Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Stunning Garden Transformation

Diary of a Garden Transformation

       in Somerset.

Sheena and Simon Loveday successfully transformed their garden, which was originally a pub car park, into a stunning Mediterranean style garden.  This is the story of the first few years.

Garden Transformation

When Sheena and Simon Loveday moved to Somerset in the summer of 2008, their vision of creating an Italian style garden from scratch, started to evolve and materialize. Although undaunted by what they were about to take on, they soon realized that they were going to need some professional help in order to transform this barren plot into the garden of their dreams - a stylish garden which based in the inner city, not only reflected Sheena’s country upbringing, but would also change dramatically with the seasons.

Garden in 2008

Shot from above in the early stages

This sheltered, south facing plot with its high stone walls, certainly had potential but at the outset, was littered with old stone, some of the remains of tenement buildings dating back to the 1800’s and an old skittle alley, as well as mounds of rubble from the more recent pub car park. This was all going to have to be cleared before they could even think about a design or planting.

Hard landscaping begins!

During an outing at a wholesale nursery, when they were given the contact details of a local plantswoman, Helen Johnson, on a scrap of paper and this relationship, like the garden has blossomed over the subsequent three years. Their initial task, having now enlisted the help of Helen, was to start designing the layout, while the rest of the site was dug out with the help of a digger and several skips. Thankfully the garden was accessible, due to the fact, the house used to be a pub and they still had the wide gates at the side of the house. The design process itself did not come without its challenges as Sheena’s and Helen’s ideas didn’t always coincide! However Sheena feels that her creative input has complimented Helen’s fantastic knowledge of plants.

Having previously planted a similar sized garden in France – they were better prepared this time and knew that the immediate priority was to create privacy quickly.  With planning permission granted, they were able to achieve this by building a beautiful courtyard wall using the stone from around the garden.  Fitting the wall with a bespoke Mullion window from a local Stone Company, created a ‘truly individual, period structure’ and ‘has given the garden not only the privacy we needed but also a romantic and reflective feel.'

During the long, snowy winter months of 2009, the hard landscaping was starting to take shape.

  Raised beds were built in stone and oak and filled with tons of topsoil brought in by lorries.The raised beds were the only way to grow vegetable successfully due to contaminated soil.  Growing the pears as espaliers allows for large quantities of fruit from a small space. The size of the garden structures are large and chunky to hold their own with the dominant garden wall.
They even sunk a water tank beneath the raised beds to take the rainwater from the roofs of the house.  By the end of January 2009 the planting could begin. 

Sheena's Diary

Beginning of first year 2009

January.  :
My family gave me Christmas presents of trees. I remember the excitement of planting the first trees including a Stone Pine, Italian Cypresses , an olive, and lots of yew hedging for screening the car park area. We planted two Yews either side of the archway to look like a gateposts. Autumn raspberries go in.

‘Helen worked tirelessly and even managed to lay the lawn in the snow, unremittingly cheerful’! We chose hornbeams to create a high hedge at the far end of the garden.  We bought Betula jacquemontii (birches) with long silver trunks to put into planters in the drive.  All hard going in the very cold winter!

Helen laying the lawn in the snow

Yew hedging and roses start going in. Our fingers are going numb, putting up wires onto the old stone walls! Still cold but we put in the fruit trees and attach the Espalier pear trees and climbing roses onto new wires.  Start to plant Roses Mme Alfred Carriere, Phyllis Bide, Malvern Hills across the pergola.


At last, the grass seed is sown to tidy up the lower garden.  Vegetable areas and some herbaceous plants go in.  We have no shrubs anywhere in this scheme. I can’t explain why but just dislike them!


Generally the month of maintenance.  Weeding, (not too hard as all the soil is new, planting more herbaceous plants in the small herbaceous area)

Adding glass mirrors or beautiful glasshouse designs can really enhance a garden.


We levelled the area for the gravel garden, mixing a small amount of soil with small gravel to create the Mediterranean dry bed.  Lavenders go in. Put in masses of white cosmos for the autumn.


We paved the side entrance to the house and put herbs around the edges to create scent when you drive in.  Silver leaf Cardoons are looking fantastic adding tone and structure.  They’re the easiest things to grow and look fantastic through the winter as well.


First cut and shape of the Portugese laurel cubes in the driveway.  Lavender will be trimmed in subsequent years.  We planted six cypress trees and they’re loving the dry conditions.  The view through the stone mullions in the courtyard wall is stunning right now with the cypresses and lavender.


Cosmos have gone mad.  Lazy time of year – hot afternoons and when it cools down, I can get on with a bit of deadheading.  It feels as if we’re in Mediterranean courtyard.  Already. Hot! The bees love the planting.

October, Nov and Dec:
Bulbs planting.  Irises and Eremurus among the lavenders.  The coral colour next to Rose  Phyllis Bide will look sensational next year.  We’re constantly having to imagine how it will look next year!  Cutting back and clearing.

Year 2 

Jan/Feb/March 2010

Another cold winter but the strength of the design still looks good.  Cypresses and yews with snow on them look terrific.  I decide to have a go at planting a Kumquat tree on the far side of the gravel garden behind the wall . Winter structure is everything in this garden where there are no shrubs.  Important to keep digging over the compost as much as I can.

Planting vegetables in the raised beds.  Peas, carrots, spinach, broad beans.  Cosmos seeds in trays.  Feed the lawn with Weed and Feed.

Sheena and Simon love spending time in the garden together


Roses growing like mad and are already up to the tops of the wires.  Gosh, more wires needed!  The Phyllis Bide is blooming with Eremurus alongside in the gravel garden.  Lots of sweet rocket, alliums and geraniums in the courtyard springing up in the raised beds.  Boules de Neige roses making a splash with their pink edging.  Wow what a mammoth harvest of peaches!

Autumn 2010
Garden really establishing and flourishing.  All (except the Kumquat) the fruit trees are in their first fruiting. We discover there may be a patch of polluted soil, where possibly the pub had previously thrown out old batteries and rubbish. Not sure but had to clear this patch and put in some fresh soil.

  Winter 2010
Everything in the garden starts to go to sleep but the structure of the garden is still there and looking great. The frost seems to transform the garden again and it looks so magical looking out through the window. I feel we both deserve a good rest now after we cut back and clear once again.

Year 3

Jan/ Feb 2011

Spring/Summer 2011

Sheena loves spending time in the garden

The garden is really starting to spring into life all over again! All the flowers and bulbs flourishing day by day‘. I am once again thoroughly enjoying spending as much time as possible in the garden potting on my nursery plants, deadheading and weeding. The soft,white cosmos that spills out of the pots and beds, look so glorious against all the varying shades of green.’

Sheena enjoying some September sunshine.

Folly in May

Balmy late September afternoon

 Once again garden lies dormant for a few months but  we are enjoying its stillness. Cypress trees have grown significantly and still the Cardoon looks great!

  • Italian Cypresses ,Yew Hedges, Ceonothus, Cardoons and Lavender continue to hold the structure through the winter months

Year 4 

Jan/Feb: 2012

  • Fleeces are used to start warming the soil up prior to sowing the veg seed.  

I love wondering through this gravelled area of the garden in winter.  The shaped yew, cypress and ceonothus are so established now and give welcome shelter to the birds. Still smells pungeant and heady walking through.

There hasn’t been hardly any snow this winter and in fact has been very mild. The winter flowering pansies and the delicate chocolate coloured Akebia bring a welcome touch of colour to the courtyard.

Winter flowering pansies

Winter flowering pansies



  • Malvern roses and Honeysuckle cascading over the pergola look and smell glorious in early June
Again, enjoying meandering through the gravel path near the raised veg beds where I am hit with the heady aroma of the Malvern Hills rose, Lavender and glorious honeysuckle cascading down from the pergola. As so much more established, now the garden is looking different again from last year!

  • The heady scent of Malvern Hill Roses and Honeysuckle fill the air in early June

  Architectural aspects like the folly enhanced by more structural planting 



Gentle White Cosmos interspersed with White Geraniums and Angelica add a romantic feel and compliment one another

The garden amazes and delights us.  It is a private haven for birds, wildlife and us.  We enjoy the scented plants such as Holboellia, roses, lavender, Trachelospermum jasminioides and the glorious honeysuckle. Most trees and hedges have grown a foot every year. Simon said to me the other day ‘the growth in this garden is phenomenal and still going strong. The garden is only three years old!’  I think it must come from a combination of new soil and a sheltered south facing aspect, and the right plants for the conditions. This garden is so beautiful, surprises us constantly and is such a wonderful place to relax in with our family and friends.

Stunning Mediterranean courtyard
Stunning transformation!

10 GOLDEN RULES in Sheena’s garden

1.Go for an abundant summer look with winter structure
2. Get your privacy planting in early
3. Small pallette of colour 
4.Hard landscape on a large scale.  Use chunky timbers and don’t stint on size.
5. No shrubs
6 Spend money on big plants as and when possible
7. Feed the soil with compost.
8. Make your own compost
9. Fewer flowers but lots of green
10. Italian style works well in English Gardens.

Helen Johnson.can be contacted on 07879423894

Friday, 29 November 2013

Restaurant Lighting....

.... and its effect on our dining experience?

James Balston
Designing a themed lighting system for any restaurant must surely be an art form and if it proves a success, then clearly it is representative of the designers vision.
 For me personally, the lighting in a restaurant is one of the key ingredients, even before the food, that plays its part in creating the ambience and setting the mood within its venue. Whether it artistically illuminates a hand crafted piece of wall art or glares starkly over our 'burgers and chips' (love Byron at the moment), the lighting in a restaurant plays an important part in our dining experience!  For example, use of colour has been shown to affect appetite. Warm colors generally are supposed to enhance appetite while cool colors suppress it. Using different coloured lighting is supposed to influence our emotions and moods which plays an important part in our responses to food and ultimately, effects how we feel in a venue, the choices we make and how we then enjoy our meal, or not ! Blue is supposed to be calming and certain shades of yellow, as seen in the picture above, are believed to evoke a sense of space and openness which helps us to relax and unwind.  Using bright and colourful lighting in fast food outlets creates a sense of energy and movement, attracting its flow of customers to a more transient culinary experience. In stark contrast, using a dim, soft and richer lighting helps to create a calming atmosphere for a more intimate and romantic evening dining experience. 

Courtesy of James Balston

Incorporating more luxurious and decorative lighting into the design layout of the dining area above has helped  to set the mood and theme of this oriental restaurant. 

As a Photographer I am fascinated by light and how everything changes throughout the day as the light changes. How this effects our wellbeing , perception and mood is interesting. As light is either absorbed or reflected constantly so does colour and in a restaurant this can add interest to the food as it can change its colour. Remember the old fashioned burger bars with such harsh lighting the food would appear almost iridescent! This however did not put me off eating my knickerbocker glory despite the cherries which looked positively radio active!

Getting the lighting right or wrong, those first steps into the restaurant which could either win you over or have you heading back out the door in a flash! Only this year in a restaurant in sunny Marbella,  I could barely see the floor below me, let alone the table!  'They don't want me to see the food', was flashing through my mind as I fled back out into the street! 

The bright colourful fluorescent lights shining out from duke boxes and slot machines in bars and pubs are an attraction to customers and add to the ambience of the venue. 

On a shoot recently, I visited the Brasserie Hudson Quay, a European style destination restaurant in Middlesbrough where part of the style and ambience has been set by the clever use of lighting in its design. Fluorescent blue bar panels, soft overhead table lighting just above eye level are complimentary to the face and using lots  of candles softly illuminating ornate vintage candle holders all adds to the ambience. For me personally, it's all in the lighting!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Planning your wedding?

Award Winning Teashop Living Pretty in Somerset has some

'Great gift ideas' 

Living Pretty

On planning your big day, whether you are looking at hiring a refined Indian wedding tent from Raj Tent Club or booking a  Somerset Barn conversion, the beautiful range of wedding gifts and bespoke catering services on offer at Living Pretty in Somerset, will most definitely add something special to your wedding preparations.
Wedding Gifts at Living Pretty

Living Pretty has a vast collection of shabby chic and vintage style giftware. Incorporate the vintage look to your table centrepiece by using an antique birdcage illuminated with a few scented tea lights.

Add a touch of romance by hanging a few decorative sweet wishes signs on the tables and chairs.

Enjoy a range of delicious home cooked food at Living Pretty from canapes 

to scrumptious High Teas served on vintage fine china and ornate stylish cake stands.

Embellish your guests table place setting with cupcakes and 


Stunning wedding cakes made to order at Living Pretty!

Living Pretty in Somerset