The Great Outdoors – weekend walk inspiration

An article published in Bovingdons property magazine – by Emma Hanford

Gardens are suddenly the place to be at home. As a nation we’re spending more time than ever outside, but when there are so many garden styles, features and plants to choose from, where do you go for ideas to create your own private green oasis?

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Savill Gardens

We thought it would be a great idea to find out where local expert, Emma Hanford of Muddy Boots Landscape Design and Planting, gets her inspiration.

“Look to the natural landscape for inspiration”, says Emma.  “When we stop and notice how landscapes make us feel, we can start to understand how our own garden space can be designed to create different moods and atmosphere.”

“It’s all about creating an emotional connection with your outdoor space – we spend a lot of time out here, your garden should not only reflect your personal style and a list of practical needs, but also have a special atmosphere that sits naturally and sustainably within the wider environment.

The beautiful Chilterns offer a perfect combination of scenic towns and villages nestled into stunning, accessible countryside – which means a diverse landscape of woodland, chalk hills, lush valleys and open meadows together with some beautiful small gardens and garden-related businesses to visit. Here are some places to try for inspiration:

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Spring blossom
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Wood Asters and Ferns
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Hydrangeas and ferns at Chenies Manor

Woodland wonders

The Chilterns is a heavily wooded area, with the famous beech woods being the jewel in the crown (Beaconsfield, where Bovingdons HQ is based, actually means ‘clearing in the beeches’). Here you can see the changing fresh greens of Spring and Summer transform into the fiery shades of Autumn.   One of the best places to visit for this is Aston Rowant Nature Reserve and Cowlease Wood near Christmas Common.

Despite the M40 cutting through these two areas, this reserve is a haven for local flora and fauna – as well as stunning views across Oxfordshire.  Over 30 different species of butterflies live here thanks to the flower-rich grassland of Beacon Hill, while on the opposite side Cowlease Wood offers a stunning springtime display of bluebells and wood anemones as well as local orchids, underneath the woodland canopy of beeches, oaks and hazels.  Here you can get a great idea of how a whole community of textural foliage plants and seasonal colour knits together underneath the canopies of beautiful, constantly changing trees – something you can recreate back at home.

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Woodland edge planting

A feast of flowers

A colourful, flower-filled garden always turns heads, but the key to planning a garden is to look for a sucesssion of interest through the year. For inspiration on how to create long-lasting summer flower combinations look no further than  Waterperry Gardens near Watlington, where visitors can enjoy a series of distinct periods of flowering from late Spring into Autumn – whether or not you know your lupins from your geraniums, and your asters from your heleniums. Despite its grand scale compared to many gardens, Waterperry is a lesson in how to naturally create colour and interest in your own garden through carefully-selected, successional planting. This is vital not only to look good but to help wildlife communites which rely on the supply of plant food and shelter at different times of the year.

Wild Meadows

Chenies Manor, near Chesham offers a dose of history with your garden inspiration. This series of garden spaces around a 16th century manor house is a great example of combining colour, texture and structural planting to create ‘rooms’ within a garden. They have events through the year including the ever popular Dahlia festival which will certainly help you hone your preferred flower colour palette!

Year-round interest

While it is easy to be seduced by these voluptuous flower borders of summer, one of the main challenges in designing your garden space is to create year-round interest.  While the hard surfaces of patios, walls and pergolas bring scale and proportion to the space, it is the plants that add the natural character and structural interest with seasonal variation throughout the year.  A good place to understand this better is the Savill Garden in Windsor Great Park which features 35 acres of interconnected gardens. These demonstrate what can be achieved in any garden situation – whether it’s shady, damp woodland space or a sunny, open meadow – the rose garden is certainly a sensory delight in June.  However, most stunning of the gardens are the winter plantings which demonstrate how the form and bark colour of skeletal trees, textural evergreens and colourful stems of structural plants can create a stunning winter landscape before the Spring bulbs arrive.

These winter landscapes gives garden owners a real appreciation of the diversity of trees and shrubs, and their importance as structural elements of the landscape, no matter how large or small your space.

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Colourful winter stems at Savill Garden

Time for trees

Trees are critical in all gardens – the best ones provide interest through the year as well as food and shelter for wildlife. They are relatively inexpensive when bought as young specimens and will provide years of interest.

A local tree nursery is a great place to build your appreciation of trees and understand more about what will suit your particular garden space.  Form Plants is a new trade nursery at Dorney Court, between Maidenhead and Slough, where garden designers get their plants. It offers a wide selection of semi-mature trees, shrubs and perennials to view in a well curated setting with friendly knowledgeable staff to guide you. It is also right next to Dorney Court Kitchen Garden for that much needed coffee and cake after your garden endeavours.

If you still stuck for ideas, why not ask an expert like Muddy Boots to guide you through the garden design process.  Muddy Boots combines a passion for plants and horticultural expertise with ecological awareness, straight-talking communications and experienced project co-ordination.  Emma Hanford leads private landscape design projects in and around Beaconsfield, working alongside skilled contractors and quality trade nurseries to deliver plant-led garden projects with passion and purpose.

“I believe that together we can develop beautiful outdoor environments which are practical yet emotionally engaging, plant-led yet simple to maintain, whilst increasing the biodiversity that many wilder landscapes are losing – after all, these are the green corridors that connect our landscape”

More information:

Aston Rowant:

Waterperry Gardens:

Chenies Manor:

Savill Garden:

Form Plants: