Archive for the ‘ Projects ’ Category

A moden scheme evolves

Posted Wednesday, 12 August, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Responding to a client is very much the role of the designer and whilst there is often a style they tend to work with this should not always dominate the brief.  At every opportunity I try to gain clues about the client from the way they dress, the car they drive and most importantly the way they live within the house.  I like to see a garden reflect the house style and the clients own style so it flows seamlessly between the two (interior/exterior)  Sometimes the house wins the day and I have advised clients that a modern decking against an Edwardian house would not be the best response to the need for an entertaining area.

So when you are provided a house that has a very modern feel with bi folding doors and a rendered finish added to that a client who is very much driven by a clean and simple look the brief and ultimate look needs to reflect this.

The garden has used Global stone’s ‘Petrous Porcelain’ paving using a slightly staggered laying pattern to add detail to the 600 x 600 slabs.  The walls have been rendered using a finish that matches the house adding continuity to the house and making the landscape integral to the house itself.  Bi fold doors offer a great viw to the garden and are the main access from the house so the main flight of steps responds to it by allow rapid access to the lower garden.

I have choosen to angle the paving and walls at an angle from the house for multiple reasons.  The orientation of the house means the main sun in the evening will fall where the decking is located.  By angling the paving we create seating areas where the sun is likely to be reducing the amount of paving where it is unlikely ever to be used.  This is better for the client as it focuses the budget on the important areas and can make for a more interesting response to the scheme.  The rendered walls will provide a sense of enclosure holding the eye on the foreground before you look beyond to the rest of the garden.  There height is also set to allow for informal seating making the area capable of entertaining a significant number of people on an informal event.

With a decked area it is important you place this correctly.  I have already suggested that this surface sometimes is not best used with period houses but equally you need to consider the aspect and the likely impact shade could have to the surface.  Placing a decking in shade is not ideal as the boards will retain moisture making the growth of algae highly probable.  This algae makes the deck boards very slippery and could result in the client falling.  Also if shaded in the morning the boards will retain frost for the majority of the day making them equally treacherous.  Using decking with hidden fixing gives a visually neater look avoiding screw heads showing and the risk of splitting the boards.  My preference is for the boards to have a smooth surface rather than using the reeded surface that is normally used under the misapprehension that it will be less slippery with these grooves.  My experience is the opposite with the smooth boards drying faster and thus avoiding staying wetter.  The grooves tend to hold the water making it more inviting for algae growth.  I also try to use a hardwood board as the softwood boards are less dense and prone to adsorbing more moisture.

Framework in place with decking boards being laid

Work is on going on this site but a few images showing the framework of the decking emphasis the work that is required to ensure the decking remains firm and avoids twisting.  I can not emphasis enough the need to use a skilled contractor.  Cutting corners to get the job in on the cheap means the contractor will do the same to you and cut corners by laying slabs on spot beds of mortar rather than as good practice dictates a full mortar bed; skimping on the slab base to avoid costs and whilst the patio may look good for a few years it will fail and break up.  I have some good teams of contractors that I use and feel extremely comfortable recommending them to my clients for costing a project up.  Sadly they are always busy and timescales reflect this when booking them in to do the work.







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Aquilegia – Downey Mildew

Posted Tuesday, 24 February, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Having blogged in the past about ash tree die back I recently came across yet another plant disease that has the potential to impact greatly on gardeners.  Effecting Aquilegias a cottage garden favourite whose dainty flowers grace many cottage gardens with their pastel nodding ‘bonnets’ through May to July.  These plants are a useful herbaceous perennial for adding dots of interest preferring light shaded areas.  Once established and happy they seed freely providing seedlings that fill gaps in borders and within gaps in paving.  Carrie Thomas, who holds the Plant Heritage National Collection, noticed two years ago some yellowing to the plants leaves. Discounting this as a symptom of the mid wet weather she turned a blind eye to them knowing they often look unhappy with such conditions.  In retrospect this was a mistake.  The Royal Horticultural Society were contacted by Carrie and has now diagnosed the disease to be a hitherto unknown downy mildew, specific to aquilegia. Having wiped out a third of Carrie’s plants in 2014 we can assume correctly that this is a particularly virulent mildew.   Sadly this is a depressing prognosis of decimation of the genus and Carrie’s collection.

This devastating disease is spreading fast with cases already identified in Cardiff, Devon, Hertfordshire, Essex and Surrey and with fewer nurseries supplying more large Garden Centre chains the likelihood of this disease being transported nationwide is inevitable.

With Spring approaching soon and as the sun warms the soil and aquilegias begin to form their clusters of leaves, it is important you are vigilant to the symptoms and know what to do if your plants are infected. This is particularly important as there are no chemical treatments so far for this new downey mildew.

Aquilegia shoots showing new growth- image taken within Mark Pumphreys Garden Mid February

You will need to check the aquilegia for new shoots as they emerge from the soil. Anything that is longer than normal or whitish should ring alarm bells, as should shoots that look stretched, etiolated, curled, lighter coloured with smaller, fern-like leaves with yellow patches.

Other visual tips to look out for that could provide a clue if you may have this mildew are slug and snail trails around your plant. Usually Aquilegias do not get eaten by molluscs due to the toxins within the plant however the mildew itself seems irresistible to slugs and snails

Spring symptoms develop further and leaves turn brown and die, whole plants become distorted and flower buds look blasted. The key symptom is a fluffy, white downy growth on the undersides of the leaves.

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Current project – Knowle 2013

Posted Saturday, 14 December, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Modern garden designed to provide entertaining areas for client. Design responds to sites levels with steps and tiered lawns to make a modern functional space.

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Current Project October 2012, Barnt Green, Worcestershire

Posted Sunday, 7 October, 2012 at 7:07 pm

External Designs are currently working on this scheme in Barnt Green, Worcestershire.  The first challenge facing this project focused on making the front door more important.

Currently site has metal railings that form a barrier between the drive and house but these railings only serve to encourage visitors towards the garage and the gap formed between the railings and the fence.  The concept submitted removes these railings and uses bollards fitted with down lighting to cast light over the drive.  This will place more importance on the approach to the front door encouraging visitors where to park and directing them to the front door.  A new flight of steps replacing the sloping paving add importance to this area.  If only to emphasise this further a feature pot centred on the front door has been proposed to reinforce the visual importance of this approach.  Three specimen shrubs/small trees provide balance to the paving and serve as focal points from the study and dinning room.  Winter structure is important within a front garden and this will be achieved by planting panels of box.  Additional shade tolerant plants set between the box will add movement with contrasting forms and colour.

We are proposing to remove a section of laurel hedge within the site as this is extremely vigorous, requiring considerable man hours to maintain the hedge.  Unless it is cut back on a regular basis it becomes too tall and wide for the site.  In its place we propose to use painted trellis panels secured to the top of the brick boundary wall.  These panels will provide the screening lost once the hedge is removed but will also allow the space to be recovered and used more effectively with either new planting or surfaces.  Once the laurels have been removed the wall will be accurately measured and posts supplied to respond to the position of the brick piers and panels custom built to fit.

I have turned the paving to maximise the space encouraging the eye away from the rear boundary and by introducing a small step will add interest with this change of level.  Returning the step behind a small rectangular bed adds both relief from a flat step.  It also ensures interest by providing a variety of paths up to the garden.   The lawn area is an essential feature within the garden of a ‘family house’ providing a play area for children.

The paving has yet to be determined and the concept plan will be adjusted to suit the modular dimensions of the surface.  Samples are being sourced following the concept plan visit and will be presented to the client allowing the client to consider the materials against the house bricks.   Detailed layout plans, construction drawings and specifications will be required so contractors can accurately cost and deliver the scheme.  Work will be scheduled for the new year and will be monitored throughout the build by External Designs.

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Current project April 2012-Edgbaston, Birmingham

Posted Sunday, 8 April, 2012 at 8:52 pm

This is a small rear garden that required a re design.  The existing paved seating area was totally inadequate for the way the client wished to entertain.  With a great deal of glass facing the garden the space is extremely important and my design aims to reflect the clients modern tastes.  The use of materials has been carefully considered to add details to the project with features such as bull nosed step treads and granite sett plinth details.

To provide screening to the site we have elected to use a woven softwood panel.  This adds to the landscape ameinty value and will provide the additional height needed to screen the clients from the surrounding road and adjoining buildings.  The trees on the boundary are all protected and care has been taken not to interfere with these.


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Review by DebraDN, Bromsgrove

Posted Thursday, 23 February, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Delighted with another client review posted on site  rated 5 stars out of 5

“Great imaginative designs that made the best of our space and took account of all our requirements. Fantastic personal service which was prompt and great value. Highly recommended.”

Great feed back and reinforcing the way I aim to deliver my service.


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Current Project February 2012, Stourbridge, Worcestershire

Posted Sunday, 5 February, 2012 at 10:19 pm

This is a scheme I am currently working upon.  A difficult brief where the practicalities of the brief are as important if not more important than the aesthetics.  Ensuring the clients has sufficient turning on the drive has shaped the design. With a fine Edwardian property this concept design aims to lift the frontage by creating an exterior to match the modern interior detailing.  We have yet to confirm materials but the focus has been on determining the use of space and how we can achieve the look the property and client are after.  The client is keen to maintain the conifer screen that provides privacy to the house frontage and this forms the limit of how far I can extend the drive.  We also have to work with an existing cedar and yew tree as you enter.  I have responded by creating a new retaining wall on the left of the drive as you approach adding a flight of steps to enable better access to the side gate.  The retaining wall has been designed to provide the client with a readily available parking space close to the preferred access door.  The yew hedge to the right has been shown to run parallel to the drive providing the formality the property demands as you approach the house and directs the eye towards the main visitor door.  The border in front of the yew hedge will consist of shrub planting predominantly of an evergreen nature.  A gravel path has been shown to allow access to a storage area behind the yew hedge where the client can form a log store that will be concealed.  Sett detail in a material to be determined adds detailing to the site and with the inclusion of box cubes will provide interest and movement to the property.  The approach to the main doorway has been enhanced by creating a paved standing area in a material that is not the same as the drive.  This makes the visitor feel comfortable when awaiting a response at the door.  I have shown a central sett detail to break up the main drive and to serve as a focal point from the door helping to increase the depth of the frontage by slowing the eye down into the central area.  Hornbeam trees clipped as cubed crowns will act as a releif to the dark conifers adding a mid green deciduous leaf that conveys the seasons and adds a classical but modern feel to the drive.  Edging the drive we have proposed the favourite box hedge which will help define the drive and add a classical feel to this fine house.

There will be some changes to the concept and we need to confirm and agree materials but the feed back to date has been promising and I look forward to developing and confirming the details as part of the next stage in the design process.

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Review by Steve18, Solihull

Posted Saturday, 28 January, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Mark and his team provide a super service. They provided the concept, based upon our vague ideas; transformed that into detailed drawings; issued specs to 3rd party landscapers; helped with selection and supervised the project. The net result is stunning. Cannot praise them enough!

These comments were posted on by client

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We engaged Mark in 2009 to transform our rear garden. A very professional approach in terms of design and build. He turned our high level requirements into a great contemporary entertaining space. The build team were also very good with a nice eye for detail. The build phase took a little longer than originally planned but we were happy to sacrifice time to get the quality. It has been great to also see the plants mature over the last two years and there is always plenty to admire through each season.
Overall we are very happy with process end to end – good engagement up front in terms of understanding requirements and turning into great design – good friendly and flexible build team – and great end result. We have also used them subsequently for some additional work at the front of the house.
The garden has never looked better and we use it all the time as another room to the house.
Would highly recommend.

These comments were posted on by client


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Current project January 2012

Posted Friday, 27 January, 2012 at 2:05 pm

This is a small rear garden that has been designed to provide a linking path from the house to the far end of the garden where the client parks their car.  The site included some extremely old fruit trees which we wished to retain and have created a scheme that reflects the traditional style the client was after.  Curving the path has added movement to the garden and will be further enhanced once the remaining nursery stock has been planted.  The video clip shows the work to date.  The remaining plants mainly herbaceous perennials, grasses and roses will be planted in March and the blog site will show the difference this will make.  I like to follow my schemes and once the planting has established I will include some images to show how the scheme is maturing.

Jan 12 current project

Click on the link to see clip of the site.

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