Category Archives: Andrew Duff

Garden Water Features

How To… Use Water Features In Your Garden

Andrew Duff

Water features of any size are a great asset to the garden.  Not only do they provide a focal point but they also give a sense of well-being. Whether still or moving the tranquil effects of water can calm or uplift any space.

For the small garden think about scale.  We assume that a small garden requires small features and that everything needs to be in proportion.  This makes the space seem even smaller, a sort of miniature garden.  So, have fun and take a risk!  Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama.  Large leaved plants backed with smaller leaved plants help accentuate the depth, making the garden seem larger.  Do not limit yourself to a very small water feature; for water to work well you need at least half a metre square of surface area.  And remember the rule about using an existing measurement – try the door or window width or even a path dimension; coordinating measurements will anchor any feature you choose to introduce.

So, have fun and take a risk!  Large sculptures or pots add a sense of drama.

Materials are important. Do you want the feature to stand out or blend in?  Link back to a material that is already in the garden in order to harmonise. If the house is brick introduce brick again.  For a cottage garden galvanised metal or rusty steel can be both contemporary and traditional.  Is your water feature flush with the ground or is it raised?  In a small space a raised pool often works better.  A 1 m2 pool raised 450mm high provides an exciting focal point, is large enough for dramatic reflection and, the rim is the right height to sit on and enjoy.

Fountains can make or break.  Think subtle and sophisticated.

A large fountain in a small pool is totally out of scale.  Try a small bubble fountain fixed just under the water’s surface; the jet will gently babble away creating a calming movement and sound, or use a very fine jet and keep it simple.  One arching spray of water on the centre is more than adequate. For a Mediterranean feel locate a jet in each corner of a square or rectangular pool and aim them to cross each other. The Alhambra Garden in Spain is a great resource for inspiration.

Still water requires a little more maintenance to keep it clean and it will also evaporate quicker.  A little black dye will help heighten the reflective qualities and stop algae growing.

The Alhambra Gardens in Spain

Do not overcrowd a pool with lots of plants; remember the design mantra that less is more.  Again think scale. You don’t want a miniature water garden, but you do need to choose plants that are appropriate to the pond size.  Miniature water lilies can work well if planted alone. For contrast plant large oval-leaved Hosta around the edge and sword-shaped Iris directly into the water.  If you are looking for inspiration I would suggest visiting the flower shows or have a look at their websites – RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is generally the best one for water-plants.  (Try not to look at the larger water gardens; this is not the look you are trying to achieve.)

Safety, with water in the garden, is paramount.  A raised feature is safer, especially if you have young children, but I would always insist the client has a metal grid fitted just below the water surface so that if a child falls in, the grid would protect them.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Andrew Duff: How to make the most of RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

Marcus Barnett, Inchbald School of Design

With the RHS Chelsea Flower Show just around the corner I would encourage you to visit if you can.  This year the RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 23rd – 27th May 2017.  Chelsea is the main event in a garden designer’s calendar and a rich source of inspiration.

As with any great show it is essential to plan ahead.  The RHS Chelsea website is excellent for this; it lists all the individual show gardens, their designers, a drawing of the garden and the plant lists.  It also lists all the main exhibitors from the garden furniture stands right through to the nurseries in the main marquee.

My plan of action is to print off the map well in advance:  this gives me an opportunity to plan a route through the site.

I start with the main avenue and those jaw-dropping show gardens, then work my way through the main marquee for a little light relief where I look at the nursery stands before embarking on the smaller gardens, the exhibition stands, and finally the gardens set amongst the woodlands.

Serena Fremantle, Inchbald School of Design

Don’t forget the gardens are not always as they might seem; lots of the show gardens have their plants forced in heated glass houses or held back in a refrigerator so you can never be sure that the planting combinations you see are realistic.  Instead look at flower shape.  A few years ago Luciano Giubbilei’s blood red peonies and bronze fennel were amazing, this can easily be reproduced with roses or other round flower shapes with grasses.

Make sure you grab a plant list. 

The designer or a member of their team is often on the garden and there is always the chance to ask them questions. That is what they are there for!

Watch for colour trends – last year’s brilliant-white and plum-red stole the show.  The year before acid greens and pale blues worked their magic.  Check out quirky ideas such as different mulches, different path edges and other innovations.  Look at style.  There is often a certain style running through the show; last year it was very strong and proud, all making a statement.  This year I predict an altogether softer approach.

If you have not been able to beg or borrow a Chelsea ticket this year, all is not lost.  The RHS website is still worth researching and you can get tickets for the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, which although it doesn’t have the same kudos as Chelsea, it is equally interesting and informative.

Easter Activity: Gardening With The Children

Easter is great time to get out into the garden but remember it isn’t just the adults who can help, involve the children!

Create a composter…

As the buds are bursting with new foliage start to clear the old leaves, which have covered the ground from winter.  If you have room start a leaf composter, this is a good way to return the goodness back to the soil and the kids can learn too.

