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Posts Tagged ‘Tim Sykes’

Gardenproud Photo Highlights 2015

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

2015 was an excellent year for Gardenproud.

Lots of new projects for the landscaping division and some previous projects revisited and updated. Which is all good stuff as gardens evolve.

We went to Chelsea and gleaned inspiration from the latest designs, braved the weather and enjoyed the champagne. We’ve started designing and creating garden buildings as part of our landscaping offer. The Maintenance teams  worked extremely hard to cope with the new assignments, and new gardeners joined the team. We look forward to recruiting more team members in 2016.

It is with great sadness to report that Emmett Gilah, who was a regular member of the team, has unfortunately died. He was an industrious chap and good gardener and far too young to die. Our thoughts go out to his family. Thank you Emmett you will be sorely missed.

2015 was a big year for us, as we moved house. We haven’t moved for 16 years. So had forgotten just how stressy and time consuming the whole process is. Especially when you are also trying to run two businesses. So having beautified our last house and completely re-fashioned the garden, we now have a new garden. So watch this space!

Fortunately shortly after moving we had a holiday. Which was a real tonic. Sarah and I visited a number of gardens during our summer holiday. We went to Madeira, which was an eye opener. We went in August, but if you really want to see the flora, I suggest you go in April or May. But do go. It is a wonderful island and it benefits from a sub-tropical climate. Over the years it has had a strong British influence, so the planting is a bit a mixture between those we see in the UK and more tropical specimens. There is a very good book (which I bought) written by an Englishman, Gerald Luckhurst. He is a landscape architect and has designed and built many gardens on Madeira. Sounds like a rather good job!

Back home and back to work on our plans for the new house and various gardens.

So here we are already in 2016. A new house, a new garden, a greenhouse for the first time, some new possible avenues, new projects and new gardens. Oh yes, we’ve got a little more savvy on the media front – we are already on Facebook, we are now on Instagram! I think we have the grand total of 30 followers, so do look us up (my son claims to have 1400)!  I don’t believe him.

See us at www.instagram.com

Enough said, 2016 looks busy, I’d better stop writing and get on with it!

Highlights of Chelsea 2015

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

By Tim Sykes, Design Director at Gardenproud – 20/5/15

Team members from Gardenproud had a lovely day at The Chelsea Flower Show yesterday. Albeit typical English weather, we braved the showers and enjoyed the sunshine when it came.

The intro photo is a homage to one conclusion. That that among other colours, “orange” was very much part of the planting plan for many gardens.

Interestingly this colour is in with fashion designers this year. So maybe we should all read Vogue instead of the Garden Design Journal?

Weather apart, the show was really very good.

The first garden we saw was Jo Thompson’s M&G sponsored design – The Retreat. As you’d expect as the main sponsor for the show, no expense spared here. But, Jo really did herself proud on this and it looked amazing. I particularly liked her planting and the pontoons sitting in the water looked stunning.

Jo got a Silver-Gilt for this, but in my mind she should have received a Gold.

The next garden that grabbed our attention was Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam’sLiving Legacy. This garden commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

And how poignantly they achieve this.

With their scaffold poles carefully grinded into jagged spears the scene is set for a dramatic vista.

The guys received a Silver Gilt and what can I say, a very original idea well deserving of the award.

The next garden that certainly caught my wife’s eye was HRH Prince Harry’s Lesotho inspired project, designed by Matt Keightley (Matt is of 2014 fame with his “Hope on the Horizon” garden – brilliant). Hope is still in the name – “Hope in Vulnerability”

Well another Silver-Gilt was awarded, but like Jo’s I thought this garden really deserved a Gold.

Note the orange flowers!

I’m not sure if I’m old and fuddy duddy, but I didn’t like what I call the Bus Stop garden. The planting was very nice, but the architecture and hard landscaping seemed at odds, almost disconnected. Obviously my opinion is not relevant! This is the Cloudy Bay Garden, designed by Harry and David Rich. And it got a Gold!

Very clever, but not my cup of tea.

A clear favourite for one of our team members was the Homebase garden – Urban Retreat - in Association with Macmillan Cancer Research. Designed by Adam Frost.  I have to say this was a really refreshing entry from Homebase and it definitely deserved a Gold.

