Gardening experts Lorna Ko and Michael Perry have joined forces to share their top tips on how you can easily transform your garden by being smart with your space. With Lorna’s specialist knowledge on water features and ornaments combined with Michael’s love of all things flora, they’re a match made in gardening heaven.
Ying & Yang: Lorna’s Minimalistic & Michael’s Messy Gardens!
Growing up I was fortunate enough to visit my grandfather who lived in Japan many times. He lived in a region called Okayama which is to the west of Tokyo (it’s a for hour ride on the Shinkansen which is also known as the Bullet Train), and is one of the sunniest places in Japan.
My grandfather had a beautiful Zen minimalistic garden outside his house, a large vegetable patch where he grew daikon or mooli (large white Japanese radishes – totally delicious!) and several acres of rice paddies where he would grow and cultivate his own rice.
Some families are fortunate to have vineyards and wines to their name, and I felt extremely blessed to have a family rice we could eat! Walking outside our family home I was always instantly calmed and soothed by the deceptively simple Zen garden. I’d like to share some tips with you on creating your own Zen style paradise! Watch out Michael!
Lorna and I are the very definition of ying and yang! I’m a bloke, she’s a lady! I’m super tall, she’s.. err.. the opposite! She has a sweet, Asian look, while I have harsh, deep-set Greek ones!
But, the way we like to relax in the garden is the complete opposite too.. Lorna enjoys the gardens of her heritage; calm, zen-like spaces, with simple planting.
I like Mediterranean CHAOS, thick planting, dense and weed-suppressing, hugely exotic, colourful, texture-rich and in-your-face!
So, in this blog we will explore the differences between us and the gardens, and we want to see which you prefer…
Michael’s love of landscape bedding
It’s a fact that planting your borders densely (i.e. with more plants) will mean they are more self-sufficient, almost self-watering, and the dense canopy will actually prevent weeds – YES REALLY! I’ve been a huge fan of the ‘landscape bedding’ concept over the last few years.
All too many times, I see lonely marigolds, feet away from their bedfellows, and with lots of ugly soil in between! This is maintenance-heavy, and damn right daft!
Make life easier for yourself in the garden by planting bigger, landscape style bedding plants, ones which branch more, covering the ground. They’ll give the weeds some healthy competition, and keep the moisture locked in the ground too, meaning less watering.
Cottage garden planting styles work in a similar way, the dense planting means the weeds don’t even get a look in. Your borders will be layered with colour, texture and a long season of interest thanks to the rich mix of different plants you choose!
Lorna talks Zen inspiration
So what is a zen-style garden? Very simply, it’s a Japanese style of garden made up predominantly of rocks and gravel with little or no greenery, apart from maybe some grass, moss or some carefully pruned bushes or bonsai trees. The rocks are meant to represent islands and the grave, sea and rakes are used to create ripple designs in the gravel to represent the waves of the sea.
They are very peaceful and serene and the intent is to recreate a view from a cliff or mountain of a stunning coastal scene.
Buddhist monks use Zen gardens for meditation and rake different patterns in the gravel to represent the changes in both the oceans and in human minds alike. Zen gardens can even be created indoors on a table – you just need a box, some gravel, sand and rocks – it’s a great way to keep the kids amused!
When it comes to decorating Zen gardens the simpler the better – I love this Home Reflections Buddha head which would be perfect for placing in your garden, or even popped on a shelf in your hallway or dining room – depending on where you want to add a touch of Zen!
This Bernini Turtle shaped garden sprinkler is also perfect for a Zen style look – it’s a piece of lawn art as well as a 360 degree fully functioning garden sprinkler to keep your bonsai bouncing! In some beliefs the turtle is also a symbol of longevity with a potential lifespan of ten thousand years. Whether this is true or not I hope you enjoy your turtle for a long time to come!
Candles are also a great way to add some minimalistic chic to your outdoor space and this Home Reflections one is flameless, so it not only looks amazing it’s also safe to use indoors or out.
So sit back, turn on your flameless candle, light some incense and take a deep breath – you’re on your way to a calming haven of peace and tranquility!
Michael says: the bigger the better!
Think bigger with the plant varieties that you choose. Don’t plant measly little Begonia ‘Organdy’, with it’s small blooms that are easily weather damaged. Instead, plant Begonia ‘Lotto’, a plant that appears like its on steroids, big, bolshy and easy to fill a space!
Marigolds can sometimes be a bit too tidy as well, they sit there in your beds and borders like cute little soldiers, standing to attention, but not mingling with the crowd! Have a look at Marigold ‘Zenith Mixed’, for hybrid quality, meaning more branches, more blooms, more ground cover. Who wants to see bare soil in the border anyway?
Boodle can be useful, yet messy plants for borders. Why not try Thompson and Morgan breed ‘Buzz’, which is garden-friendly, with compact growth, which makes a neat little Christmas tree-like shape. Boodle attracts so many butterflies to the garden too, so that’ll make sure it’s always busy and bustling!
Lorna: After a hard day in the garden or on your balcony creating that Zen-like space then you may be in the mood for some Zen-style pampering. My top recommendations are:
Yankee Candles have some wonderful true to life fragrances and this set is perfect if you want to create a soothing atmosphere to relax in. There’s fresh lemongrass and ginger, warm peach and orange plus a rich peony variant to create that perfect mood for some mindful meditation!
Michael: When planting en masse in a dense manner, maintenance is much less. The soil is naturally mulched, as there’s space for the moisture to evaporate, meaning it stays just where it’s needed, at the plant roots!
As I’ve mentioned, weeds will also find it hard to get a look in! Your plants need not get out of control either, you can trim back as requested.
In fact, many perennials do benefit from a ‘Chelsea chop’, which is a haircut often given during mid-May. It also keeps them in check, and encourages more floriferous plants! Bargain!
The best Zen and messy gardens we have visited
Lorna: Outside of Japan, some of the best Zen gardens I have seen have been in Beijing and Hong Kong. I was fortunate enough to visit QVC China in Beijing a few years ago and as well as working I managed to squeeze in a day of sightseeing at the Forbidden City and a trip to the Great Wall.
The gardens at the Forbidden City were works of art and you can only imagine how many hours it takes to maintain the exact lines of perfection they show. I think patience is the key word when it comes to creating a true Zen style.
Michael: I don’t see enough busy gardens, too many are manicured to within an inch of their lives (in my opinion). I am a particular fan of giant, grand cottage garden borders, such as those at RHS Wisley, where the dense planting style is practised. Similarly some of our Thompson & Morgan bedding displays are plant-rich, with landscape style bedding specimens abound!
Lorna’s top Zen inspired stress relievers
When it comes to the ultimate in garden relaxation I don’t think you can beat the gentle soothing sound of trickling water cascading down. I live under the flight path by Heathrow airport and whenever I am out in my garden I always turn own my Bernini water feature to help mask the noise from the planes. My top tip for a Zen style water feature is the Bernini All Weather LED Crackle Ball Murano Fountain as it is a very simple and clean design and the gorgeous colour is ideal to set off any greenery of grass, moss and bonsai trees!
Bernini fountains don’t need plumbing or wiring in to work. They don’t need solar power either because they run off a rechargeable battery hidden inside the pedestal – great for an instant water feature without any hard work!
Michael’s messy garden stress relievers
I know it might seem difficult to relax in a messy garden, especially without the Zen calmess, BUT you’ll relax because you won’t be weeding it every day, or dragging the hose out for another night running…. which garden will you choose?
What we’ve been up to this month
Lorna: It’s been a busy start to the autumn for me, with lots going on as usual! I report for the local TV channel in Chiswick called Chiswickbuzz TV and we covered the amazing Chiswick Dog Show a few weekends ago. Thousands of people attended this brilliant event and I was fortunate enough to interview Jeremy Vine, Rula Lenska plus some other famous faces who are all local to the show. I also met Willow, a 12 stone Irish Wolfhound! If you’re completely crazy for canines then it’s a great show to visit!
It was also the Chiswick Book Festival the other week so I was out about about there interviewing authors such as Tim Marshall, Mark Lawson, Janet Ellis, Andy Hamilton and many more. Over 80 authors gave talks over four days including Dame Jacqueline Wilson and Cressida Cowell so if you’re a book lover I definitely recommend checking it out for next year!
I live near to Chiswick House & Gardens and was thrilled to find out they have won several Gold Awards at the London in Bloom 2016 Awards this year so I went along to interview them about their wins. I met the Estate Garden Manager Geraldine and some of the many volunteers who all help keep the beautiful gardens in pristine condition. They had some huge pumpkins along with their regular kitchen garden produce for sale – do pop in if you’re ever nearby!
I also did a modelling shoot for my local Hypoxi Studio last week. Hypoxi is an Austrian weight loss and body shaping method using gentle kinetic exercise with suction and compression to target stubborn body fat. I have been doing it since the end of February and have lost two stone!
I like the fact it’s gentle exercise as opposed to sweating it out in a gym and I was very flattered when the Studio Director, Dorota asked me to be their model for the day working with local Photographer Alastair Hilton!
Finally, Michael and I had a big night out last weekend! Firstly Michael popped into my garden to check out some of my unusual Japanese fruits and plants including Yuzu, (or as Michael calls it – the “citrus with attitude”!) and Sansho herb.
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I then persuaded Michael to try out my adult Microscooter! I borrowed my son’s scooter so we could both scoot into Chiswick for the night (helping to save the environment and get fit!).
We went to Number 197 The Old Firestation for some Aperol Spritz cocktails and then some tapas style dinner which was delicious.
We had lots to talk about so I loved the fact Michael just ordered loads of small sharing dishes so we didn’t have to worry about food and could chat more! We both have lots of plans afoot for the next few months so watch this space!
Michael: It has been a really busy few weeks, well actually months, as I’ve been preparing for my round the world trip! And I now sit here typing on my first stop, New York City! I am staying with my partner in his apartment which overlooks Manhattan, it’s quite hard to believe my eyes when I wake up to a view of the Chrysler Building and more!
Inspired by Lorna, I also packed a Micro Scooter for my trip, although I haven’t taken it out on the streets yet, just from the bedroom to the kitchen, for more snacks!
I’m here for a few weeks, so haven’t got that immediate tourist thirst that you often get on shorter holidays! Although, we did go and discover Williamsburg on Saturday, and I was overcome by the amazing Sprout Home store!
A houseplant shop, why don’t these exist in the UK?!
Ever being the casual tourist, we walked to some friends for the evening last night, to watch the presidential debate…! Our walking route is basically from one end of 42nd Street to the other, passing through Times Square with it’s neon glow!
Next stop is China, but that’s not until late October!
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