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Posts Tagged ‘Garden Design in Tunbridge Wells’

The Secret Gardens of Venice

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

By Tim Sykes, 1st September 2014

When you land at Marco Polo Airport and jump on a Riva to whisk you into the metropolis of Venice, gardens are a long way from your thoughts. The exhilaration of sitting, or standing (holding on tight) to a fast boat speeding between lush islands towards a water bound roman city is truly surreal.

This was our second trip to Venice and I was determined to find those secret gardens I’d heard so much about.

Unfortunately we also had to fit in few other things, some shopping and a visit to the Venice film festival! All in 3 days!

The guide books suggested a few gardens we might investigate. Top on the list was the Royal Gardens, particially because if their close proximity to our hotel – Hotel Splendid – and it was, I do recommend it.

The Royal Gardens were originally conceived by Napoleon. The Giardinetti Reali was created in the early 19c to give him an enhanced view from his nearby offices.

Old photo of the Royal Gardens, as they were intended

I was expecting great things. The structure was certainly there and potential for an amazing experience. Unfortunately the reality was far from it. Instead, a well conceived structure was ruined by lack of maintenance, lack of investment and miss use. They had decayed into a shadow of the gardens Napoleon must have conceived.

I felt like getting out our hedge trimmers, flying over our top gardeners and tasking them to weed the beds and clear the pathways!

Let’s hope that the Venice Municipality regain their vision and next time we visit somebody has restored the gardens to their rightful glory.

Back onto the search for those secret gardens………

Despite the initial impression you get of very little appreciation of the flora, there is actually quite a lot going on in the  passageways , rooftops, balconies and courtyards of many private houses. As we found when we visited nearby Lido and Burano islands……

Not only have we discovered signs of greater things, but so have many much more celebrated gardeners and journalists. In fact there’s a new book (which I have ordered from Amazon), The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto, by Jenny Condie, with some fantastic photographs by Alex Ramsay.

If you go to Amazon and pop in the search against ” The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto” and up will come the book. You can pick it up for £22.75. You can also get a sneak preview of the pages and appreciate just how many gardens you can gain access to from the Venice basin.

The Gardens of Venice and the Veneto draw together an amazing variety of spellbinding garden retreats, from monastery gardens quietly cultivated in the islands of the lagoon to magnificent villas on the Brenta Canal, and baroque masterpieces in the hills beyond. Highlights include an eerie Masonic garden complete with gothic chapel and cavernous grottoes, a pleasure garden made for his workers by a benevolent nineteenth-century industrialist, and a flower-filled delight by the banks of the Grand Canal.”

So it’s well worth a look before like me you hop onto a plane!

From our island visits we returned to Venice and carried on our search. As you turn each corner you gain glimpses of many private gardens and courtyards through wrought iron gates and over the tops of terraces and walls. Some garden adornments are quite bizarre…

One of the nicest gardens we visited was linked to the Guggenheim Museum.

Well actually it was Peggy Guggenheim’s garden.

Peggy bought Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in 1948, where she lived. The villa is in fact an unfinished palace begun in 1748, designed by Lorenzo Boschetti.  It stands today at the entrance to the Grand Canal and the house and gardens are now home to her extensive collection of modern art and sculpture. Among the famous artists work on display are  Picasso, Dali, Chagall, Henry Moore, Magritte, Francis Bacon and Jackson Pollock.

From inside the gallery there are stunning views of the Grand Canal and even the odd rather nice courtyard garden!

Peggy amassed a huge collection and lived in Venice for 30 years. She died aged 81 in 1979 and her ashes are buried in the garden, alongside the place where she customarily buried her beloved dogs.

After our visit to see Peggy’s collection we treated ourselves to a real Venetian food experience.

We came across Al Vecio Forner by chance in a narrow street just around the corner from the Guggenheim. And it was a great find. Simple italian food served a bustling environment, with good affordable wine and pleasant service from a very busy italian waiter. We shared a table with a very friendly Canadian couple which helped make the experience. We both chose a seafood risotto, which we washed down with a nice bottle of italian sauvignon.

Trip Advisor also gives Al Vecio Forner good reviews. ” This is a small busy Osteria located close to the Peggy Guggenhiem museum. We enjoyed lunch twice here. We ordered the mixed plate (selection of appetisers chosen by waiter), veal steak, grilled squid, and squid in ink with polenta. Everything was tasty but in a heavier/heartier way; as expected of a good bistro/osteria. I think the owner is the chef as it show with the care taken in the kitchen (not always a given in tourist towns). Service was spot on (ie. efficient, non nonsense, but some wry italian humour thrown in) despite there being only one guy serving the room and one guy behind the bar. Price was very reasonable. Please note reservations are not possible.”

