Stipa tenuissima and Verbena bonariensis the most overused combination, says Fisher-Tomlin

London College of Garden Design director Andrew Fisher Tomlin told a Barcham Trees lecture that some plants are being used too much by designers.

He said he was tired of multi-stem birches being used everywhere: "I have grown tired of the same old plantings at the Chelsea Flower Show and in private gardens. For example, Stipa tenuissima and Verbena bonariensis has to be the most overused planting combination of the 21st century, but I am pleased to see young designers are getting bored with it.

"I loved some of their work at this year's Tatton Park Flower Show because it showed what can be achieved when designers follow their own paths rather than copying what other people are doing. The Waterglades in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park are another example of vibrant, exciting design, but too many designers still focus on structure."

Fisher Tomlin's LCGD recently hosted Tatton prize winners Warnes McGarr who are designing the HTA RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018 garden.

He added: "Get outside your comfort zone when dealing with nurseries. Plants fall out of fashion, so nurseries stop growing them and designers then have less choice in what they can use. Small, specialist nurseries are my heroes, and we should all get them on our side and build relationships with them." He mentioned his personal favourite is the long-established Jacksons of Chobham, Surrey.

He told how he sees narrative as the best starting point in a garden design, and used the Walkers Wharf Garden, which won a gold medal and the Best Artisan Garden award at the 2017 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, as an example of this. The garden showed how industrial decay can be transformed into a desirable outdoor space by the restrained planting of conifers, including pine and larch, and woodland perennials.

He said: "Remember the client brief and the project brief are two different things and that the project brief is the more important. We must generate and organise ideas, determine the constraints we will be working under, consider schematic and master planning and sketch compositions.

Fisher Tomlin recommended Canna indica, Dasyliron acrotrichum, Muehlenbeckia complexa, Acacias dealbata and Melanoxlyon and Acacia pravissima instead of Amelanchier or Parrotia.

Other plant ideas included fern Blechnum tabulare, Roscoea x beesiana Monique and Roscoea purpurea for cool, shady spots, Plectranthus argentatus and Westringia fruticosa for hot, sunny positions, Baloskion tetraphyllum, a native of Tasmania, the South African Elegia equisetacea and Pseudopanax crassifolius.

Matthew Appleby

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