Italian Garden Tour 1

Water Feature hundred-fountains-Italy-2

 Villa D’Este

Italian garden tour photos from earlier this year.

Being based in Rome for a week we went for a day trip to Tivoli to see Hadrian’s Villa and Villa D’Este. Both these sites are breathtaking in their scale and ambition and rather humbling for a landscape designer in the 21st century. The hydraulic ingenuity restored at Tivoli and inferred from archaeology at Hadrian’s Villa is beyond anything I can imagine being built today.

hundred-fountains-1 Villa-D'este-italy

At Tivoli water behaves in a myriad of ways to create showers, spouts, streams and noises from cannon fire to bird song. The famous ‘Hundred Fountains’ (above left) is rightly considered one of the great achievements in renaissance garden design. What I didn’t realise however is how many other water features (an inadequate phrase for this garden) there are and also the how steep the site is. Through clever use of terracing the garden is essentially one large gravity-powered water feature with path ways and steps linking each part. The overall size of the site is surprisingly small but you could walk for hours with new scenes and vistas opening at every turn. We did.


Tour part 2 – Hadrain’s Villa (coming soon)


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Olympic legacy

alcoves in London garden

The alcoves now have their benches

An update to the Olympic legacy garden I designed for St James’s church, Piccadilly on behalf of Olympic sponsors UPS. UPS’s Olympic guests will have been arriving from around the world since Friday, so early last week I visited the garden to make sure it was looking in tip-top condition for them to enjoy their pre and post games drinks.

Peace statue in Picadilly garden

The Peace statue with shade tolerant planting including, just about to flower, Anemone honorene jobert

The garden is looking incredibly lush with all the rain we’ve had this summer and the perennials have filled in the borders very nicely. Although I didn’t design a particularly flowery garden here, due to the dry shade conditions, I did put a few things in that I hoped would shine for the games, such as Angelica gigas and Anemone honorine jobert. Both these were budding expectantly last week so should look quite spectacular about now.

Plant close up Angelica gigas

Angelica gigas just about to bloom for the Olympics

Shade tolerant plants

A grouping of shade tolerant plants including Alchemilla mollis, Euphorbia griffithii,  Sarcococca confusa and Angelica gigas.

The garden is surrounded by buildings and has a number of huge, beautiful, but shady and water sucking, London Plane trees which give a wonderful secluded feel to the space, but make a challenging place for ornamental planting. Luckily a number of plants do well in this situation and, as can be seen in these pictures, are thriving very well.

Geranium phaeum in london garden

Geranium phauem  Samobor in front of the Lutyens building

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Garden Plans and Visualization

Why do garden designers produce perspective drawings of their designs, when for build purposes a plan and some construction elevations and details are usually sufficient? There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important is that a perspective view is how we naturally see the world and will much better convey how a garden will actually look when mature. This can help make a client take ownership of a garden and really enthuse them about a design long before the landscapers arrive.

Landscape perspective

Image I produced for a public space in East London

Some people can have difficulty understanding two dimensional plans and visualising the three dimensional reality, so even the most beautifully rendered colour plan may as well be Egyptian hieroglyphs as far as they are concerned. So a three dimension image, whether produced by hand or on computer, will always be welcomed by clients. It can also act as a good ‘at a glance’ guide for contractors on how a particular feature should look once built.

Show garden perspective produced for RHS show

Producing perspective images is also a good design tool for garden designers and we can use the process to ‘tweak’ our plans if something doesn’t quite look right when we pull up that third plane.

garden perspective

Eye level view of a proposed garden design

Lastly, 3D images are very satisfying to create and really impress clients!

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St James’s church, Piccadilly update

Statue garden

White Narcissus blooming by the peace statue

Neatly combining my last two blog posts (Bulbs within sequential perennial planting and St James’s Church, Piccadilly) I visited the garden today and was delighted to see many more people enjoying the space with the Narcissus in full flight.

New turf in garden

The public enjoying their lunch in the alcoves

The perennials are beginning to get going behind the bulbs and the shrubs settling in nicely, which is great to see after all the planning that went into the garden. Eventually climbers will cover the trellis and five Amelanchier lamarkii trees will ‘leaf up’ softening the surrounding architecture and hiding some of the more utilitarian features.

London sculpture garden

Thomas Houseago’s ‘Large Owl (For B)’ watches over the garden

The neighbouring gallery Hauser and Wirth often place interesting sculptures in the garden  adding exciting and unexpected dynamics to the space. Designing the garden to be flexible enough to accommodate different art works was in the brief from the beginning.