Two pics on this one. Well done Adam.

In the same vain, there was another garden, a little smaller, but none the less, no less brilliant. This was in the Fresh Gardens category, designed by Ruth Willmott – The Breakthrough Breast Cancer Garden. I really liked this garden.

A high contrast looking space both in terms of the way the hard and soft landscaping co-exist. Ruth has done a great job. Helped by a superb sculpture  by Rick Kirby.

Among the smaller gardens, I was struck by the exotic beauty of the Kranji, by Esmond Landscape. This was designed by John Tan and Raymond Tah. What a wonderful inspiration for those really difficult spaces where you have a huge drop just behind the house, that needs landscaping. A waterfull. why didn’t I think of it! The contractors landform did a super job of creating the vision, and here it is….

Ah! Look another glimpse of orange.

Well a Silver-Gilt, and well deserved.

Now, I have this really annoying habit of talking to anybody, and my wife despairs. She usually walks on at flower shows and I then have to try and find where the dickens she’s gone, which is all very stressful! But there I was, transfixed by the Viking Ocean Cruises show stand and being very rude about the whole idea of cruises and this chap said, “I know what you mean!” 50 something and not wanting to admit it. I spoke to guy, who I thought was just another punter, but he could just as easily have been a carefully planted Viking salesman. Anyway he was my age and I rudely commented on the people of a certain age who frequented cruises, then he corrected me and said he thought the same. But, ” couldn’t understand why his parents always went on cruises”. Then he went on one and is hooked. So maybe we will try one! Anyway the Viking garden was very impressive.

There were lots of other gardens and some really very smart commercial stands. One particular stand I was impressed by was the A Place in the Garden Stand. These guys had some wonderful outdoor lanterns and interesting zinc oversize balls. The  mixing of which with some traditional buxus balls could look stunning..

I had a long chat and was surprisingly impressed by the reasonable pricing strategy. So look them up at www.distinctivegarden.co.uk

Ok, so this is it…..

You cannot possibly ignore the shear passion and energy that went into the Chatsworth Garden. It is an unbelievable feat of design and logistics.

Dan Pearson, the designer is a god.

He has taken a great chunk of the garden and transposed it piece by piece, low loader, by low loader and recreated it at Chelsea.

I take my hat off to his courage, persuasive manner and ability to see through such a vision.

He thoroughly deserves BEST IN SHOW!

For further information or help with designing your garden for 2015 contact Tim Sykes at Gardenproud on 07725 173820, 0r at info@reallygardenproud.com

How to create your very own Cuttings Garden

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

Tim Sykes of Tunbridge Wells based Gardenproud,
shares with us some inspiration for our summer gardens……..

Imagine a year round supply of your favourite blooms to display in your hallway, without the cost of buying a bouquet every week?

That priceless fresh aroma and splendid display that welcomes you every time you enter your house.

Well you could be creating your own supply of fresh blooms.


Why not dedicate an area of your garden to an experiment this year?

I was inspired to research into Cuttings Gardens last Summer, having visited Les Jardins du Manoir d’Erignac in the Dordogne.

In the kitchen area of the garden a large bed had been dedicated to a rotational plan of flowering. It was chockablock full of blooms of varying varieties, creating a kaleidoscope of colours and choice for the avid flower arranger. The area Erignac had set aside was quite large, probably c 12 x 6m.


But you don’t need such a large space. Just 3 x 4m would be more than sufficient.

A conversation with one of my gardening colleagues revealed an approach. Jenny who has worked with us for over 2 years has recently created her own Cuttings Garden.



She has been in the horticultural business for over 10 years. She specialises at the moment in traditional, seasonal outdoor crops such as Sweet Peas, Cornflowers, and Ammi. For the past 2 years she has grown almost everything from seed, producing crops from June through to October.

Jenny comments: ” It’s great that there is such a ‘buzz” around British grown blooms at the moment, so come on, leap on the bandwagon and start your very own flower patch!”

So what could you be planting in your Cuttings Garden?


Well here are some ideas…..


