The Garden in Autumn by Isle of Wight 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

Colourful autumn leaves on the Isle of Wight 

“When the frosty kiss of Autumn in the dark
Makes its mark
On the flowers, and the misty morning grieves
Over fallen leaves;
Then my olden garden, where the golden soil
Through the toil
Of a hundred years is mellow, rich, and deep,
Whispers in its sleep.”
Henry Van Dyke

Autumn is probably the busiest season in the garden and is an excellent time to reinvigorate planting schemes.

As late summer blooms begin to fade cut down the spent flowering stalks of herbaceous plants, dividing and moving crowns if necessary, fork in organic matter such as leaf mould whilst doing so.

Plant spring flowering bulbs such as Daffodils and Tulips, those of Snowdrops may also be planted now but may be more successful if planted in the green next spring. Summer bedding can be replaced with winter flowering Universal Pansies and Polyanthus “Crescendo”.

Autumn bedding

Early preparation for and ordering of bare-rooted plants can be wise as this will allow them to be planted in early November before the worst of the winter weather sets in.

The Autumn flowering Cherries – Prunus subhirtella “Autumnalis” (white) and “Autumnalis Rosea” (Pink) are one of the few trees that will start to blossom at this time of year and there is much to be enjoyed with the vivid leaf colours of Acers such as the yellow A.Campestre or the orange and red of A. Rubrum., and likewise for shrubs such as Viburnum Opulus. The Virginia Creepers have good autumn colour too, Parthenocissus quinquefolia “Engelmannii” is a particularly good variety.

Many trees and shrubs will be bearing attractive fruits and berries, although the reds of plants such as Cotoneasters and Pyracanthas seem to predominate Yellow and Orange varieties may also be found. The red and orange fruited Malus John Downie looks particularly good at this time of year as do the large red hips borne by Rosa Moysii “Geranium”.

A heavy crop of apples on the Isle of Wight

Just after the fruits have been picked and the leaves have begun to fall is a good time to prune Apples and Pears, remove weak, damaged and crossing over shoots and branches to allow light into the centre of the tree. Brush fallen leaves and other debris from the lawn, raising the mowing height for the final few cuts.

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

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Tim Brayford – The Isle of Wight’s B.A.L.I. Award Winning Garden Designer

National Award Winning Garden Designer and Landscaper

Established in 1980, Isle of Wight based Tim Brayford Landscapes are British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction. I have designed and built numerous prestigious gardens across the island

Good garden design is the essential foundation on which a landscaping project is built. A verbal consultation is a good place to start.
Landscaping Proposal Example 1
An illustrated recommendation report helps to provide a written reference point for the proposed landscaping works.

With a plantsman’s approach to my projects I am able to encompass a great many styles working towards both traditional and contemporary looks

 My aim is to create beautiful gardens across the Isle of Wight and I look forward to the next exciting project.

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

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Spring Bulbs by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Spring Bulbs

Spring Bulbs

I love daffodils. There, I’ve come out and said it. I like the good old common or garden yellow ones. Not very fashionable I know, but I love the big yellow heads nodding in the spring sunshine. They always look good under trees and in clumps in borders but I wouldn’t attempt them in pots, they tend to flop about too much. I like the smaller, lighter ones here, not the real miniatures they are better in with alpines or the front of a border. One of my favourites is ‘Jetfire’, these are gorgeous in tubs. I plant half a dozen in a 9 inch terracotta pot and the proportions look just right when they flower. The pots are placed up the edge of the front door steps and cheer us up for weeks.

Cheerful daffodils

A couple of years ago I tried something different in my wall baskets under the living room windows. I usually leave these empty in winter as winter pansies and primroses don’t seem to like the extra exposure that the height brings and I planted ‘Jetfire’. They were brilliant. Their bright heads popped up far enough to dance along the bottom of the window, allowing us to enjoy them even in rough weather.

Spring Bulbs & Sundial

Still, daffs aren’t the only bulbs and I have a penchant for big, bold tulips as well. Deep red, bright pink but not yellow, the daffs supply that! I love big bellied pots with big bellied tulips, they just seem to go together. Have you ever gazed into a wide open tulip? Fabulous.

Bluebells are beautiful, particularly if you can manage a woodland setting for them, but if not try to find them a sheltered spot under deciduous shrubs as they will not appreciate too much heat.

Snowdrops are amongst the earliest to flower

Snowdrops are another little beauty and they need to be where you can appreciate their early flowering. Don’t hide them away in a part of the garden that you never visit in winter or there’s no point in growing them!

