Help & Advice

This page is intended as a guide to provide a little further information on the Garden Sculptures we sell, covering often asked topics.

This is a guide and not a definition! Our intention as always is to try to help both customers and artists achieve what they want. We are always happy to talk through ideas and discuss products, should you wish to call.

Garden Designers

Some of you may not have the time, or the inclination for your own garden and would rather place it in the hands of a professional, so all you have to do is sit out of an evening after a hard day's work. Quite a sensible idea actually!

In managing this business I'm often in contact with garden designers, many of them members of the Society of Garden Designers. I have listed a few here that you may find meet your needs.

  • Amanda Patton
  • SGD Multi-award winning designer based in Sussex
  • www.amandapatton.co.uk
  • 07989 168396
  • Ann Dukes
  • SGD member and RHS show winner from Shropshire
  • www.paceybuckgardendesign.co.uk
  • 01952 750439
  • Catherine Heatherington
  • Highly accomplished designer and SGD member in London
  • www.chdesigns.co.uk
  • 07786 518 386
  • Debbie Carroll
  • Traditional, Contemporary, Therapeutic & Sensory Gardens, Hampshire
  • www.dcgardendesigns.co.uk
  • 02380 685193
  • Phillipa Probert
  • TV pundit, presenter and gold medal winner from the Wirral
  • www.outerspaces.org.uk
  • 07734 157976
  • Susan Young
  • Holds the Royal Horticultural Society’s Diploma with a Commendation and is a member of the Professional Gardeners’ Guild. Based in Bedfordshire
  • www.susanyoungdesign.co.uk
  • 01234 826430

Siting Sculpture

You may feel you would like a little help with siting sculpture and certainly we will do all we can to help you with this. We might even be able to arrange the artists to come and install their sculpture for you. But we believe that if you are discerning enough to buy a piece of art for your garden from FiveTwo then you will also be discerning enough to decide where you would like to site it!
A couple of thoughts though; if you are happy with deciding where to put plants in your garden, placing a piece of sculpture is not much different. And unless it is very heavy, you can always move it again!

A garden in winter differs greatly from the garden in summer and can affect the impact of your sculpture. May be consider a different place for every season.

Placing a sculpture in the middle of a lawn on it's own will make it a great focal point, but is it subtle enough? Certainly the person who mows the lawn will have observations to make!!

A sculpture works very well to complement. Place it near planting which will draw the eye to the sculpture, or the other way round so the sculpture will draw the eye to the planting.

Some sculpture can also look fantastic if placed in or near water, with the light reflecting off the water and onto the sculpture, and the sculpture reflected in the water

Perhaps consider placing the piece under an arch either cut into a hedge with a view to the distance if you are lucky enough to be in such a situation, or perhaps use a plant arch to frame the piece

Large mirrors can be very effective in a garden, creating an illusion of space. Consider placing your piece, in an arch in a hedge, with a mirror at the back.

Try putting your sculpture in a place where it will create a surprise, unseen initially but when you turn a corner it is there to surprise and delight.

Enjoy your garden sculpture and enjoy placing it.

Health & Safety

There are some (or many even!) who feel the plethora of advice on Health & Safety is sometimes excessive. So our advice is simply to use common sense. Sculpture can be very heavy so should be placed on firm level ground. Ask yourself are children, animals or even adults likely to climb on or lean on the piece? If so are you happy that they (and your piece of sculpture) will be safe. Will it be blown over in strong winds. Will it get in the way of machinery. Please do not take risks

Plinths and things

Some of our pieces come with plinths, other you may feel could be enhanced with the use of a plinth, to raise it up and make it more visible. At the moment we are not selling plinths as a separate item, but here are some ideas for plinths:

Bricks.
Visit your local builder's merchant to see the great selection of bricks available. The heavy blue engineering bricks can look great, as can some of the red clay bricks. You don't need a builder to place them for you. You don't have to have mortar between them, if stacked carefully they should provide an attractive, low cost plinth. Perhaps consider topping off with a paving slab.
Tip - try using a grab adhesive if you would like to hold them a little firmer, but prefer not to use mortar.