Check out this one on Eco Friendly Kids

The main event – Easter Egg Hunt…

The Easter egg hunt is a clever way of getting all the family outdoors in spring.  Remember hide them well, think about giving them clues to their whereabouts.  Use plants as clues for example the egg is in amongst the daffodils or hanging from the rustling bamboo, this helps to nurture an early appreciation of nature embedding a natural respect for the environment.

Getting your hands dirty…

Children love digging – a quick trip to the local garden centre to stock up on some early summer blooms will allow the kids to interact with the garden.  A trick is to buy small and watch them grow.  This will encourage the children to nurture.  Get them to measure the plants once planted and keep a record of their growth.  Give them their own plot they will learn the hard way that plants need care in order to flourish and it also gives them a sense of ownership.

Children love digging in the garden

Look out for dead growth, as plants awake from their winter slumber it is easy to spot those areas which need pruning away.  Remember to edit rather than prune, you want to retain a more natural look rather than conform to a ball shape.  The current trend, seen in the upcoming Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show gardens, is for a more informal approach to gardening so relax and enjoy Easter.

Inchbald Spring Lunch 2017

Mrs Duncan and Charles Funke
Nic Savage, Stephanie Mahon and Andrew Duff

The Spring lunch was held this year on Shrove Tuesday at the Cavalry and Guards club, a venue which is very popular with our guests.

Sarah Morgan and Paul Girardot
Frances Penn, David Mlinaric and Susie Rumbold, President of BIID

Guest of honour was David Mlinaric, who long ago worked for Michael and Jacqueline Inchbald before going on to be the leading authority on the restoration of important houses in both England and Ireland. David brought his daughter Frances, who has now started her own studio.

Dean Keyworth, Nina Campbell, Claire Foggett from The English Garden and Annie Stevens
Lulu Lytle from Soane, Broosk Saib and Sammy Wickins from Helen Green Design

All the guests at this event are distinguished in their own spheres; they included Annie Stevens, past President of BIID, Diana Yakeley, also a past President and newly honoured with the OBE for her contribution to the progress of the British Institute of Interior Design.

Keisha Hulsey from Staffan Tollgård and Lavinia Dargie
Joanna Wood, Susie Rumbold, Simon Playle and Mary Fox-Linton

Old friends included architect Guy Greenfield, graduates Tatiana Tarfur, Keisha Hulsey from Staffan Tollgård, Nic Savage now working in Garden Design, and Nina Campbell a long ago student, now internationally famous.

Lulu Lytle and Tatiana Tafur
Alan Hughes and Suzanne Trocmé

It was a lovely day, most suitable for a Spring lunch and everyone enjoyed the event; most particularly hostess Jacqueline Duncan.

Dean Keyworth and Nina Campbell
Guy Greenfield and Sammy Wickins

Inchbald, at the forefront of Garden Design 2017

Inchbald students, both past and present are at the forefront of Garden Design in 2017

2017 started with great excitement at the Society of Garden Designers Awards.  Inchbald graduate Dan Lobb won the two awards; Judges choice and Designing for Community Space with his project Breaker’s Yard. The judges said it was “An intriguing space. Fantastic design that has been very well handled. Characterful touches that really engage the community”.  Dan then went on to win the coveted Paper Landscape Award for his design Wishhanger.  The judges commented “A design that seamlessly blends the landscape with the architecture in a sensitive very beautiful way.  An extremely accomplished piece of work that shows great sensitivity to the landscape.”

Daniel Lobb’s Breaker’s Yard at Sutton House

The SGD also awarded John Brookes MBE The SGD Special Award for the Society’s most inspiration Fellows, a special Award at the SGD Awards Ceremony for his contribution to the industry.  John was a pioneering Director of the garden school in the early seventies and still has very strong links to the faculty.

Sophie Walker who graduated from Inchbald less than three years ago has teamed up with Anish Kapoor and Zaha Hadid Architects to submit an exciting competition entry to design The Holocaust Memorial in the shadow of The Palace of Westminster.  Her design is currently on show at Number 10 Downing Street.

“Our project, for the Holocaust Memorial in London, starts with a Memorial Grove of Cypress trees that lead to the National Monument, which is an abstracted form in the shape of a vast rock or meteorite. It sits half buried in the site and is to be viewed from an underground gallery or memorial hall, in which the object hovers above the viewer with a looming presence.

Also at this level, the exhibition space and the other public amenities can be accessed. Above ground the memorial can be entered through an opening in the form. It leads to an inner chamber, which is a perfect sphere. This is intended as a space of contemplation and it is our intention that it should be silent and at a low luminosity.

Meteorites, mountains and stones are often at the center if places of re ection, especially in the Jewish tradition. They call on the vastness of nature to be a witness to our humanity.

A memorial to the Holocaust must be contemplative and silent, such that it evokes our empathy. It must be a promise to future generations that this terrible chapter in human history can never occur again.”  

–       Anish Kapoor

You can see Dan Lobbs work at and check out Sophie Walkers competition entry here


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