To celebrate the fantastic RHS Hampton Court Flower Show kicking off, we thought we’d catch up with gardening goddesses Gabrielle Bradshaw (below left) and Gill Gauntlett (below right) for some top tips and expert advice on how you can create your own green oasis.
Plus, they’ve given us a sneak peek into their gardens at home to see how they’ve dressed their outdoor spaces and what they love to use them for.
What do you use your garden for?
Gabrielle: I am a practicing fine artist and I draw and paint a lot in the garden, as soon as any bright vibrant flowers appear, I am out there with my pastels (pictured below)! In the summer months I work away quite a lot, so when I am home I love to have breakfast in the garden and we eat outside in the evenings too… if the weather permits. Our bistro table and chairs take centre stage.
Gill: My own garden is quite small, I treat it like an extension to my home, another room. It’s mostly to relax and sometimes entertain friends and family. It’s basically a small patio at the side, with a small lawn for my dogs, Teddy and Buddy. I have a mixture of pots, flowers and lights with a table and chairs in the middle. I love taking out cushions and throws to make it a haven to relax in.
What are some of your favourite gardening trends you’ve seen this year?
Gabrielle: A designer living nearby has just turned her garden into a ‘beach’ by getting rid of grass and having pebbles with plants growing through them in certain areas. I am not sure if this is a current trend, but it looks lovely and is very tempting. However, when I mentioned it to my husband he wasn’t so keen saying he likes our garden green!
Gill: I think the things I’ve most noticed in trends this year is that garden furniture isn’t just about practicality, it’s about style and comfort, much like inside. So throws, cushions and outdoor snugs! Lighting has also become a main staple in peoples’ garden; from solar, to battery, to mains. So it’s important to create a relaxing place you can put your feet up and give yourself those 15 minutes to yourself you really deserve! I love the subtle tones in decor and bright pops of colours in planting!
What’s your favourite flower or plant for this time of year and why?
Gabrielle: Poppies and sunflowers always make me smile. They both have a slightly cartoony feel to them which appeals to me and the colours are breathtaking; especially rich, red poppies. They are also a real joy to draw and paint.
Gill: My absolute favourite plant is agapanthus, something that works so well in the front and back of my home. I also love the beautiful peony, glorious when in full bloom; it’s not the most long-lasting flower, but a wonderful addition to any garden and they come back year after year. Lastly, I always find a place for lavender (Mont Rose of Guernsey pictured); I have a bed of them running alongside an outside wall, when people pass I get a few admiring comments.
What’s your top tip for making the most of a small space?
Gabrielle: Choose a central feature and then ‘dress’ it with your favourite plants and flowers. Even if you have a very small garden, balcony or a roof terrace you can create an oasis of colour and tranquillity.
Gill: To make the most of any space I say you need to plan carefully and leave nothing to chance. Where you can, keep space free on the ground by planting climbers and use moveable pots and hanging baskets. I also love to see things on the wall in smaller garden, big clocks are a favourite, mirrors and even wall art.
Then we have the other way around, how can a garden with lots of open space and look busy?
Gabrielle: Think about creating different levels in the garden. This adds interest and gives a 3D sculptural feel to any space. Draw the eye upwards with hanging baskets and wall planters. Small wall sculptures can also work well.
One of the most magical gardens I’ve ever seen was tiny, not much more than a roof terrace with a wall at the end. A huge mirror with an ornate gold frame had been mounted on the wall at the back and ivy had grown all round it. Not only did it look mysterious and slightly magical, it made the garden seem to go on forever.
Gill: Loads of space is a dream for a lot of people and if you are lucky enough to have this, make the most of it! As with a small garden the same rules apply, plan carefully, just wider choices! It really helps to make a drawing of what you want. Borders, big flower beds, shrubs and even a few trees, they don’t need to be huge (Kilmarnock Willow is one of my favourites). Rolling lawns, winding pathways, and even a water feature. Then get digging!
As I mentioned earlier, my garden isn’t the biggest, but with pretty decorative touches and a spacious lawn, I’ve made the most of the space…
What do you think is a common mistake people make which can easily be fixed?
Gabrielle: I’d say over estimating the time you are going to have. Most of us are rushing around and want our gardens to be relaxing spaces. If this is you (and it is definitely me) then keep things simple so that you can enjoy the time you have in the garden and not be continually worrying about what you haven’t done.
Gill: Something I have done is putting the wrong plants in the right places, some prefer sun and some a shady spot, bit like us! You need to check heights to make sure the tallest are at the back and make sure different plants get along! Dead heading can be time consuming but absolutely essential to get the most out of your plants and watering (even in the rain) must be high on the list for a garden to bloom!
What are some of your most recent QVC gardening loves?
Gabrielle: I work closely with Smart Solar at QVC and some of their products this year have been beautiful. I particularly liked the wheelbarrow and wishing well planters we had early in the season. Also look out for the solar powered water mill feature coming up soon. Not only does the water wheel turn but the lights come on in the mill at night. It is charming. Here they all are at home in my garden…
Gill: I am very lucky as I get to try out (not keep!) what I bring to air, but as you would expect I have my favourites. I’ve picked out my absolute loves from this year and the ones I will be using in my garden! This is when I wish it was much bigger! I love love love the faux Ivy trellis, which has really transformed my fence this year! I also love this crank and tilt umbrella, set of two Luxform lanterns, Luxform set of four tea solar lanterns, set of four Luxform crown lights, Luxform string lights, Bella Notte mercury lantern… Like I said, if my garden was bigger, my list would be too!