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Me My Spade & I, based in Oxfordshire, provides specialist horticultural garden services throughout the Home Counties and London.

Contemporary Design with Me, My Spade and I

Tom Nicholas, of horticultural specialist Me, My Spade and I, brings us the latest in gardening trends for 2017
You need to be precise with measurements and choose your plants well.

"To get garden trends you see on the TV or in magazines, we need structure."

This year we have had a particularly successful year with lawn care, as more and more of our private clients have large lawns that they want looking green and gorgeous.


So now I am traveling the county scarifying, mowing and aerating, but it doesn’t matter if you’ve an acre or acorn sized lawn, if you want them looking lush next spring and summer now is really the time to be paying them some attention.


Recently, I had a chance to design a client’s garden from scratch, and I chose to present a design with a new, contemporary structure. The garden in question is in a small village just south of Burford, with a 33-metre long, 5-foot high dry stone wall built by myself. Once the wall was built, we then went on to prep the beds for my new venture in contemporary garden design.

First, we separated the bed up in to quarters using 6-foot tall Yew trees in the four corners. Where the bed is separated we planted a Taxus cone topiary. As you can tell, Taxus is a prominent feature of this trend, and so is topiary. Taxus is a fantastic plant that can create amazing shapes or tight hedgerows, and can grow tall or small. Many people use Buxus or Box for miniature hedgerows or shapes such as cones or balls – most people don’t know that you can use Yew for projects such as this one, so don’t be afraid to try them, and see my photos for an example.

Another plant I used in this garden – which also featured heavily in the Chelsea Flower Show – is a stunning silver birch, Betula Jacquemontii. To have a tree in the flower bed creates more opportunities than you think –in winter, at the most dark, damp and miserable time of year, the birches have these almost luminous white tree trunks to admire when there really is very little else to enjoy.

One tip to get the most out of Betula Jacquemontii is to fill a bucket with warm water, the temperature brings nothing to the game apart from its not so harsh on your hands when you are in the garden cleaning the trunks. By cleaning the stems you get the very best from the tree through this time of the year.

By using these plants to section off the garden and plant topiaries, you gain structure. This is the focal point of the garden, and where we may have once planted shrubs for structure, we now use plants such as Taxus to give structure to the beds and gardens. Structure blends into the background – you don’t notice it unless you look for it, but without it your garden has no purpose or organisation.

So, to get garden trends you see on the TV or in magazines, we need structure. You need to be precise with measurements and choose your plants well. Using the plants mentioned here will help you on your way – all you need now are plants, and there sadly isn’t enough room here to talk of planting plans. That will come in the next article…

- Tom Nicholas


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