ISSUE 53  |  A Fresh Start

Bloom Time with UK Garden Designer Richard Miers

January 05, 2013 11:30 AM

BY Christine Chang Hanway

As far as we’re concerned, it’s never too early to start thinking about the joys of spring in the garden. This week UK garden designer Richard Miers takes us to a uniquely shaped urban London garden to describe his planting strategy. For the next 48 hours, he will be available to answer any and all questions. Ask away:

If graphic designers think in two dimensions and architects think in three dimensions, then the garden designer must think in four dimensions with a full understanding of how different plant species grow and–most critically–the timing of it all. You want certain plants to bloom in tandem, after all.

When working with a client, Cambridge based garden designer Richard Miers, a member of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Directory, first agrees to the plan or structure of the garden. Next he establishes a color palette. Finally, the planting strategy is his coup d’état; he develops it systematically, works through it methodically, and supplements it with his imagination. “I list all the plantings on an Excel spreadsheet with their heights, flowering time, and number per square meter,” Miers says. “I then list all the beds, close my eyes, and start to imagine.”

Photography by Richard Miers.


Above: The garden is at the rear of a classic terraced house in North London. Miers worked with the client to come up with a color palette of purples, blues, and pinks; the pale blue flowers are the Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety.’


Above: The beginnings of an espaliered James Grieve apple tree, which produces particularly juicy fruit to harvest in mid-September.


Above: Spring irises (Jane Phillips) and alliums (Allium albopilosum cristophii) introduce more blues and purples into the garden.


Above: A mixture of flowering plants includes fragrant Harlow Carr rose bushes, Schizostylis coccinea ‘Mrs. Hegarty,’ Verbena hastata ‘Pink Spires’ and Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety.’


Above: With terraced houses, the typical garden extends straight out the back at the same width of the house. When Miers’ clients purchased their house, they were able to annex an additional garden plot to the side of the garden hut.


Above: Stalks of color are created with Alcea ‘Park Rondell.’


Above: Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ and Schizostylis coccinea ‘Mrs. Hegarty’ decorate the foreground with James Grieve apples in the background. In the fall, the apples will be bigger and red–and ready to eat.


Above: Miers carved out a “secret garden” from the additional garden plot by raising it up a few steps and creating an entrance.


Above: A water feature in the”‘secret garden” leads to the door to the communal garden, which is shared by other neighborhood houses and where the children play ball games.


Above: The “secret garden” offers shade in the summer.


Above: A medley of blues, purples, and pinks courtesy of salvia, Dipsacus fullonum (also known as common teasel), Campanula lactiflora Prichard’s Variety, and Rosa de Rescht.


Above: The mood board that Miers created for his clients and upon which the garden plantings are based.


Above: Miers uses drawings to illustrate and agree to the basic structure of the gardens with his clients.

N.B.: For more English spring garden designs, see “Season of Mist: Ben Pentreath’s Dorset Garden” and “Passion Play: Jane Cumberbatch’s Tulip Garden.”