Garden planting ideas

Nira Sharma, Ultimate Garden Designs
Photo: Geoff Lloyd

Nira Sharma, Ultimate Garden Designs Photo: Geoff Lloyd - Credit: Archant

How do you plant the perfect garden? Cheshire garden designer Nira Sharma has some ideas.

Planting design from Ultimate Garden Design
Credit: Nira Sharma

Planting design from Ultimate Garden Design Credit: Nira Sharma - Credit: Archant

Hale-based garden designer Nira Sharma, of Ultimate Garden Designs, has found herself suddenly rather rushed off her feet. Summer is always a busy time of year, of course, but this extra business she puts firmly down to lockdown.

“I have had a lot more enquiries than usual at this time of year,” she says. “I don’t think I have ever been so busy. It’s largely, I think, because people have had a lot more time to just look at their gardens lately and think about whether they like them, want to improve them or to change them completely.

“As a result, I am doing a lot of planting plans. A lot of people are coming to me for planting ideas: how to freshen up an area of the garden, or a few areas of the garden. They might be quite happy with the structure of it but realise that the plant beds are looking a bit dull, haven’t been restocked or really thought about for a while. Things die, other things spread out and start to take over so it’s always wise to keep on top of it.”

During the strictest part of lockdown, Nira managed all her client consultations and presentations entirely digitally. As Stay Home progresses into Stay Alert, however, her clients are able to dictate the way they will work that makes them most comfortable.

A detailed planting plan for use by the homeowner or gardening team
Credit: Nira Sharma, Ultimate G

A detailed planting plan for use by the homeowner or gardening team Credit: Nira Sharma, Ultimate Garden Designs - Credit: Archant

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“The first time I have met most clients recently has been digitally – over Zoom or WhatsApp video even. This is my opportunity to get to know the clients, to understand what kind of garden they want and how much work they will want to do as the seasons progress, their life-stage and what the make-up of the family is - small children, pets, etc. Then, if they’re happy, they can measure the beds themselves, but I can go and do it as there’s no need for me to see anybody at all other than through a window! I can then get a 360-degree perspective on the garden; looking at it from all angles, seeing where shade falls and where sunny corners lie, what can be seen from which window, etc, is helpful. A garden might be south facing for example, but mature trees on a neighbouring property may cast shade in early in the day. A gentle slope might not register with the homeowner, but it may cause a damp spot in a certain bed that would affect plant choice. I do like to get a feel for a garden, to test the soil type and see what’s already growing and doing well and what’s struggling – to get a good idea of what’s really going on.”

Once Nira has all the groundwork done she can present a planting plan to the homeowners, and again, what they do next is entirely their choice.

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“My planting plan is designed to show a bird’s eye view of the whole garden, showing what plants and in what volume should go in which bed. From here, they can take on the whole project themselves, or ask me to manage part or the whole of it.

“I can send the plant list, with sizes and quantities and photos of each one, and they can source them themselves, or I can order them from the nurseries I work with and have them delivered. The homeowners can choose to do the planting themselves (and during lockdown many have, which is new!), use their own gardener or I can arrange for my team to undertake the task. My planting plans aren’t ever just for the here and now, of course. I will plan for a season-by-season rolling display, so that would include spring bulbs, which you can’t plant now, for example. To help the homeowner manage this, I also create an aftercare plan, where I list what needs cutting back and when, any pruning or feeding, etc.

“Not everybody wants to get their hands dirty, of course, although I have had one client recently who did everything himself in a £20,000 planting scheme, including some quite big trees. For those who aren’t keen, I can look after everything for them, year-round.”

It sounds like quite an intense job, being a garden designer.

“It can be very intense,” Nira laughs. “There’s a lot more maths than I had anticipated before I started, for sure! A really successful garden has something beautiful to look at all year round, from evergreen hedging to spring blossom to summer perennials and autumn colour. This needs planning and scheduling, quantities of each plant need calculating – and planned growth of each one taken into consideration – plus how long each plant will take to reach its potential and whether this will leave gaps in the beds. It’s complicated, sometimes, but I can’t think of a more wonderful to spend my time. And the end results are always just what the client ordered, which makes everybody happy!”

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