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

Fig 1
1
Fig 2
2
Fig 3
3
Fig 4
4
Fig 5
5

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
PROPERTY BLOG
Surrey’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine