Warm September hues

Bella Alladio of Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design looks at creating a low maintenance garden to harness autumn hues and provide colour for the winter.

The clean lines, sharp angles and crisp layout of this London front garden we completed during a summer needed to be set off, but also complemented, by a low maintenance, striking but harmonious planting scheme. Instead of choosing the more traditional blue and mauve tones that soon disappear after the relatively short flowering season of many such coloured summer flowers, we opted for a muted palette of warm hues expressed through foliage, bark and stems more than via flowers, to give the garden a longer season of interest. This is an important consideration, especially for a front garden.

SeptemberAldo-19Set off by the sharp edges of Core-ten steel and complemented by the warm greys of the Chelmer Valley brick pavers, the borders are filled with a combination of structural, lush and delicate planting with cinnamon accents. Image courtesy of Alladio Sims Garden and Landscape Design Ltd, Dulwich private garden, 2017

In the last decade or so planting schemes that focus on golden autumnal hues have been centred mostly around ornamental grasses, thanks to their flower spikes that glow beautifully in the soft September light. We always include ornamental grasses wherever possible, but in this London front garden we tried to layer the planting scheme a bit more. Whilst we still kept many ornamental grasses, mostly of the smaller types such as carex, hackonechloa and ophopogon, we introduced some shrubs and flowering perennials too, which are typical elements of a more traditional English border, but selected them for the colour of their stems and foliage rather than their flowers. This helped us to create a more cohesive scheme.

Of course the key for this London garden was always low maintenance, so we had to carefully select well-behaved grasses and avoid larger specimens that can be more difficult to manage long term, such as some of the larger Miscanthus. We opted for mat forming and low growing grasses that mix well with ferns and perennials, choosing Geranium Macrorrhizum ‘Bevan’s Variety’, a very hard working and unfussy variety that takes on rusty hues in autumn and winter, Polystichum Polyblepharum with its evergreen lush green fronts with their brown spots and bronze stalks, Tiarella ‘Spring Symphony’ with its delicate and long lasting white flowers, purple at the top and held together by bronze stalks and matching bronze flecked leaves, Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ for its rich amber to peachy bronze foliage colour with its hot pink underside, that creates an exciting accent throughout the borders and goes well with Euphorbia Griffithii ‘Fireglow’ with its explosion of orange stems and flowers and finally the elegant tall spires of chocolate coloured Digitalis Ferruginea.

For the larger and more structural elements we chose Myrtle ‘Tarentina’ because of its beautiful bronze stems, Carpinus betulus hedge for its tawny brown leaves that persist well throughout the winter, Rosa Glauca for its deep purple leaves and wonderfully bright red hips, and Amelanchier Canadensis for its autumnal brilliance, with its majestic glowing orange foliage.

The sense of colour harmony that pervades the borders is, of course, only a mirror for the rich tawny hues of the hard materials chosen to surround them. So it is no surprise that the warm brown-anthracite tone of the lovely Chelmer Valley brick pavers chosen for the permeable path and driveway perfectly complement the warm planting scheme, together with the rusted steel hedging and golden flint gravel.

With its crisp layout and unusual and engaging planting, this London front garden no doubt warms up the gloomiest of winter or autumn days.

Garden 2Jon and Emanuela in the show garden they created for the Istanbul Flower Festival in 2016

Profile: Alladio Sims

Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Ltd was established in 2015 after Jon Sims and Emanuela Alladio collaborated on a Silver Gilt winning show garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The two directors continue their collaborative approach throughout their practice with Jon’s background in interior architecture giving distinctive spaces and Emanuela’s passion for plants and photographic eye adding great texture and contrast.

essence info
Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited
Unit C Willow House, Dragonfly Place, London SE4 2FJ
Website: www.alladiosims.co.uk
Email: hello@alladiosims.co.uk

High society

Bella Alladio of Alladio Sims Garden Design Limited shares her top ten tips for creating a wonderful garden worthy of an RHS show garden in our homes.

Frame the view: most gardens are viewed from the house and in order to work they need to relate back to it; the key details of the architecture of the house need to be repeated within the garden and the views out need to be nicely framed and lead the eye, inviting you out to discover the garden.

Keep it simple: keep the material choices to a minimum, for instance one type of stone used in different finishes for inside and out or for areas of the garden with different characters, and use repetition in the planting too to create a sense of harmony.

Create a private haven: introduce a secluded area that feels intimate and tranquil where you can sip a glass of wine or sit and relax. Introducing vertical elements such as a semi-transparent screen, a wall or a tall hedge works wonderfully, creating an unexpected space that breaks down the emptiness of a garden and spurs us on to walk and discover what’s beyond.