Jenny’s plan is based on an area of c 4.5m x 3.5m. It features 4 raised beds (2m x 1.5m each), with shingle pathways between them. If you like vegetables and herbs then by adding two further beds of similar sizes you could have a complete Kitchen Garden.


Her planting list includes:

In Bed 1 – Mostly Shrubs and Perennials, including Sarcocca confuse, Convallaria majalis,Papaver orientalis and Gladiolus nanus


Bed 2 - Mostly Hardy Annuals, including Ammi majus, Calendula officinalis, Consolida ajacis and Briza maxima


Bed 3 - Mostly Biennials, including Digitalis, Eryngium giganteum and Dianthus barbatus


Bed 4 - Mostly Half hardy annuals, including Didiscus, Nicotiana, Sunflower/Rudbeckia and Sweat Peas


It is best to cordon off an area of the garden that is in full sunlight. You may need to incorporate a leaky pipe system, or be prepared to embark on a regular watering regime.

Most flowers are best picked when they are just starting to show colour. This except some plants, such as roses and dahlias, which may not fully develop if picked too early.

For best results, collect cut flowers in the morning when their stems are full of water.

Avoid picking flowers during warm and sunny conditions as they will be water stressed.

Place the stems into a bucket of water as soon as possible after cutting.

Good luck and enjoy the summer sunshine in your garden.

For further help, or information about designing, or creating your own cuttings, herb or vegetable garden contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820, or see Gardenproud at www.reallygardenproud.com

Great Comp is GREAT!

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

By Tim Sykes

Great Comp Garden is situated close to Crouch and St Mary’s Platt in Kent. Not far from Sevenoaks.

It’s well worth a visit. You can see more at their website www.greatcompgarden.co.uk

The gardens are open from the beginning of April through to 31st October each year. They are run by a charitable trust, adult entrance is £6.

Great Comp Gardens surround a beautiful 17th Century Manor House. There are various events during the year, so it’s worth checking on the website before your visit. This year hosted a specialist plant fair in the Spring, Open Air Theatre plus, The Great Comp Summer Show, and most recently the Autumn Extravaganza.

I’ve been driving past Great Comp enroute to one of our clients in Crouch for some time now and have been meaning to visit. So last week I used a spare couple of hours to whisk myself around the gardens, then enjoy a nice cup of tea and cake on their splendid Tea Terrace, adjoining The Old Dairy Tearooms.

The gardens are beautifully laid out and cover some 7 acres. With some very dramatic and colourful herbaceous borders, punctuated by stunning ornamental grasses, plus Azaleas, Magnolias, Acers and Rhododenrons. The garden also features many statues and folly’s, plus a more recently added Italian Garden.

While I was there there were an amazing array of Dahlias all out in full bloom, plus the grasses were wonderful, especially as they swayed in the rather pleasant breeze.

A visit during the summer will reveal their large salvia collection. You can find out more about this at www.dysonsalvias.com

Dysons Nurseries run by the Head Gardener and Curator, William Dyson, are situated at Great Comp and sell a select range of unusual hardy and half-hardy plants.

Whilst there I was rather attracted by some smart Peonie frames and climber posts. I’m afraid I succumbed and bought two of each!

Talking to the staff in the Tea Room, Great Comp is always keen to encourage voluntary help in the gardens. To offer assistance you can contact them on 01732 885094.

We will definitely be returning to Great Comp in the spring next year to enjoy their colourful borders.

For further information about Great Comp, Garden Design and Landscaping, or any Garden Maintenance questions please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820, or via email at info@reallygardenproud.com


It’s November and what’s happening in the garden?

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

By Tim Sykes

Looking good in our garden at the moment are the Sedum Autumn Joy, and if you have them so will Sedum Iceberg.

Verbena Bonarensis can also still be looking the business.

I love the look of Hydrangeas as the flower heads turn from their full bloom colour to the slightly shabby chick hues. We tend to cut the flower heads off now and use them in doors as flower arrangements.

Our variegated Holly standard looks stunning with its fresh red berries. Even the Dahlias are often still in bloom. The odd rose lingers on through October and November. If you have rose climbers now is the time to prune them. A good guide on rose pruning can be found on the BBC Gardening website.

The trees had a particularly heavy leaf cover this year, so you can expect to have a lot of leaves to clear up this November. We tend to clear the leaves as we go rather than wait for one fall. A good strong blower, a soft plastic rake and bulk bags are probably the best tools to use. You can also purchase rather nifty hand grabbers – Yeoman make a pair around £10 from Greenfingers.com.  Regular clearance of the leaves helps minimise any damage to lawns. However in some instances where the gardens are so vast we have taken to mulching the leaves using our big rotary mowers and spreading the shredded leaves across the lawns. There is a school of thought that this helps put nutrients back into the lawn surface.

Talking of which it’s time to make that final cut of the lawn, then clean your mower for winter storage and servicing.

Typically the best time to be planting out larger shrubs, trees and hedging before the Winter sets in. For inspiration you might take a trip to nearby Sheffield Park, Uckfield, or English Woodlands nursery in Heathfield where you can also buy the plants.

The Autumn is also a good time to be trimming and shaping your hedges, so remember to get the hedge trimmer out, or ask your gardener to check them.

Plant containers and hanging baskets with winter flowering bedding plants including pansies and my favourite cyclamen. The cyclamen looks good in pots, but also can be planted out and will flower right through the Winter. Favourite places are under trees and in rockeries.

Don’t forget to get those Spring bulbs out there.

We’ve bought a whole variety of tulip bulbs to be planted in our front garden beds, and November is the best time to plant tulips.

Our choice for next Spring includes:

Blue Spectacle, which give a beautiful bluey lilac multi-petalled flower head

Little Beauty, a rather delicate small crimson flower

Tres Chic, with it’s distinctive white tuber shaped petals

Queen of Night, that famous black tulip which looks stunning planted in concentrated patterns, often seen mixed with fennel

There are good ranges in most of the local nurseries. We bought ours at Notcutts in Tunbridge Wells.

For any advice or further information about gardening and gardening design contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820 or, at info@reallygardenproud.com

Remember to wrap up warm, and enjoy November in the garden.


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

Les Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac

Friday, August 1st, 2014

By Tim Sykes - 23/7/14

After a lot of research and compromise. Having visited Villandry at the start of our vacation, I was limited to one other garden visit! To my fortune we struck upon The Gardens at Eyrignac, just NE of Sarlat.

On the face of it not that far from where we were staying at a lovely house in Bergerac. So yesterday Sarah(my wife) and I set off for the day, leaving our boys to look after the ranch and enjoy the poolside inactivity.

Our journey to Eyrignac took us along the banks of the Dordogne, through the pretty village of Lalinde, past Tremolat, the hilltop village of St Cyprien, and onto the wonders of the cliff face settlement of Beynac, before heading north toward Sarlat.

Sarlat is a beautiful town which is very much at the centre of the holiday trade in the Dordogne, there’s money here! You can see it in the shops, the profusion of smart restaurants, the freshly painted facades, and the car parking spaces – full of Audi’s, BMW’s and the odd Maserati ( anybody willing to donate to me a matt black Gran Turisimo S and I’ll be your friend for life )!

From Sarlat we took the D704, then the D60 towards Salignac- Eyvigues. The turning to Eyrignac is on your right just before you get to Salignac.

Eyrignac is one of France’s most beautiful private gardens, and contains some fine topairy. It is owned by the Sermadris family, who have nurtured the house and gardens over some 22 generations.

A team of six gardeners maintain close to 10 acres of gardens. Key to the gardens success and unification is the strict rule that limits the number of main species in the gardens, to 10 varieties. The topiary features hornbeam, yew, Mediterranean cypress, apple trees, box, and mulberry trees.

One of the most amazing vistas is the avenue of shaped hornbeam and cylindrical yew topiary that directs you down a corridor towards the house.

The hornbeams provide a nice contrast to the dark and dense structure of the yew columns, a lighter green during the summer, and brown leaf during the winter. They look like beech, but the leaves are smaller, and so give a denser hedge.

Behind the hornbeam alley are two other interesting features. The first is the swimming pool. You’d feel like a greek goddess stepping into this deep blue pool.

With it’s Perigord style building alongside.

