Carol’s Garden of the Month (November)

Carols garden guide for the Oxford College of Garden Design

_MG_3416-EditI first visited Denmans  the garden of the venerated John Brookes many years ago on a hot sunny day in July and was so very excited to be there after eagerly devouring every book he had written and attempting to create my own garden around his design principles.

It did not disappoint although sadly on reflection mine was an insult to design and the great man himself!!!!

I have been there several times since as I am now privileged to know John, most recently just last week and it was such a different experience seeing it in late autumn.

At this time of year it is easy to see that It is clearly designed around exactly the same philosophy as is now taught at the Oxford College of Garden Design!

The strong use of ground pattern creates an underlying framework that holds the design together creating a strong and impelling route of flow – similar to my own garden! At last I have a garden that has got it right although I personally take little credit for that!

Denmans is admittedly 30+ years old and by John’s own admission some of the planting needs updating and plans are afoot to start again in the walled garden area which is exciting!

Nevertheless there is still plenty to enjoy in the plant department with loads of texture and colour as the photos prove! However right now it is a fantastic garden to visit to see the bare bones of a great design but if you are a “plant-a-holic” wait until June or go twice!

The garden is open all year and there is a really nice little garden centre attached to it that sells everything from a primrose to a £3000 full sized sculpture of a vestal virgin (well virgin’s don’t come cheap!)

Also there is a great restaurant with loads of quirky stuff in it (no not the food which is lovely) .

Go and pay homage!!!

Map picture


Plagiarism is alive and well

Looking for design inspiration and your USP


One of the first things I recommend to students (or even qualified designers for that matter) before they start a new design, is to look through books and magazines for design inspiration.

When my student from the Oxford College of Garden Design first start designing, their ‘design library’ i.e. their knowledge of shape, pattern, and garden features stored in their brains, is pretty much empty, so the only way they can fill it, is to expose themselves to as much content as possible.

Magazines such as Gardens Illustrated and English Garden are recommend reading as too is the Society of Garden Designers magazine ‘The Garden Design Journal’ edited by the excellent Tim Richardson. The designer is looking for two specific things at this early stage

  • A Floor Plan: Ideas for shapes and patterns that will fit into their new garden. This can be achieved by studying garden layout plans in books and online. Students are looking for strong ground patterns with good inter-locking shapes that, after a little modification could transpose well into their own design.
  • The Magic Feature: Secondly that little bit of magic that sets their design apart from everyone else’s. This in marketing terms would be your USP (unique selling point) It could be a sculpture or water feature or even built in furniture, but whatever it is, it should be the wow factor. Something the client is going to love, is unique and if the garden was to appear in a magazine would be the main picture to illustrate the article.

Books are another excellent source of inspiration and students should be studying not just garden/landscape design but architecture and interior design as well. Books written by garden designer John Brookes, or Terrance Conran are excellent sources of inspirations, so to is Barber Hunt and Elizabeth Whateley’s book ‘Aspects of the Garden Design Process’

By seeking inspiration from the past, modifying and adapting it to make it their own, students will gradually develop their own design philosophy, and aspire to take it into the future.


Carols’ Garden of the Month (October)

Carol Heather’s garden guide for the Oxford College of Garden Design

Well I have just returned from a really enjoyable visit to  Waterperry Gardens! near Oxford

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I won’t bore you with its history,  because you can read about it in the free guide or on the website, but it is interesting to note that unlike many such places, it has had a horticultural and educational bent, dating back to the1930s when a rather indomitable lady named Beatrix Havergal took up residence with an ambition to educate women in all branches of horticulture!

Personally I wouldn’t describe Waterperry as a designed space . To me, it feels more like an evolution, influenced by those managing it and also to suit its current purpose.   Somehow this lends it an air of innocence which on a wonderful bright Autumn day was very disarming!

There are many elements to the garden, but I suspect most people are immediately drawn to herbaceous borders and I was no exception.

To reach these you enter the garden via the quaintly named Virgin’s Walk (I felt something of an imposter!)  Here the planting is unexciting at this time of year, but turn a couple of corners and WOWEEE!!!!!….. the “Classical Herbaceous Border” comes into view and it looks absolutely stunning!

Stretching for 200 feet in front of you is an amazing display of Asters of every height, shape and colour interspersed with other Autumn favourites including Rudbeckias in variety and towering old style “Golden Rod” which looked far from “naff” despite it’s ongoing reputation!

At this stage you think to yourself oh this must be very dull for the rest of the year, but on closer inspection you can see that this border is planted for longevity in the interest stakes with neatly cut down lupins geraniums ,achillea and phlox patiently awaiting their next moment of glory.

Along similar lines but none the poorer for it is The Long Walk with another fantastic display of the same types of plants but with more shrubs interspersed to provide height and structure. Personally (shock horror!) I think these borders surpass the ubiquitous Great Dixter border, certainly at this time of year at least!

The other area that I enjoyed was the Formal Garden – I know this has all been done before, but it has a really nice feel about it and I loved the swaying Stipa tenuissima around the base of the sculpture.

If you judge a garden on “ideas to take home” this may not be the best, but nevertheless there are planting combos here that you could utilise in much smaller spaces and the garden really does remind you that there is absolutely no excuse for a boring garden just because summer is over! Oh and they serve fantastic cake in the cafĂ©!!!! Enjoy!