Gardening Inspiration

Are you committed to gardening and gardens and does gardening continue to be the gift that just keeps bringing horticultural enjoyment and satisfaction? Or is the opposite true; you really want to get to grips with the garden but struggle to find your way in or are foiled by a lack of design or horticultural knowledge? It’s certainly true that some take to gardening easily while others want to experience its joys but are held back by a lack of confidence or a history of expensive plant failures. Whichever position describes your experience there are many ways to either increase the gardening pleasure you currently enjoy or to find ways of gaining that all important sense of understanding and control.

In my experience, people’s motivation for gardening comes from a combination of any of the following three sources:

  1. An unbridled, unselfconscious sheer enjoyment
  2. A thirst for horticultural knowledge
  3. A desire to make an attractive garden

Even for an individual with a long history of gardening and a deep knowledge of horticulture it can be rewarding, exciting and inspirational to see the subject expressed beautifully through someone else’s understanding of it. For those lacking the confidence or knowledge there is no better course of action than to invest some time learning while getting to grips with those parts of the garden that don’t seem too intimidating. Listed below are the tried and tested ,quality sources of garden inspiration that over the years have served many a novice and experienced gardener alike.

Magazines: – Gardens Illustrated, BBC Gardeners World, the Royal Horticultural Societies’ The Garden, the Society Of Garden Designers’ Garden Design Journal

Garden visits: – Top quality garden inspiration can be found by visiting the many significant gardens in and around Gloucestershire that are open to the public. Usually associated with A Big House these gardens always have design and planting ideas that fit neatly into more modest or indeed tiny spaces. Don’t forget to take lots of photographs.

Gardening clubs and societies:- Cirencester and its surrounding villages are blessed with a wealth of freely available horticultural knowledge. The same goes for allotments; flower and veg growers seem incapable of not wanting to share their enthusiasm, skill and knowledge.

The Library:- A gateway to horticultural and garden design books, magazines, journals and on-line information.

Open Gardens:- The National Gardens Scheme gives access to thousands of private gardens who’s proud owners are very keen to impart their nuggets of garden wisdom.

Short Courses/One off talks /On line learning:-

The New Brewery Arts

The New Brewery Arts summer exhibition is called How Does Your Garden Grow. I was invited to design the layout, hope you like it?

Exhibition Exhibition 2

Exhibition 3 Exhibition4



River Bank Hedge Laying

The 2015 Cotswold Tree Warden Group coppicing and hedge laying course could not have come at a better moment for me. I was in the middle of some discussions with the Environment Agency about how to stabilise a 200 metre stretch of river bank and, to be blunt, the discussions had not gone in my favour. I was representing a client of mine who lived near Cirencester and whose garden was bounded on one side by the fledgling River Thames. It was my job to redesign their garden and we’d got to the stage where the garden met the river and it was very plain that the river had declared war on the garden and the garden was caving in.

My discussion with the Environment Agency started with an application to extend an existing stone built river wall to cover the 200 metre hither-too unprotected bank. “No” was the clear reply to my application to extend the stone built river wall. Stone built walls are not looked upon at all favourably for some very good reasons which I had not considered.

During a very useful and much appreciated site visit from the Environment Agency it became clear that a ‘soft wall’ was the only allowable way to stop the river eating up more large chunks of my client’s garden. “But” I asked, “What is a soft wall?” And then came the Environment Agency’s reply, the reply that coincided so perfectly with the coppicing and hedge laying course; “It’s usually made of woven willow that in time will form a strong river bank which won’t suffer from the undertow associated with stone walls and it will also allow water voles to live and thrive.”

A five metre high self sown willow was growing on the river bank and it presented itself as the perfect specimen to become a river bank hedge/ soft wall. Using the knowledge gained on the coppicing and hedge laying course and with the approval of the Environment Agency I set about splitting the willow and laying a living hedge along the river bank. Splitting the five metre high willow gave me a 10 metre long stretch of soft wall which I fashioned into a rather unconventional but none the less effective living wall/hedge. I’ve not seen this technique before and I’d be interested to know if anyone has previously combined hedge laying with river bank stabilisation. It didn’t matter that the amount of willow available from the five metre high tree was nowhere near enough to complete the 200 metre stretch of river bank. Over the past 12 months the living willow hedge/wall has thrown up enough perfectly straight shoots for me to comfortably make another ten metre length of wall. This is a process that I will continue until the whole length of vulnerable river bank is protected.

The final job of each stage is to back-fill between the collapsed river bank and the new hedge/wall and this has proved to be the perfect place to use the tons of Cotswold brash and rough top soil excavated during the redesign of the garden. I’m particularly pleased that all the materials for this job have come from their original site and that not a single item has had to be transported by road or been brought in from far flung parts of the country. A further positive result of the Environment Agency’s emphatic “No” is that my client has been spared the cost of spending thousands of pounds on a stone built wall. I’m sure the water voles will also be very happy with their new habitat.

Hedge After Hedge Before




Put Roses In Their Place

Few plants get close to roses for the weight of cultural symbolism they bring to our lives. The language of flowers as a means to communicate unspoken feelings is perfectly described by the red rose for passion and romance, the yellow rose for friendship and devotion or the white rose for purity and innocence.