The second is the wide avenue that runs behind the pool and pavilion. It features some topiary of a grand scale, juxtaposed with large conifers (potentially a hangover from the garden’s previous English Parkland era) .

At one end of this avenue is a hornbeam rotunda. This has carefully cut windows framing beautiful vistas of the surrounding countryside.

At the opposite end of the avenue is the last surviving reminder of the English romantic period which influenced the gardens in the 19th century. The Neogothic English Arches.

With the dappled sandy surfaces of the courtyard entrance beyond..

These gardens are just idyllic! The Sermadris family have had a vision and they have just stuck with it.

Our travels took us to the Cuttings Garden, the Potager Garden, The Topiary Farmyard, The Meadow and finally the White Garden.

The Potager Garden was contained within a fenced and neatly pathed area…

The Topiary Farmyard is where the latest shapes are formed to replenish the gardens stock.

In contrast to the formality of the gardens the Meadow Area is a breath of fresh air!

Finally the White Garden

This recent feature combines geometric shapes of fine topiary, with water features and white perennial planting.

So what more can one say? This is a superb garden and one we shall re-visit.

The Shop? I managed to find the summer hat I’d been looking for ages, plus a very nice book about Eyrignac.

The only let down was the restaurant, after a long drive we were looking for a nice watering hole, alas only a posh ice cream to greet us. This could be something Eyrignac might address.

Otherwise it was a fantastic experience.

For further information contact Manoir d’Eyrignac direct at  www.eyrignac.com or  Tim Sykes of Gardenproud at 07725 173820, or at info@reallygardenproud.com

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 www.chateauvillandry.com

For further information please contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820, or at info@reallygardenproud.com

Eridge Horse Trials 2014

Monday, July 7th, 2014

A couple of weeks ago we trialled a little experiment.

Can we make a show garden in 2 days?

The Eridge Horse trials was beckoning. This has in the past been an international event attracting intermediate riders across a 3 part course including dressage, show jumping and cross country.

For further information about events see  South Eastern Equestrian Services at www.seesltd.com

The Event is set in the delightful grounds of the Eridge Estate, owned by the Marquess of Abergavenny.

The horse riding fraternity are of key interest to us, as are the residents of Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding countryside, so what better way than create a lovely garden for all the visitors to the show to enjoy!

A very generous Tim Nolan, who incidentally organises the Trials with his mum, helped give us a big enough space and prominent enough position, to put us in front of our audience.

Thanks Tim!

So the test was on. A design was needed. Equipment, materials and plants were required. A design in hand and a couple of conversations later, and Tate Fencing and The Flower Pot Nursery, both based in Tunbridge Wells were on-board.

A BIG thank you to both of you!

The concept looked like this….

Essentially the show garden/stand revolved around a centre-piece – a nice (quintessentially English) open marquee, bordered by matching trellis panels and cottage garden borders. As a real crowd puller two giant terracotta pots contained two beautiful Ilex Crenata’s.

The Planting Plan included:

- A palette of Purples, Blues, Whites, Pinks and Lilacs

- Plants including……

Agapanthus

Verbena Bonariensis

Euonymous

Hydrangea Macrophylla

Echinacea Southern Belle

Lava Terra Barnsley

Lavender Augustifolia Edelweiss

Delphinium Highlander

Veronica First Glory

Veronica Fascination

Veronica Spicata

Achilliea Millefolium

Ceanothus Burkwoodii

Persicaria Superbum

Buxus

Thalictrum Delavayi Splendide

Geranium Orion

Cosmos

Stachys Lanata Byzantia

Campanula Lectiflora

Cistus Dansereaui

Salvia Amistad

Salvia Caradonna

Salvia Patens

Nepeta x Faassenii

Stokesia Laevis

With the plans under our arms we started to gather all the materials then set upon setting up the stand on the Thursday before the Show. We had 2 days to turn this into a reality……

We hope you like the finished result.

The whole experience was inexpensive, thoroughly enjoyable and created a surprisingly healthy list of enquiries, including cementing some good relationships with trusted suppliers.

So we’ll do it again!

For further information about our design, build and garden maintenance services contact Tim Sykes on 07725 173820, or at Gardenproud.

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