Garden Art
Wood.
A large 200 x 200 oak plinth really looks great, but can be heavy and expensive. But you could use 100 x 100 fence posts to similar effect. Place four posts of the same length together to form a square, then use right angle iron on each corner to hold them in place.

Paving blocks.
Come in all shapes, sizes and colours. They can be used singly as a base, piled to make a plinth, or even if carefully constructed, use 4 on end to form a cube, and a fifth on top to complete the plinth.

Concrete moulds.
These are surprisingly easy to make. Mix your own or buy a bag of concrete mix. Use something like a large plastic flower pot, line the bottom [which will be the top!] to ensure it is smooth and flat. Then just fill with concrete. If you want to make it less heavy, then use a smaller flower pot inside the larger pot (tip - put it in after the first couple of inches have been added. Then simply fill the gap between the two making sure the sides are even). Other moulds are easily at hand. Why not try a strong cardboard box and line it with plastic sheeting. Again remember to put something in the middle like a smaller box to keep the weight (and amount of concrete mix) down. Finally, there is a great range of concrete dyes available. Try one.

And if all these ideas are a littler daunting. Call us and let us see what we can do to help.

Gardening Diary

This should be called a 'blog', but I think it's such a silly word! So I'll call it a diary, with day to day ramblings about gardening. Hopefully, helpful, useful, and may be amusing. From jobs to do in the garden this week, ideas and discussions on how to, interesting plants etc and of course garden sculpture! This is not for experts, but for amateurs like me. Normally too embarrassed to even ask a question, and seemingly incapable of remembering plant names. Although the useful information here is, of course, sourced from experts.

I'm hoping that us ordinary folk, will and should have the confidence to go out and do it, even if we feel we don't have a clue what we're doing, and still achieve something to be proud of!

Different people have different opions on the best way to do things, but there is one point on which I'm sure all gardeners would agree. The most important thing is to ..... "Enjoy your garden"

10 May 18 - "Blossom is out"
snow

Well it's show season again and still the weather lurches from one extreme to another. Two weeks ago I was at a show at Arundel Castle (beautiful place, must visit) it was so so cold. Last weekend I was at Bishops Waltham which was a charity show for St John's Ambulance....and it was almost too hot.

But what it has meant is that everything that was held back with the cold is suddenly bursting forth and everything is so lush at the moment. Especially the blossom, which is looking stunning. It's fun doing shows when you are just hanging out in such lovely places

When I was at Bishops Waltham, I was listening to Andy McIndoe doing a q&a over the tannoy. Someone asked him about Ash tree dieback. He was saying that in this area (Hampshire) although we have quite a few Ash they tend to be in clumps here and there, not big groups, so this tends to slow down the spread of the disease. He said that although it was a terrible disease, he didn't think it would be endemic around here

31 Mar 18 - "Jobs to be getting on with"
snow

Ok, new year, new leaf etc. I'm going to have another go at my gardening diary.

But what gardening! It's Easter 2018 and guess what? It's cold, wet and miserable out. It seems to have been going on like this for weeks. We've hardly been out in the garden at all this year. Either it's snowing or it's too cold and too wet. Gardening is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. Like this it is not. Even taking dog across the fields for a walk is a challenge. Your feet slip everywhere feels like you've walked twice the distance

But there's a positive. There are hot-cross buns and chocolate to eat. (in fact I particularly recommend the toffee and chocolate hot cross buns available at a well knowd supermarket). And I would say that there is always next weekend to get on with stuff. But whoops there is not. First show comming up at Quenington, Glos. Do pop by if you are around. It's a lovely place.

10 Feb 17 - "Keep it updated"

Yes, I know! If you are going to do one of these bloggy type things. Then at least keep it up to date! And what have I done recently...nothing! There is a reason, I won't explain, but I do apologise and hope that in the not too distant future to start updating again. I did go out to start pruning the Kiftsgate on Saturday but it was sooo cold, I just gave up!!

22 Jul 16 - "What's been going on"
sierra-nevada

No blog, for so long. What's been going on I hear you ask. 'Brexit' is not the answer, although it does seem to be blamed for absolutley everything at the moment. The endless wet summer...Brexit. Southern rail train failures...Brexit. My last batch of bread didn't rise...Brexit. The complete idiocy of all polticians has finally been laid bare...Brexit. Well that last one is true!

Nope, we've been away on a special holiday to California, and it's taken rather a long time for me to re-adjust. We started in San Francisco, where on the first morning the hotel caught on fire (honest!) 'weclome to Hotel California' a couple of days there to see the famous streets, and they are extraordinary. Then we hired a car and headed down the Pacific Coast along Highway 1, Big Sur. Beautiful. The we headed east to the Sierra Nevada, driving through the Mojave desert. In just one day we started the morning at 62f it went up to 106f and ended the day in snow on Mammoth mountain. Incredible drive. After a couple of days, we set off again taking in the old gold rush town of Bodie and heade for Yosemite. Now I see why everyone talks about it so much. If you are bored with beach holidays, and want to see something really stunning, I cannot recommend a visit to Northern California highly enough. It is absolutely stunning.

But now it's back to reality, very long (6") post holiday grass, great show at Chenies Manor last weekend. That's a plant fair well worth visiting. Oh, and I found a toad sneeking into the living room the other night because the door was open. Lucky I spotted him, else he might have been locked in with the dog!

16 Jun 16 - "Rain, rain, rain"
gardens love rain

Weeds, weeds, weeds seem to go pretty much hand-in-hand with rain, rain, rain. But every gardener knows that (most) gardens love rain. The recent weather has been almost perfect growing weather, everything is looking as lush as I can remember it. But there are some people not happy with this lovely growing weather...the farmers. Yup, it's true that you never find a happy farmer. Our local farmer is complaining that the wheat has grown too strongly. So the stalks are thicker than normal, which means that there will be less breeze through the crop, thus encouraging mildew and disease. You just can't please everybody!!

Although if I were to join in, it's always annoying how the rain catches the peonies. They're such amazing flower heads and they always just reach perfection, when down comes the rain. We've got a white one with tinges of pink called Shirley Temple, I thoroughly recommend it. Amazing when it's out...until the rain comes!!

Take advantage of aall this growth though, it can provide a wealth of compost material. Try to make sure that you fill the compost bin with equal volume of nitrogen-rich stuff (like grass clippings, manure, shrub pruning's) and carbon-rich stuff (like flower stalks, shredded paper, woody clippings). Another tip, if you are adding a lot of grass cuttings, chuck in a shovel of soil at the same time. Then keep it moist, but not wet and turn the contents once a week to help speed up the process.

08 Jun 16 - "Weeding, Weeding, Weeding"
lunch

Yes, I know. Weeding again. But it is really critical at this time of year. Particularly with all the rain, and the warm weather, everything is suddenly growing like crazy, not least of all the weeds. There is no easy way to do it, you just have to get on to hands and knees and dig. This wet weather has made the soil just right for weeding, quite easy to dig into.

Strangely enough I don't mind it too much. It gives you a good chance to get up close and personal with bits of the garden you might not otherwise see, and the end result is pretty satisfying. I think I've done about 8 black bags full so far, and it all goes off for recycling into compost, thank you TVBC.

The tricky bit is weed identification. Fortunately there is normally a superior being about who makes these decisions. But we have had a few disasters along the way, with the discussion normally going like this "I'm sure it was planted just there.....it cost how much?!........sorry!" But then I've always wondered who it is that decides when a weed is a weed and when it's a plant. Consider cow parsley, I think it looks brilliant at this time of year, bubbly white flower heads. But it is considered a weed. It's not easy being a plant! I remember the time I went into a garden centre because I wanted to buy some moss...they looked at me like I was dotty!

The key thing is this. Once you are done you can sit outside and have lunch and enjoy all your hard work. Preferably with a glass of wine, not a cup of coffee. Not sure what went wrong there!

27 May 16 - "Blossom, Weeding and Chelsea"
Blossom

You might wonder the connection between these three, so do I! It's just that all three have been on my mind for a few days. The blossom, well just because it has been so stunning this year, at least down here in Hampshire. Or maybe I'm just getting old and starting to appreciate things a little more. Nobody seems to know the name of this tree outside Manor Farm, but probably an ornamental cherry. Every year it is pretty stunning, but this is one of the better years. So I just wanted to share it with you, although the photo doesn't really do it justice.

Swiftly on to Chelsea, it's that time of year again. Yet again we have spent many an evening staring in wonderment at what they achieve! Watching on TV that is, the only time I went was in 1970 something with my father and even in those days the main thing I remember was that it was so crowded, so you can't really see that much. But none the less, what they achieve is undoubtedly stunning. I met one of the guys at a plant show last year, he works for Hilliers. He has been awarded his 51st gold medal this year, which will probably never be achieved again, because no-one works for the same company for that long any more.

But the whole thing is just so unrealistic. You would never get that in a real garden. Most of the plants are forced, either held back or brought on early, so you would never normally get those combinations of planting. And it's so momentary. Perfect for just one week. If you want to plan a garden, look for year round interest (a bit of sculpture always helps!!). And the water features always get me. They are amazing, beautiful crystal clear water. But they won't last like that, after a few weeks the algae will start and just won't look like that. All great fun, but so unreal!

So after that rant, what about weeding? Quite simply, it's what's planned for the weekend. Everything has been growing like crazy, but the rain has made the soil just right for weeding. Not the greatest of jobs, but it does look so much better when done! - Enjoy your weekend!

16 May 16 - "Plant Fairs"
winterbourne house

Went to a plant fair at Winterbourne House yesterday. Firstly, well what an amazing place that is. It's in Edgabaston, Birmingham. It's part of the University of Birmingham and is used for research, but it is open to the public. Extraordinary place to find right in the middle of a city, and well worth a visit.

I was there to try to sell my wares, but took time to look round some of the stalls. What a fantastic selection of plants. If you're looking to buy plants, I would strongly recommend you visit a plant fair. Just Google 'plant fairs'. This one was run by Rare Plant Fairs, who run a series of events throughout the season, mainly in the south. But there are lots of others fairs.

What you get if you go to a plant fair, is not only a choice of different and interesting plants, but they are also very high quality, reasonably priced, and most important, you get to talk to the people who grew them. Just picking up that knowledge and information alone, is worth the visit. Normally you won't get that level of knowledge at garden centres.

What did I get? French Tarragon. It's not easy to grow, needs well drained soil, and in winter should be protected in say a cold frame, as that will also stop it becoming too wet. Why did I get it? I just love tarragon roast chicken! Stuff the cavity with a wodge of tarragon, then roast normally. For once almost best without gravy. Just salad and creamy mash potatoes!

09 May 16 - "That was summer. back to Autumn"
beech hedge in spring

Little addendum to my last post. Bishops Waltham Fair was most enjoyable. It was a beautiful day and great location, which made it well worth attending. But my day was made when Andy McIndoe stopped by and had a brief chat and said he liked what I was doing! Yay! On the other hand yesterday at Kilver Court, which is a designer outlet owned by Mulberry. Gloriously warm weather, but we were in a car park which slightly took the edge off it a bit. However the founder of Mulberry, Roger Saul was there. He went round most of the stalls and had a chat and bought plants....but me, he completely ignored! No accounting for taste. That's the last time I buy Mulberry.....well actually I've never bought Mulberry, I prefer Levis! (which shows how much I know!)

So back into the garden today. And after that lovely burst summer weather it looks like autumn is here again already! The joys of having a beech hedge! Actually, they're great value all year round...apart from kind of April, which is when the winter leaves start dropping off and you can wind up a little exposed to the neighbours, but only for a couple of weeks. They grow pretty robustly, taking on fresh green leaves in May which turn brown in autumn, but don't drop until April, unlike a beech tree, which is after all the same family! Normally best pruned about August when they have stopped growing, which although you might feel is cutting fairly tight, in fact just trims it and the actual hedge continues to grow larger. If you want to have a hard cut back, which is probably necessary once every 5-10 years, that should be done back end of winter, feb/mar. But you will then definitely lose all the leaves, so may be best to co-ordinate with the neighbours and do one side one year and the other the next. A good cut back does help thicken the plant up though.

If you want to plant a beech hedge, any time in the winter will do. Really depends on availability of plants. They come as bare root. So just push a spade in the ground, wiggle it about to make a small slit. Slip the plant in then stamp it in. Easy! Probably go for about a metre apart, but with two rows about half metre apart, then stagger them.

29 Apr 16 - "Still on about Pruning"
Winter flowering viburnum

Busy, busy, rush, rush, it's showtime again, 3rd one coming up, at Bishops Waltham this Sunday. Quite looking forward to this one. Apparently Andy McIndoe the multiple Chelsea gold award winner from Hilliers will be there to judge the stands. I've been to a couple of talks by him, great speaker. I wonder if he will notice my sculptures?!

Anyway, one more final bit about pruning. We have a winter flowering virburnum, 'viburnum x bodnantense' which is a great plant to have. Starts flowering in October and goes right through winter till about March.

This one was already here, so probably at least 20 years old. And it can grow quite large, up to about 3m. Now like much pruning the theory is that each year you take out old stems to let the new ones grow. Which we have been doing, but may be not drastically enough. Funny how theory and practice never seem to quite align! So by the end of last year, we decided it was getting too high, and it was in the neighbours way, so I cut it down to just below the hedge line. The result was a lot of vigorous young growth, appeared at the top. So this year we (no lets say 'I', because I think I need to take responsibilty if this one doesn't work out!) decided to cut far more dramtically, in the hope that we will get lots of young growth starting much lower. In fact I reckon, maybe I should have cut even lower, by a couple of feet. But I didn't have the courage! So watch this spot, let's see what happens. (btw - sorry about quality of photos, somehow not easy to photo clearly)

14 Apr 16 - "Pruning Roses"
Rose pruning

A little more about pruning, this time roses! Oh no! Ouch! It's true though, every time I prune roses, particularly this one, I seem to wind up with scratches and blood everywhere. The trouble with wearing sensible protective gloves, is that it's not easy to work with them on, and actually in a way pruning is quite sensitive work. The embarassing bit though is that people then think you own cats! Whoops, how many people have I just alienated!

Anyway, it's too late now really to prune roses. It's an autumn or feb type job. Although again depends on the type of rose. This one is a 'rambler', it's a Kiftsgate. Fantastic flowers in June, and lovely red berries in autumn. They grow like crazy, love to climb up trees, great on a big wall or side of a barn. Be careful, if growing on the side of a house not to let the shoots grow up under your roof.

Interestingly I saw one at RHS Wisley last year, which was set to grow up a tree, but they had cut it right back to about 3 foot from the ground. And I always reckon those guys know what they are doing. Perhaps I should go back and have a look this year, to see if they do that every year.

As with quite a few roses, you need to cut back fairly hard to a bud. Sometimes easy to spot as you can see where the new growth will be, other times less easy. But don't worry too much if you cut in the wrong place. You'll find you have a number of main stems growing in the direction you would like, cut all the side shoots back to the last bud or two before the stem. That's it!

However, what I have done as an experiment is, as above, but left some of last year's longer shoots and not cut them back, as I reckon it will help give a little more volume to the rose. But only time will tell if I am right. So roll on June, let's see what happens!

07 Apr 16 - "Pruning"
Pruning Hazel

Pruning! Possibly one of the scariest jobs any amateur gardener ever has to do. You've spent countless hours carefully nurturing your plant, and now you are just going to hack it to bits. You've read the books on pruning, but somehow, what you want to prune never looks like the one in the book. So here are a few tips I have picked up over the years. Rule #1 don't panic! Rule #2 do prune, it will normally always result in more vigorous growth. I don't think that over the years I have had too many, if any, significant disasters as a result of pruning. Or perhaps I have just forgotten them!

There are some pretty good guidelines, which are useful, prune during the dormant season (nov-feb), prune after flowering etc. That information is easily available from books, and should generally be followed. But even those are not hard and fast rules. If you want to cut a branch off a tree mid-summer, do it! It's most unlikely to do it any harm.

So we have a hazel tree, it's quite old, needed a bit of work, it was a mess. Not everyone in the house likes it. But then it does provide some protection against the north wind.

I was once given a piece of advice about pruning trees. "You should be able to throw your cap up between the branches!". What you are trying to do is get more light into it, but make sure that you keep the natural shape of the tree. If branches are crossing, may be one should go. Spend a lot of time looking, preferably have another pair of eyes with you. Be bold! Take that branch right out - ah, that looks better! Obviously doing it in winter, you can see the outline of the tree better. But sometimes, you also need to consider it when fully leaved.

I will come back to tree pruning again. But this week's task was the hazel. Coppice it people will say. That's not necessarily the right advice. You only coppice if you want to grow young straight branches for making fences or whatever. Otherwise let it grow into a normal size tree. Birds love it. This hazel required a lot of staring, but eventually managed to get some light into. But it still looks pretty much the same...just happier!

31 Mar 16 - "After Turfing"
After Turfing

Ok! I have to admit, it didn't get seeded, it got turfed! As you may remember Easter wasn't the best of weather. Well actually the Friday was really nice, so I had time to dig it over and rake and firm it down. My theory was that I wanted to work the soil a little, just laying the turf on top it would have been too compacted after the winter. So loosening a bit, means that the grass roots will have something nice to grow into. It was also a good opportunity to weed the area.

But then the rain and wind came so it was going to be too wet to get out there and work. Too muddy and sticky and would do more damage than good. Instead I used the time constructively, and took the dog on a long walk to the pub! We also went out to get the turf! Well I worked out what I needed and was going to get 15 rolls, but it was 'on offer' so I got 20. Word of warning here....do not try loading 20 rolls into an ordinary old estate car, it doesn't really like it. Probably 10 would be more sensible. But we did eventually get home, very slowly, exhaust scrapping on ground

Laying the turf was quite fun when we finally got round to it. Really doesn't take long. Try to get the edges tight together, if possible lay them in a staggered fashion, 'like bricks' I was told! Use an old knife to cut to size. Try to work out the optimum way to lay without cutting too much. The small pieces are less likely to take and survive. Then at the end tread it all down nice and flat. You will read that you should use a scaffold board to walk on, helps keep it flat and even. Well funnily enough I don't have a scaffold board. So I whacked it all with the back of a spade!

But in the end, result! Looks really good, should have done it years ago. Instant gardening. But back to turf v seed. Seed is definitely a lot cheaper, but turf a lot easier!

24 Mar 16 - "Turf vs Seed"
Easter gardening

Ever noticed how when people start doing a diary they do lots of entries initially, then tail off and loose interest. Will I be the same, only time will tell!

Easter coming up and one of the tasks is this area. It's been like it for a long time (years!) and basically looks drab most of the time. Can't afford to fill it with planting, but at the same time it's a pain to weed and manage. So we're going to grass it over. Then perhaps later make small beds for planting. Certainly not planning to mow it, just strim occasionally. It's not mean to be quality lawn, just grass.

Now the question is seed or turf? It's primarily down to cost. To turf will cost about £80, to seed about £10. In both cases you need to prepare the ground well. Turf will give a more instant result, seed takes a few months to really establish. Turf is better on slopes, else the seed might wash off in heavy rain. If this was to be a nice lawn area, and I could afford it, I would turf it. In fact I do need to sort the main lawn. But more on that later.

So the answer is, I shall use both! The top area, which is rarely used, I will seed, the bottom and the sloping banks along the side I shall turf. It'll be interesting to see what happens!

On the top bit, I shall leave any planting in place. There are a few things up there like dianthus/pinks I shall just seed all around and trim back once grown. Ah ha! Just found out the difference between Dianthus and Pinks! Dianthus is the name of the species (genus) or type of plant. Dianthus comes in 3 different varieties. Pinks, Carnations, Sweet William. Good, that's my learning done for the day!

22 Mar 16 - "A sad start"
Willow trees in winter

A sad day to start a diary. It's the day of the Belgium bombings. Such incomprehensible actions. So as a small memorial to those who randomly lost their lives just as they were starting another day.

A picture of the peace and beauty of nature. I'm endlessly stunned by the colour and striking majesty of these willow trees in winter, which I'm lucky enough to see from the garden.