Category: My Garden

hazel pruning methods
January 9th, 2016 by Mark Laurence

In my previous post I talked about a regenerative planting methodology for urban landscapes, in which I suggested you would manage, rather than maintain your planting areas. So how exactly do you you do this? Both involve work and the difference is a subtle but important one, in both attitude and application. Think urban forester rather than garden pruner. The picture above illustrates this perfectly, so let me explain.

It shows two hazels in my garden, both planted as young bare-root trees in the winter of 07/08. The one on the left was coppiced down to the ground in the winter of 12/13, the other has been pruned to keep a structure of older wood, with all suckering growth removed annually. What is the difference? The coppiced hazel has been less work overall and has not been touched since it was coppiced, the pruned tree has been pruned annually, which was not great amount of work but this is just one tree. If there were a hundred, it would be a different matter. The main difference is that the pruned tree has catkins, the coppiced tree does not, but I think this is a difference of genetics, rather than pruning technique, as they have always been like that. The shape of the pruned tree is also wider in its spread and will become gnarled as it gets older.

So in terms of management, if you go the coppice route you do nothing much to the trees except coppice them every 4-5 years. I would suggest that 50% of the trees are coppiced so that not all structure is removed at once. Notice that the growth of the coppiced hazel is straighter, making for a productive yield of canes and poles that can be used in the local community. Other trees that can be coppiced include sweet chestnut, lime, alder, ash, willow and hornbeam. Birch and oak will coppice, but from young trees only. Willows and dogwoods grown as bushes for their winter colour can be coppiced or “copparded” (inbetween coppice and pollard) to around 300-600mm every two years to keep the winter stem colours strong.

Salix elaeagnos

Salix elaeagnos (foreground)

By adopting such techniques in our larger masses of urban street planting and parks, we would deliver a more biodiverse, beautiful and biophilic interaction for all concerned. It would also cost less both to establish and possibly to maintain, than traditional planting. The above willow is beautiful and graceful, yet I have seen it all too often used in municipal car-parks and reduced to a-n-other shrub that is caressed all to frequently with the indifference of a hedgetrimmer.

Time to re-wild our inner selves, and our urban landscapes. We can do so much better than the average landscape we see in our towns and cities.

Posted in Arboriculture, Design, Ecosystem Services, Environment, landscapes, My Garden, Regenerative Planting, Trees Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

November 26th, 2013 by Mark Laurence

Here are some pics from my garden; they tell of Nature’s rhythms and how they effect our lives…

Miscanthus seedheads

Miscanthus seedheads

Chestnut Logs for the Stove!

Chestnut Logs for the Stove!

Golden Leaves of Hazel

Golden Leaves of Hazel

Last of the Elder Leaves

Last of the Purple Elder Leaves


Posted in Arboriculture, landscapes, My Garden, Trees Tagged with: , , , , ,

June 28th, 2013 by Mark Laurence

Curiously, I’ve never really written about green roofs, yet they are an important part of the urban greening scene and definitely a part of my “building biomembrane” concept.  Perhaps it’s because the subject is so well covered by the commercial sector and various organisations; far better than green walls but then, they have a twenty year head start.

And twenty years ago, I was putting green roofs into some of the landscapes I designed and built.  Here’s one in my own garden, on a wood store:  the one at the back is an 18 year old turf roof, with soil and grasses, such as was common in those days.  There’s a lot of Sedums, Sempervivum, bulbs etc that have been added over the years, or found their own way there.  The roof to the front is about two weeks old, consisting mostly of Sedum album, which was growing prolifically in a graveled part of my garden where I didn’t want it.  I put a layer of soil and compost under it and slapped the darn stuff down!


I also have another Sedum/succulent roof over my porch, which is much more akin to a modern extensive green roof, with a mix of compost and expanded clay pellets (ie lightweight aggregate). It is much less prolific and to my mind, less successful therefore.  I used to be quite adept at building hobbit-like turf-roofed garden structures from chestnut and reclaimed timber, such as this one, built for a show:

Turf Hut 2

These days I like to do rustic with a contemporary feel, such as my current summerhouse, which I built last year. It doesn’t have a green roof, simply because it faces away from us so we’d never see it. It’s insulated and timber-lined inside, so stays fairly warm with a little help. The windows all came from a house up the road, so fitting my desire for recycling. Double-glazed too…


Of course, the best kind of green roofs are the ones you can use as garden or green space. I’m designing one right now which overlooks the Thames; an early concept modeled below. I’ll put more up on this as things progress…

Posted in Environment, green roof, landscapes, My Garden Tagged with: , , , ,

October 3rd, 2012 by Mark Laurence

Every morning I walk into the garden to let the chickens into their run; to do this I have to walk through a part of the garden.  Today, I stopped in my tracks, in the middle of a particular section, which is my favourite part.  I wasn’t thinking about the garden, or the plants, but in a rain-washed sky, they still managed to grab my attention somehow.  This small area of gravelled path, herbs and perennials, just demanded my awareness.

The gravel garden with herbs and perennials

There used to be nothing here but a bit of hard-standing and grass, but two years ago I excavated some of this and created the borders; the only difference is the plants!  This is what I would call the creation of an intangible element, where the essence of something is somehow holistic, giving rise to an overall, well, awareness, within a space of something greater.  What I can’t quite get over, is that somehow, the plants DEMANDED my attention…

So I can’t quite define the overall feeling I’m getting from this space; if it is holistic, then the whole is, of course, greater than the sum of it’s parts.  There are some great “parts” in there though, and I guess this is what makes the art of gardening.  So I have some English lavenders, broad leaved sage (makes a low mound 6ft wide with no flowers), Perovskia, Verbina, Carex, Sea Lavender and Kale, Echinacia, Fennel, Rosmary Fota Blue etc, etc.  All beautiful plants as individuals; collectively, they obviously add up to something else.  The power of plants to make our lives feel better…

Posted in landscapes, My Garden

August 17th, 2012 by Mark Laurence

Having just written the post on Dubai, we go from the ridiculous to the sublime… my summerhouse, is of course, far more significant!

Weeks of heavy rain and flooding have proved one thing – it doesn’t leak!  You haven’t seen it yet with all doors and windows, so here it is:

Needless to say, it’s not finished yet, with some painting to do to the windows, especially indoors.  Internal insulation and timber cladding is yet to come, plus an electricity supply, possibly solar, although we’d like to have some heat in there for winter use.  All the windows are double glazed, so it should stay reasonably warm.

This space is already in use and has greatly expanded our living environment – our old cottage gets too little natural daylight, and the summerhouse is West-facing, so a great afternoon spot, and positioned to get the last of the sun.

Of course, it would help if we could have a summer…

Posted in landscapes, My Garden

August 17th, 2012 by Mark Laurence

I’ve just posted up an article on edible landscapes, which originally appeared on my old site,  I want to gradually update and re-write some of my better stuff from there, so this is a start and an important one, for it shows the direct link between gardens and sustainability – that S word… you can find the article <a href=””>here</a>.

Posted in landscapes, My Garden, Sustainability

August 17th, 2012 by Mark Laurence

So in one of those typically rain-drenched weeks (Jubilee week, no less), I decided to take time off and build a summerhouse.  Well, you have to be an optimist, don’t you?

I had already built a deck to front it over the winter, from some oak planking I had left over from one of my very last landscape jobs, some years past.  I had also salvaged some rather nice timber, double-glazed windows from a local house refurbishment that was going on in the village. So I ordered the timber, having done some back-of-an-envelope sketches, and got working.  Below are the pics (as it’s raining right now) of things so far:

There’s much more to do, including making some doors from another pair of the windows, which will be a bit challenging.  I also want to line the inside walls with timber and insulation and put a sedum roof on – all will help with temperature fluctuations… I’ll keep you posted on it…

Posted in landscapes, My Garden

August 17th, 2012 by Mark Laurence

Yesterday I introduced my fedge and polytunnel.  Well, the first of these might be new to you; it’s a conservation term, used to describe an artificial hedge made from brushwood cuttings.  I have quite a few willow in the garden which hadn’t been pollarded for a few years, so when I did them in March (before bud-break), I ended up with two problems; a massive pile of rubbish, and a rather exposed rear boundary, consisting of a section of low wall, and a high section.  We know that a fox jumps up through the low section, to try his luck with our chickens (unsuccessfully so far).  A fence was required.

With a bit of permacultural-style thinking,the problems solved each other; the fedge became the disposal solution for the rubbish, which meant we didn’t have to buy a fence – two expenses saved!  Furthermore, it looks rather attractive with the willow-stem colours and it will become populated by ivy and the like, making a great wildlife haven.  I just have to prevent the willow from rooting, if I don’t want it to…

And finally, here’s the coffee/wine section of the polytunnel.  Hard work, all this veg growing…

Posted in landscapes, My Garden, Sustainability

August 17th, 2012 by Mark Laurence

As this is a (re)new(ed) blog, I’m going to tell you about my garden.  I’ve written blogs about this over the years, but they’ve all gone by the wayside.  We’ve been living in our cottage for 17 years or so and the garden has gone through many cycles; mostly of scruffiness and neglect, through to a few brief moments of ascending glory.  We’re on one of the latter right now, only I aim to keep it that way.  In the last few months I have laid a new gravel drive, pollarded willows, built new veg raised beds in the polytunnel and outside, built a fedge (fence-hedge) to the boundary – more on that another day -built a deck and dug over and tamed various parts of the garden.  In other words, there’s been a bit of an onslaught.  Well, our garden has tendencies to wilderness, right here in Sussex…

This is the newest part of the garden, an old area of driveway, gradually being turned into borders, plus oak deck and eventually, a summerhouse.

This is the working end, except when we drink wine in the polytunnel…

Posted in landscapes, My Garden