Well, these are just a few of my favourites and if you look through the catalogues the choices are endless, try some. Experiment with something different. I can guarantee you will pace around the garden peering into pots and borders waiting for the first shoots.

Bluebells attract bees!

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

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Water Gardens by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Watergardens

A water feature adds tranquillity to a garden and here at Tim Brayford Landscapes we have experience of a wide range of imaginative uses. Construction of water features needs to be spot-on as water levels are very unforgiving and can show up any mistake. This makes preparation work for any potential pond very important and the use of a laser level is a normal part of our routine. Consideration needs to be given to what the client wants from the water feature, do you want the sound of falling water, to make a formal ‘statement’ or have a calm reflective surface?

www.timbrayford.co.uk Damsel Flies (2)

One of our recent projects was a formal centrepiece fountain with a ‘catching’ surround pool but we also do garden ponds. Over the years we have constructed many ponds aimed at encouraging wildlife using skillful planting of native and non-native species to attract as wide a range of insect and bird life as possible.

www.timbrayford.co.uk fish fry

The marginal area for ponds requires careful planning too, possibly lining an area for bog plants to ensure that the whole thing sits at ease in the garden. Ponds for keeping fish have different requirements and can require  installation of  filtration and aerating equipment.         

  

Bee attracted to wildlife pond

Water features are increasing in popularity. The sound of water is very soothing and many clients like to have a water feature near a seating area. We have built water-falls and streams that are   pump powered as well as water ‘spill-over’ rocks which need an underground reservoir.

Yellow flag irises

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

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The Wildlife Pond by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Yellow Flag Iris

The trouble with having a wildlife pond is that I supposedly ‘waste’ a great deal of time watching it. It is the most fascinating habitat in the whole garden. I have had mine for some years now and the first inhabitants, pond skaters, arrived within an hour of it filling up. Since then we have had Damsel flies, Dragon flies, Water Boatmen and lots of other unidentified little bugs that skitter and wriggle about in its depths.  That’s the thing about ponds, if you get it right you don’t have to stock it, it stocks itself.

A newly arrived dragonfly assesses the pond

So what makes a good wildlife pond? Firstly it must be deep enough in the middle for creatures to overwinter successfully, mine is about three feet deep with a shallower shelf around the edge. I used a butyl liner with the correct padding underneath, it pays to get this bit right as a hole in the liner is an expensive mistake to rectify. The edges have a gentle slope and because mine abuts the lawn I laid turf over the edge to hide the liner. I then did something that a lot of gardeners would hold their hands up in horror at, I chucked some clay soil (devoid of stones) into the bottom. Well, those newts have to have something to hide in, don’t they?

Bees are attracted to wildlife ponds

Be choosy about the plants you want to have in your pond. I chose native plants as far as possible, although I did succumb to a small, white waterlily . My favourites are Watermint, Brooklime and Water Forget-me-not. Avoid really rampant growers such as the Bull rush and Canadian Pondweed in your pond as these will soon choke it. I made use of the wet clay soil behind my pond to plant yellow Iris as well as Purple Loosestrife and Meadowsweet. I planted the pond lily in a pot but everything else I anchored under the turf edge or weighed them down in bunches on the shallow shelf to do their own thing.

You can get as artistic as you like with decorating the outer edges to attract residents and visitors. I chose a couple of semi-rotten large branches to drape over the back edge and dip right into the water and these have been a great hit with all types of birds as bathing and drinking perches. Insects love the flowering plants around the outside and in winter finches feast on the seed heads.

Damsel flies are attracted to the wildlife pond

My pond is never going to be the tidiest and, yes, I do get some duckweed and blanketweed (a revelation in itself when you see what takes up residence in it) but it most certainly is one of the busiest.

And don’t forget that essential item a Garden Seat!

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and 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

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The Garden in Summer by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Early summer flowers

“That beautiful season the Summer!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
And the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Summer is the time that all the hard work and planning of earlier seasons comes to fruition.

The long days and balmy evenings will see the traditional English country and cottage gardens at their best, with earlier flowerings of Poppies, Delphiniums, Peonies and Aquilegias to be followed by Hostas, Japanese Anemonies, Rudbeckias and Heleniums to name but a few.