Aldro
Use splashes of colour throughout. Add bold cushions and accessories to pick up the colour in the planting scheme
Image courtesy of Alladio Sims Garden and Landscape Design Ltd, London private garden, 2019

Create spaces that look good in every season: June is the month of the year where every garden looks its best, with lavender, geraniums, alchemilla, roses etc. all flowering their socks off. Yet these plants can also fade quickly and leave an empty gap for many months to come. Try and avoid planting that fades too quickly and choose instead a good backbone of evergreen shrubs and perennials with pretty seed heads for structure in the winter.

Disguise the ugly bits: every garden has a view or wall you shouldn’t be looking at. Use plants and paths to lead your eyes away from them, distracting you to look elsewhere.

Boundaries are key: Use hedging to frame a sharp and clean lawn or a well defined border. This will produce neat shapes that will help to keep maintenance to a minimum and will make the garden look crisp and fresh.

Let the plants speak for themselves: don’t overcrowd them but give them space to breathe and to get established. Think about it in terms of layers of vertical interest and bring some taller perennials towards the front to break the mould and create a dynamic border and more interesting look.

Be bold: choose more of the same thing, so for instance put together two plants of the same colour (such as bronze fennel and black phormium) to create a good textural foil for the rest of the garden. You can achieve a comparable result by repeating similar shapes at different levels (such as round pots, round lawns, allium heads etc.).

Don’t be afraid of grasses: grasses add a softness and a texture that is invaluable to any garden and they have very good longevity too, especially the ones with interesting seed heads.

Use splashes of colour to draw attention: but keep the overall picture harmonious by restricting the colour palette. The effect you are trying to achieve is pleasing and not a muddled mix!

Garden 2Jon and Emanuela in the show garden they created for the Istanbul Flower Festival in 2016

Profile: Alladio Sims

Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Ltd was established in 2015 after Jon Sims and Emanuela Alladio collaborated on a Silver Gilt winning show garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The two directors continue their collaborative approach throughout their practice with Jon’s background in interior architecture giving distinctive spaces and Emanuela’s passion for plants and photographic eye adding great texture and contrast.

essence info
Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited
Unit C Willow House, Dragonfly Place, London SE4 2FJ
Website: www.alladiosims.co.uk
Email: hello@alladiosims.co.uk

How to get from A to B

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Emanuela Alladio and Jon Sims of Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design look at the aspect of circulation in a garden.

Circulation is a key element when designing a garden. Expressed through paths and destinations, it can take many different forms. Here we look at some of them.

Paths can be designed as a straight line, following the most direct route to get to a destination – that might be a seat, a sculptural element or a view; as a meandering route – allowing time to linger and take in the surroundings; as an unpredictable route that leads you out and then lets you go your own way onto lawns, into woods or around a pond, and as a zigzag route that opens onto unpredicted elements or reveals the next surprise, be it a view or another unexpected space.

Gardens are all shapes and sizes and taking this into account is key when choosing the path options for each site in order to deliver the circulation that best suits a garden.

A couple of years ago we created a show garden for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show for Jacksons Fencing. It set out to illustrate a community of gardeners and became a study investigating just how different the paths crossing six equal sized and shaped front gardens could express a personality. The result was an eclectic mix of styles, atmospheres and solutions that was greatly admired by the public. While the spaces were small, the results are scalable and clearly show how a path gives structure to the personality of a garden.

Our first garden welcomed a happy mix of softer and more formal elements (Fig. 1) – the rectangular stepping stones in a matte honed natural stone chosen in two different sizes and spaced at regular intervals through the gravel connecting the front door to the gate, while the surrounding gravel in a complementing tone let the path merge with dry borders, softening and blurring the edges. Here the chosen line was straight, so quite formal, but with staggered ends showing the benefit of stepping stones that allow the movement to be more dynamic thanks to a mixture of stone sizes and offset joints.

Stepping stone paths would work equally well across a lawn loosely or directly linking to spaces beyond it. They are relatively easy to construct and look very naturalised once they are allowed to settle in.

A wandering route is a great solution for those who like a more romantic or relaxed garden, and the materials chosen in our second garden show just how free its form can be, from a simple path mowed out of long grass or a meadow to a loose, windy gravel route through a dry garden, or a chipped bark path disappearing into a wood, naturalising to perfection as it ages. Wandering along such a path one is often surprised by sudden clearings, or peaceful sunny corners perfect for a bistro table and chair set. A haven for contemplation and relaxation.

In line with this relaxed approach and perfect for a sunny courtyard, our second garden (Fig. 2) used bricks laid across a diagonal straight line, cutting through the space and blurring the boundaries with surrounding gravel mulch borders. This is quite an informal path that brings to mind the Mediterranean, and with it images of gardens in Italy or Greece where plants and hard materials mingle to soften boundaries and delight the eye. Laying bricks across the route makes the space appear bigger and slows you down, inviting you to take time and linger.

The way the path is laid was key to the feel of our third garden (Fig. 3). Using standard stone slab sizes to create a staggered path gives a clear route, but with a more naturalised edge. The soft pastel shades of the planting and picket fence complement the natural hues of the chosen paving stones in this contemporary English cottage garden: a good alternative to a traditional red brick. Spilling on top of the path, the dreamy planting softens the staggered edges and draws you in to smell the blooms.

Recycling can throw up some great solutions and in garden four we reused clay roof tiles on edge (Fig. 4). Rustic, upcycled materials with gaps left for the plants to colonise create a strong textural element that fits in perfectly with the exhuberant nature of the surrounding planting in this garden. There are other options for recycled materials, including bricks, broken slabs or even wine bottles, used base up, could work. They do lend themselves to a loose winding path given the mismatched nature of the materials and this would make the perfect choice in a classic country garden.

The paths in gardens one to four sought to illustrate paths that offer flexibility in their design. The last two gardens were aimed at showing paths that took control with crisp edges that give strong transitions between soft and hard landscape. Garden five (not pictured) presented a curved path which showed how the route may soften in line, but unlike other wandering pathways, nothing was left to change: the slabs were perfectly cut, laid and grouted and the finish was the same as one would expect on a kitchen floor. When selecting a curved path, material choice is key as most hard path materials are rectangular. We selected large slabs so the edge kept the cut pieces larger and the angled direction of laying led the eye to the side, broadening the sense of width.

The last garden really illustrated a garden path that takes control of the space around it (Fig. 5). This straight and perfectly symmetrical path provides a very precise solution to a classic design. The planting falls in line, reflecting the very high degree of precision by extending the mirroring effect to the left and right of it. Requiring a solid base and very neat edges, the paving slabs are consistent in size and tones complementary to the formal planting. In larger gardens, straight paths are used to lead the eye to a special view or feature at the end, and are perfect for creating long views in line with windows or doors.

The backbone of any garden design, next time you wander down a garden path, you might not help but notice its very own unique story, or even think if I was a path, which path would I be?

Garden 2Jon and Emanuela in the show garden they created for the Istanbul Flower Festival in 2016

Profile: Alladio Sims

Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Ltd was established in 2015 after Jon Sims and Emanuela Alladio collaborated on a Silver Gilt winning show garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The two directors continue their collaborative approach throughout their practice with Jon’s background in interior architecture giving distinctive spaces and Emanuela’s passion for plants and photographic eye adding great texture and contrast.

essence info
Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited
Unit C Willow House, Dragonfly Place, London SE4 2FJ
Website: www.alladiosims.co.uk
Email: hello@alladiosims.co.uk

Hidden geometry and inner harmony

Emanuela Alladio and Jon Sims of Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design look at the importance of applying the basic rules of geometry to the composition of a garden space.

A recent trip to Great Dixter a few weeks ago confirmed that winter really is the perfect time to look at the hidden geometry of a garden, when vegetation takes a step back and allows the existing voids to create inner harmony for the new season ahead.

Despite a general sense of decay and emptiness in the garden, this time of the year is not one for relaxing and letting things happen, as it actually coincides with the start of the new horticultural year. If everything going on above ground may look as if plants are shrivelling and wanting to disappear ­– and many do, indeed, go on a long sleep or dormancy period to regain their energy before spring arrives – below the ground it’s a completely different story; plants are getting stronger and everyone working around gardens is or should be planning ahead and working frantically before the first of the frosts arrive: moving plants to create fuller, more pleasing displays, dividing and repotting, ordering bulbs and planting new shrubs and trees.

This is by far the best time to look at the geometry behind borders, before the fluffy growth of new vegetation obscures and weakens it: it’s the time to take stock and examine lines and proportions carefully. After all, a garden can only feel right if its geometry is right. This was the overall message from the latest Society of Garden Designers Autumn Conference.

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 00.22.18
This narrow path with its sinuous curve introduces a strong geometry that carefully shapes this informal part of the meadow creating a pleasing long view that disappears in the distant woodland IMAGE COURTESY OF ALLADIO SIMS GARDEN AND LANDSCAPE DESIGN LTD, GREAT DIXTER GARDENS 2018

That said, how do we know if the geometry is right? At the conference there was a general sense of ‘if it feels right, it’s right – you will instinctively know if a path is in the wrong place or not, if it’s too wide or too narrow’. Yet looking at some of the slides during the conference, I started to disagree with this approach and decided that in order to produce a pleasing geometry in a garden one might benefit from applying the basic rules of geometry to the overall composition – an example would be the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio allowing us to create pleasing proportions – and only once these are set are we allowed to disrupt the rules and balance by introducing a few unexpected and exciting ‘deviations’.

