There is no garden without trees in my view, even the tiniest gardens can accommodate a tree, as long as you choose the right one for the right place. They are invaluable for wildlife, bring scale, are low maintenance, have a cooling effect as well as help with flooding. 

I have struggled to choose stick to 10 only, so here it is 10 + 2.., still painful, in no particular order.

1 Prunus ‘Accolade’

One of the earliest flowering cherries, it celebrates the arrival of Spring with its abundant blossom in March. Breathtakingly luminous on the dull days of March, and again in Autumn when its foliage glows yellow and orange. If you can find one that has been grown as a multi-stem, it will make the most amazing specimen tree. 

2 Malus ‘Evereste’

Probably my favourite crab apple, it has a compact, broadly round, tidy crown that makes it an excellent choice for smaller gardens.
It is a great choice to bring colour in the spring as well as the autumn and being a late spring flowerer is useful planted with an early flowering tree; a Magnolia or an early flowering cherry such as Prunus Accolade, this will stretch the colour in your garden over the longest period possible.Excellent for wildlife as per all crab apples.


3 Malus hupehensis

Malus hupehensis or Tea Crab Apple (Chinese people used to brew the leaves were brewed to make tea ) is one of the most prolific flowering crab apple trees. A mass of small, red crab apples that look like cherries appear in autumn. These crab apples will usually hang on until the winter, providing a vital source of food for wildlife.

4 Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’

Perfect native tree for small gardens, reaching perhaps 4m after 10 years. It has a spectacular Autumn colour and is good for wildlife.  


5 Sophora japonica

A delightful and interesting specimen that, despite its common name (Japanese Pagoda Tree) , is native to China, although is widely planted in Japan. Good pollinator

6 Cornus mas

A very interesting small tree (more a shrub really), perfect in a multi-stemmed form, it is underused in my view. Its bark and silhouette are attractive, it flowers on bare stems in March when not much else is going on in the garden and provides fruits that make a deliciously zingy chutney. Or leave the fruits for the birds to enjoy. 

7 Acacia pravissima

I came across this tree at a client of mine for the first time, having never seen it before. Embarassingly I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it or whether it could be pruned or else. Since then I have fallen in love with it, and never cease to marvel at it everytime I walk or drive past it.  It responded very well to pruning by the way. 

8 Rhus typhina

Stag's horn sumach is an excellent, very architectural tree specimen for a small sunny garden, but as it spreads by suckering, avoid planting it too close to a lawn. One of the best trees for Autumn colour.

9 Salix Caprea (Goat or Pussy willow) 

This willow grows well away from water and the rounded leaves are completely different to the narrow leaves of other willows.  It is covered in downy white buds in spring which are popular with florists. The buds open to form an abundance of fluffy, yellow and honey scented flowers.

10 Arbutus x andrachnoides

This wonderful  tree makes my heart skip a beat and reminds me of the Arbutus unedo trees in my childhood garden in South of France.  It’s not easy to source and needs good drainage and sun. It grows into interesting gnarled and architectural shapes and its cinnamon red bark is striking.


11 Toona sinensis ‘Flamingo’

In spring, its big leaves emerge a bright salmon pink, a colour that you never see in gardens, quite extraordinary, and gradually change colour to creamy yellow and later rich green in summer. All parts of the plant are scented and the wood is often burnt in temples in Eastern Asia to infuse them with its delicate scent.

12 Melia azedarach (Bead tree, Pride of China, Pride of India)

A rare but attractive tree more common in the Mediterranean, it bears fragrant lilac flowers and bead -like fruits that remain long after the leaves have fallen. It will only grow in mild parts of the UK. Caution: Leaves and berries are toxic.



Gardens play a vital role in helping bees and other pollinating insects.

For more information, click here. 

Different bees are active throughout the year, so you'll need flowering plants from spring to winter. 

Bees forage from flowers rich in nectar and pollen. Nectar contains sugar they need for energy. Pollen contains protein and oils. Bee species' tongues vary in size – so try to provide different shaped flowers.


Here are FIVE favourites of mine to plant now:

1 Abelia - 'Bee bush'
The headily-scented delicate white flowers of this evergreen shrub attract bumblebees and honeybees in Autumn.


2 Crocus
Now is the time to plant them. They look best planted in mass at the base of trees.
In Spring, bees will emerge covered in pollen and shelter inside the flowers overnight.


3 Helleborus argutifolius & H. niger
I think they look great together and will draw you into the garden in the colder months.


4 Mahonia x media ‘Winter sun’
This mahonia makes a lovely focal point for a shady spot in the garden, where its glossy, architectural leaves can be appreciated all year round. Give it space, as its leaves will spread, and conceal its long 'legs' with spring-flowering bulbs and small, shade-loving perennials, such as ferns for example.
Their flowers will help support overwintering bumblebees and honeybees.


5 Sarcococca hookeriana var digyna
It is a slow growing plant but I almost always include them in my gardens as they are very elegant and their Winter scent will add a touch of magic to your garden. Plant near a path/ entrance if possible.




Here are a few small and easy steps to make your garden more eco friendly and why it is important to do so.

Gardens are mini nature reserves and play a vital role in supporting our ecosystem and biodiversity. Here are some easy steps to make your garden more eco friendly. 

1 Leave a pile of logs in a corner of the garden. 

Or build, stack a log wall as a feature. This will provide shelter and a breeding for a wide range of creatures. Try and not disturb but you can gently lift logs to see your new thriving insect world.

It’s a good idea to place the log pile near a pond so it will provide a hibernation spot for frogs and toads. Plus they can feast on some on the insects that live in the log pile too.

2 Compost 

One of the best way to lower your carbon footprint while giving your plants the BEST food possible is to compost your food waste. Feel free to email me if you need some advice/ pointers on compost bins, composting etc.

Leaf compost is horticultural gold for your plants. Now is the time to buy a few jute sacks, so you’re ready to fill them with Autumn leaves, and stack in a corner of your garden. Leave a layer in your borders, they will protect your herbaceous plants from the cold. 

Wool compost

If you need to buy some new compost, I can not recommend wool compost such as Dalefoot compost highly enough. You can buy it online, in bags or bulk or in some local nurseries. It is by far the most environmental friendly compost. It’s slightly more expansive than most composts but it releases nutrients slowly so less need to keep on adding compost and excellent water retention , so less watering required. 

3 Provide food, water and habitat for pollinators.

Plant food (plants for pollinators), water (a shallow dish filled with water and a few pebbles) and nest sites for wild bees.

More info on our website and here.


4 Don’t use chemicals and pesticides.

Avoid using pesticides whenever possible. We now know that using chemicals in gardens is counterproductive as they destroy the whole ecosystem of the garden. So basically they kill the bug but in the process they destroy the food chain including the bug’s predators. 

5 Don’t be too tidy, loosen up a little.

Resist the urge to tidy up too much in autumn. Seed heads left uncut will be enjoyed by birds (and look great!). Plant stems and leaves area great place for creepy crawlies to shelter. Perennials left standing will help overwintering insects such as ladybirds. 

If you want to find out more, head towards this brilliant, user-friendly website: Wild about gardens



The RHS is extremely concerned about pollinators decline and wants to encourage garden owners to continue to support these vital insects. 

A garden brimming with wildlife is magical and much more attractive.



Nectaroscordum siculum
Spectacular! Looks very exotic and architectural and a total bee magnet


Fritillaria Meleagris (Snake’s head)
I can’t think why anybody wouldn’t want these in their garden. I look forward to seeing them popping up every year. 


Erythronium ‘Pagoda’
Perfect in a woodland planting scheme among ferns.


Muscari azureum
Unusual bulb, Worth hunting for.


 Camassia cusickii
Or any Camassia really. They are one of the most tolerant and long lived bulbs you can grow and are good cut flowers too.


Crocus sieberi subsp sublimis ‘Tricolor’
They bring so much joy in the garden. Bees love them!



Why trees are better than people

I attended a few excellent lectures at the Landscape Show 2019, one of them was by John Parker on the importance on trees.
Did you know that trees in urban areas can improve child development, reduce violence and boost house prices? John tells us about 'nature's air-conditioners', and why we shouldn't take them for granted in this Ted talk.



