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in     by Joyce Bullock 01-02-2018
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At this time of year almost everyone is desperate to see signs of Spring, but today as I waited at some temporary traffic lights, I saw signs of summer (almost). There, at the side of the road, growing in loose brickwork, in a wall at the side of a driveway was a fowering marigold! Despite 4degree temperatures and a chill wind, there it was, flowering. Quite how, or why I am not sure.

To bring a bit of cheer to my homeoffice I bought some early potted ranunculus with their lovely papery petals in subtle colours, some pretty little polyanthus and, for the stunning fragrance, a Sarcococca confusa. I just love this well behaved shrub. It is commonly known as Christmas Box, but its not a box at all. It is similar, in that its evergreen with a small ovate leaf and fairly slow growing, but joy of joys, it has the most stunning fragrant flowers right now. We all need one in our lives.

Landscapers, along with builders enjoy a long break at Christmas, so we should all be refreshed and ready when the return to work happens in early January, but bleak weather and a fornight of food and tv has most of us feeling a semblance of reluctance. However, it was full on from day one. I had two construction projects begin, both now completed, and one team are on to the next project of mine, a design done two years ago.
One of the projects is for a client who has wonderful herbaceous perennials and some lovely shrubs in a haphazard space to the side of her house. She loves her garden, but so too did the rabbits. The new design for her own garden has new rabbit proof fencing to ensure her blooms remain beautiful. Dee and I have arranged a date when she and I will go through her plants - all of which have been dug up and heeled in temporarily, and place them in their permanent positions. It was extremely 'brr' for my site visits but I know that her garden will be stunning in summer, and the new lay out and pathways will really add interest and purpose to the plot. The access is centred to the kitchen window so now adds focus to the view.

garden design and company postcard

Clients project week 1 showing sandstone patio and circle detail

On the Stafford job, there was a BIG conifer. Well, myself and clients Bri & Di thought it was big, the lads from Marbail Gardens didnt think so. I popped over to site and saw it being felled. They are trained tree surgeons and have all the kit and know how. The tree was out and shredded in no time. Job well done guys.

Conifer about to be felled having been stripped of most of the foliage

This month has also involved several planting projects. Its a great time of year to review the garden as you can really see the bones of it in its stark winter state, plus its a great time to get trees and shrubs particularly planted. Wendy & Peter have lived in their delightful country cottage with its field views, for years. Now however, there are 10 new houses opposite and 23 alongside. No more field views! The brief was to plant, sizeable, interesting trees to offer screening and privacy. We had a nursery visit back in October and arranged for December planting of the 11 trees selected. Snow delayed planting so I was pleased to get it done last week. There was a gorgeous selection of trees - a large Ilex Nellie Stevens which had a beautiful shape and instantly obscured the window opposite, a plaited Photinia, very fancy :-), a stunning multi stemmed Prunus serula Tibetica whith its peeling bark, a top worked variegated ligustrum, assorted Malus and Sorbus, along with a replacement plum tree and some shrubs to pull the bed together so that it doesnt look as though the trees have landed from Mars. There were some big holes to be dug, I am glad I was the one saying "er, no, can you just turn it a little bit?" or "no, it needs to go to the left/right/back", whilst the lads rolled their eyes. It is quite cold hanging around gardens telling people what to do.

Trees being delivered to Warwickshire site, to screen new build houses opposite

Ilex Nellie Stevens on its side, awaiting its final planting position.  Lovely evergreen tree

Other planting projects are for clients whose gardens have now had the hard landscaping completed, so require the finishing touch that plants give. Other landscapers often refer me for planting if it is not their expertise, which is nice for me as we can usually get on with the job quite promptly. Some clients will plant themselves, other ask me to provide a team. We have 7 pleached trees lined up for planting in a nearby village soon. Mr & Mrs N wanted screening that suits their location and garden, so opted for the pleached photinias that have a formality to suit. Pleached trees are pricey - you pay for lots of work to have been done to get them to that size, but are a great solution for certain situations. They are essentially on a bamboo framework, so are 'skinny' from the side and wide from the front, as such are ideal along a fence line as you can easily plant betwen them yet gain screening above the fence. I look forward to seeing those in next month.

A long term client, Rose, would like a cutting garden. So the lads are going in to prepare a bed with posts and wire to give support and simple bark paths between. I have been looking at dahlia collections and sweet pea seedlings to order. Oh my, the choices are breath taking. I havent quite pressed 'send' on the order yet as its over £300... I keep coming across things that Rose will absolutely 'need' in her garden. I think the next best thing to buying for yourself, it buying for someone else!! The will be a mixture of perennials and a few shrubs, Rose has a large garden with some fine specimens that can be robbed for vases, so we only need a few shrub additions, there will be bulbs - summer flowering ones will go in soon and a host of autumn planted bulbs for spring & summer cutting next year. Plus also, there will be lots of annual plants. Cosmos and dahlias will flower their socks off for months so provide bucketfuls of flowers. Rose won't have time to sow from seed so we will buy seedlings and I will pot them on ready for planting out when the frosts have gone. All of which seems like a long way off right now, but gardens are all about planning and hope. And joy, lots of joy.

New enquiries are well timed this month, as the landscapers are booked up until the end of March and will soon be into a min 3month lead time. Forward thinking pays dividends. I have done the survey for a large three sided garden to a barn conversion, my mind is buzzing with possibilities. Just completed on the drawing board is the design for the pathways, public spaces and flower borders at Secret Cloud Holidays at Scalderitch Farm in the Staffordshire Moorlands. They have large, 6m wide tipi's complete with wood burning stoves, private hot tubs and delightful furnishings. Catherine & Ian who own and run the site want to add beautiful flower beds and meadows to settle this stunning venue into the equally stunning and picturesque landscape. I am tempted to swap my services for a sleepover.

Whispering trees tipi

On Jan 1st I was feeling as though I had an empty diary, now, on the 31st I have lots of exciting gardeny things lined up, my friend Julie and I have a week in Kent & Sussex in summer doing what we call our 'Gardens & Gin tour', you can imagine what that involves - gardens in the day and gin in the evening. I have just booked a day at Hortus Loci in Hampshire, the nursery that provides almost all of the plants for the show gardens at Chelsea Flower Show, I am REALLY excited about that. I have a walking weekend in glorious Shropshire, Malvern Sring Show coming up and lots of other fun things.

So we all survived January and although tomorrow will still be cold, it wont be January. It will be closer to spring and that is a lovely thing.

For a bit of cheer, until it arrives fully, go buy yourself a basket of primulas to have indoors (plant out when they have gone over) and that fragrant Sarcococca to plant near the door and if you would like to chat about your garden, or think I can help in any way do get in touch,

I would love to hear from you.

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