To base our approach on geometry, following the principles that Fibonacci explained a few hundred years ago, we can be sure that we are mirroring the perfection found in nature – that of a fern unfurling, the curve of a shell, the structure of an artichoke – these are all perfect renditions of the Fibonacci curve and serve as a reminder that nature is based on its own very specific inner harmony.

This is the perfect time to take stock of your garden, so go out and take a good look at those hidden lines and proportions, and make a note of any gaps that seem too big, or paths too straight or narrow, but above all don’t forget to enjoy the subtle beauty that a garden has to offer even at this time of the year.

Garden 2Jon and Emanuela in the show garden they created for the Istanbul Flower Festival in 2016

Profile: Alladio Sims

Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Ltd was established in 2015 after Jon Sims and Emanuela Alladio collaborated on a Silver Gilt winning show garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The two directors continue their collaborative approach throughout their practice with Jon’s background in interior architecture giving distinctive spaces and Emanuela’s passion for plants and photographic eye adding great texture and contrast.

essence info
Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited
Unit C Willow House, Dragonfly Place, London SE4 2FJ
Website: www.alladiosims.co.uk
Email: hello@alladiosims.co.uk

Make autumn sing!

Shrubs and small trees are perfect to create the middle ‘body’ in a garden, introducing interest at eye level. Image courtesy of Alladio Sims Garden and Landscape Design Ltd, residential North London garden, 2018.

Emanuela of Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design looks at the importance of planning a structure for a garden and not to slavishly follow the latest trends.

In recent years the naturalistic planting movement has moved the focus from trees and shrubs to perennials, leaving them to bask in the glory instead, with most of us seeking the fleeting and ephemeral pleasures of their short-lived flowers whilst following the latest garden trends. Yet it is precisely at this time of year that a garden deprived of its backbone of shrubs and trees will invariably disappoint by not being able to hold its own and provide the essential structure and colour changing boost needed during the drabbest of autumn and winter days.

That’s exactly why when designing a garden one really has to focus on the all-important structural layer provided by the larger plants, so that come autumn and winter the garden will still have the all important backbone much needed to continue being attractive, even in the winter months.

A few images from a garden we recently created in north London really illustrate this idea. To start with there was only a stepping stone path, winding its way in the middle of a pretty empty space. Then came some large boulders to guide through the path. Next arrived some very large yew cushions, greening the path and softening the look. All of a sudden the garden started to have its own identity, and a strong backbone made of a happy mix of hard materials and evergreens providing softer but permanent shapes.

As the project went on, more and more layers were added, some looser evergreen shrubs, some small deciduous trees, to create that much needed ‘middle layer’ even in the winter months when their branches are bare, so that when you walk through you feel the garden has a presence vertically and it’s not just made of dead or naked shapes on the ground.

At this time of year, the golden heads of grasses and autumn flowering shrubs add a bit of movement and a hit of colour, and catch the soft light beautifully. Their relaxed presence that mixes soft buttery tones and slender stems adds movement and transparency to the overall scheme, catching the first drops of dew and securing a surprisingly long lived appearance in the winter garden. Pennisetums and Miscanthus are invaluable specimen to introduce autumn drama, dotted around the garden and repeated at regular intervals to guide the eye around the space, lacing together the whole composition in a pleasing way.

And finally to the most ephemeral of all layers – a good measure of cheerful bulbs for much needed spring interest and an abundance of flowering perennials that will delight the senses from spring till late summer.
Overall autumn, being so subdued, can be a very demanding time of the year for a garden, one that can only truly be mastered if the balance of shapes, foliage textures and colours is right. Shrubs and trees are invaluable elements in this composition and they can really transform a garden in autumn, and make this season sing with drama.

Garden 2Jon and Emanuela in the show garden they created for the Istanbul Flower Festival in 2016

Profile: Alladio Sims

Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Ltd was established in 2015 after Jon Sims and Emanuela Alladio collaborated on a Silver Gilt winning show garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The two directors continue their collaborative approach throughout their practice with Jon’s background in interior architecture giving distinctive spaces and Emanuela’s passion for plants and photographic eye adding great texture and contrast.

essence info
Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited
Unit C Willow House, Dragonfly Place, London SE4 2FJ
Website: www.alladiosims.co.uk
Email: hello@alladiosims.co.uk

Harvest time

Harvest-time copyAn old cake tin and teapot improvise as strawberry and thyme planters, in a visually pleasing arrangement- Image courtesy of Alladio Sims Garden and Landscape Design Ltd, Alladio Sims Show Garden @ RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

September is harvest time, when we finally reap the rewards of home-grown fruit and vegetables, says Emanuela Sims of Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design.

Today so many of us want to grow edibles at home, but often space and time constraints work against us. Indeed, growing edibles takes a lot of time and effort, but there are ways of integrating a mini vegetable garden in our garden space to create a visually pleasing and tasty display. Making the best of the decorative qualities of fruit and veg growing is indeed the main challenge for a garden designer wanting to create fabulous outdoor spaces. Seen closely, productive plants can indeed be highly decorative and magically transform the aesthetics of a garden – crinkled cabbage leaves add texture to borders, juicy lettuce leaves can be very lush and multicoloured, strawberries, cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs make for wonderful hanging baskets, and who can resist the temptation to snap a fruit or two every time you brush past them?

Whether you choose to dot edibles within the borders to fill in those unsightly empty gaps and create interesting combinations, or to cluster them in containers or a series of raised beds that make maintenance less taxing, the possibilities are endless and so is the fun to be had.

This year, for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, we were asked to produce a series of edibles’ displays to demonstrate how pretty herbs and vegetables can be in a garden if used in a creative way. We had lots of positive feedback from visitors who were amazed at how pretty the combinations looked and even more so to discover how easy it was to recreate them at home.

It was a fun experience and we came up with a series of really stunning displays that make the best of vintage upcycled props to convert them into useful edibles’ containers. Much of the fun was devising clever ways to reuse some of these discarded objects – and so old pans got a second chance to live as deep planters, old baths became mini allotments, coffee makers were reused as herb pots, shallot chicken feeding trays became pretty seed trays, wicker baskets were lined with stapled plastic bags and turned into French chic planters, milk churns became very useful courgette and pumpkin pots and wooden vegetable cases were lined and filled with cut and come again multi-coloured lettuces.

If you are a foodie this is the sort of gardening that offers a chance to show off and be as adventurous as you like, experimenting with new and exciting varieties to make dishes really stand out. Just pick up some interesting seed varieties and start sowing straight away.

The rest is just lots of fun, and for those who relish the challenge of giving a second breath of life to some of the discarded items in a garage or shed, then cluster a group together, staple some hessian around the containers you like the least and you will have created a stunning display that is easy to look after and water and that won’t cost the earth.

Looking ahead to next year, why limit your horizons? Try venturing out into the world of edible ornamentals, there is so much enjoyment to be had!

Garden 2Jon and Emanuela in the show garden they created for the Istanbul Flower Festival in 2016

Profile: Alladio Sims

Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Ltd was established in 2015 after Jon Sims and Emanuela Alladio collaborated on a Silver Gilt winning show garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The two directors continue their collaborative approach throughout their practice with Jon’s background in interior architecture giving distinctive spaces and Emanuela’s passion for plants and photographic eye adding great texture and contrast.

essence info
Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited
Unit C Willow House, Dragonfly Place, London SE4 2FJ
Website: www.alladiosims.co.uk
Email: hello@alladiosims.co.uk

Five minutes with Emanuela Alladio

AllSimmsThe trunks of these pleached trees double up as goal posts, while the raised vegetable planter on the left is a good way for children to get used to planting - Image courtesy of Alladio Sims Garden and Landscape Design Ltd, London private garden, 2017

Emanuela of Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited lets us into her world and explains the reasons behind what she and her business partner Jon offer in their garden design and project management company.

Q Emanuela, how did you get in to garden design and what services do you offer at Alladio Sims?
A
Like many others in this business I got to garden design as a second career. Previously I had worked as a linguist and conference interpreter. I studied at the London College of Garden Design where I met my business partner, Jon Sims. In 2015, following a successful collaboration on ‘The Secret Garden Party’, a main show garden created for the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Jon and I decided to set up a company together to offer a more comprehensive approach to our work, and to make the most of our different skills sets. Our practice offers a design and project management service to deliver our clients beautiful outdoor living spaces from initial consultation through to completed gardens. We work with professional landscapers and nurseries and are driven by a passion for excellence and meticulous attention to detail.

Q What should homeowners consider when re-designing a garden?
A
The first thing to consider is that house and garden should feel like they belong to each other and the best way to achieve this is to plan the garden design together with the house or the extension. This will not only allow for economies of scale, but also for a better and more uniform ‘feel’. Not to mention disruptions to the work already done when the garden is being built. If no changes are made to the house, then the best time to work on a garden is during its dormant season – autumn through to early spring – and the starting point should always be a clear brief and comprehensive garden survey.

Q How can homeowners add a ‘wow’ factor to a garden?
A
There are lots of ways in which this can be achieved: introducing a path with a sculpture at the end to draw the eye, creating a focal point by uplighting a multi-stemmed tree, a bespoke bench to use as a lounger and/or for entertaining or a feature wall or screen to act as a ‘room divider’ giving the garden secret spaces.

Q What changes can be made to a front garden to add curb appeal?
A
A front garden forms the first impression as we approach a house, therefore, it should always look smart and clutter free (think about where bins will be stored and how to screen them or minimise their presence). Another important point is off-street parking and ways in which a drive can be integrated into the garden when not used as a parking space. And, finally, one could choose a style that complements the house period, or one to contrast it, to create an immediate wow factor and add curb appeal.

Q What quick updates instantly lift a garden?
A
Edging is a priority – any border or lawn looks a million times better when the edges are sharp.

Q Are there any shrubs, plants or flowers which are your personal favourites and why?
A
Osmanthus delavayi is my favourite shrub as it’s such a hard working plant – evergreen and easily clipped and shaped: it produces little but highly fragrant flowers in spring. Its glossy leaves light up darker corners and it is useful against fences and walls to soften boundaries too. Hackonechloa macra is my favourite grass; it is well behaved, softly arching and perfect to light up a difficult dry shade spot next to hostas or aquilegias. Peony Krinkled White is my favourite flower – graceful and delicate pure white with a bright yellow centre, it doesn’t last for long, but it’s worth the wait every year!

Q Can you give us your top three insider garden design tips?
A
Have a clear list of your objectives and allocate a realistic budget to achieve them, consider the key views out and try and draw the eye with a path or via an archway and limit your materials and plant palette – simplicity and repetition will bring all the key elements together beautifully.

Q Finally, what’s hot in gardens for 2018?
A
There are so many hot trends! This year the emphasis seems to be back to bold colours and natural materials to create a strong story between indoor and outdoor spaces. The attraction of bees and pollinating insects is still going strong and native ‘wild’ plants and single flowers are in high demand in gardens both large and small.

Garden 2Jon and Emanuela in the show garden they created for the Istanbul Flower Festival in 2016

Profile: Alladio Sims

Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Ltd was established in 2015 after Jon Sims and Emanuela Alladio collaborated on a Silver Gilt winning show garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The two directors continue their collaborative approach throughout their practice with Jon’s background in interior architecture giving distinctive spaces and Emanuela’s passion for plants and photographic eye adding great texture and contrast.

essence info
Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited
Unit C Willow House, Dragonfly Place, London SE4 2FJ
Website: www.alladiosims.co.uk
Email: hello@alladiosims.co.uk

Too hot to water

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 19.28.30A gravel garden wouldn’t be complete without some large boulders to form a series of focal points. Large rocks give the garden an instant Mediterranean feel, perfect for a dry garden. Image courtesy of Alladio Sims Garden and Landscape Design Ltd, Besiktas International Flower Festival, 2016

Emanuela of Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design offers advice on how we can make our gardens resistant to hot summers.

The weather is hotting up and thirsty plants are showing the first signs of strain. Shrivelling leaves, droopy flower heads, browning leaves, stumpy growth… All clear signs plants are suffering and not coping well with summer dry weather.

What to do? Watering is a costly resource, to the planet and us, but there are ways around it, to avoid irrigation. If designing a new garden, why not make it drought tolerant? This month we consider five design solutions that really can make a huge difference.

Gravel gardens – they are easy to install, low maintenance, generally low cost, environmentally friendly and look good all year round. Gravel is permeable and therefore acts as mulch keeping the soil cool and moist underneath so plants are super happy. Gravel offers an instant, perfect backdrop to plants making them ‘pop’ and look good. It’s one of the most versatile materials, available in many shades, so it can be matched to other hard surfaces in the garden and beyond. For a more classic look, choose lighter gravel that blends well with bricks and lighter stones; for a contemporary take, choose grey gravel that looks fabulous against wood, black or brown.

Celebrate shade – shade creates a micro climate within the garden, bringing the temperature down instantly, which in turn means plants won’t bake in the afternoon heat, even the ones with larger, greener leaves. So plant a tree or a series of hedges to create some shade in the garden and carpet underneath with shade and drought tolerant plants that will keep the scheme lush and fresh, even in the hotter months.

Plant more grasses – they look good in winter with their golden silhouettes and moving flower heads and they thrive in the hottest of summers, glowing in the evening sun and softening the transition between perennials. Often native to dry sunny prairies, they are perfect for dry spells and don’t require extra watering.