Indeed, the rose is so deeply embedded in our culture that much like the garden lawn the rose unquestioningly occupies a place in the mind’s eye when painting a picture of the idyllic British garden. And rightly so, but if you do decide to plant a rose in your garden its impact can be diminished or increased depending on where you place it and which type you chose. The tiniest space or grandest estate can benefit from roses although understanding their context is probably the most important decision when buying your plants. It’s the same principal whether planting an oak tree, a shrub, some bulbs or roses, get the correct plant in the correct spot and it will simply look as if it’s always been there; easy on the eye with no fuss or hideous visual clashes. For instance, if you have a small garden you might like to consider putting your rose into a beautiful container thus making it a true feature plant rather than squeezing it into a bed and loosing it amongst competing shrubs, flowers, sheds, gates and paths. A small space can also be exploited by placing a tall object in it; it makes the space feel bigger because the eye is drawn upwards instead of to the boundary confines. A rose rambling up an obelisk can perform this duty admirably but don’t use half measures, if you’re planning to go skywards then go skywards, 7-8 feet at least. Equally, a larger space can be enhanced with roses used with thought rather than dotting them randomly around the borders. If you make a real feature of them either singly or as multiples they will give far more impact than when diluted with other garden plants or features.

A rose is available for most needs and garden situations whether it’s for growing up a north facing wall, making a hedge, climbing into trees, training up a pillar, ground cover, scent, stunning flowers or impressive winter hips. The best way for you to work out which rose would suit which spot is to spend some time visiting gardens open to the public. Taking notes and photographs really does help to concentrate the mind and save costly mistakes at the garden centre.

Roses grown in containers can be planted at any time of year but those bought either bare-rooted or dug up and put into a container can only be planted between autumn and spring. The RHS website is a great place to go for more rose information as well as links to specialist suppliers whose prices, choice and advice can be superior to garden centres.

If your interest in roses only goes as far as Valentine’s Day you might like to consider that UK roses don’t flower in February and that those with a cheap price tag will have incurred a hefty human or environmental cost elsewhere.

I like roses if they are used in the correct context, my favourite is ‘Iceberg’, its flowers start out a blush pink before turning pure white, it flowers all summer and into autumn and it works well planted in a group surrounding either an evergreen plant or a feature such as a statue, bird bath or obelisk.


Good Plants For Winter Interest

It is a common assumption that winter brings a barren scene to our gardens. However, although nothing can match the sheer exuberance of spring and early summer, there are a lot of plants that are easily available and that bring either visual or scented interest at this time of year. Indeed, the list of interesting plants is too many to illustrate here but I have chosen some of my favourites as a brief introduction.

Planting just one winter scented plant by the front door or a colourful specimen that can be seen from the kitchen window will help to maintain interest until nature starts to flare up again next spring.


  1. Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’
  2. Helleborus ‘Potter’s Wheel’
  3. Rubus Biflorus’
  4. Winter Aconite
  5. Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’
  6. Hebe ‘Red Edge’

New Brewery Arts Barrel Store

The Barrel Store Brewery Court Structure Fully GrownThe Barrel Store Brewery Court Structure DevelopingI’ve been privileged with the opportunity to design the landscaping for the new Barrel Store hostel that’s currently being built by New Brewery Arts in Cirencester town centre. I’m so excited about working with New Brewery Arts, it’s not often such a creatively open project presents itself let alone one that involves a site as culturally significant as the Barrel Store. You can visit for more information about the Barrel Store project.

The landscaping project will be completed in four separate stages; the pictures shown here in my presentation are artists’ impressions which illustrate my design for Phase One of the project. More images will follow as the project progresses.

Business Person of the Year 2015

Business Person of the Year 2015Below are the words spoken about my business at the 2015 Cirencester Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

For this award the judges were looking for an individual who has made a significant impact on the business they work in, either as a leader or an employee. Someone who is inspirational, both within their business or industry and in the local business community. In addition, they wanted to see evidence of the highest levels of business acumen, outstanding personal qualities, a wealth of achievements and respect from their peers. There were a number of strong entries for this Award, and the judges decided to recognize two runners up.

The winner has built a highly successful and respected business, and is admired by clients and peers alike for his professional approach and flair. In a very competitive field the winner stands out due to the way he demonstrates a clear and consistent understanding of his clients’ aspirations.

The winner in this category is Geoffrey Carr
Contact: Geoffrey Carr.

Geoff is a garden designer and gardener with a reputation for design and horticultural excellence.

His key strengths are attention to detail, a real enthusiasm for designing outdoor space and the desire to achieve the very best for his clients.

Download my entry.

So far this year…

Every year I undertake some training in subjects that I reckon will inspire me with new ideas that I can use in my garden design business. So far this year I’ve been on a hedge laying course which equipped me to tackle a challenging river bank restoration project on the Thames in Ewen.

Now I’m just starting a planting design training course which aims to teach me more about herbaceous perennials, plants which live for many years but which die back in the autumn, to re-emerge in spring. This course is about understanding the ecology of plants, how they fit into their natural environment, their cultivation and what that means for their design performance.

The course tutor is Dr Noel Kingsbury and already I’ve learnt to understand more about perennials by the way he has encouraged real, hard observation of plants at ground level, and even below ground too. So far we’ve looked at the fundamentals of plant life: perennial lifecycles, longevity and reproduction. I’m really enjoying it and am looking forward to my next assignment which is Designing Gardens Using Perennials.

The photograph shows one of my herbaceous perennial planting plans at its best during late spring early summer.

Herbaceous Perennial Planting

Coppicing and Hedge Laying Training Course

I really enjoyed the recent coppicing and hedge laying training course that was organised by the Cotswold Tree Warden Group.

As well as learning about the history of countryside skills I also learnt so much of interest about environmental management and the benefits of traditional techniques for wildlife compared to the mechanised, industrial approach. The hedge shown in these pictures was laid using what’s known as the Midlands style. Our tutor had the most charming mix of a Gloucestershire/Midlands accent too!

Click on an image to enlarge: