The Potting Shed by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Potting shed

The Potting Shed

The potting shed was full of old fashioned charm.  I didn’t appreciate it at the time. What sixteen year old would? It was built of rough bricks in a warm shade of red with a slate roof. A wooden door was on the left hand side, its bottom edge ragged from rot and rodent’s teeth. There was a window set into the brick under which grew a neat row of Box. Closely pruned for making wreaths. Stepping through the door was like going back to 1872 not 1972. A mixture of stone slabs, brick and concrete made up the floor.  An ‘economy job’ as the boss used to say, ‘left-overs from something else’. All the gardening hand tools were hung on the left hand wall on square ended cut-nails. The wooden handles worn dark and smooth by decades of sweaty hands. Hoes and rip hooks made from proper forged steel which took an edge. Spade blades and fork tines worn down from years of use in stony ground.

 The walls had once been lime-washed. Dust had accrued on the rough surface and a fine grey lace of old cobwebs hung between the wall and the exposed wooden roof beams. On the right hand side were planking shelves. These were stacked with flat pack cardboard boxes variously used for tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries. They stuck out over the edge of the shelves and looked in imminent danger of falling off, but force of habit kept them there. There was a stout wooden workbench under the window, its surface covered with a rough grey blanket. Here, tomatoes were graded, wreaths were made and seeds were sown. The potting shed was never used for potting.

Terracotta Pots

 Handy stuff was pushed out to the corners of the bench. A selection of old jam jars held florist’s wires, fine rusty dust gathering in the bottoms. They made a musical, metallic jingle when moved. A ceramic pot held pens and pencils. Odd amounts of wire were curled into circles and stood propped against the window frame. An old metal Oxo tin, its colours turning into rust, held a selection of small wooden dibbers for pricking out bedding plants. I became notorious for putting them down and then forgetting where I had put them. One of my workmates carved me a mahogany dibber with a hole in the end, through which he threaded a piece of string. He hung it round my neck like an Olympic medal causing much laughter from everyone else. I still have the dibber thirty odd years later, minus its string.

The roof beams were low enough to touch and all sorts of small items were hung there. Bags of elastic bands, bags of bags and string, lots of small bundles of string. These were a speciality of the boss’s father. He was affectionately known as the ‘Old Chap’. Well into his eighties he would shuffle out from the house around eleven in the morning and cast his pale, watery blue eyes over the contents of all the glasshouses. This took him some time as they were on quite a steep hill. He would tweak a plant here, move a tray there, and pick up string. He finished his tour of inspection in the shed. He would stand at the bench and slowly wind the bits of string around his fingers. Taking the long end he tied the bundle through the middle and put a loop in the end. He then selected a nail on the beams and hung it up. It sometimes took him a couple of goes as his aim wasn’t good. There was all sorts of string, from hairy sisal to orange binder twine. And there they hung, a flutter of bizarre butterflies. Job well done, he would adjust his flat tweed cap more firmly on his head and shuffle back indoors for his lunch.

seeds 2

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

I love my greenhouse by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

The Isle of Wight has long been recognised as benefitting  from both a mild coastal climate and fertile soils favourable to the gardener

“In general such is the purity of the air,the fertility of the soil, and the beauty and variety of the landscapes, that this island has often been styled the Garden of England” – The History of the Isle of Wight, Sir Richard Worsley. 1781

This is one of a series of articles and anecdotes largely based around our work on the Isle of Wight and occasionally further afield

I do, I really do. What do I love about it? Well for starters there’s the smell. Warm, wet, leafmould and compost. You tip up the watering can on a warm day and the water sinks into the humus rich soil and within a few seconds it’s released a wonderful earthy odour that holds the promise of growth. The greenhouse is so full of promise in the spring. Everything has the potential to be a success.

Propagator

Seed sowing is a great activity for a cold blustery day. I can slide back the door, nip inside quick and shut out the bad weather. With the heater going I perch on a stool and fill small trays and pots with compost that’s been warming up over the last few weeks. I find it pays to get bags of compost early, store them in the greenhouse and when you want to use them they’re not totally soggy and freezing cold. I keep my seeds in biscuit tins, the deeper sort that crackers come in are good. In December I’ll go through the seeds that I have left from the previous year and chuck out the ones that are probably too old to germinate well.

seeds 2

Then I order what I need from a catalogue, that’s a good bit of armchair gardening for a rainy day too! I have dividers made from a cereal box, which are labelled with the months January to July, which fit across the tin and I sort the packets into the months they are to be sown. I find that if I don’t do this during a quiet time then when spring really gets into it’s stride things are so busy that something gets forgotten.

