Gardenproud Blog

Archive for the ‘Water Features’ Category

The Gardens of Villandry

Monday, July 28th, 2014

By Tim Sykes – 28/7/14

Whenever the name Villandry is mentioned it conjures up hazy memories of long boozy lunches during my advertising heydays! A restauranteur rather cleverly created an excellent restaurant, come wine shop, come bar, come specialist food store in Great Portland Street. I’m pleased to say it’s still thriving today, some 15 years after my last lunch! Do pop in if you are passing that way. The food I’m sure is still very tasty, and the wine list even better.

Somewhere equally appealing are the Gardens of Villandry, situated just 15 kilometres west of Tours, France.

I recently persuaded my wife and teenage son to call in on them enroute to the Dordogne. “Yes, OK”, was the response.”But, you are only allowed exactly one hour!” This may seem rather stingy on their part, but believe me these things take some negotiating!

My main interest were the potager, or kitchen gardens, as I’m currently involved in designing a scheme for one of my key clients. So this focus helped whittle down the tour.

We arrived at Villandry at 10am and it was already blisteringly hot. We paid for ‘Jardin’ at the entrance (€6 Adults, and €4.50 Youths). The Chateau looked equally enticing, but not this time!

Villandry is reputedly the last of the great Renaissance chateaux of the Loire to be built, in 1536. It was not a royal palace, but instead the seat of a royal minister, Jean Le Breton. Despite being a Finance Minister, Jean’s architectural expertise was incredible, and he was noted for his works, including the creation of Chambord, which he oversaw before he built Villandry.

As part of the scheme Jean conceived of a garden landscape that would blend the chateau into the surrounding Loire countryside.

The Chateau and grounds remained in the Le Breton family until 1754, when Villandry became the property of The Marquis de Castellane. He was the king’s ambassador, and he brought the castle up to date with modern 18th century standards of comfort and design.

In 1907 Villandry was purchased by a Spaniard, Joachim Carvallo. Carvallo and his American wife were scientists. The house and gardens had fallen into disrepair, so Carvallo set upon a complete programme of renovation. The Chateau was transformed, but it was the gardens that most of his energies and imagination went into.

These are vast, and truly magnificent.

Laid out over 5 hectares. Today they are looked after by a full-time team of nine gardeners.

Given the size and complexity of the gardens, careful planning and a rigorous timetable are required. This all sounds very familiar!

There are 7 distinct areas of the garden:

1. The Ornamental Garden

Stretches behind the Chateau, and features some incredible topairy depicting different takes on the theme of love. Unifying these gardens is the use of box hedging borders set to a Moorish theme, and sixty yew trees, all carefully shaped to a standard size and design ( I have the specification)!

Whilst we were visiting, we were treated to the gardening team out in force tweaking these designs.

Inside each shape are flowers. These are all planted in blocks of colour to enhance the dramatic pattern of this area. My guess is that this part of the garden was also used for cuttings, so at different times of the year plentiful supplies of fresh flowers were available to the household. Something to remember for a cuttings section to my own designs.

At the end of my ‘hour’ , I visited the garden shop and have purchased topairy ball guides, so will experiment as soon as we get home! I also managed to pick up a selection of seeds from the ornamental garden area, including Coquelicot ‘Rouge a Coeur Noir’.

2. The Woods

If you have the time, and the inclination to climb up into the adjoining woods you can gain some stunning views of the Chateau and Gardens. Also situated up there are the greenhouses.

3. The Water Garden

An ingenious watering system for the entire gardens eminates from a large ornamental pond on the upper terrace. This is shaped in the form of a Louis XV mirror. From this water cascades down a staircase of waterfalls into a moat which then distributes water into the planting areas below.

4. The Sun Garden

This is the most recent of the gardens, set on a plateau above the Water Garden. It features a series of herbaceous beds, set out in a formal pattern, but planted with varieties and allowed to grow in a more informal fashion.

Whilst we were visiting we bumped upon an artist recording the beauty of the gardens in oils. With his Van Gogh hat he seemed to be enjoying the mid morning sun.

