Use Planting to Alter Your Space: Interview With Landscape Gardener

Garden plants
It sometimes seems like a huge task to change your outside space but according to one landscape gardener, small changes can make a big difference.

Georgina Read has always had a passion for the outdoors and loves the colours and textures found in nature. She trained as a garden designer to enable her to combine these qualities with the practicalities required of a modern garden.

Today she runs Georgina Read Design and Landscaping, spreading her time between designing gardens, liaising with her landscaping team and running the two; both initially set up to help her find a range of materials for landscaping customers, but now thriving businesses in their own right.

Q: What kinds of gardens do you work on – what do people ask you to do?

A: I work on a whole range of gardens, from small city centre gardens to many-acred properties. More recently, I have been working on a wonderful, contemporary style roof-top terrace.

In most cases, my customers want to enjoy their outdoor space, but don’t want the work associated with too much maintenance. My task in these situations is to create a garden with plenty of interest and intrigue, but without the weeding!

Q: Which gardens do you particularly enjoy working on and why?

A: I enjoy designing many types of garden and variety is always welcome, however I find contemporary and modern ideas very appealing with their crisp, clean lines and geometric shapes.

I also find it a real challenge to design gardens where the client has no idea of what they can achieve with the shape of their garden, for example very small gardens or L-shaped gardens that often appear impossible to work with. These customers are quite surprised at how much detail can be included in a small garden and how simple use of visual trickery can change the whole appearance.

Q: Is it possible to really change a garden/outdoor space without spending a fortune?

A: Yes absolutely. The type of materials used determines the cost and this is always scalable according to budget. Often, the feel of a garden can be changed simply by redefining the shape of the lawn area or borders etc to disguise the obvious dimensions and replace them with new focal points at different levels to draw the eye towards the most attractive features.

Q: Are there any plants that will really change the look of a garden or patio space?

A: I find that the overall appearance achieved by using a selection of well-suited plants has the greatest visual impact, however the type of plants used needs to work with the style and theme of the garden.

When shopping for plants, look at the textures, shapes and colours to ensure the plants combine well. I personally value the soft movement of grasses and bamboos combined with delicate flowerheads such as Crocosmia “Lucifer,” Verbena bonariensis and one of the many varieties of Persicaria.

Q: What should people look out for at the garden centre for a new look?

A: It is important to consider year round appeal when deciding on plants for your garden rather than shopping for what looks good now. Try to visualise how your garden will appear during different seasons of the year and look to balance the planting out to ensure you have an equal amount of colour, height and shape across the garden.

This can often be tricky to start with, but you can generally move the plants around before they become too established if you change your mind. I always find a good selection of evergreen planting creates a backdrop to the garden and a combination of grasses interspersed with delicate flowering perennials creates a wonderful, gentle foreground appearance.

Q: Can you offer people any top tips for planting them out?

A: Ensure the ground is thoroughly dug over incorporating some humus rich compost to open the soil structure. To lower future maintenance requirements, use a weed membrane over the entire area and cut cross-shaped slits for the plants.

Use either bark or pebbles on the surface to make the area more attractive and to retain moisture.

Q: Do you have any other suggestions for someone wanting to change the look of their outdoor space?

A: Yes, I would suggest they plot out their garden on a sheet of graph paper and visualise the area as a whole, rather than piecemeal.

Identify the best features and highlight these to detract from more unsightly areas, introducing new features such as large pots and sculptures as necessary. Consider using a new range of materials and continue this theme throughout the garden rather than having a mix of too many materials.

Spruce up tired beds and borders with a new selection of plants and top with pebbles for an instant facelift. Above all, ensure the garden remains practical and appropriate to suit your lifestyle and budget.

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