Design Tips

The importance of good bed prep

0 Written by Lisa on 8th Jun 2018 in Design Tips, Plants

If there’s one thing that gets me going it’s when I arrive at site to carry out the planting and I have to pick up a fork because the beds aren’t prepared properly.

It can be tricky when you’ve had machines on site and the ground’s been worked a lot, but a good landscaper will think ahead when they start the job and retain any decent topsoil for re-use later.

I’m most suspicious when the beds look too good to be true, with a smooth covering of, what looks like, perfect soil.  Often that means it’s covering up something far less ideal.  Dig a hole for a shrub and the evidence is clear that things have been buried beneath the soil and it’s going to be a very hard day!

I appreciate that I’m having a bit of a rant, but good bed preparation not only gives the plants the best start possible, it also ensures that you don’t waste decent soil, time and money.

Even if the beds are rotavated or dug over with a machine, they still need to be hand dug.  This will ensure that the soil has been forked through properly and that any large stones and plant material can be removed before the plants go in the ground.

If you need to top up the beds with more soil then it’s worth the extra money to buy manufactured topsoil.  Screened soil essentially comes from skips or clearance from other sites so, even if it’s up to the British Standard, it still might have some contaminants that you don’t want around the roots of your plants.

Screened soil is fine for levelling off a lawn area before the turf is laid, but the beds need something a bit better in quality.  Often screened soil has small fragments of brick so it’s quite easy to spot.

The added bonus of manufactured topsoil is that you can order it with organic matter/compost already mixed in.

If you’re not bringing in any new topsoil then ideally you need to dig in some sort of organic matter which will help to enrich the soil and improve the structure and this should be forked through the soil by hand.

It really isn’t rocket science, if the beds are prepared properly it will give your plants the best possible start.  You’ll reap the rewards quickly when they establish much more quickly and your garden starts to flourish after just a few months.



How to budget for your new garden

2 Written by Lisa on 23rd Feb 2018 in Design Tips

Working to budgets is part of what I do, but it’s not always easy when there are so many choices available and if make tweaks along the way.  We’re undertaking a small building project at home and it’s exhausting making decisions, even though we’re doing some of it ourselves and therefore don’t have any time pressures. Read more

Winter berries

2 Written by Lisa on 15th Dec 2017 in Design Tips, Plants

I don’t know about you, but I love foraging for foliage at this time of year.  I’m lucky now that we have holly and ivy in the garden, the hedgerows are full of hazel and the woodland up the hill has an abundance of pine cones.  Now that the snow has disappeared, I’ll be cutting some holly at the weekend for Christmas decorations. Read more

A tour of the quarry at Forest of Dean Stone

0 Written by Lisa on 25th Oct 2017 in Design Tips

A couple of weeks ago I visited the quarry and production plant at Forest of Dean Stone. I organised the trip for the local Society of Garden Designer’s “cluster group” I coordinate and it was well worth the visit. Read more

It’s time to refresh your garden furniture

0 Written by Lisa on 21st Apr 2017 in Design Tips, Garden accessories

After a few weeks of dry, sunny days, I can safely say that the world has woken up and started to think about their gardens again.  It’s funny how we “park” all the jobs outside over the winter months, even if we didn’t really intend to. Read more

Planning a house project? Please remember the garden…

0 Written by Lisa on 23rd Feb 2017 in Design Tips

I watched the first episode of The House That 100k Built last night.  I don’t know about you, but I think it’s one of the most inspiring programmes of its type on TV.  I especially love the way Piers Taylor inspires the use of alternative, sometimes waste, materials to create something really individual and inexpensive that elevates the design to another level. Read more

Working with curves

0 Written by Lisa on 27th Jan 2017 in Design Tips

I’ve been drawing the design for a large garden in Hurley this week and it involved rather a huge chunk of time working out where all the radius points of my free-hand curves were. Read more

Why are gardens forgotten in house renovation projects?

0 Written by Lisa on 25th Feb 2016 in Design Tips


Have you been watching the BBC2 programme The £100k House – Tricks of the Trade?  I love it! It’s so inspiring to see what people do to their homes with modest and sometimes really small budgets. We’re certainly getting some great ideas for our own house. Read more

Protecting our precious trees

0 Written by Lisa on 12th Feb 2016 in Design Tips, Plants

Oak tree from the wood floor taken with wide angle lense by Lisa Cox

I’m currently working on a project where we have few trees on site that are subject to a Tree Protection Order (TPO).  Obviously I need to be absolutely sure that I create the new garden in a way that will ensure that the trees aren’t damaged so I’ve been taking advice from a professional arborist to ensure that we’re doing things right. Read more

Planning a new planting scheme – some tips to help you get started

1 Written by Lisa on 5th Feb 2016 in Design Tips

Helenium at Hauser & Wirth Somerset Lisa Cox Garden Designs

Now’s a great time to be planning for what’s to come in the garden and it seems more urgent this year with the rather early appearance of some of the spring bulbs.  Even on our windy hill we have Narcissus ‘Tête-a-Tête’ in flower already and primroses too, which have virtually been flowering since Christmas. Read more

Lisa Cox Welcome

I specialise in helping families to turn their gardens into an extension of their home and into a space that can be used and enjoyed all year round.

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