Welcome to the Vicki Hilton Garden Design blog…

February 1, 2011

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Family Garden in Welwyn Garden City

July 13, 2014


We have just returned from a visit to “talk through the plants” with clients at our recently finished project in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. The planting was only completed a few weeks ago but is already beginning to settle in and the new lawn has now had it’s first cut.


The garden was designed to provide my clients (a young couple with a two year old son and now another one on the way) with a family friendly space to include a place to site the barbecue, a large play area (in view from the house), some easy care planting with some culinary herbs, a plum tree and enough lawn left to kick a football around in. We agreed that it made sense to retain the existing large softwood deck as it worked perfectly well as a terrace space. Now that the garden is finished the owners plan to revitalise the timber with a paint treatment. Bi fold doors lead directly from the kitchen to the deck so that entertaining and Al fresco meals are a practical option.


Apart from the large deck and a decent attractive storeroom/workshop there was not much else in the garden. As you can see from the photos below the few plants were overgrown and not very exciting so there was plenty of scope for improvement.


The garden before work began

The garden before work began


Before photo

The view from the deck before work began


My clients wanted the new design to be fairly modern but still in keeping with their traditional red brick house so definitely not too contemporary. My aim was to fulfill the brief but also to give the garden a strong shape so that the deck would be less dominant and integrate better with the rest of the garden. We chose a warm coloured sandstone for the new paving with a matching sett as a lawn edging and infill detail.


The new pergola and BBQ area viewed from the deck

The new pergola and BBQ area viewed from the deck


View from a bedroom window

The new play area and lawn viewed from a bedroom window


With a busy lifestyle and demanding careers it’s important to my clients that the planting should be reasonably low maintenance, so in the main plant beds we stuck to using predominantly shrubs interspersed with just a few accent perennials.


The larger more shaded of two raised beds is planted with a white hydrangea, dark plum coloured heucheras, box, pale pink astrantias and white japanese anemones in contrast to the sunny herb bed that stands adjacent to it.


Raised Bed photo

Acer “Senkaki” with it’s lovely coral stems will become a focal point of the raised bed


The herb bed positioned close to the barbecue and not far from the kitchen is planted with herbs such as a prostrate rosemary to soften the corner of the raised bed, varieties of thyme, chives, oregano,lemon verbena, fennel, purple basil and sage. The contrasting textures and colours mean that the bed is attractive as well as providing an easy supply of herbs for cooking. Adjacent to this a standard bay tree positioned in a lavender lined bed completes the sunny corner.


The new herb bed

The new herb bed


We have included some small trees to give seasonal interest and add another dimension to the planting. A Sorbus “Pink Pagoda” has lovely pink berries,Prunus serrula was selected for it’s mahogany polished bark and Amelanchier “Robin Hill”with it’s late spring blossom followed by rich autumn hues cover the decorative requirements whilst the “Victoria” plum and fig tree hold the promise of some home grown fruit.


I am pleased to say that the garden has met with my clients’ approval and also made their two year old boy happy!


Play area in family garden

At last the play equipment is up!


A little glimpse of Norfolk

July 9, 2014


After a very busy couple of months I decided to book a few days away in Norfolk to coincide with my husband’s birthday. We have only started exploring this part of the country quite recently but have quickly grown to appreciate it’s big open skies and long stretches of unspoilt coast. As fairly infrequent cyclists it makes for some easy bike rides too! As usual I find much to inspire and delight the senses…


Tide out at Snettisham

Tide out at Snettisham


The RSPB reserve at Snettisham is a wonderful habitat for wildlife and a peaceful place to just walk and watch.

seed heads, water, sky

seed heads, water, sky



sand dunes near Holme next the sea

sand dunes near Holme next the sea



Chelsea Flower Show 2014

May 23, 2014


It’s been some time since I’ve posted here; a technical problem made it impossible to update anything on my website for ages but the problem is finally sorted out.


So what better way to kick off again than sharing a couple of Chelsea highlights with you!


This year my daughter accompanied me for the first time; the fact that she had actually wanted to come along made it quite a special occasion from my point of view. Maybe she has finally recovered from her childhood years of being dragged around gardens when she would have preferred a theme park (although we did occasionally do that too). She’s a print designer and so looked at the gardens with a keen “designer’s eye” so it was good to compare notes and opinions.


Her personal favourite in the main avenue and probably mine too was the RBC Waterscape Garden by Hugu Bugg (though I wavered between this and the the M and G garden by Cleve West).


We both felt that the waterscape garden just worked on every level; good structure, good planting, interesting hard landscaping, a naturalistic feel and sustainable too. The issue of water conservation addressed in this design is particularly relevant after the floods of last season.


The Waterscape Garden by Hugo Bugg

The Waterscape Garden by Hugo Bugg


Cleve West delivered as always with his Persian inspired, intricately planted garden. The beauty of this garden is that he has left space for the garden to breathe which helped to achieve a sense of tranquility.


Conteporary Paradise Garden by Cleve West

Contemporary Paradise Garden by Cleve West

The Help for Heroes garden by Matthew Kneightly may not have won a gold medal but it won the people’s vote with it’s representation of the road to recovery taken by wounded soldiers. Soft planting offset against the solidity of granite blocks are the essence of the garden.


Hope on the Horizon Garden by Matthew Kneightly

Hope on the Horizon Garden by Matthew Kneightly

Finally I’ll leave you with an image of the charming artisan “DialAFlight Potters Garden” by Francesca Murrell and Emma page


The DialaFlight Potter's Garden by Emma Page and Francesca Murrell

The DialAFlight Potter’s Garden by Emma Page and Francesca Murrell



Why employ a garden designer in winter..

November 19, 2013


Why on earth would you bother to contact a garden designer in the middle of winter? You aren’t spending too much time outside and you certainly aren’t thinking ahead to next spring.


You’ll get on with some decorating for a month or two maybe…then when the sun gradually warms and the days lengthen you’ll begin to notice the bulbs in other peoples gardens. “Hmm it might be nice to improve the garden”. The idea will take hold and you’ll decide to ring a garden designer but by then everyone else may have had the same thought.


The designer will then tell you that they have a waiting list or they may manage to fit your job in with all the other projects demanding their attention. Even if the latter happens the garden is not likely to be ready for the balmy days you were dreaming of. Once the plans are drawn up, the build and planting then needs to be priced and arranged. By spring most landscapers are getting extremely busy and you may find yourself waiting weeks or even months. Summer might arrive before the build starts and then once underway a heatwave might mean planting has to be postponed until the autumn.


This scenario is a fairly typical one; I get lots of calls in spring from people hoping to have a new garden completed by the early summer and sometimes it is just not feasible.


Plants may go dormant in winter but most garden designers generally don’t! Most of us are longing to get our teeth into new projects which we will approach with enthusiasm.


Aside from the advantages of a not quite so busy designer, the starkness of winter reveals the bare bones and structure (or lack of it) in a garden making it evident what is needed in the way of evergreens. Deciduous trees might reveal views that need to be screened or maximized. Winter can be a very good time to analyse a site and discover it’s true potential.


So why wait when you can contact me now.


Preparing the garden for winter

November 9, 2013


Autumn leaves are falling fast, daylight hours receding meaning that winter is almost upon us. So what should we do to prepare our gardens for the onslaught of the inevitable cold, wet weather?


Here’s a reminder:


Clear the fallen leaves from paths and lawns.


Move terracotta pots and ceramic containers close to the house, raise them up on pot feet or bricks to protect against the frost and bubble wrap any fragile or precious ones.


Plants such as Agapanthus dislike winter wet so a position under the overhang of the house can offer much needed protection against the rain.


Move tender plants to a frost free greenhouse if possible.


Line the greenhouse with bubble wrap and use a heater if necessary.


Wrap any vulnerable garden plants that can’t be moved with a layer of fleece.


Mulch the crowns of rhubarb with compost or straw and fold leaves over


Collect and save the last of the seeds from perennials


Cover ponds and be ready to place a small ball in the water if it freezes


And finally plant some pots with something nice for winter!


A few cyclamen to lift the spirits