How To Cope With Rooty, Shady Areas Under Trees & Large Conifers

Let’s face it, there is shade, and there is gloom.  It’s all very well people suggesting long lists of shade tolerant plants (ahem, see below), but some areas under trees and conifers are so gloomy that even the most shade tolerant of plant will struggle to grow.

Even for those that are less gloomy, the normally very dry soil, coupled with the fact that the soil is so full of tree roots that it is difficult to hack a hole big enough to plant anything in… no wonder many people simply give up on these areas.

In this post, we’ve given you a list of shade tolerant plants, but you’ll also find some other ideas for those areas where plants just won’t grow.

Make it work for plants

  • CyclamenConsider having someone crown lift / raise the canopy of the offending tree(s), to allow more light in
  • Unless you are faced with total gloom, there are some plants which will grow in most conditions.  Think about:
    • Yew
    • Box
    • Holly
    • Aucuba
    • ScillaRubus
    • some ferns (e.g. Polystichum)
    • Lamium
    • some Hellebores
    • Bergenia (which will  manage around the trunks of trees)
    • hardy Cyclamen
    • bulbs like snowdrops
    • Scilla
    • BergeniaWood Anemones

- to name but a few.  The soil will need to be very well prepared, with plenty of compost added.

  • Where the shade is caused by deciduous trees, then you should have a period from late autumn through to mid spring where more light percolates down to the soil. So think about planting winter and spring flowering plants and bulbs.  Remember that most woodland plants flower in the spring before the tree canopy greens over.
  • Because the soil will be very dry, watering will be important.  Some simple irrigation may open up a whole new list of plant options – Hydrangeas, for example, thrive in the shade, but do need plenty of water.  Mulching may also be worthwhile.
  • If the soil is mega rooty, might it be feasible to construct some simple raised beds?  A timber raised bed is relatively easy to construct and will lift the borders out of the roots.  Or for an even easier option, why not consider using containers?

Create a feature

Under tree seatingThere may, of course, still be areas where nothing will successfully grow – or at least nothing you want to grow.

Perhaps here a more practical approach would be to think about how to make the area as attractive as possible.

  • Why not create a cool place to sit on a hot summer’s day – a simple bench, orcircular seating around a tree trunk can look very effective.
  • If you’re feeling more ambitious, could the problem be turned into an interesting feature area – maybe a little shady secret garden with a feature in the centre, viewed through an “arch” or “window” cut in the surrounding greenery.  A small spotlight lighting up the central feature would add the finishing touch!
  • If fences are involved, an ornamental trellis will help add interest.
  • Or can you arrange for a bark path to run through the most difficult section of the garden to cultivate?

There really are lots of possibilities – it just needs a little thought & imagination applied!

storage areaStorage

Alternatively, of course, these tricky areas can be used to store things out of sight.  Do note though, that a dark, shady area is not the best place to “lose” the compost heap – it needs more light!

The storage area shown in this photo is one we created for a recent ALDA client, hiding away some unsightly wheelie bins and creating some outdoor storage at the same time.


Image Credits: brewbooks, Bill Murray, Jack Pearce, Candiru


The ALDA Garden Calendar

If you read our blog regularly, you’ll know that last year, we regularly posted our ‘jobs for the garden’ – topical information on what to do in the garden and when.

We’ve pulled this together for easy access – you can also access a printable PDF version of our calendar by signing up to our newsletter.

Jobs for the garden in January & February

January & February

Jobs for the garden in March & April

March & April

Jobs for the garden in May & June

May & June

Jobs for the garden in July & August

July & August

Jobs for the garden in September & October

September & October

Jobs for the garden in November & December

November & December


Image credits: photojenni, ALDA Landscapes, T.Kiya, victoriapeckham, Muffet, Kaz Andrew.

cats eyes

How do I deter cats from my garden?

One of the questions I am most frequently asked by clients and prospective clients is this:

“Do you know any way of discouraging cats from doing their business in borders, digging holes in newly planted beds and veggie gardens, and peeing on prized shrubs?”


cat2The depressing answer is that there is no fail safe way of deterring our feline friends (or perhaps rather foes).  The garden centre shelves have plenty of chemical products designed to do the job, but our experience is that they only have very limited success.  The same applies to scented deterrents like citronella or cayenne pepper.

