I'M sure we've all heard of feng shui, although we may not know what it all means!
It is, though, influencing both home and garden design for a number of people.
Here's just one example of a Horticultural Trades Association award-winning garden that could give some ideas to those who are interested in feng shui gardening.
It all started when the designer, no stranger to all sorts of client requirements, was told that the unusual aspect of this particular brief was the stipulation that feng shui principles had to be evident in the exterior landscaping, to reflect the open modern interior their house designer had created as part of a major redevelopment of their property.
To comply with feng shui principles, the design had to incorporate the five elements of water, metal, fire, wood and earth.
A stream flowing towards the house provides the first of the five elements, water.
To achieve the necessary flow, the water source had to be raised and ground levels adjusted. Special valves allow a gentle trickle of water to flow from within a boulder, while a 1,000-litre plastic tank and submersible is used to feed the stream through an additional outlet under the boulder.
With feng shui principles shunning strong, straight lines, the stream and planted edges incorporate flowing curves to impart a sense of movement.
The bold design incorporates ornamental grasses and herbaceous perennials to provide restrained hints of colour and texture.
The grasses, particularly Calamagrostis ‘Overdam', form upright pillars, creating divisions within the garden which when viewed from the drive provide fleeting glimpses of the water feature beyond.
Cobbles mounted on strong metal rods to create imitation seed heads are a highly unusual feature of this garden.
Up-lighters cast a light pool on the underside of the stones, allowing light wash to ‘bleed' through the grass stems, creating a stunning night-time effect.
The fire element provided a challenge because the use of a naked flame presented too great a safety risk.
Instead, careful planting with Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire', Nandinia ‘Firepower' and russets of Carex buchananii and Euphorbia ‘Redwing' have been incorporated to add natural warmth.
A log wall made from turned timber poles allowed wood to be incorporated into the design.
To add a sense of movement and lead the eye to a focal point within the garden, the designer used double and triple depths of logs to soften the feature and to form a fluid backdrop to the planting.
The easiest element to use, earth, was incorporated in the Scottish cobbles, the gravel paths, water feature and horticultural grit used to mulch the beds.
Within the scheme, a number of large boulders serve as both a source for the stream and a physical barrier between the road and the house.
A bold decision was required by the clients to run with a modern style of planting, the main area of concern being the stone ‘seed heads' set in a mix of grasses and herbaceous species.
These form bold drifts, with perennials carefully placed to provide discrete highlights of colour and interest against the backdrop of grasses.
Now maturing well, the project has created a great deal of positive comment, particularly the ‘seed heads' and grasses, which catch the sun and change appearance with the seasons.
The award-winning garden was designed by Mark Pumphrey of Notcutts Landscapes and won the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) Award for design excellence for the best front garden just a few days ago.
It is the 15th APL award achieved by Notcutts Landscapes in recent years and the latest in a long line of prestigious achievements for Notcutts including a ‘Gold Medal' at the 2002 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which has been a shop window for the Notcutts Group ever since the company won its first gold there in 1913.