A sloping garden in Ventnor by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Natural stone walling and steps

A sloping garden in Ventnor, Isle of Wight 

Our clients had lived in their family home for a great many years, it was steeply sloping and mainly laid to lawn with some mature shrubs in peripheral areas. The lawn had however become increasingly difficult to maintain and our client had become concerned that one day she might slip on the steep slope and have a nasty accident whilst mowing it. They liked the idea of having the garden divided into terraces so that they might maintain it themselves but appreciated that the construction of this was a major undertaking for which they required specialist assistance.

Amongst the challenges that we faced, quite apart from the slope itself was how to blend in the new work without disturbing the best areas of mature planting. We split the slope into three distinct areas with grassed pathways and shallow flagstone steps for access, the latter had a special challenge of its own , it had to fit around a main drain and soakaway pit!

Circular Paving and planting

No sooner had we commenced the project than it began to rain, almost every day for the next five weeks, it soon looked like a moon-scaped garden instead. However, the construction of the natural stone supporting walls was soon completed and the levelled lawns grassed with a specially grown turf specifically grown for a coastal location. We relocated many mature shrubs to new locations reinforced by some new areas of tree and shrub planting and constructed circular patios in different parts of the garden to take into account the daytime passage of the sun.

Tim Brayford Landscapes – This lovely Dogwood was well worth keeping

The whole project had taken just over three months to complete, our design had successfully given a new lease of life to their garden. It was far easier for them to maintain, just two or three hours a week.

Our clients said:- “Tim Brayford did a marvelous job, the new features fit in so well with the rest of the garden and I get a great deal of pleasure from it. People who come round are always commenting on how nice the garden looks.”

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

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Gardens and Deer by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Gardens And Deer

One of the joys of a well laid out garden is that it will attract wildlife, and if you are very lucky you will occasionally be visited by wild deer. However, you can have too much of a good thing so here’s some suggestions of what you can do to ensure that you can enjoy both the deer and your garden.

There are six species of wild deer in the UK varying both in size and habits, one of the smallest, the Chinese Water Deer, is of a very localised distribution and is usually found on open arable land or in reed beds, it is the one least likely to be seen in a garden. Of the others the largest herding species, Red, Sika and Fallow are most often found in the more rural areas and are less likely to be found in a suburban garden although they do occasionally turn up in unusual places. The smaller native Roe and the alien Muntjac are the two most likely to be found in a garden.

Roe deer are sometimes seen in gardens

So how do you know that the deer are present? They are mostly dawn or dusk feeders, Muntjac can feed through the night and you may see chewed off plants and not know quite who the culprit is. Neatly bitten off stems similar to a cut from a sharp secateurs is indicative of a rodent attack, squirrels, rabbits or hares. If the stem is cut on to one side and torn off the other this is more typical of deer.

So what can you do to prevent this damage?

Planting things that deer don’t like to eat can be helpful such as Camellia, Rhododendron or Hydrangea, the RHS produces a comprehensive list of suitable plants.

Camellias are unattractive to deer

Tree guards and shelters are a wise precaution, particularly with new plantings. These will protect against both small and large herbivores, and to some extent carelessly used strimmers!

Fencing off the most vulnerable areas such as vegetable, fruit and roses gardens may be necessary, especially in areas where there are high numbers of deer. Stock fencing up to 6’/1.8m high is ideal, reinforced with 3”/75mm squared netting if Muntjac are present. Make sure the bottom wire is well secured to the ground as deer are known to push up under such fencing. A strand of the highly visible electric fencing tape used to contain horses on the outside of the fence can also be useful. Avoid using double strands of barbed on top of stock netting, deer are prone to getting caught up in this and suffer painful fatal injuries.

Repellents such as lion dung, ultrasonic screeching devices and flashing lights have all been mooted as deer deterrents but in reality their effect is short lived and the deer soon learn to ignore them. Greater details about deer in gardens are available on the BDS website

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

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Pond Life by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

 

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. 

Pond Life

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

Damsel flies

www.timbrayford.co.uk marsh marigold & bee

Marsh Marigold and Bee

Yellow Flag Iris

A small wildlife pond

Dragonfly

jersey butterfly

A Jersey Tiger butterfly feeds on a pond side plant

www.timbrayford.co.uk fish fry

Fish fry in a healthy pond

www.timbrayford.co.uk garden ducks

A pair of wild ducks

www.timbrayford.co.uk Toad 27.7.16 (2)

A Common Toad

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

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The Wilder look by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

The Wilder Look 

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. 

