Michael John McGarr Tatton 2016

Should you avoid bedding plants this year?

Already we’re seeing garden centres and supermarkets stacking up the bedding plants – and we cannot deny the allure of planting up pots, hanging baskets and planting borders with brightly coloured flowers this Easter.So what’s the problem with bedding plants?In short, they are really quite bad for the environment. Any nature and ecology-based landscape designer or architect will avoid designing in bedding plants to a planting scheme.Most bedding plants are not native, so won’t survive our winters. This means they’ve been grown in large intensively heated greenhouses, using up water and electricity – which let’s face it, is not cheap!They

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Michael McGarr Eat and Shelter

The success of the hedgehog highway

I read this fabulous piece of news that hedgehog numbers are increasing in urban areas (although not as great news that rural numbers have still dropped.)Your average person’s knowledge of hedgehogs’ habitats has increased due to brilliant education around creating ‘hedgehog highways’ between urban gardens to allow hedgehogs to roam throughout the night.Hedgehogs can travel up to 12 miles per night, so our urban or suburban walls and fences make this really tricky for them. We always design in hedgehog highways into any fences, walls or boundaries that we design – these small factors can make a huge difference.Pictured is

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John Little - WM Design blog

Using brownfield sites for biodiversity

I’ve been doing a lot of research about biodiversity on brownfield sites for one of my projects, which led me to this fantastic lecture by landscape designer John Little.John runs the Green Roof company, which has enabled him to bring wild biodiverse-rich landscapes to schools, public spaces and roofs.He lives on a four acre plot where he tests out various structures and landscape materials, with different types of planting and how well they work in terms of ecology. He even talks about a shopping trolley found abandoned in a pond -  it looks terrible but is brilliant in ecological terms, because it’s

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Chatsworth House blog image

Outdoor art at Chatsworth House

Outdoor art installations are incredibly inspirational – not only because they showcase an artist’s expression of creativity, but they are designed to sit within a landscape giving the ideas more context than an isolated piece of artwork. Land artist Richard Long’s Cornwall Slate Line was placed at Chatsworth in 2010. Like much of his work, it’s directly translatable to garden design. The same installation is displayed in both a gallery and garden setting, showing the versatility of the piece. It’s great to see the textures of the stone when both wet and dry – something that is often overlooked at early landscape design

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Eat & Shelter garden

An edible garden

The Eat & Shelter garden was designed for homeowners to be able to cook, use the surrounding An edible garden and create a unique habitat for wildlife too. This is an ultra low maintenance garden which proves that you can provide for wildlife while still having a luxury contemporary design.Eat and Shelter combines contemporary planting with plenty of texture from grasses and tall flowering plants, with a top-of-the-range Alfa pizza oven and fire table. Edible planting such as thyme, rosemary, fennel and chives means diners can simply pick herb and salads straight from the garden to add onto their meal.Taking

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Peat bogs

Should we ban the use of peat?

Just this week we are starting to see stacks of potting compost bags in the supermarkets – mostly on some kind of offer. But what a lot of people don’t realise is that they include peat, taken from the UK’s valuable peat bogs. By grabbing those cheap bags of compost, we are unwittingly contributing to the destruction of the UK’s valuable peatlands – essential for our fight against climate change. So why is peat used in our potting compost? It has a great ability to retain water and nutrients so is a very good growing medium. Home gardeners use 66% of

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Plant a tree before spring

Tree planting season is coming to an end so now is a great time to think about investing in a multi-functional specimen tree to get Plant a tree before spring. It’s important to look at the end size of a tree compared to the size of your garden – you don’t want a 20m high Scots Pine in a small back garden in 10 years time! There are many benefits to using the beautifully named Mophead maple (Acer Platanoides ‘Globosum’) within a garden planting scheme, including its autumn colour. Its round tight canopy carries a contemporary look which allows underplanting of bulbs

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RHS Tatton gold award 2017

Thinking about functional planting

However much we love a certain plant, flower or tree in our gardens, we should also be asking ourselves – what function will this have within my eco-system? All plants are multi-functional in many ways, so it makes sense for a garden designer to plan out a new landscape as a mini eco-system, with every plant in the right place. While my design aesthetic is to create the ultimate in luxury, I also bring into play the ecology of the surrounding landscape. What are the functions of plants?Climatically, plants are important, as we all know. As our climate changes, we must also

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Longridge architect designed paragraph 80 landscape plan

Creating a landscape design for an architect-designed build

I’ve been working on designs for the Paragraph 80 house that I’m working on with Jackson Crane Architects. Paragraph 80 is a planning regulation that allows houses to be built in the countryside if they meet very tough specific criteria. Having an ecology and landscape consultant on board definitely helps the planning process – and my job is to ensure that the surrounding landscape is enhanced by the project. Currently we are working on detailed landscape plans, which will include interior grow spaces, with historic local fruit species. The new landscape concludes with a foraging walk through the wilds beyond. The new concept will

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RHS Tatton 2021 rewilding

Merry Christmas to all

I've been sat at my desk this week, mulling over the year gone by Merry Christmas to all and planning out the year ahead. One of the highlights of my year was creating the Rewilding Garden at the RHS Tatton Show in July. The build period for any flower show is intense - you have a short amount of time to push your own boundaries and create a mature garden worthy of a panel of judges. But then once it's done, I have four days of chatting with visitors, who are just as passionate as I am about nature, ecology and really high-end

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Thinking about a green roof?

 There are so many benefits to creating a green roof - they don't just look pretty (and they really do look attractive!).One of the key benefits is that they absorb and use rainwater, which means it doesn't end up in our drainage systems. This article below by Gardens Illustrated says that in the summer a green roof can store 75% of rain, while in the winter it can store 40% of winter rainwater. The water stored will feed the plants but can also be evaporated back into the atmosphere. Green roofs can work really well in a domestic setting on a garage,

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The coming age of hyperintelligence

I’ve been reading James Lovelock’s Novacene – The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, which argues that a new age is beginning in which new beings will emerge from artificial intelligence. The 102-year-old author and scientist has previously spoken out around climate change and argues passionately for the changes we should be making, such as to stop relying on fossil fuels. He previously wrote Gaia, which tells us how earth functions as one self-regulating organism. What an influential and inspirational person – never mind still writing into his 100th year – as he was the first scientist to detect CFCS in the atmosphere. James also

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