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Image by matthew Feeney

Design Journal

The magic of life and abundance of energy is addictive

I recently heard on a podcast someone say gardeners are the most determined optimists, this made me laugh! Every year with the same ball of excitement, we get ready, we sort seeds, we plant, we water, we grow, we put in time and love …….and always to be expected they don’t all make it!

But it’s the basic magic and childlike excitement of life and the miracle of germination that unites all growing things that keeps up coming back each year to do it all over again, and make us appreciate of the abundance of energy stored in one tiny seed.

Planting seeds and watching them grow is life affirming, every year I still get so excited with this simple yet most rewarding of all gardening activities. Although I’ve learnt over time that growing seeds isn’t as simple as it sounds, some plants and veggies are easier than others to grow from seeds, and some are very fussy. Subtle differences in temperature, growing conditions, time of day of planting and watering routine can affect your seed growth outcome.

It’s easy to load up on plants from the nursery, and plant them straight in the ground, but there’s something so personal and meditative about the process of planting a seed, using your hands in the soil and looking forward to watching it appear.

I definitely admit that there are certain plants and vegetables that I have tried, researched and won’t put my time to again, as they are too difficult, some of these being aubergines and cauliflower, maybe one day when I own a small plot of land and more space I might try again one day.  

What type of towns and urban zones do families want to live in and for their children to grow up in?

Why are we still seeing poor-quality housing developments being approved and constructed without a progressive and collaborative approach?It seems common sense that most families envision a neighbourhood with features that strengthen communities, offering areas to play and socialize, immersed in attractive and colourful planting, with shaded zones for events, education or markets that support the local economy and community which lead to happier, healthier families and support our local biodiversity.


It’s astounding to see several new housing developments are still focusing on trying to fit in as many houses as possible, with plans showing a lack of considered landscape or central community spaces. The wording in the proposals sounds all good with elements such as green links, buffer planting, community hub and cycle lanes, but then the plans often do not correspond with this wording.


A few basic design principles repeatedly seem to be absent from new housing developments, such as: variety, adaptability, quality, biodiversity, character, sustainability, access, exploration, and legibility.


This is where we as communities, designers and residents trust that the planning officers and our local councils will use their professional standing to scrutinise current development applications to ensure they offer a good quality of life to the residents but also to ensure the site will support local biodiversity, mitigate flooding and offer various landscaped areas for use by the community.

So why then are we still seeing poor-quality housing developments being approved and constructed?

How do we co-operate better on this, with the developers and the planning officers?

4 things people don't realise actually make their garden feel smaller

  1. Omitting trees from your design - trees add several benefits to small gardens, they help to draw the eye up adding a sense of height to the space, they provide privacy for garden activities, shade for seating and play, they offer refuge and food for wildlife and can add beautiful and dramatic structure and seasonal colour changes. For small gardens trees need to be well considered to ensure the right tree is in the right place for your location and garden character. 

  2. Not review your planting palette - a simple garden design trick is to repeat planting, giving your garden a sense of unity, reviewing your planting palette allows you to choose your preferred colour selection and this helps with species selection and seasonal colour choices. The aim is for your space to feel welcoming, full and explorative without feeling cluttered and uncomfortable.

  3. Ignoring your boundaries and fences - clearly visible and bare fences and boundaries can make your garden feel much smaller, because it highlights your boundaries and the space that you are closed in by. Several creative design elements can help improve this, by adding a sculpture and climbers to break up the horizontal length of your boundary, painting it a darker colour and stagger planting in front of the boundary, use feature trees to break up the monotonous height or adding in mirrors and follies to trick the eye.  

  4. Not experimenting with shapes - playing with the angles or curves can help to make the space feel larger, introducing a meandering footpath, a hidden seating area immersed in planting or a lawn which not fully visually open to the eye, these can create the illusion that there is more to explore than meets the eye. This is quite dependent on the space available and the lines of the house and architecture, but don’t be scared to experiment.

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Why sustainable drainage strategies are important?

It was a pleasure an valuable learning experience to work on the Ciria SuDS Manual during my time with Illman Young Landscape Design.

Sustainable drainage systems can contribute to sustainable development and improve the places and spaces where we live, work and play by balancing the different opportunities and challenges that influence landscape architecture, urban design and the development of communities. SuDS mimic nature and typically manage rainfall close to where it falls. SuDS can be designed to transport surface water and slow runoff before it enters watercourses, they provide areas to store water in natural contours and can be used to allow water to infiltrate into the ground or evaporate from surface water.



Whatch this useful video created by Susdrain.

More information on SuDS can be found on the Susdrain website - with regards to delivery, resources and case studies.

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