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Gardening Diary

Ana Bull is a garden designer who lives in Shiplake.  She will be contributing regular entries for this Gardening Diary.  

You can contact Ana at anamaribull@yahoo.com and she has a website - http://www.anamaribull.com/

Gardening - Creative & Social Lighting

 

As I write the sun is blazing down onto lush, fresh green growth and spring flowers fully emergent from their season of slumber.  We look forward to lazy days in our gardens, evenings spent with friends and family, and a whole summer ahead to enjoy the extended light, and (hopefully) good weather.

As soon as the sun starts to shine, many people put their finishing touches to their garden; putting in that pond they were always meaning to dig out, building that BBQ, in some cases, giving their gardens a completely new look.  Often, one very important, key element is very overlooked – lighting.

When it comes to garden lighting most people only think about illuminating the front door area or putting in harsh security lighting to give a sense of occupancy, but it can be so much more.

With an ever increasing number of people working long hours, carefully lit, a garden can extend your enjoyment of the garden will into the evening and very importantly into the winter, when we actually spend more time looking into it than spending time in it. 

In the day time, light levels are all of the same intensity. On sunny days we have the play of shadow, the movement of light on water, dancing against a wall, Pergola lines stretched across a patio, but most of the time nothing is highlighted, or made a feature of.

At night, a special tree up-lighted, a large one moonlit so it casts a warm puddle of light over the ground below, or a water feature with submerged light, can have an incredible effect in a garden, turning smaller gardens into an extension of your living space.  Lighting can be used to create beautiful patterns along pathways or against walls.

Even if your budget doesn’t stretch to lighting at the onset of your project, but you would like to put it into your garden plans in the future, try and incorporate it at the planning stage to avoid extra expense retro fitting at a later date and having to disguise large transformer boxes. At the initial implementation of your garden, try and put in ducting to allow for cables to be added for when the budget will allow.  When you do finally add the lighting, make sure that the transformer is powerful enough to allow you to increase the bulb size should you wish to have stronger lighting.

When it comes to light fittings, you very much get what you pay for. Non-corrosive materials such as brass and marine grade stainless steel are expensive, but the most economical in the long run as they shouldn’t need replacing.  The introduction of LED’s has meant greater light output with smaller running costs.  A very important consideration is the IP (ingress protection) rating.  This has two numbers.  The first shows the level of protection to people from moving parts, and also the protection of the equipment from foreign bodies, e.g. dust. The second shows the levels of protection against various levels of moisture penetration to the equipment’s enclosure e.g. drips, sprays, total submersion etc.

Ideally you should select fitting which are IP 68.  These are suitable for total submersion in water, something to consider when putting in lighting at ground level or in paving. You can use the lower ratings of IP65-IP67 if none of your fitting are at ground level.

When selecting fittings, choose ones where the lamp can be changed.  Some fittings come as closed units, so if the bulb goes, the whole fitting has to be replaced. Another consideration is how they are wired. If they are “in-series”, should one blow, then all the lights go out.  It is also important that the glass level within the fitting is such that it will not allow water to collect on the surface, especially if the fitting is not IP68 rated.

Including lighting in your garden can really transform your experience of the garden, but you need to take into consideration light pollution as you shouldn’t be causing any disturbance to your neighbours or wildlife.

If you would like any advice on garden lighting, feel free to contact me and I would be very happy to guide you.

Ann Mari Bull

Article created / last edited: 24 May 2016

Gardening Diary - Rain, Rain, Rain

 

Rain gardens are a relatively new way of gardening in the UK, and therefore I would love to create a data base for Shiplake residents of all the plants in your gardens which have survived periods of immersion.  If those who have been affected by the flood waters would like to share their planting experiences with me, I am happy to collate all the information, which I will later pass on to the village via the website and newsletter. 

With the rain lashing down, it’s hard to think that just a few days ago we were enjoying the last warming rays of an Indian summer. The heavy rain takes my thoughts back to the early part of the year when so many Shiplake residents were affected by the steadily rising waters. This year’s flooding was particularly bad with many more effected than in previous years.  With flooding potentially becoming a more frequent occurrence, the gardener may need to rethink the plants we grow in our gardens.  The old adage, “right plant, right place” springs to mind.  This mantra has been very much the guiding force behind the creation of Beth and Andrew Chatto’s garden near Colchester.  With every scenario of conditions, with the possible exception of Alpine, they have created a living guide book on how to plant suitably for the given conditions.  The challenge for us, living in a riverside village, is to find plants which will survive extended periods of high water tables as well as possible droughts. 

Flooding is not just a problem in riverside locations.  The loss of land to building works and the paving over of front garden to satisfy the need for more parking in residential areas, has made it very difficult for surface water to sink back into the ground.  In some urban areas, heavy downpours have resulted in flash flooding as storm drains failed to cope with the excess water trying to enter the system.

Unfortunately as gardeners there is very little we can do to avoid flooding  from rivers and streams, but we can lessen the effects of surface water flooding by creating areas of temporary storage for rain water.  By incorporating a green roof onto a bin shelter, shed or even a garage, we are helping to channel water away from hard surfaces.  The rain can then gently filter through the planting, joining the   drainage system at a much slower pace.  If surface flooding is severe and room allows, water can be directed into a series of “swales” which hold the water, allowing one to flow into the other as they fill.  The key here is choosing the correct plants.

Hugo Bugg’s, RBC Waterscape Garden, Royal Bank of Canada garden at Chelsea this year was a beautiful example of a ‘rain garden’. (See photo). There are many plants which can be used in these types of gardens, certain Lobelias, Monardas, Rudbeckias, Liatris, Verbenas, Hemerocalis , Carex as well as the much loved Iris versicolor.  To gain inspiration why not visit the London Wetland Centre Rain Garden in Barnes. 

Rain gardens are a relatively new way of gardening in the UK, and therefore I would love to create a data base for Shiplake residents of all the plants in your gardens which have survived periods of immersion.  If those who have been affected by the flood waters would like to share their planting experiences with me, I am happy to collate all the information, which I will later pass on to the village via the website and newsletter.

Happy Gardening!

Article created / last edited: 12 November 2014