Create drifts of colour through mass planting of single varieties – tight mass planting of single varieties of drought tolerant plants can create a painterly swathe of colour in the garden that looks great in summer months and minimises water requirement in hotter months. The key to this planting style is as always good soil preparation, so don’t forget to incorporate lots of compost and to mulch with a thick layer of gravel or composted bark so that plants become established well before the heat kicks off.

Choose silver foliage plants – silver and soft furry leaved plants cope very well with drought, reflecting the light and heat away from them to keep cool and very upright, even in the hottest of summer afternoons. The amazing tall candelabra silhouette of verbascum bombyciferum reminds us of wild Mediterranean coastal paths, the silvery foliage of olive trees, teucriums and lavenders is further proof that this is the choice colour to survive the driest of summers.

Hopefully these five steps have demonstrated how easy it is to create a wonderful, drought-free garden that will embrace the summer weather, however dry or wet this may be.

Garden 2Jon and Emanuela in the show garden they created for the Istanbul Flower Festival in 2016

Profile: Alladio Sims

Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Ltd was established in 2015 after Jon Sims and Emanuela Alladio collaborated on a Silver Gilt winning show garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The two directors continue their collaborative approach throughout their practice with Jon’s background in interior architecture giving distinctive spaces and Emanuela’s passion for plants and photographic eye adding great texture and contrast.

essence info
Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited
Unit C Willow House, Dragonfly Place, London SE4 2FJ
Website: www.alladiosims.co.uk
Email: hello@alladiosims.co.uk

Family wonder

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 22.59.18A raised bed is easy to fill with herbs, vegetables and fruits, and a perfect excuse to get the kids involved in the garden. Image courtesy of Alladio Sims Garden and Landscape Design Ltd, RHS Chelsea Flower Show edible displays 2018

Emanuela Alladio of Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited asks are children and gardens incompatible?

Does a family garden mean a desolate lawn, an ugly trampoline and the paraphernalia of plastic climbing frames? After all, beautiful and perfect flower borders and hordes of frenetic kids cannot peacefully coexist in the same sentence. Maybe they can. Let’s see how.

When we meet a new ‘family’ as a client for the first time we are confronted with a similar list of wishes. Our task is to go back to the office and devise a solution that accommodates most, if not all, of them. It is always a very interesting challenge, and one that we relish, despite the practical restraints that each garden and site provides.

Time and time again families wish to have somewhere for the kids to kick a ball (and maybe, why not, a lovely striped lawn to tend at the weekend?); somewhere for the dreaded, but oh so useful, trampoline to sit (this must at all times be screened from view from the house of course); somewhere for vegetables to thrive happily and abundantly (after all, kids love vegetables – or don’t they? – and a vegetable patch must surely spark a new passion for them…); somewhere for pretty flowers to grow (particularly the kind that one would use to create beautiful flower arrangements); and, of course, somewhere for the kids to hide, play and discover.

Solving these challenges can seem almost impossible at times, but to come up with ideas that will undoubtedly make even the most indifferent child want to explore the garden and go outside is so fulfilling and exciting that we inevitably end up developing a certain fondness towards these gardens.

To help solve any similar dilemmas confronting readers, we wish to share some of the solutions that underpin the majority of the decisions we make whenever we are asked to create a family wonder in a new garden.
Starting with the lawn, as this is a must item in most family gardens, when the garden is really shady or if it will be used to play ball games for the majority of the time, then one might want to consider the option of using artificial grass as there are so many different choices available nowadays and most of them are very ‘realistic’ and long lasting.

Moving down the list to the love/hate item that is a trampoline, if one cannot be avoided, why not consider sinking it below the ground? Be careful to leave enough space for landing around it though, approximately a two metre radius will do. Or just hide a standard trampoline behind a low hedge, a useful solution that will create a sense of wonder in the garden and make the kids happy to be hidden from parents’ view – for a short while at least.

Any good family garden should feature carefully chosen plants, including those that thrive in neglect and withstand impacts – ornamental grasses first and foremost because they are built to allow movement and therefore are much more flexible and understanding, even when hit by a football or two. We couldn’t live without the evergreen soft and fluffy Nassella tenuissima or its very tough and understanding cousin Anemanthele lessoniana, a grass that tolerates practically every condition and lots of abuse.