The garden entrance

A more welcoming entrance than before

The entrance to the garden was one of the main issues to be dealt with when rearranging the space. Beforehand the entrance was not obvious due to the over grown nature of the borders and various storage units visually blocking the path. Now we have greatly ‘opened up’ the whole area and I hope many more people will see and enjoy the garden.

The Lutyens building

The Hauser & Wirth building designed by Edwin Lutyens, now with less clutter obscuring the rear façade


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Light bulb moments

Front Garden

Tulips in my front garden this morning.

Garden designers are often asked to create “all year round interest” planting design for clients, encouraged possibly by magazine articles and TV gardening shows. This normally translates to bland schemes where one plant flowers successively after another through the year and so only 10% of garden is looking it’s best at any one time. Better results can be achieved through planting for peaks of interest during the season, explaining to the client that the garden will evolve through stages from spring to winter.

The first ‘peak’ I normally design into a scheme are spring bulbs, which can be planted in Autumn around perennial plants that will be cut back near the ground just when the bulbs are doing their stuff.  Planting this way we lose no border space, but add colour and form before the perennials have barely even sprouted new growth.

Tulips, as in my front garden shown above, give a great show at this time of year, but I don’t assume they will reappear every year as reliably as Narcissus, say. I therefore top them up each October with fresh bulbs and if the winter has been as dry and mild as this year then I get the new Tulips, plus many more from previous years. Bonus!


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St James’s church, Piccadilly, London

This central London garden project started back in late 2010 when I was asked to participate in a garden design competition by a media company working on behalf of a major Olympic sponsor. I submitted some sketch ideas and mood imagery and a few months later was delighted to hear that I had won the competition and my design was successful and could I work with the sponsor to firm up the ideas and complete the garden.

The plan was to rejuvenate this overgrown and somewhat neglected corner of central London with new planting, a reorganisation of space and some new features to make the garden more welcoming, lighter and more open.

Perspective image

Perspective image of the garden produced in CAD program

A complete redesign wasn’t considered feasible, so we designed the garden around the existing layout and paving. After the production of site plans, planting plans and construction drawings, work began on site in late 2011.

Garden design poster

Work begins on site.

Many volunteers from throughout sponsor’s workforce came to help in the removal of old plants from the over grown borders and the construction of the new garden. Some Olympic athletes also joined in. Need fit people for this kind of work!

Digging for victory

Plants delivered to garden

Some of the 2000 plants and 400 bulbs arrive on site

Statue hellebours

The Post WWII peace statue has some space around her again.

By the time of the Olympics in summer 2012 the garden will be complete and the plants looking good.  Watch this space! And here… London, Piccadilly garden

Garden Brick walls

One of the alcoves built into the huge plant borders. The Yews will be trimmed into neat hedges in the spring.


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First Post – Why you need a garden designer!

This is my first blog on this part of my website using WordPress. I will update this a bit more regularly than the rest of and keep up to date with current projects and also post landscape photographs and any musings I have on design, gardening, landscape and the environment in general.

So why choose a garden designer?
There are other options available when deciding to undertake a garden project, so is there any need to take on the expense of another professional? I would say yes, but then I would, wouldn’t I! I do, however, have some valid reasons why a garden designer could save you money, worry and worst of all, a bad garden. Of course a bad garden designer could do the reverse of these three, but we won’t talk about them today.

First of all you should decide whether a project is of a large enough scale to make it worth a designers while. It may be that a landscaper could help you make some decisions on a small scale patio for example. Some designers will have a minimum spend for a project, under which they deem it not worth their or your time and money (often around the £10k mark). As a project increases in size and budget, so to does the need for a designer to make sure money is being spent in the right places.

A designer should:

  • help you decide what you really want and need from a garden, even if you didn’t know before;
  • create plans and drawings that excite and infuse you with a passion for the project;
  • make sure that the space will function to your needs and everything is to an appropriate scale;
  • act in your best interest and sell you only what you need;
  • create plant plans that fit with your maintenance expectations;
  • help you choose a reputable landscape contractor that has the ability to carry out the build correctly;
  • specify construction and material quality so contractors can price accurately;
  • if asked to oversee the build, keep on top of situations arising on-site (your garden) and help inform decisions made, on a regular basis (stuff happens!);
  • be as proud of the finished garden as you are.

A professional landscape designer should do all these things and more, they will make countless micro decisions that will effect the out come of the finished space, informed by experience, training and a little bit of inspiration.

Benedict Green



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