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Diarmuid Gavin: 10 do’s and don’ts for designing gardens

diarmuid gavin 10 tips for designing gardens

The TV gardener talks to Hannah Stephenson about his own mistakes over the years, and how others can avoid pitfalls in their plots.

Diarmuid Gavin admits even he’s made some faux pas in his time – especially when he looks back at some of the dramatic changes he made to people’s plots in his early TV make-over shows.

“There were a couple of times when, with the exuberance of getting a chance to create a garden and being given a budget, you put everything in but the kitchen sink,” recalls the Irish Garden designer and TV presenter, 54. “Garden design and gardening is definitely a craft that you learn as you go along.”

So, what are the most common design mistakes people make?

“People are too fussy with line or shape, or it might be with using too many materials. Simplicity is often lost,” says Gavin. “People also tend to use too many plants. Why plant three trees, when one will do? There can be too much colour competing for attention.”

Here, Gavin, who is judging the Young Landscapers Award at this year’s BBC Gardeners’ World Live show, offers some top tips on the dos and don’ts of garden design..

1. Don’t leave plants in your car
“If you leave plants in the boot after a trip to the garden centre, you may find them wilted and light-starved a few days later. This is also true with packets of seeds. A huge percentage of those purchased remain in foil-wrapped comfort and don’t make it into the warming soil. So, prepare the ground before you shop and when you get home from a trip to the garden centre, don’t just reminisce about the tea and apple pie you had in the swish cafe – while your plants sweat in a sauna!”

2. Don’t upset the neighbours
“Check if you need planning permission for projects. I once I created a courtyard garden in Birmingham with an in-built lift. The terrace rose at the flick of a switch to reveal a subterranean room for evening entertainment. A neighbour complained, the council got involved, and the sleek paving was no longer permitted to rise.”

dont go ott on colour

3. Don’t go OTT on colour
“Be careful about the colours you choose when painting walls, fence panels or sheds. Cobalt blue may look good in an exotic garden in Marrakech but on the yard wall of a two-up-two-down with a distinct lack of warming sunshine, it may feel a little forlorn. I’m responsible for many awards of garish candy pink due to an obsession with the work of Mexican architect, Luis Barragan.”

4. Don’t use too many different stones
“If you’re planning on a hard landscaping project, keep in mind that less can be more. There’s so much choice of natural stone and paving products available in DIY stores and patio centres that temptation can lead you to purchase a few different styles of brick or slab. Combining a number of different colours and finishes can be tricky. For greater coherence with a design, stick to one product or theme.”

5. Do find out your soil type
“The most important thing about gardening is understanding your soil and putting plants where they are going to be happy. Most of us don’t do that. Digging and understanding what the soil needs to make it better is vital. There’s no point putting rodgersias or primulas in a dry part of the garden.”

6. Do pair up clashing colours
“I like clashing colours, and when we did that in my mechanical garden (Chelsea, 2016), I tried to go against the norm, so I’d have pastel pinks but then I’d also try a bomb of geums in tangerine, just to explode it. Whatever statement you’re making, make it! I don’t believe in the whole colour wheel thing or any of these rules. We’d all end up with gardens looking exactly the same if we follow them.”

do make use of green

7. Do make use of green
“If you are going for a bling garden in which you want every colour in the sun, you want the Smarties pack, absolutely fantastic, but we undervalue green. I find greenery really cooling and beautiful. Don’t underestimated the effects that you can get from the contrast of shades and the shape of leaves, because that can be beautiful too. Then work some colour in to highlight certain areas.”

do give yourself room on your patio

8. Do give yourself room on your patio
“Lay out a table and six chairs around it before you lay your patio, and understand the amount of circulation you’ll need. We are beginning to live outdoors on patios and decks, whenever the weather’s in our favour.”

9. Do try to hide paths
“You need good pathways, although I was always a devil for not putting in pathways and making people walk across lawns, because pathways always dominated my sight lines. I do have a path issue. In certain areas, where they create very strong lines, I don’t like them, so hide or disguise them if you can.”

10. Do plant next to the house
“Have a little bit of planting right next to the base of the house, taking into account your drainage and that you don’t want water seeping into the brickwork. But planting close to the house will soften the building. You can do it with contemporary architectural plants, using topiary such as buxus in a modernist house. In a suburban house, you can use something quite gentle, like billowing lavender, with climbers shooting up in-between. They soften the landscape and the view looking back to the house from the garden. If you can’t plant next to the house, use pots and containers and install an irrigation system.”

BBC Gardeners’ World Live takes place at the NEC Birmingham from June 14-17. For more information, see bbcgardenersworldlive.com

At Home With L’homme: 3 decor themes for style-conscious chaps

ideal houses for sale for men

Man caves have come a very long way. Gabrielle Fagan reveals the trends to tap into now.

The days of men taking a backseat when it comes to decorating are long gone. In fact, they’re now well and truly in the driving seat when it comes to their own homes, and often still ensuring their taste is reflected in shared spaces.

They’re design-literate, and just as keen to show off their branded homeware as they are the designer contents of their wardrobes, and their desire for relaxing, practical spaces is in step with the whole trend for functional homes, where character and personality shine through.

So call it what you will – man cave, bachelor pad, or boy base – there’s no excuse for that men’s room not looking stylish any more, with an array of cool kit and furnishings now designed with men in mind. Here are three style personality types, and inspiration for getting the look…

houses for sale ideal for males

Mr Cool & Contemporary
Less is more for this man and he demands high design and quality for everything, from the contents of his wardrobe, to his car and his decor.

Measured and analytical, he’ll put endless research into sourcing furnishings and furniture that’s just right, and regard them as investments which will turn his home into a space worth bragging about.

“Masculine-inspired design is all about sleek, subtle sophistication,” says Sivan Metzer, furniture buyer, Heal’s. “To get the look, opt for a careful combination of clean lines and sturdy materials in a neutral colour scheme, for a masculine effect that’s as elegant as it is functional. Strengthen this streamlined aesthetic, created by simple, straight lines, by accentuating the rich pigmented tones of polished oak, with details like bright brass or copper finishes.”

She recommends deep grey for a room’s base colour, to conjure a “an easy-on-the-eye look that will maintain its appeal over time. Statement leather furnishings introduce moody characteristics with strong, masculine undertones into a space,” Metzer adds.

Boy zone
This guy wants his home to be on-trend but fun and functional, so that it’s an easy-to-maintain and airy space, where he can chill out and entertain. He’s a playful lively character, happy to have affordable humorous touches that can be easily changed as fashions change and will sit alongside his collection of boys’ toys and comic book heroes.

Unfussy, uncluttered – he knows good storage can hide a multitude of mess – he’ll love multi-functional furniture (a coffee table that converts to a dining table) so that he can make the best use of every inch of space.

“It’s all about shining a light on a man cave and letting the style in,” says Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor, Furniture Choice. “Whether you live alone or are sharing your space, there are easy ways to add masculine touches to your home. Start by displaying your interests – a solid, well-made picture frame can do wonders for comic book prints, movie posters, a football team photo, and then group a collection for a personal wall display.

“Colour is another way to express yourself,” Snowden adds. “The colour-shy could opt for easy, interesting neutrals – grey, khaki and sage – which are great alternatives to black and white. For the bold, subtle pops of bright shades, such as navy blue, mustard, and even a flash of vibrant pink will add a fresh twist to your scheme.

“If you’re new to decorating, don’t worry about trends. Stripes, chevrons and other geometric prints never go out of style, and materials like leather and suede are classic choices.” A Newark Teal Fabric 2 Seater Sofa, currently reduced to £399.99 from £599.99, Furniture Choice, would inject a splash of colour into a room.

property for sale suited to men

Retro man
He’s part of the retro-revolution celebrating those iconic items from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies, and displaying them in a funky, industrial setting. He’s laid-back like his style, and knows that the coolest homes should feel ‘collected’ as opposed to ‘decorated’.

Warm, weathered and raw elements like dark woods, coupled with renovated machinery and pieces crafted with care, make for a macho-look that oozes character and is constantly evolving. He’ll definitely opt for vinyl over downloads, and vintage over contemporary.

“Men have never been as savvy about design and interiors as they are today. The huge growth of Pinterest and Instagram has brought interior design to the masses and interiors inspiration is everywhere,” says David Harris, design director, Andrew Martin.

“Funky neon artwork, modern art wallpapers, architectural lighting ranges, and great furniture covered in rich velvet and leathers is all helping to attract a more masculine following. Men are now feeling more confident than ever about their interior ideas and want to show off their taste.”

Petal Power: 3 Ways To Make Your Home Blooming Beautiful This Summer

3 Ways To Make Your Home Blooming Beautiful This Summer

No matter how your garden grows, anyone can enjoy an abundance of flowers indoors with this year’s stunning floral designs. Gabrielle Fagan picks the best of the bunch.

Nature’s best and brightest blooms inspire decor designs year after year, and the new-season ranges are blossoming with a fresh, contemporary take on the trend.

“Florals never lose their appeal, but this year, be brave and experiment with bold colours and eye-catching patterns to bring the outside in,” says Claire Hornby, creative stylist at Barker & Stonehouse. “It’s such an easy way to inject colour and pattern into your home. For a pared-back, summer-inspired space, opt for smaller floral accessories such as patterned chairs or cushions, which will pair well with neutral hues,” she adds.

Whether you’re looking to create an attention-grabbing feature wall in an all-over floral print, or add simple botanical-inspired accessories, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to incorporate florals into a living space. Here are three ways to embrace petal-power right now…

Pick a posy of pinks for perennially pretty decor

“Spring’s all about embracing brighter colours and bolder prints, so naturally, florals are an absolute shoo-in for the season,” says Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor at Furniture Choice.

“Florals or tropical prints, especially in bright pinks from rose to fuschia, are excellent statement-makers. They can be used for pops of colour in a smaller room, or will anchor a scheme if used to create a striking feature wall.

“For a major style boost, opt for larger botanical prints in the form of murals or wall art,” she suggests. “Experiment with light-coloured patterns for a relaxed natural look, or create a bold bohemian space with darker hues and busier motifs.”

Let blues blossom in serene scenes

“The trend for floral designs shows no signs of abating,” says Hannah Thistlethwaite, textiles buyer at Heal’s. “Opting for botanical-inspired homeware is an easy way to introduce invigorating touches of nature to enhance the atmosphere in any room.

For an understated theme, use soft floral prints in washed-out blue and white linens, to create a refreshingly laid-back effect,” she adds. “For an effortless update, look for cushions with a two-tone motif and pair with cool grey or blue fabrics to evoke a clean, Scandi-style aesthetic, which pays a subtle nod to the floral trend. Make a statement in a living room with bright pops of rich teal or blue blooms for fabrics or accessories contrasted with vibrant greenery, which will beautifully reflect nature’s palette.”

It would be hard to find a more eye-catching wallpaper than Giardino Segreto (Scene 1 Delft), £195 a roll, by Designers Guild, a company renowned for its stunning designs.

Bring a room to life with botanicals

“Botanical and floral prints continue to be top of the list for freshening up our decor,” says Yvonne Keal, head of product at curtain and blinds specialists, Hillarys. “They connect us to the outdoors, and if something works well in nature, it’ll work in a room. But just as we wouldn’t have a wilting bouquet in our homes, any floral look we introduce should feel fresh and new, and this season doesn’t disappoint.

“Botanical motifs on fabrics are subtle and hand-drawn – straight out of an artist’s sketchbook. Small-scale florals, watercolour washes and fade-out prints are blooming in gently joyful neutral grown-up shades, while soft greens, pale blues and lavender are replacing the rich jewel tones and clashing patterns of 2017, to help us create the more calm haven we crave this year.

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