Tomatoes

I have a couple of ‘window-sill’ propagators on a shelf and they are invaluable, bottom heat gets things started so much quicker. If you want to get things going early then electricity is a must in the greenhouse. The thrill of a new season starts when those little shoots start unfurling in the trays. I love going to the greenhouse every morning to see what’s come up. Then the game of musical plants starts. For a couple of months I have pots and trays on shelving, makeshift benches or on the ground. It’s too cold outside still and there’s just so much of everything. I swear that growth can be smelt in the air, particularly tomatoes. Just brush a leaf and the pungent odour is with you.

cucumber

At last the weather warms up and the tougher things destined for the outdoors anyway can be moved out to a sheltered spot. I can space things out, start to dismantle the benches and think about planting the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. I grow all these in the same greenhouse, some people say you shouldn’t. Or can’t. But I have found over the years that with a little improvisation you can grow them together, after all, who has the luxury of several greenhouses?  The toms and peppers like the sunnier side and the cucumbers benefit from a bit of shade, I’ve found that a strip of horticultural fleece hung on the southern side of the cucumber plants works well. So, they’re planted out and they sit there for a few days, looking like they’re doing nothing. But the roots will be burrowing into the humus rich ground and suddenly they’re off! Rich green leaves are doing an impression of Jack’s beanstalk and spotting the first embryonic cucumber or the yellow blossom of tomato becomes the thrill of the morning visit.

chili peppers

The best thrill of all comes when I go into the greenhouse and cup my hand under a ripe tomato, gently twist upwards and take it off the plant. The flavour from that fruit will remind me why I go to all this trouble every year. Oh, I most definitely love my greenhouse.

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

 

Upgrading a Residential Care Home Grounds by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Colourful raised beds

A Residential Care Home on the Isle of Wight

As part of a major refurbishment we were called in to upgrade the gardens at one of the island’s most prestigious nursing homes. We had worked for the same client before at another of their establishments and we were looking forward to working with them again.

The building had been doubled in size and featured a sunny inner courtyard accessible to the residents, raised beds were constructed within it which enabled them to gain the full benefit of the flowering, scented plants that featured in our carefully considered scheme. In such locations it is vital realise that elderly people can sometimes get confused and attempt to eat things that are not good for them so avoiding spiky or poisonous leaves and berries was essential.

Fragrant French Lavender

Outside was some mature woodland which we extended with new native trees and a grassy slope leading down to the sea, located within an Area of Outstanding Beauty, this too presented some challenges. The soil was a very heavy clay that had to be improved with large amounts of compost. Again we had to be mindful of the need to provide a safe environment for the residents whilst providing as much scent and colour from the plants that we used as possible . Decorative bark mulches were spread around the planting to help conserve moisture and suppress weed growth, thus reducing future maintenance requirements

Newly extended native woodland

Ground conditions were yet another challenge as with the onset of autumn rains it would become unworkable. We had to even out the slope to a more shallow grade, easier for those who needed the help of a stick or frame to walk on and separate areas of this had to be both seeded and turfed whilst we were still able to do so.

The owner of this prestigious establishment said:- “ Tim Brayford has done a great job bringing the gardens up to the high standard of our care home”

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

Tree Planting and Climate Change by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Oak tree 1

The government has launched a £ 50 Million campaign to encourage farmers and landowners to plant more trees to help tackle climate change but is this a good idea, and what are the options?

Forestry

Tree planting is a long term investment, some native species such as Yew can live for thousands of years and even the non-native Sitka spruce commonly grown in commercial forestry may live past six hundred years although in the UK they may be typically harvested between thirty and fifty years of age. If it is intended to produce timber this may follow a clear felling operation on previously forested land, on peat bog moorland or on more productive agricultural land.

Spruce forest

If sequestration of carbon is the main objective according to scientific research pasture sequesters 30% more carbon than forestry and this grass land may be grazed by the animals that provide us with dairy products and meat. It would seem to be counter-productive to plant trees in the UK if this merely resulted in forest clearances elsewhere in the world so that food may be grown for us to import instead?

Cord Wood 1

What about the rewilding options, how can they help to fight climate change?

Around ten thousand years ago after the climate had warmed at the end of the Ice Age the tundra habitat that had then prevailed in the UK gave way to the primeval woodland that we consider to be native today, remnants of which may be found in what are defined as ancient woodlands, those deemed to be over four hundred years old. This process occurred through natural regeneration, the spread of both flora and fauna from warmer latitudes.

