About Me

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After starting life as a fully trained Design Draughtsman then running my own business for nearly 20 years, I have fulfilled my desire to return to my first love of designing. Coupled with my second love of gardens, I retrained at the renowned Oxford College Of Garden Design, taking a Post Graduate Diploma in Residential Landscape and Garden Design. Since graduation I have started my own business Paul Francis Design Limited designing Gardens and Landscapes for private and commercial clients.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Poppies everywhere!

Poppies (Papaver) seem to be increasing in numbers these last few years and this year is no exception. Hedgerows, fields set aside and gardens are awash with many different varieties. Non more common or striking than the scarlet of Papaver rhoeas.

Garden poppies range from the annual or evergreen perennial Iceland poppy Papaver nudicaule, with bright red, yellow or orange flowers and sweet fragrance, to the large variety of perennial oriental poppy Papaver orientale, with the crinkled edges and rich colours ranging from deep red to salmon pink.

If you like a particular variety and want to grow some more next year elsewhere in the garden, then save the seeds.

Tie a paper bag over a seed head that is maturing. When the seeds are ripe, shake the head so all the seeds fall into the bag. Cut off the seed head from the stalk and save in a cool, dry area.


Do not use a plastic bag as the seeds have to be thoroughly dry and they can sweat in plastic bags.

Once dried out, remove the seed head and pour the seeds into a clean dry envelope. Write the name and a brief description of the seeds, on the front of the envelope and keep safe in a dry area ready for sowing next year. Storing them in the garage, shed or green house which will get cold through the winter is actually good for them and increases the yield rate.

Seeds of F1 hybrids do not come 'true' - which may not be a problem, just wait and see what you get!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Spring is coming!

At last evidence that Spring is not far away. Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrops) are now starting to flower. These wonderful little flowers are closely linked with ancient church traditions and grow naturally, often in huge swathes in church yards and maonastic sites.
Often called Candlemas bells in the country, because the feast of Candlemas falls on the 2nd February, when the flowers are in bloom. The feast celibrates the purification of the Virgin Mary and the spotless pure white flowers are a perfect symbol for this occasion. It was a custom for young girls to be dressed in white and let them throw snowdrops over the church alter where the image of the Virgin usually stands.
Galanthus bloom mainly from late winter to mid-spring and are hardy once established. They should be planted in the autumn, in a humus-rich, moist but well drained soil and partial shade location. Results are more reliable if they are lifted, divided and planted in the green after flowering.
There are about 19 species of 'snowdrops' ranging from double flowered Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno' (10cm), Galanthus elwesii, a taller (12 - 22 cm) honey scented variety, to Galanthus reginae - olgae (10 cm) which flowers in the autumn.
Looking round the garden the lawn is filled with leaf shoots of the emerging Crocus's and Narcissus (Daffodil's), which are late this year due to the long, cold, winter and deep ground frost in December. I cannot wait to see the carpets of Crocus's again, with their heads held high looking up at the sun on a bright clear morning. Its been a long winter but Spring is coming!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Jilly Sutton Sculpture

Jilly Sutton gave a lecture at the Oxford College of Garden Design on Thursday 11th November at St. Hugh's College, Oxford.

Jilly is well known for her love of working with wood. Her sculptures use the grain and natural elements of wood to emphasis the shape and form of the subject. Her famous heads such as "The Fallen Deodar" have the surface bead blasted after carving. This process erodes some of the softer pith between the rings in the wood leaving the grain standing proud, yet smooth. The results are stunning and very tactile.

Her lecture was acompanied with a photographic presentation showing various pieces she had created over the years. She explained what they were, why they were created, the wood used and the problems frequently encountered in the process of creating the work of art.

Jilly had an exhibition during the week at St. Margaret's Hall College, Oxford, were many of the pieces she described during the lecture, where on show, so I decided to visit the exhibition the following morning.

I arrived just as Jilly did, so I accompanied her into the college. She took me around the garden to show me "The Fallen Deodar", which is a cast of one of her famous heads. The large sculpture was placed in the garden in front of a mature tree and had a flood light hidden in a border to light it and the tree behind at night. Many of the famous pieces have had moulds made and a limited number of bronze or special resin castings, which are ideal for displaying pieces outside.

We travelled on to the old college chapel where several other items were on display. Whilst not the best lighting for the pieces they still looked impressive as you were able to get very close to them, which helped you appreciate the detail of the wood and grain, which is the very essence of the art.

We then went from the chapel to the exhibition hall. The hall was filled with many pieces on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, standing on plinths, tables and free standing on the floor. I was very impressed in the diversity of the pieces on show and quietly amazed that Jilly could summon up so many pieces at any one time to create such an impressive show.

One of my favourites was the "Wing" which had been placed in the coridor leading to the exhibition hall. The piece was on a plinth so it stood at head height. It was about 800 mm tall and looked as though it could be an archangel's wing with its pale almost white colour.

I believe that the college may be using a photo of the "Wing" on this years Christmas card, I think it'll look stunning.

I had a great morning and would like to thank Jilly for her time. I have placed photos of many of the pieces at the exhibition, on my flickr site, www.flickr.com/photos/pauloward/ please have a look, I'm sure you will agree they are stunning. I can imagine many of them encompassed within a garden design and will have no hesitation recommending her work to my clients.

Jilly Sutton works from her studio overlooking the river Dart in Devon and her web site is http://www.jillysutton.com/ do take time to visit her site and see some of her work for yourself.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Honey Fungus.

Honey Fungus (Armillaria mellea) is a parasitic fungi and most obvious in autumn with the damp yet sometimes still warm daytime. The groups of honey coloured toadstools live on trees and woody shrubs. The fungus is a "White Rot" fungus and spreads between living trees, dead trees, live roots and tree stumps by means of reddish - brown to black rhizomorphs (like shoelaces) under the bark and down through root contact. Once infected a tree or plant will die once the fungus has spread fully round the girth. This can happen rapidly or over many years.
Infected plants or trees may actually show prolific flowering or fruit production shortly before death.
The presence of thin sheets of cream coloured mycelium, which smells strongly of mushrooms, beneath the bark at the base of the tree or stem (sometimes extending upwards) or a gum / resin seeping from cracks in the bark of conifers, is a sign that Honey Fungus is likely to be the problem.
Once identified, nothing can be done other than to dig it out and burn as much as possible. But even this may not be enough to protect attacks on other trees and plants, with the infection travelling through the soil from plant to plant.
It is said that spreading flour starch around the base of the plant encourages Trichoderma, which is a fungus hostile to Honey Fungus, may help.
For resistance to Honey Fungus, choose plants such as sumachs, bamboos, hebes and pittosporums. Avoid fruit trees, willows, currants, lilacs, viburnums and wisterias.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Autumn Colours

One of the delights of Autumn is the wonderful colours of the leaves on the trees, ranging from deep red, orange, yellow, brown and gold, creating a fantastic display in woods, parks and gardens country wide.

The range of colours is enhanced by hot weather through the summer and early autumn. The colours, created by pigments of anthocyanins and carotenoids are produced in great quantities in hot sunny weather but are disguised by the green chlorophyll until the autumn, when the chlorophyll starts to breakdown exposing the underlying pigments.

The more anthocyanins produced the redder the colour, anthocyanins and carotenoids give orange colours whilst carotenoids on their own make yellow colours.

Some of the best examples of autumn colour are found on the Liquidambar styraciflua (American Sycamore) tree whose leaves change from a pale green summer shade, to a glorious mix of lemon-yellows, crimsons and saturated purples.

Japanese maples also take some beating for reliable colour displays, with the likes of Acer palmatum that has leaves that turn a fabulous red-orange colour, striking on a sunny autumn day.

Monday, 4 October 2010



Where has the year gone? The summer is over and Autumn is well and truly here. October can be a depressing month with the darker mornings and the evenings pulling in, but it is the month for collecting Sloe's and making a wonderful Christmas tipple, Sloe Gin. Something to look forward to on a cold winter's evening when 'Cabined up' in front of the fire.

Sloes are the little black fruit berries of the Blackthorn Tree, Prunus spinosa, and found in abundance in hedgerows at this time of year.

Pick the sloes when ripe. The old recipies say straight after the first frosts which used to be mid to late October, but with the milder winters we tend to have now, you have to use your own judgement.

As long as the berries are soft and jucy when squeezed, they're Okay.

  • Take about 1lb (450 Grams) of sloes to a 750 ml bottle of Gin. (Don't use expensive Gin.)

  • Prick the sloes all over, then place into a clean jar with the gin and 4 oz (125 grams) of sugar.

  • Stir well and leave in a dark place for 3 months. Shake the jar every other day or so to help disolve the sugar.

  • When ready, strain through muslin until the gin runs clear. Do not squeeze it or the gin will go cloudy.

  • Pour into clean bottles and leave them to mature. The sloe gin can be drunk imediately but improves as it matures.

The longer it is left the better it becomes, so I am told. I've not manged to keep mine long enough!!!!!

A great alternative is to use Brandy not gin for sloe Brandy or Damsons instead of sloes for Damson Gin or Damson Brandy.

Roll on those winter nights.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Paul Francis Design - New Blog

Coming soon!

I aim is to write articles relating to Gardens, Landscapes, Design and any items I feel will be of interest to my readers.

I always welcome feed back so feel free to add any comments on any articles you read.

Have you visited my latest web site? http://www.paulfrancisdesign.co.uk/