The Wildlife Pond by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

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 about five 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. The icing on the cake came last week when my 8 year old (another essential ingredient for ponds by the way!) dipped his net in and found a newt. That’s the thing about ponds, if you get it right you don’t have to stock it, it stocks itself.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Dragonfly

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 spuddle about in, don’t they?

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Bee attracted to wildlife pond

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 Lythrum 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!

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes website or contact us by email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

B.A.L.I. National Award Winning Garden by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

The Tim Brayford Landscapes B.A.L.I. National Award Winning Garden

One of the greatest pleasures to be had from providing a professional garden design and construction service is when you receive positive feedback from grateful clients, however it really is an honour and a privilege when you receive such accolades from your fellow professionals and competitors.

Our brief for this project  was to provide a low maintenance garden on a limited budget  that would provide some colour and interest throughout the year with some paved areas and  whilst retaining the centrally placed greenhouse.

The challenges presented by the site tested our abilities to the full. The plot was very overgrown, quite narrow at around 15’ (4.5m) wide and 45’ (14m) long, but that was not all. It rose in height by around 20’ (6m) with a dangerous flight of collapsing concrete steps.

Tim Brayford Landscapes B.A.L.I. Award Garden – Project underway

The principle site access was via the front door of the house, up some stairs and out of the back door across a narrow iron walk way. The street outside was a narrow cul-de-sac with double yellow lines and special consideration had to be given not to inconvenience neighbouring properties during the work.

We created a seating area for a bench based on some railway sleepers at the very top of the garden to provide views over the nearby downs, countryside and sea, accessed by some shallow winding sleeper steps and a pea shingle path.

A larger area of mixed natural stone and recycled brick paving was situated further down in front of the greenhouse, with tubs and other planters containing soft fruit, herbs and annual bedding.  Other planting included a mixture of evergreen shrubs,fruit trees, roses and herbaceous perennials with some rusticwork supporting fragrant climbers. Weed control was aided by spreading bark flakes over a geotextile membrane edged with rustic logs and natural stone walling with watering from an automated irrigation system.

Receiving our prestigious award!

Tim Brayford Landscapes B.A.L.I. Awards Contractor Winner

Tim Brayford Landscapes B.A.L.I. Award Garden Designer Winner

With the encouragement of our client we entered this project for the British Association of Landscape Industries National Award competition, here is what the judges said:- “The Tim Brayford Landscapes entry was superb, especially as it overcame the difficulties of a narrow plot which rose by over 20 feet. Tim Brayford and his team created a small garden with a simple patio  as its central feature surrounded by mixed fruit trees and bushes with automatic watering. It is terrific value for money and the result is a folksy cottage garden full of interest, colour and contour. The client is delighted.”

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes website or contact us by email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

Growing Beans on the Isle of Wight by Tim Brayford Landscapes

Tim Brayford Landscapes – 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.

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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Broad Beans

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!’

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Runner Bean Obelisk

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes website or contact us by email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

The Garden in Winter by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

 

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.

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.

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.
By Tim Brayford

Please visit our website , email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction

The Wildlife Garden by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

Tim Brayford Landscapes – A flowering currant & bee

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”

Tim Brayford Landscapes – A visiting partridge gives his approval

Please visit our website or contact us by email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

 

 

Wildflower Meadows by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

Tim Brayford Landscapes-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.

Tim Brayford Landscapes-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

Tim Brayford Landscapes-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

Tim Brayford Landscapes-Wild Flower Meadow

 

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes website or contact us by email timbrayfordlandscapes@gmail.com or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

 

Planting a garden by Tim Brayford Landscapes Isle of Wight

 

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Country Garden

Planting is a very personal thing and here at Tim Brayford Landscapes we understand this. One client will love a neat scheme of box topiary whereas another will long for a coloured tumble of cottage plants. A lot will depend on the amount of time a client has available to spend in their garden which is why initial discussions are so important.

We are experienced in all types of planting from semi-mature conifer gardens to neat, colourful beds in a courtyard garden. All require a lot of thought and careful planning to succeed. Plants have differing needs and consideration is given to soil type and location before suggestions are made.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Rose Garden

We have undertaken a large cottage garden with a formal paving structure which contained herbaceous perennials, roses and shrubs to great effect. A back garden which had structured shrub planting with bark chip underlay closer to the house and a more naturalised wild garden further back. This had native trees and was under-planted with clumps of spring bulbs and wild flowers.

Most recently we planted an extraordinarily steep terraced garden with shrubs and perennials which would give cover for most of the year therefore reducing the amount of mountaineering necessary!

Hedging is an emotive subject with neighbours but there are alternatives to the dreaded Leylandii. We have completed successful projects using several different types of hedging in estate situations as well as mixed native hedging for those in more rural or spacious locations.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – Spring Flowers

Please visit our Tim Brayford Landscapes website or contact us by email info@timbrayford.co.uk or phone 07890 869918 to discuss how we can assist you with your landscape garden project.

British Association of Landscape Industries National Award Winners for Garden Design & Construction