Why not let me help you to create your own beautiful garden?
Over the past 20 years I have designed and planted gardens from small urban spaces to large country gardens, some of these are shown in my garden gallery. I live near Hampton Court and my projects have ranged from London to Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire, Middlesex & Hertfordshire.
My approach is initially to understand thoroughly the needs and hopes of the client. Sometimes the clients know clearly what they want but often they just have an image that can be expressed through pictures from magazines and books.
A key piece of information at this stage is the budget for the project and I can give some idea what a particular scheme might cost. Getting this clear from the outset means my design will be a practical solution and I can create a design with empathy and style.
Contrary to the views often expressed by Monty Don, garden designers do have important role. Many people enjoy choosing flowers and plants and taking them home to their gardens. These will give a few weeks of pleasure but without a structure and style this will be short-lived. Design is an essential element of any harmonious system and for gardens to realise their full potential harmony is the essence.
I came to garden design via my love of plants gained from time spent in the garden with my father. After working at Clifton Nurseries increasing my plant knowledge I went to the English Gardening School at Chelsea Physic Garden to study garden design. I still love plants passionately but as my own garden is fully occupied this creative passion has to find an outlet in the plants for my clients' gardens.
Sheila Stedman Garden Designs
40 Clarence Road
020 8977 6635
Shaping up perfectly - Evening Standard 21 May 2003
Foliage, from vibrant green to silver grey, reigns in this garden of Chelsea standard. And as Pattie Barron discovers, you should not be afraid to prune.
SHEILA Stedman's glorious garden in Teddington is proof positive that London gardens are every bit as gorgeous as those at the Chelsea Flower Show. There are arguably more real-life lessons to be learned, too, such as Sheila's use of foliage, not flowers, to shape the 30m long space and her spectacularly successful technique of lightening heavyweight shrubs, such as an outsize myrtle next to the arbour on the terrace.
Now, instead of an overwhelming mass of dark green, the myrtle has several "clouds" of foliage surrounding branches of cinnamon coloured bark; at night, it is dramatically lit with uplighters, turning it into a thrilling piece of sculpture.
Her technique? "I just go for it" says Sheila, who is, not surprisingly, an established garden designer as well as a confirmed plant nut. "In your mind's eye, work out how many clouds you want from the shrub, and where they will be. Then clip the foliage to shape, until you can see the bark below and above. I'm ruthless with secateurs; in a London garden, if you want to fit in lots of plants, you have to be."
Japanese cloud-pruning is in perfect sync with the oriental feel of the linear terrace and pond, set close to the house. Iris laevigata, like Japanese link drawings, rise from the water margins and a long-legged metal heron adds a touch of spiky elegance. "The pond echoes the L-shape of the house, and as it is Victorian, I chose old York stone for the terrace" says Sheila.
"I did have the little Mexican daisy pushing through all the cracks, but since we've had a modern glass extension added to the back of the house, I wanted a cleaner look, so I've confined it to three clumps"
Leading from the formal terrace, home to potfuls of white regale lilies in summer, the lawn acts as a meandering path down the centre of two broad plant-packed borders.
"At strategic points there are evergreen shrubs that block the total view of the garden so you don't see it all in one glance; it reveals itself gradually."
These all-important evergreen shrubs - ceanothus, choisya, Euphorbia wulfenii - form the backbone of the garden and provide year-round structure. "Large-leaved evergreens make a great backdrop, too, for the smaller fliage plants," she says. These include a strapping eight-foot Phormium tenax variegata that shoots out of the boarder and sends 12ft flower stems, and a dark Viburnum rhytidophyllum with outsize leaves.
Sheila has cleverly encouraged apricot bloomed Rosa Meg to scramble through the silver-backed foliage of shrub Eleagnus ebbingei; when the rose has finished blooming the eleagnus produces tiny white flowers which, say Sheila, smell wonderful.
Her trick with other shrub roses is to ignore the textbooks, and treat them as climbers. "I had an iron frame made for Buff Beauty to climb into, and it's now 20ft tall. The blooms hang down on this rose so it works much better as a climber, because you can look up, into the flowers.
Like some of the best London gardens, this one started from a heap of rubbish or, to be precise, many paths edged with upturned wine and whisky bottles; the last owner was a retired Navy man who liked his drink (the booze connection still remains; Sheila puts down potfuls of stout for unsuspecting slugs through the borders).
The first year was spent clearing glass, the second, planting key evergreens. "Then, in all my gardens, I fill in with decidous shrubs that have interesting foliage, such as golden philadelphus and tree peony, next to the phormium, which contributes a good leaf shape; at the bottom of the garden is gorgeous Corns alba elegantissima that has crimson bark in winter.
I love grasses, too, because they're another interesting form of foliage, and have seed heads in winter; the easiest to start off with, I've found, are the carexes and miscanthus. Flower colour is important too, bit it's secondary.
Sheila plays up the foliage with a well-chosen cast of flowers: witness the Iris Deep Black in front of the golden philadelphus, the blue-grey agave sunk into the border for the summer in front of the Buff Beauty rose, and surrounded by vibrant Californian poppies and sweet-scented purple petunias. In autumn, she plants lots of tulip bulbs in anonymous black plastic pots to sink into the borders in spring.
Climbers are trained at different levels on the house wall, so there are no tangles, but different players that perform at different times. Mauve wisteria is on the first lower level, and earlier flowering Clematis armandii up higher.
Further along green sheet of evergreen jasmine Trachelspermum jasminoides, punctuated with starry white flowers. "It has a wonderful scent and flowers for such along time; it's a must for a sheltered London garden."
There is a also a large leaf vine called Vitis vinifera New York Muscat, which she bought from Read's Nursery, in Norfolk. "It has no mildew, great autumn colour and delicious black eating grapes. I give lots of cuttings to my friends.
The strong outline of the garden holds all the planting together, and looks especially good in winter. "It seems like such a small detail, but it makes all the difference to have a crisp edge to the lawn, so you really see the shape. We've made is easy by laying down an edging of reclaimed granite setts that you just mow over. What works best in London gardens, I believe, is strong structure, and blowsy plants within.