Green Johanna

Meet my new best friend: Green Johanna. 💚💚💚💚Composting your food waste is one of the best things you can do in terms of lowering your carbon footprint and it’s addictive. With this compost bin, you can compost all the food waste including bread and meat and fish remains. Within 6 months you get the best compost you can get to feed your garden beds. I have made a lot research into it and this bin is the one, for many reasons that I dont have space to bore you with here. you can purchase it at Great Green Systems and it comes with a brilliant handbook on the art of composting. Ideally if space allows you want two of them or more so that you can start a new bjn when the other one needs time to do its thing once full. Mini weekend oroject was to move my log pile to make place for it. Piling logs is another brilliant thing to do in your garden as it provides a precious habitat for wildlife. And i dont know why but logs look good, people are always commenting: Nice log pile”. #composting #compost #logs#logpile #compostbin#bestcompostbin#sustainablegardening #ecolifestyle#ecoliving #garden




Going a bit off piste here. Not sure I can quite justify any link with garden design but still wanted to share with you. I took my family to the Wilderness Festival for the first time after having heard loads of great things over the last few years. I must say, it exceeded my expectations. And I'm coming back to the desk a better designer. This full immersion into the Wilderness has certainly got my creative juices flowing!




Today we've admired the work of some peers, got inspired by some of it, met some suppliers, drank some Pimms (got more inspired), made a few purchases for a couple of clients, drank more Pimms (it was very hot!). In summary a very productive day.  In all seriousness, I only visit one RHS Garden Show a year, as they tend to take place at one of the busiest time for us. This year I couldn't make it to Chelsea but made it to Hampton Court. And I must say, having not been for quite a few years, I much prefer it to Chelsea.


hampton 1.jpg



This morning I was so lucky to be able to pop into the Garden Museum on a weekday for a (business) coffee. One of the best coffee in town. Plus I was able to take my coffee out and sit in the sun on one of their deckchairs in what must be one of the prettiest courtyards in London (a lesson in planting design by the iconic Dan Pearson). And I wondered: is this the best kept secret in the city? This place is a gem.

garden museum.jpg


Told ya!

Spring has sprung, at last! East Dulwich, where our office is, looks magical at this time of the year as most streets have been lined with Japanese cherry trees. Like a mini Kyoto...well not quite, but close ;-)

Here is a list of my top 5 Japanese cherry trees, a must to celebrate early Spring each year and lift everybody's spirit at the end of a long Winter: a very inspired choice indeed for street trees, and of course gardens and parks, urban landscapes:

Prunus Sargentii. Great Autumn colour.                                                                            

Prunus Shirotae, vugorous tree with a signature spreading habit.

Prunus 'Pink Perfection". Blossoms later, in May.

Prunus 'Takkasago', the name refers to a song about an ancient Japanese card game.

Prunus Tai-Haku. White blossom against young bronze leaves.




Desperate for Spring to spring now..In the meantime, this briliant quote from Audrey Hepburn springs to mind (excuse the pun) and reminds me that Gardens are all about seasons and their anticipation, one must never lose hope, Spring always comes...even if it's a bit late..




I'm rubbish at crafts and even worse at finding time for it but at this time of the year, when it's cold and pitch black at five o'clock, and let's face it (despite previous post), I spend less time in the garden, it suddenly appeals to me. I have also discovered that I get so much pleasure out of displaying my handmade artefacts however imperfect and quirky that I now make sure each December to book a couple of nights in to do just that and nothing else. Well...almost as I have also discovered that I can combine said activity with getting together with a gang of girlfriends and some wine.  This puts me right into the Christmas spirit and I find also helps with calming things down in the manic run up to Christmas. Joyeux Noel! 

The advent calendar is inspired by the brilliant blog, A Quiet Style.  Some of the foliage has been harvested in my garden and some has been bought at the  flower market. 




This is a phrase I hear a lot at this time of the year and I find it slightly unnerving. In fact, if I’m honest it’s a phrase that goes completely against everything I believe in when designing a garden. Seasons should feature in gardens, they should be celebrated, yes, even winter. By putting their garden to bed, a lot of people mean tidying it all up, removing all fallen leaves and cutting everything down so that they can forget about it all until the spring. But even if it is true that everything slows down and that most plants and creatures go dormant, there is still life  winter. There is still much to be admired and there are some plants that are in fact at their peak in winter: Sarcococca, Witch Hazel and Viburnum Bodnantense provide fragrance, Hellebores are definitely worth coming close too and many more. I love visiting gardens in winter when everything is quieter and not so in your face.

Some herbaceous stand proud throughout the winter and display elegant seedheads and silhouettes and look enchanting covered with frost (a lot of ornamental grasses, verbena bonariensis, hydrangeas, etc..) .

So don’t put your garden to bed.  On the contrary, leave a pile of logs and fallen limbs in a corner, don’t completely eradicate the mess, leave a bit of it for hibernating mammals and insects. Leave some seedheads on, and don’t remove all the fallen leaves but push them away from the lawn into the beds to provide the more tender perennials with a natural mulch.

winter seedheads.jpg



I went to Paris for the weekend to visit friends and family and took the opportunity to go and visit the new(ish) Frank Gehry iconic building: The Louis Vuitton Fondation.  I have been meaning to go since it opened in 2014 and I decided I wasn't going back on the train before paying it a visit. I saw it at its best on a very beautiful autumn day: under clear skies and wrapped in the golden canopies of the Bois de Boulogne. The light was surreal and the relationship between Gehry's imposing but elegant monument and the surrounding woods was in perfect harmony: Gehry's reflecting and framing the woods and the woods hugging Gehry's. They were definitely talking to each other as if to say: "Je t'aime, moi non plus".  ;-)                                       




This had been on my list for a VERY long time and indeed visiting Hauser & Wirth in Somerset lived up to my expectations. The main aim for me here was of course to visit the Open Field by Piet Oudolf, one of the most photographed and admired gardens of these last few years, designed by one of the most reverred designers and plantsmen. I had indeed seen so many photographs of it but it was well worth seeing it in real life. I left with plenty of food for thought and rethinking how to approach our planting plans. #inawe



INSPIRATION...WILLOW: My obsession of the moment

I have been using willow a lot recently in various forms and it’s becoming a bit of an obsession. It is such a versatile material that combines practical strength with flexibility; it looks raw but has a certain noble quality; it’s a very cheap material but it can look elegant. Whether in its natural form (I’ve bought a few stunning Salix Contorta “Tortuosa” specimens recently and used them as focal points), living willow structures or weaved into a hurdle to form a feature wall or fence panels, it seems to offer so many possibilities and uses.

In my latest projects, I’m thinking of designing a structure which would be sculptural while purveying dappled shade on the dining area, a bit like a fluid pergola with an organic form. I haven’t worked out quite how yet….

And then in one of these rare and striking coincidences, I came across the work of the amazingly talented Laura Ellen Bacon while listening to a BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour podcast.

I dream that one day I’ll be able to commission her or collaborate with her….in the meantime I look forward to her work being exhibited at the V&A from September and will carry on experimenting on a more modest scale.




I have mixed feelings about the Chelsea Flower Show I must admit…it seems so disposable and I can’t help thinking of the humongous carbon print when I gaze at show gardens and plough my way through the whole circus and crowd of Pimms.  And frankly it is very much a display of the good, the bad and the ugly. Apologies if I'm being a bit downbeat here but I’d be lying if I wasn’t admitting to these dark thoughts… that aside, it is however a lot of fun and I certainly always discover new plants, materials, crafts, products, meet very passionate and dedicated growers, and always get inspired by some clever details.

I don’t always go as it always coincides with my busiest time of the year, in fact hadn’t been for years but considering how hard we’ve worked these last few months, I decided to treat Lilly and I to a jolly.  I also treated a couple of clients and friends and we had a great day!

Here is a picture of My Best in Show (Breaking Ground Garden for Darwin Property Investment Management Property by Wilson McWilliam Studio).  I loved this garden!  Although I might have been a bit biaised as Andrew Wilson was director of the Inchbald School of Design when I was an alumni, back in 2003. He was a fantastic director, very strict (but fair) while fun and genuinely enthused with a passion for garden design and design in general.


12.04. 2017


Now here is an event that I look forward to each year and I can’t express how grateful I am to all the private garden owners who are brave enough to open their gardens to the public in order to raise money for charity.  I admire their courage  - firstly, because it must be scary to invite your garden to be trampled by hordes of visitors when you have spent so much time, often years nurturing and working hard on your beloved plot. Secondly, you are exposing your labour of love to unwelcome comments and criticism as there are always people who think it’s appropriate to show their disapproval. Thankfully most visitors are very respectful and grateful to keep their comments for themselves. 

I thoroughly enjoy visiting local gardens nurtured by their owners and have learned many tricks from skilled and very knowledgeable amateur gardeners this way. I’ve also met professional gardeners while visiting grand schemes and private estates gardens via this scheme. Thanks to this scheme, I’ve had the privilege to visit gardens designed by Christopher Bradley Hole, Dan Pearson and Tom Stuart Smith, all heroes of mine.

So I encourage you to check this link out list of gardens open to the public over the next few weekends.