Cutting down the stems of early plants such as Lupins may lead to a second blooming in late summer and dead heading repeat flowering roses such as the fragrant “Claire Austin” is beneficial.
The fresher air in the evening is perhaps the best time to enjoy sweetly scented Honeysuckles and Nicotianas

Mid summer herbaceous border

Bright and colourful summer bedding like Geraniums and Busy Lizzies can highlight decorative tubs whilst Petunias and Nemesias may be found in hanging baskets. Keeping a few Begonias to hand in pots can be a useful way of plugging any gaps that may appear in herbaceous borders until a more permanent solution can be found in the autumn.

Bees feast on these late summer flowering Heleniums

Watering may become necessary during a prolonged dry spell, a thick organic mulch will help to retain moisture and if seed free deter weeds from germinating. If the lawn starts to turn brown raise the cutting height of your mower and cut less frequently.

Watering is best done at night when evaporation is less and there is little risk of scorching or better still install some sub-surface irrigation.

Do not be afraid of pruning back plants that are starting to obstruct paths or gateways and do make a note of any possible changes or improvements for future reference.

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and 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

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Growing Beans by Award Winning Garden Designer Tim Brayford

french beans ready to eatFrench beans ready for eating

Growing Beans

I love beans. Any sort of beans. The amount I grow throws out my crop rotation. First in line are broad beans. I know some people say they are coarse but they obviously let them get old. I sow, for preference, in late October or early November. With nets across the top to deter the birds and mice who like them as much as I do. Up they come, a great big patch of them in blocks which hold each other up. The scent when they burst into flower is surprising and the bees love them. The anticipation of running a thumb and finger down a fresh green pod to see how big the beans are getting is only surpassed by actually popping it open. I pick carrier bags full from the allotment and settle down on the sun-lounger  to the pleasure of podding. Tea at hand and the wheelbarrow to take the waste. Colander on my lap and the radio on. That gentle ‘pop’ and peel down the edge to reveal beautiful pale green beans nestling in their downy beds. Cooked and cooled with a little garlicky olive oil dressing, bliss.

Broad beans ready to harvest

Well that’s my annual ‘starter for 10’ and then I move onto the serious business of climbing beans. I’ve been getting a bit adventurous lately and have taken to growing some of the Heritage beans available to Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library members. Members can chose varieties that are no longer available, or indeed legal, to sell as they have been removed from the European List. I’ve started to grow a wide range of climbing French beans, big ,fat purple pods, little pods with pregnant bumps, flat speckled ones and all come with interesting names and histories. Blue Coco, Mrs Fortunes, Madeira Maroon. And the beauty of the frenchies is that you can save the seed and become self sufficient in them. Anyone who thinks all beans taste the same should try some of these. There’s the smoky flavour of the purple podded Blue Coco and the squeaky freshness of Extra Hatif de Juillet.

Broad beans ready to cook

Runner beans hold top position as the traditional favourite. These are the beans of my childhood. My mother could dish me up a plate of mashed potato and sliced (longways of course) runner beans and I’d be as happy as a pig in a mud pond. It’s an iconic view of the English summer garden, red flowers teeming with bees as the speedy plants twine their way up hazel poles. The sheer volume of production can’t be beaten and the taste is superb, no matter what the French say…

To end the season there is the crop of dried beans. I was a bit sceptical when I first tried these. There was some head shaking from the ‘die hard’ department on the plot, accompanied by sharp intakes of breath. ‘They’ll never dry properly here’. Well they do, even in the damp years. I’m careful when I pick, making sure that the pods are dry. I don’t wait to pick them all together but harvest in two or three sessions. You start to get a feel for the pod, when it’s ready it’ll be papery and crackly to the touch, if there’s still a hint of softness it’s not ready. I finish drying by laying them out in old mushroom trays under cover. When I pod out the beans I put them in a ceramic bowl in the kitchen. I leave it uncovered for several days and every time I pass it I run my hands through and turn them. There’s something very satisfying and tactile about it.

Well, there you have it, I’m bean mad but the family wolf them back and there’s never yet been the cry of  ‘Oh No! Not more beans!’

Runner Bean Obelisk

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and 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

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Wildflower Meadows by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Wildflower Meadow

The Wildflower meadow

“This lucid fount, whose murmurs fill the mind

The verdant forests waving with the wind

The odours wafted from the mead, The flowers

In which the wild bee sits and sings for hours

These might the moodiest misanthrope employ

Make sound the sick, and turn distress to joy”

(Garcilaso de la Vega, 1501 – 1536)

 

For those fortunate enough to have sufficient space, be it an under used  pony paddock, hay field or even a larger sized lawn there is the opportunity of establishing a wildflower meadow.

