The term ‘Horticulture’ covers a wonderfully diverse range of occupations, careers and hobbies.
The RHS courses give a good foundation knowledge in both the science and the growing techniques, from which some may choose to specialise in, say, garden design or green-keeping.
I started horticulture due to my love of being outdoors – fruit picking in the summer holidays. My initial specialism was in commercial horticultural production – in particular the growing of fruit and vegetables.
However over four years of training we covered many other aspects of horticulture as well. Hence my progression from growing not just edible produce, but plants – shrubs, herbaceous perennials and bedding – for sale to gardeners. This led on to the design and planting of gardens, an area I really enjoy.
Most of my working life is now dedicated to teaching. It is very rewarding to help others further their gardening knowledge or progress to a career in which I have been involved in for over 40 years and have never regretted.
But this is ‘holiday’ time, with a break in the teaching. So a perfect opportunity to design and build a garden! It is good to have the opportunity to practice what we preach, or teach!
Basic ‘Design Principles’ such as balance, harmony, proportion, simplicity and interest are so important in producing a garden that ‘works’.
A comprehensive site survey and appraisal showing the parameters in which we are working is so important. An accurately measured plan of the site and the existing features is the starting point.
Knowing the soil type and any drainage or exposure issues is vital for the selection of plants that will thrive. The style and materials of the house and surrounding area will need to be considered to produce a cohesive effect.
Views, from the garden back to the house, and from the house into the garden, are so important to make the garden look as if it belongs.
An effective client brief will tell the designer what is essential for the users of the garden and what is on their ‘wish list’. A realistic budget, for the initial build as well as the on-going maintenance, needs to be discussed.
Think to the future. How many years are you planning to stay in the house as your ‘dream garden’ may not be to everyone’s taste?
The children may be young now – but they will grow up quickly so, although you need to consider their safety and enjoyment of the garden, it does not have to be a play-park.
A well-made raised bed could be a sand-pit in the early years and used to grow veg as the children get older.
So with an effective site survey and appraisal, a comprehensive client brief, and the application of design principles, we have spent the last three weeks building a garden I would be more than happy to live with and one that I know will improve in years to come as plants mature.
I think that is what is termed a ‘busman’s holiday’!
n Manea School of Gardening (RHS Approved Centre)
Garden Design is covered in the RHS Principles and Practices of Horticulture Courses taught. There are limited places left on the Saturday course commencing in September.
Open for plant sales on Saturdays.