Laura Bermingham: A model garden
Lanterns, candlelight and cushions combined with an array of exotic plants have helped to transform Laura Bermingham's garden into an airy and relaxing'outdoor room'
Former model and 'Ireland AM' beauty expert Laura Bermingham has created an attractive, low-maintenance garden in north Dublin using a simple palette of hard landscaping materials. Not overdoing any one element has kept the look simple and effective.
Laura and her husband Garry Scully met when they were both modelling in the 1990s but now their focus has moved to another model creation -- the garden that Garry designed and planted.
A favourite area on the patio has been painted cream and, in the evenings, they enjoy the last of the sunshine in this westerly corner. Laura has covered the L-shaped seated area, which Garry built and tiled, with lots of cushions, giving it an exotic look. They have succeeded in creating a far-away feel -- especially with the lanterns and candlelight.
The couple developed the area in stages, starting with the decking
which covers almost half the garden. There is a paved patio running across its full width and a gravel area up the other side.
There is an open, airy feel about the garden, and the clever use of foliage and painted walls works perfectly. The green and white is soothing and immediately creates a relaxing environment. It's not surprising that Laura, Garry and their 10-year-old daughter, Rosie, use the garden as a room outside.
The decking area is home to some aluminium furniture and this area is ideal for eating al fresco, when the weather permits.
If you want to get a modern look, it's hard to beat bamboo. It will create an instant focal point and also add a lovely soft touch to a garden that already has trees and shrubs. If you're planning on growing them in the ground, make sure to select a bamboo type that doesn't run or spread. In a short time, these could take over and become a real nuisance.
If you are concerned, it's best to grow bamboo in a large container or pot, making sure it's got plenty of room for growth. Keep it evenly moist, only allowing it to barely dry out between watering. Like nearly all plants, bamboo resents extremes of wet or drought.
Laura has used three different types of bamboo very successfully to get a very different look into her garden. All three have an individual character. One she has used very successfully against the creamy white walls is the golden bamboo Phyllostachys aureosulcata.
This is a very elegant bamboo that is clump-forming and spreads very slowly. It can look wonderful in a large container or in the ground where you don't mind it running a little bit. What sets this one apart from others is its beautiful green and golden cane, which can be up to 8ft tall. When the bamboo is in full leaf, it gently arches, creating a very graceful effect.
This bamboo, like others, appreciates good-quality soil, and it's worth going to some trouble to prepare the ground in advance of planting. If you are growing it in a container, you should use a compost such as John Innes No 3, making sure that the container is well drained. If extra drainage holes are needed, this should all be done before planting.
On the other side of Laura's garden is Phyllostachys nigra, otherwise known as the black bamboo. This contrasts with the golden bamboo, producing dark black canes. Complementing these, Laura also grows Semiarundinaria sp. This also produces canes but has much larger leaves.
With the combination of all three, any breeze creates a gentle rustling sound in the garden, which adds to the atmosphere. After planting, make sure that bamboos are watered on a regular basis until they establish as it's easy to lose them to drought.
One of Laura's favourite plants is situated in the heart of her decked area. It's a tree fern, Dicksonia antarctica, which she bought for her husband as a gift. This adds an exotic feel to the garden and the large fronds create a beautiful contrast with other foliage plants such as the castor oil plant (Fatsia japonica), which has big, bold evergreen leaves and is growing very well for her in the right-hand border.
Adding to the foreign feel in the garden is a hardy palm, Trachycarpus fortunei, and a few ornamental grasses have been added for effect.
One grass has been used to great effect in a container -- Festuca glauca. It creates a shimmering blue mound of foliage and looks so different from everything else that it really stands out. This is an effective plant to use with gravel, which Laura and Garry did, planting it on the right-hand side of their garden beside the raised wooden decking.
The two look great together and it helps to break up the hard landscaping while being low maintenance. There's very little work to do -- an annual cleaning of the decking and an occasional raking of the gravel keeps it in order.
When putting down gravel, it's a good idea to put down a membrane such as Mypex, which is completely porous thus preventing weeds from coming up but allowing moisture to pass through.
To punctuate the gravel, Laura and Garry have incorporated some spiky foliage plants. A variegated yucca, which flowered this summer with beautiful white bells, has lovely golden striped foliage.
Also, there's an attractive variegated phormium, with pinkish red-striped leaves. These really stand out against the soft colour of the gravel, which acts as a perfect foil.