our work it’s a Park in Paris, but it serves it’s purpose quite well.
Today we seem to have slowed down on major changes or have we?
Commercially vertical walled gardens are becoming quite popular and are definitely a recent development.
Whilst in Gardens we have built for over 30 years eco friendly ‘Green Retaining Walls’ such as this one
Roof Gardens have been around for years, we were designing and building them back in the distant 1980’s
Home owners are developing a taste for their own food production.
Herb & Vegetable gardening is becoming very popular today.
I’m seeing a huge demand for food production, but currently the solutions are traditional cold frames, cloches or greenhouses, all very time consuming and with varying degrees of cost.
Today with all the concerns over GMO crops, with apparent excessive use of pesticides, more and more people are either buying from local organic farmers or starting out on the incredibly satisfying journey of producing their own fruit and vegetables.
We’ve been developing an easy to use kit that makes selection, planting and growing much easier and for a much longer time frame.
We call it ‘Hort Cuisine’ our way of saying it’s fun, friendly and offers tasty treats when you gather your crops.
The patented system enables almost limitless combinations of plants to be selected, enabling designs for any climate region.
Creating those beautiful ‘Knot’ gardens just became a simple process.
So here are a few questions……
What new ideas have you seen recently?
What would you like to see developed?
In the last 5 years what is the best landscape invention you’ve seen?
What would your customers like to add to their garden landscape?
Drop us a line with your replies we will have a follow up blog shortly.
Starting with an existing landscape is always a challenge..
How do you develop an idea?
Does it just grow on you?
I’ve often been asked this seemingly simple question
‘Where do you find your inspiration? ‘ or perhaps it might be
‘ Where do you get your ideas from?’ .
At first it was from seeing new things and figuring we could apply them to specific projects we were working on, albeit with a different slant, or approach. As we gained more and more knowledge ( experience) we instinctively knew what would work and what would require more thought ( more thought equates to time, experimentation and thus expense) – That’s not to say we didn’t make errors, because we surely did, luckily most times these ‘mistakes’ were of a limited nature, involving us spending more time than we expected.
I’ve always been happy to let staff experiment as long as there’s a learning process, in which they figure that making the same mistake more than once is avoidable. I’ve also found that the good old notebook and pencil is an invaluable tool, even today, writing information down has saved all manner of accidents from occurring, both financial and construction wise.
The beginnings of a well
The finished well, using bricks, oak and peg tiles.
Today our emphasis is firmly on simplifying ‘How to ‘ , in particular , with the huge changes to the worlds weather, we’ve been working hard on adapting our patented techniques so that home owners growing their own veggies & herbs in a quick ,efficiently and simply method as possible.
We are also close to enabling an 11 month growing cycle for anyone living in zones 5 and above.
Using well tried & tested, mainly low tech solutions , to achieve this.
Our “Hort Cuisine Kit” will be available soon !
Using our internet radio show & this blog , has enabled us to reach hither too undreamed of audiences across the world – currently we have been listened to or read in 43 countries, so a big thank you to you all for keeping on reading.
We would love to hear from you – Ann my co – host and I are hoping we can find as many ‘Granny Growers’ as possible and link them to ‘Growing Uppers’ ( our grandchildren ) , so that the knowledge, skills and techniques learned over generations of growing our own food, can be passed down before we all succumb to the mass produced, widely transported, heavily chemically sprayed, produce that has changed our once balanced diets.
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