Garden and landscape design

‘The time that Nicola and Lisa invested in exploring the brief and understanding our requirements, paid dividends. Their final design incorporated all the elements that we discussed, but in ways that we hadn't expected, and we were delighted with the end result’
Mr and Mrs S, Kent

Forest Gardening - the clue is not in the name!

Garden Designers are increasingly being asked to incorporate ‘Forest Garden’ design principles into their clients’ gardens. This is becoming a popular trend,

however the name does not clearly describe this style of gardening when applied to a domestic setting.

So what is Forest Gardening?

·         A Forest Garden is a sustainable, productive garden based on a young woodland.

·         The aim is to work with nature, to create an easy to maintain, beautiful, relaxing space, tailored to your needs.

·         Like a forest or woodland edge, the garden is arranged in layers or storeys, fully utilising the vertical dimension, and incorporating trees, shrubs and perennials.

·         Commonly used species are those with edible fruits, nuts, berries, leaves, vines, fungi, roots and tubers; but also medicinal plants, plants for dyeing, plants for coppicing or fuel, and other useful plants.

·         These gardens are designed to have maximum productivity for minimal effort. Due to the diversity of species used, pests and diseases are kept to a minimum, and the soil is kept fertile through natural means. Plants are chosen for suitability to the local conditions.

·         Plants are included to attract insects year-round, thus ensuring good pollination.

·         All available space is used, and so shade-tolerant, under-storey plants are often appropriate.


What it is not:-

·         It is not instant and totally labour-free - initial work is required to plant and establish the garden. Once it settles down, some weeding and pruning will be required to stop the thugs taking over.

·         It is not high maintenance ‘allotment-style’ gardening, with intensive production.

·         It does not comprise only native species - Forest Gardens include both native species and ornamentals, some of which can be unusual.

·         It does not mean you are creating a forest – most domestic Forest Gardens do not include large trees, the highest trees are often 4-6m high fruit trees, and good light levels are maintained by careful tree spacing.

·         It tends not to be a formal, tidy style of gardening – Forest Gardens are natural, informal and semi-wild looking. However this can be kept in check by maintaining pathway shapes and choosing plants to add structure.

·         Forest Gardens are not static and unchanging – a Forest Garden is dynamic and continually evolving, just as in nature. Some intervention will ultimately be required to retain good light levels.

·         They are not only suitable for large, rural gardens. Forest Gardens can be created in small suburban plots, and most soils and environments. They are ideal for an informal section of your garden, often away from the house, or near existing trees.

So perhaps a better name would be ‘Productive Woodland Edge Garden’!

….so why not set aside an area of your garden to a Forest Garden, and enjoy the fruits of less labour?!

For more information on creating a Forest Garden, or for suitable plants, email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We love Amanda Waring and Laura Arison's design, 'Maggie's Forest Garden', which won Best Show Garden at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park this year:-

Featured plants clockwise from top left: Ransoms or Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum); Rugosa Rose (Rosa rugosa); Chinese Dogwood (Cornus kousa var. chinensis); Blackberry or Bramble (Rubus fruticosus).

Images: Harmony Green