Ancient woodland 1

These woodlands are rich in species diversity containing complex interdependent ecosystems, far better than any man-made creation. They have proved to be resilient in the face of the ongoing post Ice Age climate fluctuations, thriving during the extremes of cold, heat, wet and drought that have occurred since. If allowed to do so these woodlands can expand outwards to regain their former territory through natural regeneration, with the seeds distributed by the wind and in the droppings of wild birds and mammals such as deer.

roe & bluebells

Tree Planting

Nursery grown trees provide an instant visual impact, in the short term is quicker and gives control over what species are planted although the choice may be somewhat limited. If the trees are not local to the area they may bring new plant diseases with them. Planting may be both costly and labour intensive with the trees requiring unsightly stakes and guards, and they may require careful watering and weeding for the first few years until well established.

Tree guards 3

In the 20th century following the devastating loss of the nation’s Elm trees to the imported Dutch Elm disease the government promoted new tree planting, so what became of it? In short the trees failed to thrive:-

Plant a tree in ‘73

Plant some more in ‘74

Still alive in ‘75

Dead as sticks in ‘76

Natural Regeneration

Natural regeneration can be slower to establish and care must be taken to remove any alien invasive species such as Sycamore, however the emerging scrub will provide valuable, diverse wildlife habitats in which declining species such as nightingales may thrive. Survivability will be good in the long term with the scrub gradually transitioning into mature woodlands from which future generations may benefit. Much of this work is currently being pioneered on the Knepp Castle Estate in Sussex.

knepp livestock

Making a choice

Whichever method is used to establish new woodlands there needs to be clearly defined objectives about what this tree planting is supposed to achieve. Is it to be a commercial timber crop that may be used to produce renewable energy wood pellets or is it to be part of a rewilding scheme managed to benefit biodiversity in the future? Each will sequester carbon and both have their advantages and disadvantages, it is however essential  to decide which route to follow before embarking on such a project.

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

Rewilding with Trees by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Ancient woodland 1

Ancient Woodland

Rewilding with Trees

What is rewilding?

Rewilding has been defined as restoring healthy ecosystems by creating wild, biodiverse spaces. It rebuilds ecosystems that have previously been modified by human disturbance, using the plant and animal life that would have been present had the disturbance never occurred. When such ecosystems are restored at a landscape scale it can help to mitigate climate change, and provide socio-economic benefits for communities.

Why natural regeneration is best

Around ten thousand years ago after the climate had warmed at the end of the Ice Age the tundra habitat that had then prevailed in the UK gave way to the primeval woodland that we consider to be native today, remnants of which may be found in what are defined as ancient woodlands, those deemed to be over four hundred years old. This process occurred through natural regeneration, the spread of both flora and fauna from warmer latitudes.

roe & bluebells

Native roe deer in a bluebell wood

These woodlands are rich in species diversity containing complex interdependent ecosystems, far better than any man-made creation. They have proved to be resilient in the face of the ongoing post Ice Age climate fluctuations, thriving during the extremes of cold, heat, wet and drought that have occurred since. If allowed to do so these woodlands can expand outwards to regain their former territory through natural regeneration, with the seeds distributed by the wind and in the droppings of wild birds and deer.

Giving nature a helping hand

Sometimes it is advantageous to expedite this process, particularly if seed banks have become impoverished by intensive agriculture, forestry or previous building work. Ideally seeds and seedlings will be sourced from native trees, shrubs and ground flora local to the area, but before these are sown or planted take care to clear away any non-native or commercially derived species first. A sterile seed bed can be helpful in this respect and resist the temptation to add fertilisers, the truly wild plants just don’t need it and it can encourage the more vigorous species to become dominant.

www.timbrayford.co.uk New woodland (2)

New woodland planting with regenerated ground flora

Things to avoid

Straight row monocultures of similar aged species, especially of non-natives and commercial cultivars. Avoid using plastic tree guards if at all possible, over time they can degrade into micro plastics, find their way into watercourses and cause serious oceanic pollution.

Avoid using this method of tree planting!

Instead accept that some of your planting will be lost or retarded by being nibbled by both large and small herbivores. This is an entirely natural process and over time will lead to the development of the mosaic habitat most favourable to creatures such as dormice, red squirrels and woodland butterflies.

Butterflies thrive in deer grazed glades

 

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

Tim Brayford Garden Design Isle of Wight Happy New Year 2022

New year 2022

We look forward to resuming our new year work programmes very shortly,  Our office is open for enquiries 8am-4pm weekdays and we are now taking bookings for garden design and landscaping projects into the spring and summer.

