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Posted on Wednesday June 30, 2021

Occasionally, just occasionally, it can be difficult to believe politicians. So putting a group of national leaders together, with the express intention of taking joint positive international action for the greater good, may just seem like asking for trouble. It can be tricky to unpick personal and national imperatives from the wider shared goals and promises. Then those too may also be watered down, if not in the expression, then certainly in the execution. 

So the promises of the recent G7 summit in Cornwall may seem to offer thin pickings for real progress. But it is easy to be cynical and equally easy to miss opportunities when they are hidden underneath a bit of spin.

Subtle changes to the landscape

The key achievements included new commitments towards climate action, global taxation, girls’ education, WTO reform, the pandemic recovery, and vaccine distribution – plus a more unified approach to China. So far so good. 

Amongst other things, the G7 committed to accelerating efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep the 1.5°C global warming ceiling within reach, and to halving the G7’s collective carbon emissions by 2030, compared to 2010 levels. Further work is promised on the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars, and by 2030 the G7 nations promise to protect 30% of global land and marine areas for nature internationally and within their own territories by 2030.

These are all important goals and the public commitment by the G7 nations to follow through on these promises should not be discounted.

A new Ethos?

Such promises from the G7 are not exactly a paradigm shift. Similar promises have been made before, viz, Tokyo and Paris. But what’s encouraging is that these undertakings are part of a wider shift. It does seem, especially since a change of government is the USA, that there is greater international consensus about climate change and our required response to it. It seems, in very real terms, that the balance of knowledge, understanding and belief has shifted significantly towards doing real things to avoid a climate disaster.

At long last, this change of emphasis may be exactly what we need. And critically, this does not simply refer to national and international ‘macro’ changes. It is a reflection of the fact that, in the countries those G7 leaders represent, people take climate change seriously and they want their governments to do something about it.

Macro vs Micro, or both together?

We know already that during the Covid-19 lockdown there has been a renewal of interest in gardens and public open spaces. This is not just an expression of personal preferences. During lockdown many people have experienced – and will continue to experience – very real hardship which may take years to overcome. Nevertheless, many have also had the opportunity to re-valuate their priorities. This is not just at a personal level – we see plenty of evidence at a civic level too. 

There is much more interest in public open spaces which are more than a field of grass. There is a real thirst for imaginative and thoughtfully designed public green spaces which are enriching for a wide variety of users. Think of a sensory herb garden for the visually impaired, or landscapes reminiscent of the famous 18th century vistas, scaled down as necessary.

Corporate Vision comes home

The same is true with corporate grounds. Some large companies have boasted beautiful corporate grounds, but to be realistic most have resorted to basic designs which are easy to maintain. What we are seeing now, however, is a flow of businesses and landlords who want to do more.

These companies come from many different sectors. But what unites them is an understanding that the managed landscape around their buildings is important from a multiplicity of reasons. Looking good comes high on the list, but so does employee welfare and wellbeing. For anyone working in an office all day, a lunchbreak outside in relaxing surroundings is genuine balm to the soul, especially if they themselves do not have a garden.

Planned spaces; a planned future

It is this change of emphasis that is encouraging. With better planned outside spaces it is easier to accommodate areas of fallow land, large ponds, water features, and landscapes which are generally more supportive of wildlife and bio-diversity. It is easier to introduce a greater variety of plants and trees and to plan ahead for a landscape that can be managed in a cycle of several years, not just seasonal pruning, grass cutting and the collection of leaves.

Perhaps it is this long view that is most encouraging. It is exciting to see these changes. It is exciting because it means better lives for real people. And it is exciting because, slowly, it looks like we are witnessing a societal shift in the right direction.

So, at a time when sympathy with politicians is at something of a low point, don’t be too hasty to knock G7 2021. Grandstanding and posturing? Yes, naturally. The hint of real progress? That’s something to work with. So what did the G7 do for us? Well they didn’t bring world peace or reverse climate change, but they have at least started to listen. They have at least made it a little bit easier for more people to do the right thing by the world we share.

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E. Williams Landscapes is a Hampshire based specialist garden design company, expert in creating perfect outdoor spaces. They are 5-Star RHS Chelsea Flower Show Award winners, with many accreditations and a reputation for imaginative designs that complement any context. They have considerable experience in projects of all sizes, in both commercial and residential settings. They’re known for the care they take to achieve outstanding results with gardens which are beautiful, practical and sustainable.

info@ewilliamslandscapes.co.uk

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Posted on Monday May 31, 2021

How green spaces have taken on a new significance.

At the risk of misquoting some famous author or playwright, we live in strange times. We need little reminder of the terrible outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic, and most of us are still scratching our heads, trying to quantify the short, medium and long term consequences of Brexit.

Add to this, perhaps not surprisingly in times of stress, the fact that several long-valued national institutions are under scrutiny the likes of which they will not forget easily, and we could be forgiven for thinking that ‘strange’ times is more of a synonym for bleak or hard.

And yet, one outcome of the last 14 months has been a re-evaluation, a re-assessing, even a remembering, of the positive value of green spaces. There has been a genuine re-awakening of joy in the nature around us, regardless of whether this is rolling acres of farmland or a carefully tended window box.

‘Flee the cities!’

In times of previous plagues and pandemics – the years 541, 1347-53, 1665, 1832-33, 1854, 1894 and 1918-20, to list but a few – those who were able left the cities and sought sanctuary in the countryside.

Today in the UK this has not been so easy or practical. Density of population, a shortage of housing, the cost and upheaval of selling and buying property, and the complexity and interrelated nature of modern life – all have mitigated against most people moving.

Those that have moved, however, have sought homes with gardens and easy access to the countryside. Such is the pressure on rural housing that some pundits are now suggesting a rush back to the city centres where prices remain consequently depressed.

New priorities – forced upon us yet welcome.

Instead of huge shifts in population, however, there has been a genuine bursting forth in our appreciation of woodland, wetland, open green spaces and gardens of all sizes, right down to balconies, window boxes and indoor plants. For those of us in the garden design and landscape industry this has been a real boost.

Yes, it is genuinely heart-warming to know that we can keep staff employed, that order books are full and our services are in demand. But more than this is the knowledge that the things we hold dear, the environments in which we work, are now better appreciated not for what they can do but for what they are.

This is at the heart of a significant change in the way society views the natural world, and it gives hope for a stronger desire to right the ecological wrongs that typify the last 300 years of human activity. Governments can talk policy, but it is only when mass sentiment insists on a green revolution that change will really come.

Defying the odds

Re-claiming the natural world as a source of joy and nurture is no longer a minority privilege. Of course, we can’t all live on a mountain side with clear running streams from which to fish on a lazy afternoon, but more and more people are making positive decisions to make their garden somewhere special. This is not a dream, and demand is high.

And this demand is solid, despite the rising costs (Brexit? Ships in Canals? Covid?) of many of the raw materials needed in our business. Cement has risen in price by 15% in the last year and timber for garden construction by 10%. Deliveries for some materials are taking longer to arrive. With our regular teams fully employed, it is a challenge to recruit and train additional employees.

And still demand is high. Without falling into the complacency trap, this looks like more than a short term fad. Everyone we speak to seems committed to improving their own green spaces. And from that it is a small step for more widespread support for a greener, healthier, better future for us all.

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E. Williams Landscapes is a Hampshire based specialist garden design company, expert in creating perfect outdoor spaces. They are 5-Star RHS Chelsea Flower Show Award winners, with many accreditations and a reputation for imaginative designs that complement any context. They have considerable experience in projects of all sizes, in both commercial and residential settings. They’re known for the care they take to achieve outstanding results with gardens which are beautiful, practical and sustainable.

info@ewilliamslandscapes.co.uk

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Posted on Friday April 30, 2021

You don’t need to re-wild to encourage healthy ecosystems.

Biodiversity is more important than ever. This is not just a problem for farmers; it affects everyone. In agriculture there are measurable benefits from crop rotations and wider field margins. The alternative – monoculture crop production, soil damage, increased use of pesticides, short term gain and long term damage to the planet – threatens us all.

It’s the same with gardens.

By making a few simple changes it is easy to increase biodiversity, with all the benefits of healthier plant and insect life, and more birds and small animals. And you don’t need to re-wild or the introduce beavers to make it a success.

Variety is the Spice of Life
While planning flower beds or choosing shrubs and trees, aim for a good variety of plants that suit your location and prevailing weather. Different insects and birds like different plants, so the greater the mix the more likely it is that you’ll increase the range and diversity of wildlife in your garden. Likewise, having something flowering year round will support more insects; and most berry producing shrubs and trees will encourage birds too. Look after large trees; they are ecosystems in their own right and provide a natural habitat for many garden visitors.

This approach applies regardless of the style of garden. It suits formal designs just as well as a cottage garden or low maintenance corporate grounds.

When it comes to flowers, include those that provide pollen and nectar which will encourage and support bees, butterflies and other fertilising insects. Whenever possible, limit the number of  flowers bred just for their spectacular blooms, as these usually contain very little pollen and nectar.

Sow wild flowers
Even with plenty of space, you may not wish to let large areas go ‘wild’ in the truest sense. However, it is easy to leave a modest patch or strip of grass uncut and then sown with wildflowers. The variety of colour will look beautiful and attract more insects – and thus birds too. The longer grass will provide cover for small mammals like field mice, as well as being food for some butterfly caterpillars.

Why not, in fact, leave all the grass to grow a bit longer. Join in with No Mow May and by leaving your lawn alone discover myriad small flowering plants that will come to life – not to mention more bees. For variety, try a ‘Mohican’ lawn cut: the highest production of flowers and nectar were on lawns cut every four weeks, whilst longer, unmown grass had a wider range of flowers.

Leave a log pile in a shady corner
Even in the most manicured garden, there will be space for a little untidiness. Even a small log pile will create a surprisingly rich habitat, Decaying wood is the natural home for fungi and beetles, while the dark damp corners will support woodlice and similar small invertebrates.

Likewise, the odd abandoned flower pot, strategically placed on its side, with a  handful of hay and a partially blocked entrance could be home for a bumble bee. In a similar way some perennials can be left uncut over winter. This is often for their architectural appeal, but the dry hollow stems also provide shelter for hibernating insects.

Food and water for birds and other guests
Bird feeders – ideally with a mixture of foods ranging from fat balls to mixed seeds – will encourage both resident and migrant birds and this food can be a life saver in cold weather. Some bird feeders come with water dishes and separate bird baths also add value and entertainment.

Spare a thought for ground dwellers too – leave out a plant pot saucer filled with water for hedgehogs and consider a pond, to encourage amphibians. Leave it free of fish and let plants colonise naturally. Include a ‘beach’ or sloping sides for easy access for small animals.

Sustainability
Whenever possible, aim for a sustainable garden. Seek out natural solutions to pest control and, outdoors, try to use compost instead of manufactured plant foods. Artificial products frequently have a high carbon footprint and many artificial pesticides harm more than their advertised target.  Re-use and recycle what you can, and set up water butts to collect rain water for use on the garden when it’s dry.

Enjoy
Gardens are to enjoy – either the creation and care, or in the use and admiration. The great thing is, the more biodiverse it becomes, the more it is enjoyed by more creatures, and the more it thrives, with you thriving alongside it too.

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E. Williams Landscapes is a Hampshire based specialist garden design company, expert in creating perfect outdoor spaces. They are 5-Star RHS Chelsea Flower Show Award winners, with many accreditations and a reputation for imaginative designs that complement any context. They have considerable experience in projects of all sizes, in both commercial and residential settings. They’re known for the care they take to achieve outstanding results with gardens both beautiful and practical.
info@ewilliamslandscapes.co.uk



Posted on Tuesday April 13, 2021

Who doesn’t love a show? And when it’s the Chelsea Flower Show, it’s irresistible. Not only is this uniquely magical event a firm fixture in the London social scene, it has justifiably taken its place amongst the world’s great garden and horticultural shows.

A touch of glamour, grounded in commercial reality

Traditionally held every year in May in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, the show is organised by the Royal Horticultural Society. It is attended, naturally enough, by members of the British royal family. The Chelsea Flower Show represents the very best in horticulture, floral displays, and gardens designs.

Prizes in five categories and numerous specialist awards are highly sort after – not just for the honour of winning, but for the status they provide and the resultant commercial potential. Competition is fierce and produces stunning results!

If there’s any doubt about the importance of the Chelsea Flower Show, consider this: it’s probably the most visible such event in the world and certainly within the UK and Europe. Pre-pandemic, the horticultural industry in Britain was worth in excess of £24 billion annually. It employed nearly 600,000 people; probably a lot more once the informal sector is taken into account. So to have the Chelsea show as a flagship is crucial in supporting and maintaining a healthy industry.

Seeds of success

The show has a long history and was in fact first held, under the name of the Great Spring Show, in RHS gardens in Chertsey. It moved in 1862 to Kensington and again in 1888 to Temple Gardens, on the banks of the Thames near the law courts. Already it was established as something of a ‘must visit’ event in fashionable society – not forgetting enthusiastic amateur gardeners along with the backbone of the show, commercial sellers of plants and seeds. 

As the show grew in popularity the Temple Gardens proved too small. Consequently, the early 20th century saw experimentation with several sites, including the gardens of the Royal Hospital where, by the early 1920s, the May show had become an annual fixture. 

In 2020 the show was, inevitably, cancelled – the first time since the second world war – and for 2021 it has been moved to September in the expectation that Covid-19 restrictions will have been relaxed by that time.

Tradition, armed with the cutting edge of science.

The show today has a real sense of both glamour and tradition. There are dazzling floral displays and many of the marquees are rich with the intoxicating perfume of countless blooms revealing their full glory at just the right time. The show is a feast for the senses and food for the soul.

Visiting is an exciting event with few rivals, and for an industry insider to visit or, even better, to exhibit, is a tremendous opportunity to network and learn lots – and to marvel at the sheer magnificence of so many wonderful plants and gardens

There’s a curious thing about horticulture and garden design. It all seems so … natural. And so it should, but make no mistake. The whole industry relies on an intimate and interwoven relationship between the natural world and science. Even the ‘old fashioned’ trial and error approach to grafting and crossing different fruit trees relies on the scientific method of repeated experimentation. Add in soil types, and resistance to drought and disease, and one is quickly into some high-tech thinking – none of which would be supported so well without the publicity provided by high profile events such as the Chelsea Flower Show. 

Don’t forget Design

Even the most stunning plants and flowers need the right context to show off their best. So whether it’s rearranging the pots on a patio or organising an entire garden around a theme and key plants, careful design is essential.

This is why, despite the new plants and floral masterpieces, the garden designs at Chelsea are so important. These compact creations take months to plan and prepare, masterminded quite literally to the last inch. Space is at a premium, so there is no room for error. Additionally, garden themes can be as important as their looks – in the future look out for designs incorporating only natural materials, recycled and re-purposed materials and plants which are capable of withstanding extremes of weather and climate. 

Most of all, look out for the gardens that strike a real chord within you. Much will depend on your own mood and preferences, but some will stand out as universally beautiful. Look out for the handful of gardens which are, like blossom in springtime, quite simply perfect.

E. Williams Landscapes is a Hampshire based specialist garden design company, expert in creating perfect outdoor spaces. They are 5-Star RHS Chelsea Flower Show Award winners, with many accreditations and a reputation for imaginative designs that complement any context. They have considerable experience in projects of all sizes, in both commercial and residential settings. They’re known for the care they take to achieve outstanding results with gardens both beautiful and practical.

info@ewilliamslandscapes.co.uk



Posted on Tuesday February 23, 2021

 or how experience teaches us how to think ahead.

There’s nothing more frustrating than having a great plan that fails because it’s based on the wrong information. It’s the same with landscape gardening. Whether you’re rejuvenating an established garden or creating something brand new, careful preparation is key to success. The right planning will deliver gardens that are not just a long term pleasure, it will unlock the hidden wonders of the natural world.

Thinking: inside or outside the box?

And there’s nothing like experience to show us how things can be done better. Only through experience is it possible to properly understand quite why specific choices will have particular outcomes.

Of course, we can all do some research and find information online (and in books!) and we might even be able to produce appealing garden designs, based purely on theory.  But it’s only with experience that the garden designer, plantsperson, and landscape specialist will be able to develop the sense of vision that produces truly great results.

“Right plant, right place.”

This now popular phrase was a favourite of Beth Chatto, the iconic garden designer made famous by her first book, The Dry Garden. In the 1960s and 70s, faced with cultivating a dry and windswept corner of Essex, she decided that a new approach was required. Rather than try and impose what she wanted on an inhospitable environment, she set about finding plants and trees that would flourish there naturally.

In this way she and her husband were able, very successfully, to create harmonious and dynamic gardens where their contemporaries had doubted anything would grow. Today, this seems fairly obvious. But at the time, it was a radical solution and we can all be grateful that she captured her experience in her ground-breaking book. It’s an approach that experienced modern garden designers use now, frequently. We make use of natural features, the soil specific to the location, and microclimates as well as the prevailing weather.

Adapt and prosper

Now, 43 years after the publication of The Dry Garden, the lesson has come full circle. We need to learn from those 20thcentury revelations and apply that approach to our own experience of climate change. Although the future is never certain, it seems clear that we are likely to have hotter summers and wetter winters than before. We need to translate that information into landscape and garden design, right down to the details of which plants go where.

Some plants, of course, will tolerate the changes. However, there is undoubtedly going to be shift towards plants that are more Mediterranean in style. In some areas this will also need to accommodate the possibility of water logged soils in the winter, which may become rock hard in a long dry summer. Choice of plant will never be more important. Getting it right will save money. More importantly, getting it right will mean that our gardens will continue to be places to love and enjoy for years to come.

Think big

As well as careful choice of plants, the whole design of a garden – whether domestic, corporate or civic – also has a huge impact. Exactly what goes where has always been important; and never more so than today. So consider how large features relate to small ones, how trees can be placed strategically to provide just the right amount of shade, and how thinking ahead can keep gardens easy to maintain as well as beautiful. 

Don’t be afraid to seek advice from someone with experience. Most of us like to watch a good television programme, but relatively few of us know how to produce or direct one. If we had to, we’d need an expert to help; and it’s the same with gardens. Find a professional from whose experience you can benefit and listen to what they have to say. It’ll be worth it.

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E. Williams Landscapes is a Hampshire based specialist garden design company, expert in creating perfect outdoor spaces. They are a5-Star RHS Chelsea Flower Show Award winners, with many accreditations and a reputation for imaginative designs that complement any context. They have considerable experience in projects of all sizes, in both commercial and residential settings. They’re known for the care they take to achieve outstanding results with gardens both beautiful and practical.

info@ewilliamslandscapes.co.uk

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info@ewilliamslandscapes.co.uk

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