Another artist who has recently had their sculptures added to this area of the garden is Marine d’Harcourt.

5. The Maze

Is planted with closely cropped hornbeam hedges. The correct pathway leads to a lookout post in the centre from where you can work out your safe retreat.
Probably easy to get out of in the winter!

6. The Herb Garden

Adjoining the Maze is the long, corridor like herb garden. This is the traditional garden of the Middle Ages full of aromatic, cooking and medicinal herbs.

7. The Kitchen, or Potager Garden

This is what we were here to see. And wow! What a display. I counted 9 areas, featuring different geometric patterns, set in a series of squares, all in one huge quadrant, with wide gravel avenues between them.

The designs depict Medieval crosses, all different. The structure of the potager gardens is created by using low closely cropped box hedging, that is in a constant process of clipping and replacement. Planted amongst these in symmetry are standard roses. These reputedly symbolise the monks who in Middle Ages would dig their squares.

Within the box borders a combination of flowers and vegetables are planted in concentrated bands of alternating colours, which together help create the magnificent vistas you can achieve by looking across the Potager Gardens.

To this day the Carvallo family are actively involved with the gardening team in the design and maintenance of this section. In the garden I could see bands of Chard, ornamental cabbages, beet root, tomatoes and pumpkins.

Time nearly up and a quick detour to the Garden Shop. This took 10 minutes, an all time record! Then out we rushed to the cafe to pick up a much needed diet cola.

One hour exactly. But what an hour!

You can see more about Villandry at

For further information please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820, or at

A real treat at Chelsea!

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

By Tim Sykes of  Gardenproud,

We set off to the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show today with great expectation! Our journey took us via M&S at Charing Cross, where we picked up some delicious sandwiches, then onto the District Line to Sloane Square.

On our list of must sees were:

- The Extending Space

By Norman Fischer & Daniel Auderset

The idea of creating the illusion of a larger space by careful planting is one thing, but the use of architecture in a garden to elongate perspectives is brilliant. This garden gets my vote. It is executed brilliantly. There are parallels with a recent project we designed and I can see their ideas inspiring gardens for us. The very wide span of the feature arch is awe inspiring. Please tell me how you did it?

- The Telegraph Garden

12 roof trained lime trees provide a beautiful canopy for this garden. A mix of formal planting among herbaceous borders are carefully placed around a rectangular lawn. The whole concept is reminiscent of many Italian gardens we have visited.

All very well executed. Not surprisingly this took home a Gold.

- The Laurent-Perrier Garden

Designed by Luciano Giubbilei, this stunner won Best in Show. And it’s well deserved.

The judges liked the way it played with texture, light and form, with a cool contemplative design.
The planting features delicate forms alongside stronger, bolder leaves, stone surfaces, and reflection patterns in the water features.

Nice surprises included:

- The Barron Knights

This spectacle dominated our lunch break when we sat back and enjoyed our M&S sandwiches, washed down by a rather expensive (but very refreshing) two glasses of Champagne Laurent-Perrier. The Barron Knights were slightly more mature than yours truly, but close your eyes and the sound is amazing! A really good move by the RHS to get them on the bill. They played ( and we sang along) to all the old favourites, plus one or two BBC banned tunes, including a rather amusing one about David Bowie! They’ve got a new album out too, you can see more about it at

- The Topiarist Garden at West Green House

This garden is designed by Marylyn Abbott. You can see it in the Artisan Gardens. You Must see it! Marylyn is one of my all time favourites, and her book “Gardens of Plenty” which talks about the art of the potager garden is an all time great. It is my favourite garden at the Show and embodies an eclectic mix of fantastical topiary among lovely perennials. I want it!

- David Harbour

David Harbour’s sculptures continue to be incredible. If you’ve got a big landscape and large pockets then call me first, then look at David Harbour.

His larger than life mirrored spheres and painstakingly produced stone sculptures are a real spectacle.

But be prepared to invest over £20k for something of real scale. See more at

- Paul Vanstone
If you are in the market for something out of the ordinary, then visit Paul’s stand. You’d probably need to have deep pockets too! Paul and his team are brilliant sculptors. But brilliance comes at a price.
They work in stone and create large torsos that will look the business in your formal, or informal garden setting.