For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

A Merry Christmas from Tim Brayford Landscape Garden Design

Xmas 2021

Our office is now closed for the winter holiday and will be open again early in the New Year to accept bookings for garden design and landscaping projects into the spring and summer.

www.timbrayford.co.uk lunaria r (2)

Frosty seed pods of Lunaria annua at Christmas time

For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

Tim Brayford’s Isle of Wight Gardens 24

A successful garden will  contribute significantly to our well-being and quality of life.  It may play host to a broad range of flora and fauna enhancing local biodiversity and collectively benefiting the wider world environment by absorbing CO2. Here are just a few examples from gardens on the Isle of Wight and elsewhere. 

Dogwood leaves

A winding brick path

Wildflower Meadow

An Award Winning Garden

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

 

An Isle of Wight Wildlife Garden by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Well before wildlife friendly gardens became fashionable Tim Brayford Landscapes was in the forefront of their design and installation on the Isle of Wight.

Here a grateful client recounts her experience:-

She had bought a pair of run down country cottages in a rural setting complete with badly overgrown neglected gardens.

She said that “I simply could not visualise what to do with the garden and although I am keen gardener I am not  very knowledgeable” so she turned to us for help and said “Tim picks up on what I want and makes it better, we work together and he makes suggestions as to what might work”

insect

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Wildflowers attract wildlife

The cottages are built into a slope so it was necessary to integrate level grassy areas into steeper banks, our client was concerned that her grandchildren might slide down these banks when the grass was wet. She wanted to create a natural break and barrier.

We suggested edging the area with Box hedging planting inside with ground hugging plants including Geraniums, Campanulas and Pulmonaria.

Our client was pleased that we had” translated her ideas into reality and wanted an easy care garden that also put something back to the countryside, but had to be practical regarding maintenance”

crab apples

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Crab Apples

It was important to her that wildlife should be encouraged with habitat for visiting birds and butterflies. We suggested putting in a small wood as with careful management this could be established in a confined space. We planted Silver Birch, Rowan, Crab Apples, Sweet Chestnut and Hazels together with indigenous Cowslips, Bluebells and Snowdrops, whilst Common Orchids naturalised in the surrounding grass.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Toad & Ivy

Fragrant climbing Roses and Honeysuckles attract insect life to some trelliswork and overall our client is delighted with the rich variety of wildlife visiting her garden, these include many different birds and butterflies and Dormice may even be feasting on the Hazel nuts.

She commented ” I still cannot believe I wake up in the morning and see all this. It is my idea of heaven”

A visiting partridge gives his approval

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21

The Garden in Winter by Award Winning Designer Tim Brayford

A snowy Garden

“O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the spring shall blow
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth.”
–  John Davies, 1570-1626,  Ode to the West Wind

The garden in winter can seem to be a bit of a quiet place with not much appearing to be  going on, but with a little forethought and careful planning it can become quite busy.

Winter flowering Snowdrops

Winter flowering shrubs such as Winter Jasmine and Mahonia Japonica provide seasonal blooms, Daphne mezereum Rubrum is particularly fragrant. The evergreen leaves of Viburnum Tinus and Ilex aquifolium Golden van Tol provide some structure along with the vivid orange red berries found on Pyracantha hybrida Mohave or even the bright turquoise blue berries found on Viburnum Davidii. Colourful stems may be found on Dogwoods such as Cornus Alba Sibirica Westonbirt and Willows such as Salix Alba vitellina, both of which may be cut back to create fresh shoots in the spring.

Vivid Dogwoods

Hardy Cyclamen are early bloomers and Snowdrops will soon be making their presence known. In milder areas early Daffodils such as February Gold are harbingers of the approaching spring , whilst in the herbaceous border the Christmas Rose Helleborus Niger is an early flowerer.

A good starting point is to observe your garden on a reasonably bright winter’s day, walk around it and see if the general structure or any vistas may be improved, don’t forget to take into account what may be seen from indoors as well.

Wintery weather brings wild birds like these Pheasants into the garden

Do not be afraid to replace ailing plants or those that have become too vigorous and any that have otherwise disappointed you. Look out for carelessly discarded litter and items such as garden furniture that have decayed past the point of usefulness and now just look plain ugly. It is all too easy to overlook these sort of things and spoil the appearance of an otherwise beautiful garden.

Frosty Fern

Make an action plan for what you are seeking to achieve in your garden, it can be very useful to record you observations in a notebook for future reference, especially if you intend to spread your improvements over several seasons. When this is done you will be best placed to proceed to putting your plans into action.

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and we are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. For more photos, advice & stories about gardening please visit our  website  email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com  phone 07890 869918

www.timbrayford.co.uk logo & name 26.10.21