Spring is the start of the gardener's year and there's nothing like getting out in the garden after the cold winter months. You may have already noticed the first signs of colour, so now is the time to get planning. Whether you're new to gardening or a seasoned gardener, we've interviewed award winning garden designer Alasdair Cameron to help make the best of your outdoor space.
With over 30 years’ experience, Alasdair is a garden designer by instinct and training, with a unique ability to interpret clients’ needs and desires. He combines a focus on the inherent joy of gardening with a dedication to pushing boundaries, particularly in sustainable design techniques, while always recognising the importance of traditional methods.
Are we too late to plant for this year? Anything we can plant now that will do well?
Never too late! You can plant your summer bulbs such as Dahlia and Lily in March and snowdrops for next year’s display. Or for some colour this summer you could plant some sweet peas, which also give a magical scent, Ammi, `Cosmos, foxgloves, ‘rose mint’, Achillea and Aqueligia.
Do sustainability and ecological issues effect your work?
As a company we try to be as sustainable as possible. We always buy peat free compost, as well as encouraging our clients to create their own compost heaps. We use all organic fertilisers - The organic fertilisers are not only more environmentally friendly but are also a lot better for the plants. Another step we have taken recently is to use solar powered lighting in our projects, they are now really effective and much more environmentally friendly.
Lots of nurseries still use non-recyclable pots but we are hoping this will change very soon. We consider the materials we use, how they are sourced. With plants consider where they come from and whether they are native or whether they will need irrigation etc. When planting we consider wildlife and insects and think of combinations that will encourage them into the garden. You can also consider plants which hold their structure in winter, not only do they provide interest to look at but also the and seed heads provide food for birds – for example Verbena.
Sustainability and ecology is an area we look at continually to try to reduce our impact where possible and also we look at where we can help biodiversity etc.
We know wildflower meadows are notoriously hard to create – any tips?
One big tip is to prepare the soil well before sowing the seeds for the wild flower meadow. Try to remove the weeds and turn the soil. They do tend to thrive in bad soil, so if your soil is very nutritious remove the top soil. You can put down oil-seed rape or mustard to reduce the fertility of the soil if you have very fertile soil.
What is your best gardening tip/hack/secret?
Don’t just focus on your sunny areas – you can create some amazing shade gardens with beautiful ferns and shade loving shrubs.
Utilise the space fully – if you have a balcony think about adding some pots with herbs and seasonal annuals of bulbs.
Think how much time you can or want to invest in the garden – if you don’t have time to look after the garden choose low maintenance plants.
Also think about if you want evergreen structure – we try always have a base of evergreen with seasonal plants popping up through the seasons so the garden looks great all your round.
Think what you want from your garden, consider how much you time you have and what’s most important to you – a place to sit with friends, colour, scent, enjoying a drink etc.
What is your favourite garden?
Our garden at home was a cow paddock, it now has a fully productive kitchen garden, two big herbaceous borders which give year round interest and food for birds and insects and a grass and woodland border. I put paths in the border so people can immerse themselves in the colours and scent. I love to explore with planting combinations and the home garden is a really good place to experiment. We have three children so a good sized patch of lawn is constantly used for games, rugby, football and tennis and all the plants and tress provide brilliant places to hide. In the front there is a terrace with beautiful cottage garden planting, I have allowed the planting to self seed into the gravel of the drive so we are now creating a gravel garden, the planting has created a wonderfully private reclaimed York stone terrace.
The Ivy, Chelsea
I have many favourite gardens which I have designed. The Garden Terrace and Annabel’s Private Members Club is one of my favourite, having designed and installed it we continue to look after and evolve it. It’s a wonderful lush sanctuary in the middle of Mayfair. Dramatic evergreen backbone is underplanted with vibrant, eye-catching seasonal plants. We use lots of unusual plant combination. The effect is not dissimilar to a verdant woodland glade.
There are so many wonderful gardens around the world and in the UK. One of my particular favourites is Great Dixter – the planting is wonderful, you can get immersed in the combinations, it has many different types of garden, it tries new things – experimental. It creates a wonderful atmosphere.
Cameron Landscapes & Gardens