I was amazed by their polished pair of faces, called the “Kissing Profiles” which stood some 3m high in Italian Carrara Marble.

Pop them into a meadow and wow what a focal point.

See Paul’s portfolio at

- Outdoor Living

Al fresco living is the name of the game. Fire pits, barbecues, weatherproof loungers, swish terraces and bi-fold doors seamlessly leading from dining rooms and kitchens onto outside spaces.

What if it rains?

Well these Outdoor Living people have thought about this.

They have designed a smart modular system that looks stunning. One minute it can look like a contemporary pergola, open to the sun and fresh air. The next at the touch of a remote, smart shutters close up above you and hey presto you are protected from the elements.

See more about these clever people at

- Hope on the Horizon

Designed by Matt Keightley this garden is a contemporary space that represents the journey of injured servicemen and women through to rehabilitation. So it’s got a strong theme that Matt has expertly executed in both the hard and soft landscaping. All the more impressive when you consider that at 29 this is Matt’s first attempt at a Chelsea  show garden and he take’s home a Silver Gilt Medal!

Other focal points:

It was a great day out. Lots of inspiring thoughts to take into our thinking. Okish weather, and very pleasant company.

For more information about The Chelsea Flower Show, or to discuss your design requirements for your garden please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820, or email him at

Magnificent! I don’t need to go to Chelsea now!

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

What a lovely thought!

But that was our dear client’s reaction was when she returned from holiday recently.

She found her Tunbridge Wells town garden transformed from the grass bank it was, to the contemporary space that she can now enjoy with her friends and family.

The new garden was designed by Tim Sykes from Gardenproud. A modern and tranquil space with interesting features and terraced planting, plus entertaining and relaxing areas designed to mask the natural topography, and create the illusion of a much larger garden than the town location affords.

“The basic design concept uses a series of offset rectangles, that both interact and interrupt each other, plus are layered. This helps create different points of focus and different compartments within the garden, ” comments Tim.

Even the rather swish terraced pond reflects the concept.

So does the bespoke pergola that now frames the pastel blue painted Lutyens bench.

First things first, the terrace was enlarged, so that it now accommodates a large table and chairs for at least 8 people in two possible locations.

Cedar strip panelling was used to help accentuate features and create vertical blocks.

The grassed area features two offset oblongs that leads the eye round to an interesting mirror.

This feature reflects the terraced planted up platforms on the opposite side of the garden.

Here is planted what will become a grouping of buxus balls that will eventually merge to form a cloud formation.

“The terraced pond was a labour of love!” states Sykes. “We wanted to create a slate clad vision that contrasted with the adjoining cedar and oak materials. But slate was potentially a problem from a frost perspective, so we eventually went down a route that used  slate coloured and textured porcelain tiles. A lot of research later and we found the perfect finish. Thank goodness!”

A textured slate strip forms the basis of the outer walls, and a riven traditional slate tile is used as the copings.

The whole garden, including the workings of the pond, all run off a clever wireless remote control system that has become the hallmark of Gardenproud gardens. “These days it’s important to be able to use the outdoor space in the evenings as well. So we try wherever possible to incorporate lighting with schemes and create zones that can be illuminated in isolation, as well as fountains and other water features that can be remotely controlled. It can all contribute to some quite dramatic results, and reasonably green too as they employ LED low wattage fittings, or bulbs. “

The planting plan also played a major role in this garden. A colour palette featuring blue, lilac, purple, white and of course various hues of green was featured throughout. Gigantic lilac alliums helped create a linking theme between different areas, bamboo columns form the basis of what will become the rear wall of the garden, a salix half standard tree links with planting of euonymous, salvias are repeated in different places in contrasting colours. Miscanthus sinesis flamingo sits among giant verbena bonariensis. Beautiful white agapanthus frame the black steel obelisk that tops the upper terraces. And behind this a wall of white jasmine will adorn the trellis background.

Two beautiful wisteria will eventually trail over the contemporary pergola. A border of lavender softens the link of the pond with the lower terrace.

Anyway, whilst our client may not feel she needs fresh inspiration from our Chelsea peers, I always do!

So I’m looking forward to my trip tomorrow to London to the Chelsea Flower Show 2014.

I’ll see what I can pick up and incorporate in our thinking for 2015!

For further information about Garden Design contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820, or via email

A Spring time visit to Nymans, West Sussex

Monday, May 5th, 2014

By Tim Sykes

Nymans house and gardens is on the ‘must see’ list of many a horticulturalist.

It incorporates a beautiful house and ruins into a romantic woodland setting.

Only 45 minutes drive from Tunbridge Wells, travel via East Grinstead and Turners Hill.

Nymans was the family home of the Messels who bought this West Sussex Wealden retreat in the late 1800′s. Inspired by the woodland surroundings Ludwig Messel set upon creating a garden with plants and specimen trees collected from around the world.

On our list of favourites were:

- a handkerchief tree from China

- a magnolia tree from Japan

- the beautiful wisteria pergola

- a handsome water feature at the centre of the walled garden

- the pieris japonica bordering in the rear rock gardens

- the many beautiful Rhododendron and Azalea specimens that surround the gardens

- the castellated yew topairy surrounding the house

Wherever you looked there were some beautiful vistas:

There was an excellent nursery at Nymans. Among our purchases were:

- beautiful Nectaroscordium Siculum’s - a bulbous perennial with attractive bell shaped pink and green flower heads on long stems of c 1.2m
- Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ – a hardy perennial that grows in clumps, with deep lavender blue flower heads that bloom throughout summer
- Hosta Francee - brilliant white edged leaves are the hallmark of this Hosta which pale lavender flowers appear mid to late summer
- Veronica Ulster Blue Dwarf - a compact hardy perennial with deep purple/blue tall conical flower heads

We visited early May, but we could see from the herbaceous borders that there was a lot of colour yet to spring forth, so late May early June could be a good time to see the garden in all it’s glory.

It was a very enjoyable day out and we can recommend a visit. We plan to go back soon and walk around the house.

If you are a National Trust member then you get in free. Otherwise entrance fees are £10.50 adults and £5.50 children. Don’t take your dog. We suggest you visit early (opens at 10am) as the car park is restricted, then leave by lunchtime ( the restaurant didn’t look brilliant)  and find a good local pub.

On your return trip, pop into Pots and Pithoi at Turners Hill for some real Cretan pots and further inspiration! See more at

For further information about Nymans go to

Or, contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820

Happy New Year from View

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

View is the quarterly update from Gardenproud on what’s new in the garden.

The new 2014 edition is out now. You can order a copy in the post, or via email. Just send an email request to

In this quarter’s edition are Gardening Tips, 2013 Highlights from Gardenproud, some ideas for Window Boxes, details of our latest Equipment updates – of special interest to the demands of larger gardens, our latest recruit, and news of our latest Design Projects.

A 4 Day Garden make-over

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

A recent Gardenproud project involved redesigning an area of a garden to a tight budget.

The area was once a garden pond with steps leading up to a raised terrace surrounding the pond.

The pond had been removed for some time and a rather disorganized bed had replaced it with the peculiar phenomenon of the steps leading into it.

Gardenproud were asked to create a concept that would be dramatic but low maintenance.

All this needed to be reviewed as part of the design concept.

Various ideas were presented.

The Gardenproud team decided that the steps could be incorporated and that central to their idea should be the steps leading into a dry river bed that appeared to lead to a focal point.

The Dry River bed was constructed using a Cotswold stone base with feature rocks and succulents planted at strategic spots.

The Dry River contrasted with its banks, which feature a box ball vista on one side and a concentration of beautiful white Agapanthus on the other bank.

“The idea of the box balls is to allow them to grow and merge into each other, ultimately creating a cloud effect”, comments Tim Sykes

The finished results look stunning, and all created by the Gardenproud team in 4 days!

Client commented,

“We are delighted with the result and thought Daniel and Ricky were brilliant.”

What more can we say….

For further information about Gardenproud’s design and landscaping capability please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820.

Winter Garden Repair Service

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

It’s at times like this that we can see the impact of the Autumn and Winter months on the garden. The lack of foliage often draws our attention to problems that need addressing.

It might be a broken fence panel or post, a shed roof that needs resurfacing, a patio or terrace that needs repointing, broken walls, lawn edging, decking surfaces that require cleaning and recoating, pathway and driveway repairs, or broken garden or water features.

These are just a few of the many tasks that you may be facing in the garden that are beyond the remit of your gardener, but nevertheless need attention.

The Gardenproud Landscaping Team are here to help. If you are interested we’d welcome the opportunity to call and discuss any particular tasks you would like addressed, or undertake a review of your garden and provide a list of potential repairs that might deserve consideration.

Now, while the garden is still relatively dormant, is the best time to address these issues.

If you would like us to help then please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820

Music drives her passion for Garden Design!

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Paula Beresford has recently joined the Gardenproud Design Team.

“Paula brings a fresh perspective to our work, I’m particularly keen to harness her talents in developing a more contemporary style for a number of our clients”, comments Gardenproud Director Tim Sykes.

Paula’s career started as a Contracts Manager in Local Government. This gave her an excellent grounding in project management and real insight into the client/supplier relationship.

After a number of years working on Government contracts, she decided it was time to change gear and follow her heart.

She wanted to fuse her love of gardens with her passion for the Arts.

So Paula signed herself up for a BA (Hons) Garden Design at Hadlow College and Greenwich University, which she passed with flying colours!

She has subsequently worked with several landscaping companies designing and project managing garden projects, both domestic and commercial. Her past work has included contemporary garden designs such as these……..

Always creative, Paula earlier dabbled in Interior design and made blinds, soft furnishings and glass Terrariums.

She also plays the piano, having taken lessons between the ages of 5 and 40!

“Whilst having piano lessons, my teacher used to get me to explain what I could see and feel whilst hearing or playing a piece of music, and it was invariably a beautiful landscape, sometimes rolling hills or water, but sometimes it would be an intimate courtyard garden or a small space. I often play music when I design gardens as it gives me inspiration, particularly classical pieces by composers such as Rachmaninov and Beethoven. I feel that there is a real connection between sound and the landscape and love to create this with water or the rustling of grasses in the wind, which give garden spaces another dimension.

My parents have lived in Spain for years and so I have had plenty of experience working in a Mediterranean garden, and understanding the different requirements for the plants. They seem to grow in rock hard soil that we would not even consider trying to plant, and they have flowers virtually all year, it is incredible.”

As part of her degree, Paula studied Historic Garden conservation and the History and Philosophy of Garden Design which gave her a real understanding of how the various styles of gardens have evolved over the centuries.

“Which other Degree course would have given me the opportunity to visit Tate Modern and Versailles, see VanGoghs at the Kroller-Muller museum and wander around Parc Citroen in Paris, to broaden my understanding of all aspects of art and design, the use of colour, materials and scale?”

For further information about Paula’s work and for a free design consultation contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820.

From dangerous bog to running water

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

A client recently asked us to apply our minds to how we could enhance a water feature in his garden and create a safer, more beautiful running stream.

The stream had silted up over the years and this silt had become weed infested and reacted like quick sand when you tried to walk anywhere near it.

Similarly the banks of the stream looked uninteresting and deserved attention. Part of the historical problem here had been that the steepness had made it almost impossible to maintain and had resulted in one or two gardeners slipping back into the muddy abyss below!

Everybody agreed that it was a potentially rather attractive feature of the garden, but it deserved some attention.

The Gardenproud team came up with a plan that dredged the stream, created a permanent liner for the new stream with improvements to the rock waterfalls, recycled the silt as a soil improver along the banks, and incorporated a new maintenance pathway and rockery along the once steep upper bank.

First step was to clear the site of weeds and plants that might get damaged by the works. Then the digger came in!

This dredged the silt and took the stream surface down to a more solid base. Then Gardenproud laid a tough PVC membraine along the entire run of the stream ( some 50m) factoring in the different levels created by a series of shallow waterfalls. This was affixed one side to the supports for a new timber and bark pathway and on the other to a treated timber framework that was pegged into the ground.

Pebbles were laid along the surface of the new stream, and the Rock surfaces of the waterfalls were relaid and improved.

Some VERY large rocks were sourced and these were very kindly moved into the rear garden by a very friendly farmer. We then had the task of lifting these into their new positions on the steep upper bank. One rather heavy specimen didn’t quite make it but looks fine in it’s new resting place!

Rocks in place and the digger and other machinery could be taken off site. Next step was to get the pathways in and repair, rotovate, grade and reshape lawned areas adjoining the new beds and the stream. A rather large quantity of turf was needed! So this involved a large lorry, a large rotovator and a lot of barrowing.

The finished result is looking really good. Nice safe bark pathways, clear running water, a rockery, new upper and lower banks ready to plant and a newly landscaped and laid lawn area.

The client wanted to add a few very important comments to our blog post……….

“The stream has been a worry to me for the last ten years or so. When the first of our eight grandchildren was able to walk freely and enjoy a degree of independence (from adults that is) in this large garden I was greatly relieved. Ideas in the past have been considered and discarded, but it was when I made contact with Tim on another problem I was having to address (too many mature trees blocking the sunlight), that we discussed the stream and surrounding area and how to address the risks. Tim came up with an exciting plan, at a reasonable cost, given the difficulties in accessing the site with heavy equipment and the site being some way from the house and the road. Years of leaf mould were removed from the stream to be used on the bed prior to planting and the base made secure. The whole exercise took about four weeks, but it was four weeks well spent. All the boys who did the heavy work should be complimented on their commitment and enterprise. It was at times a dirty job but now the structural work has been completed, my wife and I are delighted with the result. The exciting part is still to come of course – deciding on the planting – but by the Summer of 2013, I shall be proud to show visitors what can be achieved with a little vision, and a whole lot of hard work and enterprise. It was a garden for children; it is now a safe garden for children, who will always be made welcome. My thanks to Tim, George and Daniel and ‘the boys’ for an excellent job completed in the right spirit.”

David Burton, Beechwood House (September 2012)

So next step is a planting plan for the rockery and lower beds.

For further information about our experience or help with water features call Tim Sykes on 07725 173820.

A Walled Garden in the Centre of Tunbridge Wells

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

We are particularly proud of our most recent garden accomplishment.

This is a delightful walled garden in the centre of Tunbridge Wells which has been given a fresh perspective.

You enter the garden via a gate in the wall. This reveals a beautiful victorian mews house situated along one side and the rear of the garden. It incorporates a large conservatory which has become a key feature of the daytime living space for the retired couple who live in the house. So they spend large chunks of the day looking out onto the garden.

The only problem was that the garden was created before the conservatory extension and thus was poorly configured both in terms of planting, lines of sight and access. Over the years a lot of money had been spent on plants and our clients were keen to retain key specimens. In addition the wife was confined to a wheelchair so improving access was a serious consideration.

So an interesting challenge and potentially a very rewarding outcome.

We created a design that re-orientated the garden, incorporating points of focus and a planting design that lined up with the viewing point of the conservatory. It included a new enlarged courtyard area outside the conservatory and main house entrance. The central planting area was re-designed to incorporate pathways with connecting ramps, a central water feature and garden bench.

Existing plants were replanted in a more logical fashion to enhance views and work alongside a number additional feature plants that were included to help enhance the structure of the new garden. A new enlarged border was created along one flank of the garden this was replanted with a lot of the larger plants moved from the old central bed.

The client is delighted with the finished result and not surprisingly is spending a lot more time enjoying the views.

They commented, “Tim Sykes of Gardenproud immediately saw how to improve our established garden without losing the character of it, something we wanted to protect. He gave us a plan and a costing and we went ahead. All went as predicted with the work being done to a high standard by a very happy team, one we enjoyed having around. We have no hesitation in recommending Gardenproud as a company able to deliver a quality job.” - Stuart and Celia Rankin, Thimble Mews, Camden Park.

For further information please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820.