We have one or two clients who use sonic devices, but these can sometimes also deter the wildlife you want to attract to your garden.  Some people recommend using some form of automated system which sends out a jet of water at the offending animal, but these are not always practical (or indeed agreeable to your otherwise cordial neighbours!!).

Then what oh what to do?

cat3So there is no easy solution.  We do however have a list of tips which may be of some help:

  • Keep as much of the ground covered as possible, with little bare earth.  Where low ground cover is used, try to intersperse it with rougher textured plants.
  • Avoid fine pea shingle, and large expanses of bark mulch.
  • Also avoid plants which cats are known to love – Nepeta for example.
  • Coleus caninaThink about mulching areas where cats are particularly unwelcome (e.g. under / by bird feeders) with twigs, which rustle and move when walked on.  You might even consider a few spikey or thorny twigs (which cats will hate walking on), but do so with care – these may make garden weeding and plant tendering somewhat hazardous.  A few strategically located jagged rocks might work better, or some very large gauge coarse gravel.
  • In areas such as vegetable gardens, fencing off the area completely may be the best bet – perhaps with fencing that is set so that it leans outwards (thereby making it difficult to climb over).
  • Some methods for discouraging cats really do seem to work (sometimes at least):
    • Lion dung (most frequently purchased in pellet form (e.g. Silent Roar, which is widely available), unless of course, you happen to know a local friendly zoo keeper!).  We have several clients who have had success with this product.  But it doesn’t last very long, so has to be reapplied every few months, making it a pricey long term option.
    • Things which reflect light.  Perhaps the most common example cited is that of plastic bottles half filled with water; CDs tied on a piece of string or wire is another option.
    • There is a relatively new plant called Coleus canina (aka Scaredy Cat, shown above right), which is meant to have an odour which cats find disgusting.  It is becoming widely available as plugs, and is on my list of things to try this year.

Hope this helps – a bit at least.  Leave a comment below if you’ve discovered other ways to combat this problem!


Image credits: Benjamin Watson, Sandy Schultz, Adam Woodrow, aussiegall.

Easier Maintenance Gardens

First off, let me say what this blog post is not.  It’s not about low maintenance gardens, although many of the tips below are indeed applicable to those looking for a low maintenance garden.

Rather, it’s intended for those who love gardening and its therapeutic benefits, but either have a disability, are physically less able or just short of time.

And because, let’s face it, some gardening jobs are tough on the joints of even the fittest of individuals, this is also for anyone who simply wants to make gardening that little bit easier!  If you have any tips based on your own experience, please do add them as a comment at the bottom.

1: Tools  |  2: Planning  |  3: Easier Access  |  4: Effort Saving

1: Tools

Easi-Grip® Fork

There are many devices on the market that can help to make gardening easier.  Have a look at:

  • Peta (UK) Ltd: http://www.peta-uk.com/acatalog/Assistive_Garden_Tools.html – Easi-Grip® range of tools (see photo), with a specially angled handle making them comfortable to use.  The range includes long-reach tools, an arm support cuff and also a device which you can use with existing tools for an ergonomic grip.
  • Fredshed: http://www.fredshed.co.uk. Garden tools and equipment tested by Fred Walden, garden writer and equipment consultant to the NHS.  Tools for people of any ability, but many are useful to those with limited mobility or strength.

2: Planning

  • Shinfield garden after1

    An obvious one, but often missed…  choose the right plants!

    • Grow the plants you really like / want
    • Think about slower growing shrubs, or those needing less pruning, or spraying, or staking, or tying in, or……
    • Fill your garden with lots of low / easy maintenance plants, so that you have time to spend maintaining the few prized prima donnas who gobble lots of your time – these might, of course, include a few veggies

Creating a cohesive planting plan for an easy maintenance garden can be quite a task.  Contact us if you’re feeling swamped & would like some professional advice.

  • Consider having fewer beds and borders, and more lawn.  Or having less lawn (= less mowing) and more hard surfaces (such as gravel and/or paving).  Think about your priorities.  Are there plants you specifically want to grow?  Could you have a few beds and borders devoted just to these, with perhaps the rest of the garden being laid to lawn, gravel and paving?
  • This doesn’t mean that the garden has to be boring!  The lawn and borders can be attractively shaped and interlinked.  But try to avoid little fiddly bits of lawn which are tricky to mow, and make sure any curves are big wide sweeps. Avoid cluttering the lawn with lots of little bits of border – as these too can make lawn mowing awkward.  Another one to consider – is it worth opting for artificial turf rather than lawn?  You can read about some of the pros and cons of artificial lawn here.
  • Choose path and patio surfaces carefully.  Some materials take more looking after than others.  For example, dark paving such as slate and granite can look dusty all the time and need sweeping frequently if a pristine look is required.  Consider sealing your paving – see our blogs posts on choosing a new patio and patio maintenance.

3: Easier Access

  • gardening

    Think about installing some raised beds or big timber planters so that you don’t have to bend as far – just be careful not to make them too wide.  Taking this one step further, Instaplanta’s concept of planters with inner containers that can be removed and planted up inside/elsewhere is an interesting one.

  • Install paths within borders for easier access when weeding and pruning.  Even just a few stepping stones can help.
  • Is part of your garden lawn only accessible via steps?  Consider replacing these with a ramp to make lawn mower and wheelbarrow access much simpler.
  • If your garden slopes down into the boundary fence / wall, think about installing a retainer inside the boundary fence and then levelling the ground.  This can be as straightforward as a simple piece of timber.  Weeding is hard enough on level ground… if the ground slopes away from you, it can be back breaking!

4: Effort Saving

  • Sparrow on feederThink about mulching borders to reduce weeding time – the mulch will help stop the weeds growing; worms will help work the mulch into the soil.
  • Many of us (me included!) love feeding the birds, but the ground beneath bird feeders can get very messy, and also very weedy – birds don’t always eat all the seed they are given (mine don’t like the carrot seed in some mixes, and I end up with carrots growing all over the garden!).  Think about placing some low cost paving or cobbles below your bird feeders.
  • If your garden is on the large side, consider dotting items such as water butts and compost bays in various locations around the garden so that you don’t have to travel great distances when weeding, mowing and watering.
  • Similarly, think about locating structures such as sheds, greenhouses and cold frames close together.
  • Having an irrigation system installed will save watering time – and prevent you having to lug heavy watering cans/pull cumbersome hoses about.  Ask us for more details.


Photo credits: http://www.peta-uk.com (Easi-Grip® Fork), usdagov (hands on gardening), gareth1953 (sparrow on feeder)

How To Cope With Heavy Clay Soil

Anyone who has a garden with heavy clay soil will know about the difficulties of gardening on it.  The soil is cold, muddy, poorly drained and impossibly heavy in a wet winter (which, let’s face it, is most winters in this country), and then bakes rock hard in a hot dry summer.

All of which means that the garden is difficult if not impossible to cultivate for much of the year.  If you do try to dig the soil (or even walk on the lawn) when it is heavy and wet, then the tiny clay particles can become even more compacted and make the drainage situation even worse.  A problem highlighted by the recent wet weather of course.

Step 1: Soil

Step 1: Soil

Step 2: Access

Step 2: Access

Step 3: Mulch

Step 3: Mulch

Step 4: Planting

Step 4: Planting

Step 5: Drainage

Step 5: Drainage

Step 1: Improving soil structure

SoilMuch of the advice on dealing with heavy clay focuses on ways of improving soil structure:

  • Digging it over in a dry autumn spell, then leaving the frosts to break down the solid clods (if of course the weather plays ball)
  • Improving the structure and drainage by adding grit and sharp sand – the problem being that this simply makes an already heavy soil even heavier
  • Improving the structure and drainage by incorporating bulky organic matter, such as manure (with or without straw), composted bark, leaf mould, garden compost, mushroom compost) etc.  In our opinion, this is the best way of improving a clay soil (it enables the fine particles to be bound into larger “crumbs”), but it does involve a lot of hard work!

Step 2: Easier Access

AccessWalking over clay soil can compact the tiny clay particles and make the drainage situation even worse:

  • To avoid walking over the soil when it is sodden, add a few more paths within borders to provide easy access to plants

Step 3: Mulching

Raised bedsSpreading a mulch of organic matter over the soil can help enormously:

  • It doesn’t even have to be dug in  – worms will do the job for you over time
  • The mulch can also give a nice neat look to the borders.  The process will, sadly, need to be repeated next year.
  • Alternatively, think about building some raised beds.  They don’t have to be very high, and they can be filled with a good soil / compost mix.

Step 4: Planting

RosesTake care what and how you plant!  Sounds obvious, but it is often forgotten:

  • Prepare planting holes thoroughly.  Dig out more than enough soil, and infill around the plant with a better draining soil / compost mix.
  • Choose the right plants. Clay soils may have their problems, but they are normally rich in nutrients if they can be persuaded to give them up.  There are many plants which will thrive in them e.g. shrubs such as Viburnums and Spiraeas, many trees, and bulbs such as Snowdrops.
  • And if all else fails, learn to love roses!  With their deep roots and demand for nutrients, roses normally thrive in clay soils during the winter cold and wet, and cope happily in summer drought.  As a garden designer who saw roses fall out of favour a few decades ago, I am delighted to see them make a well-deserved come back.  The modern disease resistant varieties, used like any other flowering shrub, are truly worthy of their place in the garden – for their long flowering season, and ability to cope with difficult clay soils.

Step 5: Drainage

DrainageIf the drainage problem is severe, consider installing land drains or similar.

(You may be interested to read about two of our recent projects where it was necessary to incorporate well-designed drainage solutions).



Do contact us if you would like more advice on how to cope with your particular soil type, or if you need advice on designing/installing a drainage solution.


Drainage solution required!

2 Case Studies: Dealing With Severe Garden Drainage Issues

Increasingly as landscapers, we are asked to devise solutions to customers garden drainage problems.

Whilst we have many years’ experience in installing land drains and other drainage systems for our clients, in recent years we have had to become somewhat more creative in our drainage problem solving.  The design of modern housing developments, accompanied by the high level of rainfall in recent years and in some instances a lack of maintenance of public drainage systems all contribute to a seemingly increasing problem.

Two recent case studies – one completed, one in progress:

Lower Earley (Completed)

House Type: Modern link detached semi

Garden Situation: Small back garden at a considerably lower level than the houses beyond (perhaps 2-3m lower).  Also a tiny bit lower than the gardens either side.  Existing garden on two levels: a shallow lower level near the house, and a higher level further up the garden.

Soil Type: Very heavy clay soil.  Soil also compacted and still contained builder’s rubble.

The Requirement:

The client had requested (amongst other things) a larger patio near the house, allowing four people to sit comfortably around a table – not an unreasonable request!  Our initial design included a new retaining wall and steps (further away from the house), plus the new patio.  As we knew the garden would be acting as a kind of sump for the higher gardens at the back of the property, extensive gulley drains were installed, and connected to a huge new soakaway.  However, in the recent heavy rains, it quickly became apparent that this, or any other kind of soakaway-based solution, would not be adequate.


Unfortunately all the rain water pipes and storm drainage were in the front of the property.  As a temporary solution, we installed a small automated pump to pipe the water through the garage to the storm drains in the front of the property – the pump only operating when the level of water in the pump chamber rose above a certain level.  This was followed by the installation of a permanent, gravity fed system, entailing the installation of permanent pipework under the garage floor.  The temporary pump is shortly to be removed.

Crowthorne (In Progress)

House Type: Detached modernised house

Garden Situation: This house is situated at the bottom of a dip in the surrounding area.  There is also a small stream adjoining (part of the Emm Brook system).

Soil Type: Various – a mixture of clay and loam

The Requirement:

The garden has always tended to get quite wet after heavy rainfall, as it receives the run-off from the surrounding land.

The client had already installed pumps and pipes to drain the garden into the adjoining stream.  The original plan was for us to simply redesign the border shapes and planting, with some relatively minor changes to the structure of the garden and the hard landscaping.

However, the excessive rainfall just before and after Christmas caused a dramatic change of plan as the entire garden and garage floor was totally submerged under 150-200mm of water.  Our client had to make frantic efforts to prevent water entering the house.  Fortunately the stream itself did not breach its banks (although it was mighty close) – the flooding was due to the sheer volume of surface water run-off, over a relatively short period of time.

The Solution:

The client is now in discussion with the various public authorities to shore up the banks of the stream.  Meanwhile, we are working with the client to devise a long term drainage solution for the garden, embedded within an attractive overall garden design.

Our solution will incorporate new low retaining walls, drainage pipes, and the gentle re-grading of  some parts of the garden.  Crucially, the design will include a wide, sweeping  gravel path to a new raised sun terrace, acting as a vital catchment area and drainage system route through the garden.  Clever positioning of this gravel path will allow us to hide a large pumping station/chamber and some heavy duty wide draingage paths underneath.

The lawn and borders will be shaped on either side of the path to ensure that the garden appears a harmonious whole.   Another option would be to design the gravel path as a kind dry stream (although in reality it will often be far from dry below the surface!).

In Summary

Neither of these two gardens are on a flood plain.  Both are good examples of how terrain, soil, weather conditions and other factors can combine to cause huge practical garden drainage problems.

In recent months ALDA Landscapes have also installed drainage solutions in gardens in Maidenhead, Wokingham, Hartley Wintney, Twyford, and elsewhere.  If you are currently struggling with drainage issues and would like a professional review of your situation, please contact us today on 0118 934 2958.


Image credit: estoril (cropped)

Have a look at what we’ve been working on recently…

I’ve been waiting patiently all year for the flow of work to slow down… and still I have garden plans coming out of my ears!!  But as we’re reaching the end of 2013, I thought it might be nice to share with you a few of the projects we’ve been working on recently.  Most of the photos below are ‘work in progress’, but give you a snapshot of what the ALDA team have been up to in recent days.  Do let us know what you think!

A garden in Bray

This was an interesting garden to design, as the front door to the house is halfway into the garden.  The photos show the garden just starting to come together, with the long slate pathway flanked by lit, variegated Box Balls (visible in the last photo, taken slightly later on).  We had rather an amusing episode when we managed to block the road with the slate delivery lorry… I say amusing; it was far from such for the few diners who were wanting to leave after their lunch at the Inn further down the road (John’s face was somewhat panic-stricken as he tried to resolve the situation!!)

The pathway leads to an entrance courtyard centred on the front door and with a glorious view of Bray church beyond – the courtyard is just now waiting the addition of a central feature.  We will hope to update with some more photos in the Spring once the planting, now in situ, has become established.

Another requirement of this garden was to provide a robust, stylish solution for garden and bike storage.  We built a custom shed and bike store, tucked into a corner behind a large Copper Beech tree and some custom built shutter screening.  We also used similar screening, painted black, to disguise some ugly pipework on the side of the house.

ALDA brickies at work…

Garden landscaping often involves a fair amount of brickwork… this time, we got a bit more than we bargained for!!  We are currently building this garage in Twyford for a long standing client who had sold part of his garden to a building company.  Said building company had agreed to build a new garage (complete with pump room for a swimming pool), but were dragging their heals and delaying the finish of the planned new garden.  Our client therefore asked us to step in and help – these pictures show the work in progress, with the landscaping of the drive and back garden to follow straight after.

An existing ALDA garden starts to mature…

We already have a few pictures of this garden in our gallery; these photos show the plants becoming established and the garden maturing beautifully.  Our client is a very keen gardener and we also spend a day a month working on the garden – happy days!

A front garden in Woodley

This may look like a lot of block paving, but we replaced even more solid concrete!  Drainage was the biggest challenge here – getting the slopes and levels right to ensure the area drains effectively.  Our client specified Victorian repro porch tiles, which we laid and sealed.



Designing Front Gardens & Driveways

Drive 2The design of driveways and front gardens poses a somewhat different set of challenges to those faced when creating a back garden design.

Generally speaking, the main function of the front garden is simply to look good from all angles – from the house, the drive, the pavement, across the road.  On occasions, we design front gardens with sitting areas, but for the majority of people, it’s not somewhere where they want to sit and relax!

As occupants and visitors come and go, the front gardens main job in life is to provide a pleasing welcome, and perhaps to give the house a certain wow factor.  Because a front garden is usually so visible to the outside world, it’s normally important to ensure that it’s designed to function effectively with a relatively low level of maintenance!

Most modern front gardens are rather tiny – or small at best.  Providing sufficient parking space whilst also maintaining some aesthetically pleasing green space can be something of a challenge.  But with a bit of forethought and a touch of inspiration, in most cases it’s not an insurmountable one.  Here are some practical pointers to consider:


  • Drive1How many car parking spaces do you require?  Don’t forget that you need space for manoeuvring cars and also enough room for getting in and out of the car, along with your shopping / young children / buggies / other random paraphernalia (delete as appropriate!!)
  • It’s worth looking forward at this point too – if you have teenagers growing up, you’re likely to need an extra car parking space in a couple of years’ time or so.

Privacy & Security

  • Consider security – if the garden is too private, no one will see any misdemeanours on the part of local crooks!  Conversely, it is generally unwise to locate anything too valuable within easy reach / eyeshot of the road.


  • 4880193998_b70e642209As well as other people looking in, think about your view looking out – the view of the garden from the house.  Most people would prefer not to have cars parked right outside the living room windows… can a view to something more beautiful be created?
  • What route will the postman take?  This is a surprisingly important question as many frequent visitors to the house have the unfortunate habit of taking the easiest  / shortest route to the front door, even if this means cutting across a lawn or flower bed, or walking right in front of the lounge window.  Can a path be located in such way that provides easy access, but stops people walking where they are not wanted?
  • Is a lawn really required?  For some people, a front garden just wouldn’t quite be right without a lawn.  But if it’s going to end up being tiny and a pain to mow, it might be easier to incorporate some attractive planting instead.

Drainage & the Law

  • The law changed in October 2008 in response to the growing trend for front gardens to be paved over (often to make room for more parking).  The concern was that with more & more non-permeable surface area, larger and larger volumes of water were being washed into roads and public storm drains over short periods of time, during spells of heavy rainfall.
  • In most situations, the new law is straight forward to comply with – by installing a channel drain to a soakaway or by using permeable paving for example.  Planning permission is not usually required.  You can read more on the Bradstones website or on the gov.uk website here, any professional landscaper will also be able to provide sensible advice.

Materials & Lighting

  • 5364894260_075bf52b79Costs and aesthetics are likely to be the two most important factors when considering materials for your front garden/driveway.  Gravel is good for security, but can be difficult to wheel the dustbin over, and small gauge gravel tends to get walked into the house.


It really is possible in most cases to have a practical front garden – and a beautiful one too!  If after reading through the above, your struggling to know where to start, call ALDA & we’ll design a beautiful and practical front garden for you – 0118 934 2958.


Image credits: thegardenbuzz, tejvanphotos, ALDA

garden lighting

Garden Lighting – A Few Pointers

Lighting adds a completely new dimension to gardens.  Particularly in the often somewhat cloudy climes of England, a well thought out lighting system can be a great addition to a garden.

It adds the ability to enjoy your garden when it’s normally hidden in darkness – whether entertaining outside on a warm summer’s evening, or looking out from the warmth of the house on a cold winter’s night.

Lighting systems and their installations can be pricey, so it’s well worth spending time thinking things through carefully before embarking on your project.  For complex lighting systems, it is normally worth consulting a specialist garden lighting company for advice.  But in most domestic situations, a professional garden landscaper can work with you & a qualified electrician to design and install beautiful and highly functional systems.

What is the lighting for?

3955117656_99670f5528Not surprisingly, this is a rather important consideration.  The answer will help determine the type of lighting you need.  For example:

  • You may simply want to light a general area, in which case bollards, spotlights, and simple up / down lights are some of the options to consider.
  • If you want to be able to eat, read and perform more detailed tasks, downlighting can work very well (a spot light fixed to a wall, pergola or fence post, for example).
  • 3394291790_d617f0d3b0

    Paths and steps normally require light to be directed down and across the area to be walked, so mushroom (spread) lights and spots are often used.  Consider having lights recessed into the walls of steps.

  • Spike lights are very useful and provide added flexibility, as they can be moved to a certain degree.
  • Lighting in gardens is also frequently used simply for beautiful effects.  This is where garden lighting comes into its own and can be magical.  Consider uplighting trees, backlighting plants, washing walls and silhouetting features.

More often than not, some combination of task and effect lighting is employed.  The old adage of ‘less is more’ really does apply here though – unless of course you are looking to re-create Aladdin’s Cave!