Another important group of plants to include in a family garden are those loved by insects, bees and butterflies in particular, because they will keep kids amused for hours in the summer and will help them understand how magical gardens can really be. Plants like Verbena bonariensis or Knautia Macedonica spring to mind for being unfussy and for keeping on flowering for months, continuously attracting insects and even birds with their bright and pretty little flowers, enough to keep most kids entertained…

One must also not forget to include plants that actively involve kids – vegetables and fruits, but also a variety of bulbs – these are all very important in a family garden which should be the perfect place to build lasting memories and positive experiences with children. What better way to start than by planting some bulbs together, or picking some fruit to make a jelly or an apple crumble after a generous September harvest? Of course, a small vegetable garden would be the perfect easy first step, especially if kept to a manageable size, such as a small raised bed, and maybe a few fruit trees and colourful pots with spring bulbs could be enough to start with.

Whatever the challenge gardens pose, there are so many different solutions and ways to respond to them, just think creatively.

Thus, the next time someone says that kids and gardens don’t mix, you might just wish to disagree…

Garden 2Jon and Emanuela in the show garden they created for the Istanbul Flower Festival in 2016

Profile: Alladio Sims

Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Ltd was established in 2015 after Jon Sims and Emanuela Alladio collaborated on a Silver Gilt winning show garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The two directors continue their collaborative approach throughout their practice with Jon’s background in interior architecture giving distinctive spaces and Emanuela’s passion for plants and photographic eye adding great texture and contrast.

essence info
Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited
Unit C Willow House, Dragonfly Place, London SE4 2FJ
Website: www.alladiosims.co.uk
Email: hello@alladiosims.co.uk

How to be RHS worthy

Pretty flowers never last forever. Consider how a plant will look after it’s at its best, when the flowers are gone. Image courtesy of Alladio Sims Garden and Landscape Design Ltd, Alladio Sims Show Garden at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, 2015
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Emanuela of Alladio Sims Garden Design Limited shares her top ten tips for creating a wonderful garden worthy of an RHS show in our homes.

1 Frame the view: most gardens are viewed from the house and in order to work they need to relate back to it; the key details of the architecture of the house need to be repeated within the garden and the views out need to be nicely framed and lead the eye, inviting you out to discover the garden.

2 Keep it simple: keep the material choices to a minimum, for instance one type of stone used in different finishes for inside and out, or for areas of the garden with different characters, and use repetition in the planting too to create a sense of harmony.

3 Create a private haven: introduce a secluded area that feels intimate and tranquil where a glass of wine can be sipped or it is possible to sit and relax. Introducing vertical elements such as a semi transparent screen, a wall or a tall hedge works wonderfully, creating an unexpected space that breaks down the emptiness of a garden and spurs us on to walk and discover what’s beyond.

4 Create spaces that look good in every season: May and June are the months of the year where a garden looks at its best, with lavender, geraniums, alchemilla, roses etc. all flowering their socks off. Yet these plants can also go over quickly and leave an empty gap for many months to come. Try and avoid planting that fades too quickly and choose instead a good backbone of evergreen shrubs that offer a long season of interest and perennials with pretty seedheads for structure in the winter.

5 Disguise the ugly bits: every garden has a view or wall that should not be viewed. Use plants and paths to lead the eye away, distracting you to look elsewhere.

6 Boundaries are key: use hedging to frame a sharp and clean lawn or a well-defined border. This will produce neat shapes that will help keep maintenance to a minimum and will make the garden look crisp and fresh.

7 Let the plants speak for themselves: don’t overcrowd them but give them space to breathe and to become established. Think about it in terms of layers of vertical interest and bring some taller perennials towards the front to break the mould and create a dynamic border and more interesting look.

8 Be bold: choose more of the same thing, so for instance put together two plants of the same colour (such as bronze fennel and black phormium) to create a good textural foil for the rest of the garden. A similar result can be achieved by repeating similar shapes at different levels (such as round pots, round lawns, allium heads etc.).

9 Don’t be afraid of grasses: grasses add a softness and a texture that is invaluable to any garden and they have very good longevity too, especially the ones with interesting seed heads.

10 Use splashes of colour to draw attention: but keep the overall picture harmonious by restricting the colour palette. The effect you are trying to achieve is pleasing and not a muddled mix!

Garden 2Jon and Emanuela in the show garden they created for the Istanbul Flower Festival in 2016

Profile: Alladio Sims

Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Ltd was established in 2015 after Jon Sims and Emanuela Alladio collaborated on a Silver Gilt winning show garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The two directors continue their collaborative approach throughout their practice with Jon’s background in interior architecture giving distinctive spaces and Emanuela’s passion for plants and photographic eye adding great texture and contrast.

essence info
Alladio Sims Garden Landscape Design Limited
Unit C Willow House, Dragonfly Place, London SE4 2FJ
Website: www.alladiosims.co.uk
Email: hello@alladiosims.co.uk
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