A very enjoyable end to a super holiday.

It’s amazing how quickly 3 days can pass! Before we knew what was happening we were packing our bags to return to Marco Polo Airport and a flight home.

Still I plan to read Jenny Condie’s book, and return soon with renewed vigor and focus. That’s of course if my wife can bear going to Venice again!

For further information about Venice, the gardens of Venice, or garden design contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820, or via email at reallygardenproud@btinternet.com

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 www.barronknights.com

- 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 www.davidharber.com

- 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 www.paulvanstone.co.uk

- 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 www.outdoorlivingdesign.co.uk

- 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 info@reallygardenproud.com

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 info@reallygardenproud.com


It’s March and the garden beckons

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
After one of the wettest winter periods on record we all look forward to March with a little prayer that the weather might improve for us gardeners.
At the time of writing Sarah and I have just returned from a very pleasant walk with Basil our dog, around the grounds of Burrswood, Groombridge. It was heartening to see that the daffs were starting to appear and the snowdrops were out, so maybe Spring is not that far away! Visit the Crown on the Green. You will be welcomed by a very friendly landlord, and if you are lucky the dog will get a treat!

Before we journey outside, I wanted to share with you some photographs of Amaryllis that have been appearing on our Gardenproud Facebook page. We gave a number of our friends Amaryllis bulbs for Christmas and pictures have been flooding in of their progress, so we have posted some of these on our Facebook page. Interest in the progress has come from a number of people, including would you believe Judi Cohen from New Jersey, USA – the wonders of social media! Judy sent us some amazing photographs of her Amaryllis. Her secret to creating wonderful flower heads is to restrict the soil content of the pot. I put the bulb in very little soil, forcing the action away from the roots and into the bloom.” So a tip to remember for 2015.

March is always a good time to be attacking the moss on your lawns, and boy have I seen a lot moss around the gardens of Tunbridge Wells recently! So a good scarifying, followed by a feed could help give the lawn a bit of a lift before the growing season gets a hold. If the lawn is particularly bad you may need to aerate the surface and give it a top dressing and over seeding. Watch the temperature though, because your seeds won’t germinate in cold weather.
Cotswold Grass seeds who are one of the leading suppliers recommend “Soil temperatures needs to be in excess of 4°C, usually late February in Southern UK, two weeks days later in the North. The optimum soil temperature for seeds to start chitting is 7-10°C which is usually reached by mid – late March across the UK.”
One of the things you are going to have to watch (as soon as the temperature rises) is weeds. Last year we had quite a wet start to the year and the weeds grew like mad. So given this years dose of rain you’ll need to get on top of the bed maintenance pdq.
Here a few additional thoughts on March from our friends at RHS:
1. Remove dead foliage, weed and top dress pots and containers with fresh compost
2. Protect new spring shoots from slugs
3. Divide overgrown clumps of perennials
4. Start mowing the lawn, as the weather becomes drier
If you have a vegetable garden then now’s the time to plant out your shallots, onion sets and early potatoes. When the ground is suitable you can plant new fruits, including raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries and blackcurrants ( lots of fruit plants like a free draining, acidic soil, so it maybe sensible to check the pH levels and then mix in horticultural grit, with a good ericaceous compost).
If you haven’t done it already remember to prune your apple and pear trees before the first leaves start to break.
Whilst things will be hotting up in the garden, March is also a great time to be tweaking the beds for your summer borders. Think about the effect you want to achieve, the relative heights of plants, or bulbs once they are established, then look at the borders and decide which of your existing plants you want to keep. It’s also a good idea to have a colour palette in mind. The trend is towards more focused palettes, which I like. So you might mix lilacs, violets, blues, creams and whites, but avoid yellows, pinks and oranges. You’ll be able to select your summer flowering bulbs from the local nurseries.
All of the local ones have a great choice, but you can also find an excellent selection on the J.Parker’s website www.dutchbulbs.co.uk If you prefer a catalogue, then call them on, 0161 848 1124

Finally, another date for all your diaries! Don’t miss the Tulip Festival at Pashley Manor this year! It starts on April 23rd. Entrance is £10 and the festival runs until 5th May. This year will mark their 20th Anniversary, so I’m sure the displays will be stunning. Don’t miss the restaurant, so time your visit around lunchtime!
I hope you enjoy your garden this March.
For further information please contact Tim Sykes, at Gardenproud 07725 173820, or at info@reallygardenproud.com

A Contemporary Garden in Mayfield

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

A short while ago we were lucky enough to be handed the challenge that a lot of landscapers would relish. A blank canvas. Well nearly. A new contemporary housing development close to Tunbridge Wells that didn’t offer it’s customers a ready made garden solution. So music to our ears!

The garden had a very poor quality lawn that ran into a clay slope featuring a number of decaying trees. One redeeming feature was the stunning view that led across fields to woodland and hills beyond and this was something the customer wanted to enhance. In addition to this our client wanted to create a level lawned area their growing family could enjoy, plus an adult/entertaining area that would allow them to enjoy the sun and the view.

We created a series of design options for the client that achieved their goals and worked with the contemporary nature of the house. This was a joint design exercise between Gardenproud designers Tim Sykes and Paula Beresford.

Our first task was to gain permission to undertake some urgent tree works, which was duly approved. Then we set upon tweaking the landscape to provide the client with their level lawn area, and to enhance the garden shape which would allow us to progress the rest of our scheme.

The upper garden has as its focal point a beautiful oak tree, sitting in the centre of a new oval lawn. Bordering it’s sides are herbacious borders with two stunning zinc coated garden benches facing each other.

A circular tree bench surrounds the oak tree.

To take account of the drop in levels and to reflect the curves of the tree seat and oval lawn, a curved wall was created with two flights of steps leading to a lower, less formal garden area.

This lower garden flows into the woodland below and will feature planting that integrates with the more natural surroundings beyond. The lower garden is also the setting for a decking entertainment area and woodland pathways leading to a lower circular platform. These lower pathways and platform use a bark surface, again designed to merge with the woodland environment.

The decking surface floats on a subframe which appears almost at ground level, but is two steps below the upper pathway.

A new curved sleeper wall creates an interesting addition to the decking surface and supports a narrow side bed.

The decking surface leads to two stepped bark pathways that lead to a lower platform.

Pre-planting the whole scheme is really starting to come together and already represents a dramatic transformation to suit the contemporary surroundings….

The finished result is stunning and we hope will give the client many years enjoyment. We look forward to the next stage which will involve the planting scheme.

For further details of Gardenproud’s design capability and landscaping services please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820

One Bath Crescent to be proud of….

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013
We had the good fortune to visit our relatives in Bath this weekend and what a pleasant surprise to see their new garden terrace. They live in a large delightful stone house in a village setting  just outside the City. The house is surrounded by a walled garden which is mainly laid to lawn with herbacious borders, fruit trees and a large vegetable garden (which must be Phase 2 of the garden refurb they have just embarked on).
When we first saw the garden some years ago, the levels were strange. You used to walk out of the rear kitchen door to be confronted by a high wall and a flight of steps. The rear of the house was consequently rather gloomy and garden although nice was unwelcoming.
Well that’s all changed now. Thanks to the foresight of our relatives and a rather clever design the rear of the house has been transformed. Some 30 tons of soil were dug out to create the space for a smart new terraced area. This has been designed in a crescent shape with planting terraces and steps leading up the garden beyond. Suddenly light is reaching the rear of the house, you can see the garden, you are in the garden amongst the fauna, it’s wonderful.
Thanks to the rise in temperature this weekend we were able to sit out on the new terrace and take it all in.
We were supping our G&T’s before Sunday lunch on the nicely weathered teak table, among the beautiful late flowering plants in the lower beds. The planting scheme was designed by Darren Joseph of Daisy-Rose Gardeners in Bath, and what a nice job they have made of it. My favourites include the verbena bonariensis and euphorbia, they are just stunning.
Other features include the distressed urns that adorn the local stone clad walls, and a rather cute ceramic pelican that has a great provenance.
The terrace surface is paved in Welsh stone and I can appreciate why. It has a softer riven effect to indian sandstone and works really well with the local stone walls.
If you live in Bath then why not contact Darren at Daisy-Rose Gardeners www.daisyrosegardeners.co.uk
Alternatively for further information about this article, or Gardenproud please  contact Tim Sykes at 07725 173820

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.