Meadow Cranesbill

A stumpery

Spindle berries

Midsummer meadow flowers

Woodland and Bluebells

Leave some wood to decay for fungus to grow on

Yellow rattle is an essential plant in a wildflower meadow

Damselflies are attracted to pond side plants

Fritillaria naturalised into a boggy pond margin

Wild Cowslip

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 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

A Residential Care Home on the Isle of Wight by 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 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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Spring Flowers by National Award Winning Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Spring Flowers 

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. 

Marsh Marigold and Bee

Snowdrops

Tulips and Bluebells

Narcissus and Lunaria flowers

Cowslips

Daffodils

Camellia

Flowering Currant and Bee

Chaenomeles

Early Cherry Blossom

A late spring assemblage of blooms

Woodland and Bluebells

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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Chemical Free Weed Control by Isle of Wight Garden Designer Tim Brayford

Periwinkles are a popular ground covering plant

Chemical Free Weed Control

Geotextile membranes were one of the great gardening innovations of the 20th century promoted as a chemical free low maintenance weed control solution, used in conjunction with decorative mulches such as bark flakes or gravel.

Generally unsuitable for use in an herbaceous border or where bulbs are planted membranes are primarily found for separation of gravel surfaces from the underlying soil and within mass plantings of shrubs and trees.

In the short term geotextiles can be highly effective at providing a low cost/low maintenance option for these areas but it would be a mistake to believe that they are maintenance free. Typically the kind of issues that may arise are birds disturbing decorative bark mulches thus exposing the underlying fabric and the effect of strong gusts of wind actually lifting the fabric away from where it has been placed.

Geotextiles are popularly used for weed control

This is far less of an issue where gravel mulches have been used but other problems can arise. Despite claims to the contrary by the manufacturers in our experience these membranes impede the exchange of air within the soil resulting in the ground becoming compacted, anaerobic, slimy and poorly drained with little beneficial earthworm activity apparent. This does not represent good growing conditions for healthy plants to thrive in.

In the longer term further negative impacts have become apparent. Whenever a mulch is used it will over a period of time trap wind-blown dusty soil particles and seeds, often those of the most vigorous invasive weeds such as bramble, nettle or couch grass. Under these circumstances ideal germination conditions may arise and these seedlings will soon anchor themselves to the membrane and worse still eventually root through it into the soil beneath.

Weedy & neglected, the plants have failed to thrive despite the use of a membrane

Dealing with this kind of scenario, especially once the perennial weeds are well established negates any benefit derived from the use of the geotextile with the most likely solution being to grub everything out and replant afresh.

A solution that appears to work best is to plant quite densely and to omit the membrane, using  a decently thick layer of composted bark instead.  Ground smothering plants such as periwinkles are a particularly useful way of filling the gaps in and around other trees and other shrubs. The planting needs to be regularly inspected and any losses made good, the bark needs to be topped up as necessary and any incipient weeds dealt with before they have become established.

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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Going Peat Free by Garden Designer Tim Brayford

A natural peat bog, according to the IUCN peatlands store 30% of global carbon

Going Peat Free

Peat has long been used within the horticultural industry both as a growing medium used in composts and as a soil conditioner. It is a natural product composed of slowly decaying plant material built up over many thousands of years.

It is harvested primarily from lowland raised peat bogs, an increasingly endangered form of habitat along with the flora and fauna that it supports. But this is not all, it efficiently locks up atmospheric CO2 forming an effective and vital buffer against climate change.

Modern peat harvesting destroys the original peat bog

Fortunately advances in recycling and composting technology has rendered the use of peat redundant for most conventional gardening purposes. Peat free compost is made up mainly from recycled waste organic material such as bark, sawdust, coir, paper etc. blended with inorganic materials such as sand , grit or perlite, with fertiliser added as appropriate.

A simple guide on how to avoid using peat in the garden:-

Only purchase composts specifically labelled as being “Peat Free”

Use recycled garden waste as a soil improver and conditioner. Traditionally gardeners have done this for themselves by constructing their own compost heap, high quality recycled composts are also available from many municipal authorities

Source plants from nurseries and garden centres that have peat free policies

Plant only what will already grow in your existing soil without adding peat

Raised peat bog flora like this Bog Cranberry will be destroyed by harvesting

*******It is the policy of Tim Brayford Landscapes to avoid using peat and peat based products*******

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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Isle of Wight 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.

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

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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