Wild flower meadows were traditionally areas of unimproved grassland that were kept for hay making rather than being constantly grazed. In consequence these open sunny areas have played host to a broad range of grassland flora and fauna and are important feeding zones for Bees and other pollinators.

Wildflowers attract wildlife

The pressure to raise agricultural production during the 20th century led to the loss of these biologically diverse areas as grassland was improved, fertiliser added and vigorous cultivated species such as Italian Ryegrass sown.  In the past 100 years up to 97% of these traditional hay meadows may have been lost.

With a growing realisation of the value of wildflower meadows a growing number of people have become enthusiastic about re-establishing them on land that they own and in some cases there is funding available through Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme, details of which may be obtained via their local offices.

But funding is only part of the challenge of establishing a new meadow, past agricultural practices which have been successful at raising yields of grass grown may be the exact opposite of what is now required.  Bold steps may have to be taken such as destruction of the existing sward by ploughing or with herbicides, fertility reduced by removing hay or silage several times in one growing season and sowing parasitic Yellow Rattle to weaken the grass further.

Meadow Cranesbill

Meadow Cranesbill

It is only when conditions start to become unfavourable to grass growth that sowing of wildflower seeds  becomes advisable and even then do not expect instant results.

As these plants are of unimproved origin the seeds may not all germinate together and there may be some unwelcome intruders such as Ragwort, Nettles and Docks which will need attention.  Maintenance tasks will need to be attended to with a cycle of late summer hay cuts followed by light grazing of the aftermath and again as growth commences in the spring after the ground has been rolled or harrowed.

When your wildflower meadow has become established you will be able to enjoy the marvellous scents of the flowers and the sight and sound of the creatures that have come to live in the naturally bountiful grassland that you have created.

Wild Flower Meadow in May 1

Wild Flower Meadow

Tim Brayford Landscapes were established in 1980 and 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

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Improving a Garden in Winter by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

 

Tim Brayford Landscapes – 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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – 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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – 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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – 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.

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

Pruning Apples and Pears by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

The Quick Guide to Winter Pruning

If in doubt…Don’t! Well, you have to agree, that was quick. But I think we can do better than that. Apples and pears will quite often fruit reasonably well if you just leave them alone but they will get to a stage where overcrowding of branches and disease will cut down the on the reason we grow them; the fruit.

Why do we prune? We need to prune to encourage fruiting ‘spurs’, clear out any dead or diseased wood and generally shape the tree to an attractive form. We’ve all seen children’s drawings of trees, generally a cup on a leg, and for ordinary bush forms, which is what we shall deal with here, that’s not far off the ideal.

Stand back and take a good look at your tree. Is it the shape you want? Does it interfere with paths, buildings etc? Don’t be afraid to tackle it, you’re the boss!

Taking out branches which cross over the middle of the cup is a good idea as it keeps the air moving through the tree when it’s in full leaf and helps to prevent fungus diseases. If your tree has several branches in this position remove only one or two each winter as a severe removal of a large mass of branches will result in the tree producing a lot of compensating growth the next year and very little fruit. The same goes for branches which need to come out to improve the shape. Remove any branches which are diseased or have died back to where you are sure the growth looks clean.

RULE 1. Stagger removal of large branches over several winters.

RULE 2. Cut cleanly, using a pruning saw or good loppers, leaving a very small ‘stub’, which should heal over by itself.

Now come in close and look at one major branch at a time to assess it’s fruiting ability. Most varieties produce fruiting spurs which are clusters of small, knobbly twigs with fat flower buds on.(Growth buds tend to be thinner and pointed) What you are aiming for is a framework of  branches with a good coverage of spurs.

Example: Apple tree pruning – avoid taking too much off!

What you may have are branches covered with lots of whippy growth about 6 to 12 inches long (showing my age there I’m afraid!), these will need to be shortened to two buds long, in other words  where two leaves were in the summer. If  it is very crowded you may need to remove some altogether, spacing them out along the branches about 5 to 6 inches apart is good. These will then start to produce flower buds over the next summer.

RULE 3. Shorten small whippy growth to encourage fruiting spurs.

This is a much simplified guide to winter pruning but it gives you the basics to tackle your fruit trees, if you decide to pursue this topic further there are many good books available or call in an expert, we’ve been keeping trees performing well for years!

Word of Caution – If someone comes to prune your fruit trees with a chainsaw, show them the gate… If that’s what they need then they’re taking off too much!

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