Looking ahead to 2021

Posted by John, Nov 18th, 2020

Much of my time is now spent teaching planting design at SRUC. This means that Plantforms has had to become more focused. I am now only taking commissions from clients that are looking for the low maintenance and naturalistic schemes that I specialise in. In recent years I have been pursuing the research and conducting my own experiments to try and minimise the amount of inputs and maximise the display in these highly floral planting schemes. Public works are more important to me now. My street schemes are among my most reward projects. I particularly love the one I did a few years ago now on Royal Terrace, which continues to offer an exciting display throughout the year. More recently I have been collaborating with the landscape architect Urban Pioneers. It's a delight to be working with them and I look forward to developing this relationship. A news post today cannot be complete without mentioning COVID 19. Since lockdown the industry has been inundated, with most contractors being already booked up well into next year. I am taking commissions but you might also have a wait before I can get started. If you are thinking about summer 2021 I would consider getting in touch soon or you might be disappointed.

Looking ahead to 2018

Posted by John, Dec 20th, 2017

I have neglected my website this past year. Work has been steady so I haven't had the time. Planting design and some garden design has taken up most of my time, along with teaching at SRUC. Collaborations with other designers has become more common and I'm enjoying that. I'm also providing drawings to contractors regularly. The year ahead already looks interesting with several projects in the pipeline and a couple of new collaborations. For example, I am currently developing a proposal for how to transform a section of disused railway embankment. It sounds perhaps easy but it is a very challenging site with well established colonies of Rosebay Willowherb. So I hope the year continues to provide interesting work away from the mainstream of Arts and Crafts nostalgic designs (which are ok of course but one needs a bit of variety). And I hope it won't be quite so long before I have something I want to post on this page or on facebook.

Plan Now for Sowing Meadows & Update on Lead Times

Posted by John, July 7th, 2016

If you are considering a prairie meadow from seed sown in situ, now is the time to start planning. Sowing for these schemes happens over the winter. New planting and garden design enquires today are now being scheduled to hit the drawing board in September. Although I will always aim to get out and see the site close to the enquiry date to meet you and assess the size of the job.

Update on Lead Times

Posted by John, April 28th, 2016

Perhaps a little delayed this year but the spring rush came eventually. New enquires are still being taken and I will do my best to make an initial visit promptly, but I can't start on new designs now until June. I'll try to remember to update this message as the season goes along.

Update on Plantforms

Posted by John, Oct 16th, 2015

I am now working at SRUC teaching planting design part time. I've got responsibility for three modules that form part of the garden and greenspace design BSc course. I'll be doing basic and more advanced planting design elements including a the more detailed look at plant habitats that I have come to incorporate in my own work. I realise I have totally neglected my Plantforms website this year and hope to get new images uploaded soon. It's been an odd year with various new projects like the teaching starting up. In light of the new teaching work and my evolving interests in planting design I hope to refresh the website and provide a more particular service. The public planting schemes work is an area I want to continue growing, but also working with clients who appreciate plants as plants, and planting schemes as living and evolving.

Plant Sociability Course

Posted by John, Jan 26th, 2015

I am running a new day course on plant sociability on the 28th of February for garden designers. The course looks at the background to this concept and why it is a useful way to help us design more stable plant communities. Get in touch to book. Only 4 places. I'll post more dates shortly.

Scotland on Sunday Article

Posted by John, Sept 21st, 2014

Today there is an article in the Spectrum section of the Scotland on Sunday about one of my designs. It is a garden built by Gardens Galore for the chef Andrew Fairlie. The article discusses the process of Andrew commissioning Gardens Galore, through the design process and then the build.

Castle Garden Commission

Posted by John, Jun 26th, 2014

I've been asked to design the new gardens and planting schemes for Borthwick Castle, just south of Edinburgh. Their extensive refurbishment will take in the immediate castle grounds. The plan is to open early 2015. The outline plans have been presented and include the formal layout expected in a late medieval, 1430, castle garden. We will bring it up to date however with a contemporary take on the parterre and large borders of more naturalistic herbaceous planting. I'll post some photoshop sketches soon on plantforms' facebook page.

Planting Design Course 26th March

Posted by John, Jan 27th, 2014

I will be teaming up with the charity Trellis Scotland to provide one of their training days. Designing a herbaceous border is the main theme of the day. Check out their website for booking details. It will be in Edinburgh at Redhall Walled Garden.

Article in The Scotsman's Weekend Life

Posted by John, Dec 27th, 2013

Follow this link to an article about my work in the city of Edinburgh that featured in the Scotsman's Weekend Life supplement.

Marshalls Awards

Posted by John, Nov 26th, 2013

Last night I attended the Marshalls Scottish roadshow event in Stirling with the team from Gardens Galore. A garden I designed picked up an award in the best engineering category. It seems to be a category for designs that make good use of sloping sites. They obviously were impressed by the way the levels were handled to create an intersting garden. See my facebook page. Also I'd be grateful for more 'likes' - so if you like my facebook page please tick the LIKE buttom. Thanks...

Grow Wild

Posted by John, Oct 23rd, 2013

Vote for Frog pond! I'm volunteering my services for the West Lothian entry in this design competition. The Frog Pond park in Livingstone might well get the massive cash prize to fund the redevelopment of this park and see it transformed into an amazing wildflower beauty.Please log in to this website and vote for Frog pond. Thanks.

Go to growwilduk.com and vote for Frog Pond.


Posted by John, Oct 15th, 2013

I have been invited to teach the planting design module on the SRUC Garden Design course at Kings Buildings in Edinburgh. Looking forward to it. It will be a class of first year students so I will be taking them right from the basics through to designing perhaps their first ever border. Term starts January. Back to where I did my degree but this time at the other side of the desk!

See SRUC for more info on their course.

Talk on Perennials in Sustainable Urban Planting.

Posted by John, Sept 16th, 2013

Later this month on Sunday the 29th at 3pm I am giving a talk for the Friends of Hopetoun Crescent Garden. It is open to the public, all are welcome and it's free. The venue is McDonald Road Library just off Leith Walk.

See Friends of Hopetoun Crescent Garden website for more info on them.

Blooming in June at Mansfield Place

Posted by John, June 26th, 2013

The beginnings of a long summer of blooms at the traffic island in Edinburgh that I designed for the council here. It has developed over the years into a long season colourful border. Local residents are divided over the merits of perennials in public spaces, I get mainly positive feedback though - even when I go down there to do a tidy I'll get people commenting to me about it. It is time for a few plants to be replaced so I'm looking forward to a trip to Binny Plants later in the week. Will keep you posted on the additions.

See my facebook page for more images.

mansfield place

Planting Design Day course for Trellis

Posted by John, May 14th, 2013

On the 21st of August I will be teaching a planting design day course for Trellis. There is a link on their home page for the info sheet. It will be at Red Hall Walled Garden in Edinburgh. We will look at the theory in the morning and spend the afternoon on design exercises. It will be relaxed, informative and aims to demystify the planting design process. No experience required, just a desire to want to create better planting schemes.

Now on Facebook

Posted by John, April 1st, 2013

I now have a Plantforms page on facebook. I've posted a few images to get it started and will update it regularly with the latest news and other things of interest. Please check it out and 'likes' are welcome!

New Commission for Edinburgh City Council

Posted by John, March 18th, 2013

Work has begun on a new planting scheme for Edinburgh City Council. Plantforms has been commissioned to design new schemes for the Bellevue Gardens area and the Rodney Street junction. It's part of the drive to bring more sustainable planting schemes into the city. They will be continuing the theme of the Mansfield place traffic island. Different plants will be used though to take advantage of taller perennials that were not allowed on the approach to the roundabout. The effect will be similar, a relaxed naturalistic feel with plenty colour and interest throughout the year. The sites are both dictating woodland edge type plants so the options are limited. But there are plenty good woodland edge plants to choose from which will make for a fantastic scheme.

mansfield place

First Colour at Mansfiled Place Traffic Island

Posted by John, Feb 20th, 2013

The first signs of spring are out down at 'my' traffic island on Mansfield Place. The wonderful and useful Iris reticulata. From Mid February for several weeks they bear the harsh cold of late winter. Soon to be joined by the early Narcissus tete-a-tete and Crocus 'Cream Beauty', followed by a succession of bulbs as the spring develops into early summer. The perennial foxgloves have self sown and I'll be selectively weeding, or editing, them in a few weeks to ensure a good show later in summer. This will be the 4th season I've been responsible for this space. It's maturing nicely and brings quite a natural and relaxed feel to this corner of the inner city.

mansfield place spring bulbs

Website update.

Posted by John, Feb 15th, 2013

It has taken some time but finally the garden and landscape design section of the website is online. Although planting design remains a firm focus the requests for full designs have meant I have needed to include this aspect on the website. There are two main areas of interest: Ecologically informed landscape design is a no gimicks appraoch to helping you to make a real contribution to the health of local ecosystems through your garden. The second specialist area is in designing gardens for care homes and other healthcare settings. Healing gardens have long been an interest, the use of good design to improve health outcomes and quality of care. Regular landscape designs are also undertaken, but these areas are particular specialities.

Pre-Registered Membership of SGD.

Posted by John, Feb 5th, 2013

I am now a pre registered member of the Society of Garden Designers. This is a step on the way to full membership of the main industry society in Britain. They set the standard for professional practice in the UK. Plantforms sees this as a way of maintaining and improving standards in design and professionalism. There are only a handful of fully registered members in Scotland so it will also help us with recognition, help us stand out from the crowd.

New Dementia Friendly Garden Commissioned.

Posted by John, Jan 30th, 2013

Plantforms has been commissioned to design a new dementia friendly garden in the grounds of the Riverside Healthcare Centre in Selkirk. The space is a courtyard open to the North West and currently has gravel and some shrubs. Following on from the two care facility gardens designed last year this is another great opportunity to design a space which is going to have real significance for the lives of residents. The design has been commissioned in two stages. Firstly, a consultation drawing for all the residents and other stakeholders to view and make comments. Following on from this a master plan will be drawn up. Check back later next month to see the consultation plans here.

Training Event - Designing gardens for people with dementia.

Posted by John, Jan 23rd, 2013

Today was the training event at the Dementia Services Development Centre in Stirling. Annie Pollock took us through all the what to's and what not to do's for designing gardens for dementia sufferers. It was a great to learn from someone with plenty of experience in the field.This event was arranged by Trellis Scotland, a charity that aims to promote health through horticulture. They have a number of great events on throughout the year. Do check out their website.

2013 begins.

Posted by John, Jan 7th, 2013

The beginning of a new year and Plantforms is gearing up. This year, as well as taking on planting and landscape design work I shall also be beginning the process of pursuing full accreditation with the Society of Garden Designers. I had held off doing this because they have no specific category for planting design, but with increasing amounts of garden design work going through the practice I have decided to go for it.

This year will also see the real fruits of my prairie meadows sown last year. I hope to promote this method more widely this year, perhaps beginning with a full page on the website to begin with.

Also this year more collaboration is in the pipeline with Water Gems and Carolyn Grohmann as we look to cater for the demand for gardens and landscapes that support wildlife. There are lots of dubious claims out there about this aspect of design. We want to offer best practice in wildlife landscape design. This looks like being an exciting project.

More collaboration with Gardens Galore on sensory gardens for care settings is also planned. As part of this I'm planning on attending the workshop run later this month at the Dementia Services Development Centre in Stirling.

All that plus meeting new clients and some more trips to Germany will no doubt make 2013 a pretty full and enjoyable year at Plantforms.

Sense Scotland Garden nears completion.

Posted by John, Dec 20th, 2012

Even though the weather held up the landscapers they have nearly completed this project so it can be used for the Christmas festivities. Here is me getting the plants in the other day.

sense scotland

Walled Garden Plans.

Posted by John, Dec 12th, 2012

The final plans for the walled garden project were presented and accepted this morning. Work on planting up will hopefully begin in the new year.


Edinburgh New Prairie Meadow.

Posted by John, Dec 12th, 2012

The new prairie meadow on Marionville roundabout was sown yesterday and the protective layer of jute laid on top. With all this cold weather and a record cold winter being predicted it should be a bumper germination come spring. Most of the seeds in the mix have a certain amount of dormancy in them which the cold helps to break down over the winter. Seems a bit counter intuitive to sown at this time of year but it is essential for good germination rates. I'll post images come the summer when the plants start appearing. The local residents are in for a treat!


Edinburgh New Prairie Meadow.

Posted by John, Dec 10th, 2012

Turf was cut this morning for the new prairie meadow. The seeds will be going in tomorrow. After that there is a long cold winter forecast which is exactly what the seeds need to break their dormancy and get them ready to germinate come the spring. It is great to get another prairie meadow started in the city.

Edinburgh Council Commission New Prairie Meadow.

Posted by John, Dec 3rd, 2012

Edinburgh council are taking the lead in Scotland with the use of this new and innovative planting method. This month Water Gems will prepare a roundabout in the city and together with Plantforms will sow a unique mixture of prairie perennials to create a very low maintenance and sustainable planting scheme. It will give plenty of traditional colour and texture, as well as being great for the local urban ecosystem. Below is the Rosefield park prairie meadow as it looked in October, with mainly just the Coreopsis in bloom at the end of the first season. I heard from a friend the other day that it is still blooming now in December!


Outline plan approved for walled garden layout and Green Roof talk in St Andrews

Posted by John, Nov 23rd, 2012

This week clients approved the outline plan below. It is the formal layout for a walled garden. Also this week I gave a talk at St Andrews Botanic garden with Belinda MacDonald of ‘Shades of Green Garden Design’. The theme was green roofs and my part was the ecological benefits of green roofs. The group were very interested and appreciative. On the way home I noticed a massive new green roof being constructed just outside St Andrews, which was excellent to see.


Plan Approved for Sense Scotland Sensory Garden

Posted by John, Oct 16th, 2012

Today we agreed the final plans for the new sensory garden for the charity Sense Scotland. The drawing below gives an impression of how the garden will look. These drawings are perspective views created in Vectorworks and then given a wash of watercolour for a hand drawn look. They are proving very helpful in communicating the designs. Clients instantly get a feel for how the space will turn out, much more so than by looking just at a plan. Work will begin on construction on the 19th of November, aiming to be completed by Christmas.


Outline Plan Approved for Sense Scotland Sensory Garden

Posted by John, Oct 16th, 2012

Below is the outline plan approved today for the sensory garden at Bridge of Earn for the charity Sense Scotland. Work begins now on filling out the detail and of course the planting plan. Planting will be kept low maintenance by using suitable herbaceous ground cover plants, large shrubs and ornamental grasses. It is a highly functional design, with consideration primarily given to the needs of the residents. Having the layout on an angle, makes it a little more interesting, and importantly allows for deep planting in the triangular beds to help conceal the fence line. I'll be designing schemes with lots of texture, movement, sound, as well as colour and scent. I'll post the final sketch plans in due course.


New Sensory Garden Commission

Posted by John, Sept 29th, 2012

Plantforms and Gardens Galore have been commissioned again to create another sensory garden for a care facility. This time it will be in the grounds of a purpose built bungalow ran by the organisation Sense Scotland providing four residents with the housing support they need. The design has started taking shape and I’ll post the consultation drawing here in due course. It is great to be working again with Gardens Galore on another very meaningful project.

Rosefield Park Prairie Meadow

Posted by John, Sept 10th, 2012

The first blooms are out and the foliage is now reasonably full. Not quite full ground cover yet but close. If we aren't hit by an early frost we might even get some blue flowers from the Asters. Otherwise I'm happy with the development over the first growing season.The yellow is Coreopsis.

prairie meadow

Visit to Stuttgart

Posted by John, Sept 5th, 2012

I am just back from a visit to a wonderful park in Stuttgart, capital of Baden-Württemberg in the south of Germany. The Killesberg Park was created for a horticultural show in 1939. It was then renovated in 1993 as part of the international garden festival. These festivals happen every ten years in Germany and they involve not just temporary show gardens but the creation of new permanent green spaces. Several of these big festivals have involved some of the big names in German planting design. At Killesberg 1993 it was the turn of Urs Walser.

Now twenty years later the plantings are still looking great. Several terraces cut out of a gentle south facing slope are planted broadly for different seasons. The lower slopes had by now peaked but were by no means tired looking. The highest terrace was utterly bulging with American prairie plants, mainly Compositae. Presumably it was originally more diverse, but there was little sign of any short lived perennials now. Bold clumps and intermingling patches of late summer long-lived perennials are living closely and productively together - there was not a space for any weeds. The familiar narrow paths allow access right into the planting scheme. This is a genius idea and quite different from the English tradition of just looking at a border from a distance as one might look at a picture on a wall. Here we are in amongst the plants, surrounded by them, and with such height and colour the effect is much more stimulating. It isn't a passive observing but rather an active participation, if that doesn't sound too pretentious!! Anyway a very worthwhile trip. It is great to see that in the long term these planting schemes survive and thrive. Do check it out if you are ever in that part of the world.


Lower Terrace looking up the slope.


Top Terrace Prairie Planting.

Rosefield Park Prairie Meadow

Posted by John, Aug 7th, 2012

The first prairie meadow in Scotland, as far as I know, grown from seed sown in-situ, is finally coming on. Some of the plants are showing flower buds and will give a bit of a taste this year of what is in store for the years ahead. I thought it was doomed to fail because of early damage from park users that didn't understand what was going on. Since signage went up to explain this seems to have stopped and given the whole venture a fighting chance again. Will keep regular updates on this news page.

prairie meadow

Planting-Up Braehill Lodge

Posted by John, Aug 3rd, 2012

After a long day Braehill was finally planted up on Thursday of this week. It is looking great. Gardens Galore have done a great job on the build. The curves of the layout have worked well and guide the eye through the space easily. There is plenty of interest from the plants too, with clear peak seasons in different areas (something that is highly recommended for care home gardens.) It was lovely to hear the residents through the open windows commenting on the garden - there is a lot of excitment and anticipation. I'm sure it will bring a great deal of pleasure to them all over the years.

setting out

Setting out at Braehill Lodge

Posted by John, July 8th, 2012

Setting out the design last week - the rain held off briefly for us, everything went to plan, guys are well under way by now with the foundations.

setting out

Construction begins at Braehill Lodge

Posted by John, July 2nd, 2012

Constructions begins on the sensory garden at Braehill Lodge residential care home for the elderly today. Gardens Galore are constructing it. Site clearance today and tomorrow, on Wednesday I'm going to help marking out. I'll keep a log of progress here over the weeks. They are aiming for a garden opening in August. Scroll down on this page for an image of the garden plan.

This Year's Prairie Meadows

Posted by John, June 16th, 2012

Below is an image taken today of one of my prairie meadows which was sown in early February this year, rather too late really but we gave it a go. Germination is oh so slow this year primarily because of this cold weather we are having. It is happening though and with the rest of the growing season ahead I look forward to watching it develop. If you are thinking about one then I’d get in touch soon as site prep has to happen over the summer months. It’s definitely a patient gardeners method, but boy is it worth the wait!

Prairie Meadow Germination Slow


Posted by John, June 12th, 2012

As of today Plantforms is on Twitter!!! In the succinct spirit of twitter that's it for today's news.

Giving a talk at St Andrews Botanics

Posted by John, May 25th, 2012

As part of their Botanic Bonanza programme I will be teaming up with Belinda Macdonald to give a presentation at St Andrews Botanic Gardens on Green Roofs. I am covering the ecology of green roofs and Belinda will cover the other benefits and the aesthetics. We also plan to show how small scale projects can easily transform something like a shed or summerhouse into a more beautiful and 'green'contribution to the garden. So a mix of theory and practical advice on domestic green roofs - the date is Thursday 22nd of November at 10am.

Braehill Lodge

Posted by John, May 8th, 2012

This project for a residential care home has just been finalized and construction is due to start early July this year.

Braehill Watercolour Plan

SGD Spring Conference

Posted by John, May 2nd, 2012

The Society of Garden Designers had their spring conference on Saturday. There was an impressive line up of speakers who did not disappoint. The man behind the development of the seeding method, James Hitchmough, of Olympic Park fame gave an inspiring and convincing account of his take on random plant compositions. I was fortunate enough to see the gardens in Germany where they developed systematically a process of random planting and their results are surprisingly stunning. Surprising because at first random planting seems like an odd idea. Well it isn't that odd in practice, and indeed when you look at the method it isn't totally random , a lot of thought goes into these schemes. It was great to see someone speak so convincingly about random planting, which is still a relatively marginal technique in Britain. Other speakers were Tom Stuart Smith, Christopher Woodward, and Raymond Jungles from the States. Check out the SDG website for details of the conference and indeed their autumn conference, which is lined up for the 10th November and is titled - A Perfect Union:the marriage of horticulture and architecture; John Brookes is a confirmed speaker so it should be a good one.

Recent Commission

Posted by John, April 9th, 2012

Plantforms was recently commissioned by the care home provider Braehill ltd to design a new sensory garden for their residential facility in Carnoustie. The plans are nearing completion and they plan to build early to mid summer. Sensory gardens and especially for a elderly care home require specific design details. I've had much help from re-reading some of the research conducted in this area in the U.S. Included are raised beds, much scent, colour, texture and sound. Planting is key as you would expect with certain areas clearly signalling the changing of the seasons. It has been an interesting project, images of master plan to follow soon.

Hosepipe Ban

Posted by John, April 5th, 2012

Large areas of the south east of England from today are subject to a hosepipe ban. The horticulture industry is indignant and feels threatened. Actually it is an opportunity rather than a threat. The gardens in this part of the country would do well to take a lead from Beth Chatto and simply use plants that like these drought conditions. Perhaps two dry years on the trot doesn't make for a climate pattern, however, it seems at the very least wise to build into planting schemes in these areas a certain ecological resilience. Making an opportunity out of the situation would make much more sense in the long run, instead of campaigning against the ban which make the industry look rather out of touch.

Planting Design Day

Posted by John, April 2nd, 2012

At the end of March I ran a planting design day for professional garden designers in Edinburgh. I was asked to do this last year and this was the second such event. Numbers were down on last year but the day was enjoyed by all. Planting design days are a great refresher for professionals as part of ongoing CPD and also to learn some new tips from me and from others attending. I have developed exercises that get the theory put into practice straight away and there is also time for looking at each other latest work. I have been asked to take the course beyond Edinburgh, this might happen later in the year.

There will be a new course running for amateurs at Balerno High from Thursday the 3rd of May for 5 weeks. The focus of this course is the design of colourful herbaceous borders. With the spring here it is a great time to get thinking about making changes in the garden. Contact the school to book a place.