So what is this garden coaching malarkey?

Well, one big part of my  garden coaching  is designing gardens.  However a quantum shift has come over me and in the collaborative process, I am keen to get my customers to do the job themselves.  With guidance.   So here are two pictures of a new garden we are working on with views in and out.

Small town garden with a castle peering in above a bank that has been terraced.  My customer has a pretty good idea of what she wants – no pink for starters and the boring patch of grass up near the house is to disappear under jungly perennials with lots of verticals.    Up on one terraced level espaliered fruit trees.  We have and looked at what to save, discussed the outline ideas and begun to think of the planting.

Stage one was to get in the car and drive to the nearest substantial planting by Piet Oudolf, Pensthorpe in Norfolk.  I also took another customer who wants 2 large borders replanted.  Packed up  camera, pen and notebook and sandwiches and as we wandered  I let their reactions bounce back to me.  It was interesting.   My castle customer is a textile designer and she almost danced with the foxgloves and fennel (Dammit she really wants fennel despite my warnings of garden take-over).  Customer two was far less sold on the formless modernity of modern swathe planting – not seeing the individual textures in the mind’s eye.

It was a seriously handy outing – number one customer came home with a list of what her main plants are to be – Digitalis ferruginea, fennel, of course, veronicastrums, sanguisorbas – gauzy curtain-making plants with height.  I will grow some of these from seed while her homework is to spray off the lawn, rescue any plants that we will recycle (not many).  The orders will go to the wholesaler in a week or two when the research is complete.

The non-castle lady – well I had a site visit today and what she did not like has given me good guidance of where we will go with the plants.  A mingling of roses with cultivars that borrow from their wild relations – Jacobs Ladder, scabious will be in the mix.  I’ve given them both task lists and can now sit back and relax. Just one task for the short term and that is keeping a Brown Owl check on them to make sure they are getting on with their homework.


  1. Anne Wareham says:

    This is interesting (though I, as non garden designer, would have expected the garden visits to be ordinary if you are to really grasp the client’s wishes and show what is also possible).

    But it relates to John Sales points ( about a garden beyond the design. So that someone – in this case your clients – will clearly be responsible for realising and developing the design and therefore needs to be part of a collaborative effort.

    The alternative? I’d love to know what happens without this. How many gardens reflect their original professional design?


    1. Hi Anne I thoroughly enjoyed your interview with John Sales and his thoughts on gardens. I am not sure what an ordinary garden visit is but from my view, it is to get a bounce off a client as to what sort of plants they like. As to the realising and development I think that the considered collective opinion is that getting in a garden designer is akin to giving a room a make-over and it is difficult to get across acceptance of the randomness of nature and the need to treat the garden as an on-going experiment. “Low maintenance” is most often the cry of desire and sometimes it is on the tip of my tongue to go down Christopher Lloyd’s route and advocate plastic ivy.

  2. Pauline says:

    I presume fennel likes well drained soil, in my heavy clay I have trouble keeping it alive. Sometimes the main plant dies and then I’m searching for seedlings, I’m lucky to find one!
    I’m sure your visit to Pensthorpe was very productive in deciding what your two ladies liked and disliked. I think having their input means that they will enjoy their garden more when they are looking after it, as their ideas have been incorporated as well as yours.

  3. I have very heavy clay soil. Fennel flourishes, but I suspect is not quite the pest that it might be elsewhere.

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