Some tips:

  • 9279144797_fc978ad1aa_hAlways use a qualified electrician to connect the garden lighting to the household circuit
  • Consider whether you want low voltage or mains lighting.  The pros and cons, given the specific garden situation, should be discussed with a qualified electrician. Mains lighting is very flexible, and relatively safe if used correctly.  Low voltage lighting is very safe, and because a number of lights can be run off one transformer, it can sometimes reduce the amount of cabling required.
  • 2791995886_f5a69f288eLED lamps / bulbs appear to be the way forward.  They are expensive, but last a long time.  The technology is still evolving though, so you may need a system which can cater for a mix of lighting, and fittings which can be converted to LED lamps in future.  Flexibility is important.
  • Think about how bright the lamps need to be in the various areas of the garden, and what colour lamps are required.  There are various shades of white – most ALDA clients prefer a soft or warm white… beware of lighting schemes that make you garden look like the nearest Tesco car park!
  • 133514212_6d42106570If you are not sure whether or not you want lighting when having a new garden or patio built, it would still be worth installing some conduit / ducting under the patio (with a drawstring) while it is being laid.  This may save digging up the patio at a later date…
  • Think about where you would like to control the lights from, and how many different lighting circuits are required – i.e. which lights you will want to control with the same or different switches.
  • If security lighting is also being installed, we would recommend having it on a separate switch, so that it can be turned off.  Having a security light continually flicking on and off when entertaining with friends and family is not particularly conducive to a relaxing evening!

I hope that gives you some ideas and inspiration – do give us a call if you’d like to discuss your lighting scheme.  Our telephone number is 0118 934 2958.


 Image credits: Tilling 67, Wonderlane, tanakawho, d’n'c[puamelia], ellenm1


Jobs for the garden in November and December

We always think of November, and to some extent, December, as being the months for tidying up the garden and getting it ready for the worst of the winter ravages (which, given the recent storm, have already begun it seems!).   And for those whose lawns are surrounded by trees, the process of clearing leaves can indeed seem to be an unending one.

But there are plenty of other tasks that can be done when the weather is mild.  Don’t forget to plant up a few pots on the patio for some winter colour – and take the last chance to plant out spring bulbs ready for a vivid display next year.

Clear up time

  • leavesRemove leaves, from lawns and ponds in particular (imagine how you’d feel covered in a thick layer of wet, slowly-moulding leaves!!)  Ideally clear the leaves at least once a week (more often if possible) – leaves smother the lawn and prevent it from ‘breathing’ properly.  When you’ve finished clearing the leaves, autumn lawn feed can still be applied where appropriate.
  • Cut down herbaceous perennials and remove the dead top growth.  Do remember though that some perennials are best left until early spring (Penstemon and Verbena bonariensis for example).  With these, we suggest part pruning the plants to tidy and prevent wind rock, and then pruning them harder around March when you can see new growth starting nearer the base of the plant.
  • December is a particularly good month for pruning overgrown apple and pear trees

Colourful PlantingPreparing plants for winter

  • Some plants will benefit from a little bit of winter protection in cold areas – a straw mulch is usually a good choice.  Agapanthus and Zantedeschia (Arum Lilies) for example both like to be kept protected during cold weather.
  • Containers on patios can get waterlogged in wet winter weather.  Consider raising them on feet or something similar if they are currently sitting directly on the patio surface.
  • Check tree stakes and ties, and other plant support systems – particularly pertinent at the moment, given the recent weather!

Plant & divide

  • tulipsNovember through to March is the best time to attempt to move established plants.  It is also the best time to lift and divide many perennials.
  • Plant bare root and root balled trees and hedging plants (but not when the ground is frozen!)
  • Now is also a great time to plant roses.  Other plants can also be planted when the weather is mild enough, but we like to avoid planting some hot, dry weather loving plants (Lavender and Hebes for example) from December onwards, as their new young roots don’t really appreciate starting life in a cold, soggy garden.
  • pansiesIt’s also your last chance to plant spring bulbs (don’t hang around though; December will already be too late for some).  If you have any spare bulbs, why not pop them into a pot on the patio and then plant them out in the spring after they have flowered.
  • And finally… don’t forget to plant up a few pots on the patio for a splash of colour on those dreary winter days.



Image credits: Kaz Andrew, dicktay2000, ljguitar, ALDA Landscapes.