Gardening with ecology at its core  

I’ve been reading some gardening trends articles and the concept of rewilding within garden design is now regularly getting mentioned, for which I am really pleased. My pioneering work at last year’s RHS Rewilding garden with Cheshire East Council (pictured) hasn’t gone unnoticed.
I have advocated for sustainable principles within garden design since the beginning of my career and it seems others are finally embracing this design ideology. It feels like the industry has been following worn out gardening principles for years and designers are finally accepting that we should not be agents of change within the landscape but its mere custodians.
I have been recently admiring the work of Sid Hill and his creative approach to meadow making with the use of food crops to elevate the schemes above ‘just looking pretty’ which is my whole raison d’etre.
The use of recycled materials within the garden scheme is also a massively important part of sustainability principles. We are experimenting with crushing old materials on site – particularly old block paving which can then be used as planting mulch and substrate in certain applications.
There has been some great work pioneering low subsoil planting schemes which, if properly designed, can flourish. John Little of the Grass Roof Company has pioneered much of this approach in the development of green roof schemes which are perfectly adaptable to the ground plane, creating sustainable, high intensity landscapes that are attractive to wildlife.
My whole ethos is that the garden should not only be something to look at but should push the boundaries, be a sanctuary for wildlife and provide food for the table. The onus is now on designers to take this pioneering work and create aesthetic schemes with ecology at their core. 
Gardens should beguile, confuse and allure and should make us ask the big questions about who we are and why we are here. Gardens are also the most accessible way we can make a positive impact on the earth – so go forth and garden!

What am I reading? 

I’m currently reading this book called The Garden of Vegan by garden designer Cleve West, which is pretty relevant as many people are doing Veganuary at the moment. 

Cleve is both a well-know supporter of animal rights and a magnificent garden designer. This is a really thought-provoking account of his own journey and in-depth research about how a plant-based diet can heal the body and the planet. It’s definitely worth a read. 

Tree planting season is here!

So firstly, why is it a good idea to plant trees during the winter months? During the winter, the tree will not be growing so it has plenty of time to bed in and for the roots to settle. It’s also going to be damp for much of the winter, so the tree has plenty of moisture before it wakes up in the spring.

In a residential garden, we don’t want to plant enormous specimens that will tower over the house within 15 years. We’re looking for a small tree that will be aesthetically pleasing during the different seasons, not need much maintenance at all, and will also benefit wildlife.

The field maple (Acer campestre) is one of my favourite broadleaf garden trees, which puts on a real autumn show. It provides a home for caterpillars and aphids, fights air pollution and is the UK’s only native maple tree. What’s not to love?

I also recommend the white-flowered native hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), which also ticks all the boxes – and can also be used as a hedging plant. In days gone by, people used to eat both the fresh leaves of the Hawthorn in spring and the berries in hedgerow jelly. This common hawthorn can support more than 300 insects, including many types of moths, and the berries are loved by birds.

City of trees
If you want to support the UK’s tree planting targets, take a look at City of Trees, which works across the Manchester city region, planting trees in urban settings, parks and nature reserves.

What am I reading?
This week I read this fascinating article about how the High Line in New York was created. This is relevant as the National Trust has put in a planning application to create a similar elevated garden area on a disused iron viaduct in Castlefield, Manchester city centre. There are also similar plans for a linear park on a former dock branch railway in Birkenhead, Wirral.
Read this article about the Highline, New York: