Cheryl Cummings Garden Design

Updated: Apr 23, 2018

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A garden is the foreground of the landscape, connected to its surroundings and a web of biodiversity. It’s the point from which we can feel a connection to the natural world and a space we can own and take care of. An RHS award-winning garden designer, Cheryl creates sustainable gardens that are good for people and good for wildlife.

The native hawthorn tree, Crataegus monogyna in an informal hillside garden in Wales.

What does your business offer?

A personal service. It’s bespoke. I can open people’s eyes to opportunities and possibilities – ones they are comfortable with and that are right or them.

I work with people in a way that suits them. I can provide a range of services from an hour or two of advice right the way through to scaled and detailed construction plans and specifications. I work with the landscaper who will create your garden and can source plants for you – or work with the person sourcing the plants.

Every garden I design comes with a maintenance plan. I can go back a year or two after to check. I like to feel that if people need me I’m there – whatever they want.

Who’s behind your business and what are your values?

Just me. My husband puts my books together for me because I’m terrible with numbers.

Customer service is important. I don’t push things to people that they don’t want or need.

My designs are environmentally aware – I’m very keen on sustainability and making gardens environmentally friendly.

I personally grow and garden organically. My own garden attracts a lot of biodiversity – it’s a wild garden. I created it using things I repurposed.

I can tell my garden is good because I know a lady who runs a charity called Bees for Development – she helps people in poor countries run a sustainable business using bees. I keep my own bees. She said, ‘I never thought I’d find a garden this good in Monmouth!’

If I look out my office window there are two mallards that came to nest two years ago. They come and go.

Wild mallard ducks at home on a deck over a garden pond.

There are hedgehogs too. They need a good couple of miles of forage space each night and access to gardens. They almost certainly hibernate in my garden. There’s an unused pocket of my garden with lots of slugs – I leave it alone so it doesn’t smell like humans. They went there and last time I saw three babies.

The wildlife you have in your garden really depends on what other people are doing. Mammals are harder, but birds are easy.

I had no qualifications in environmental studies, but I occasionally do courses on Future Learn with the Open University – I learnt about habitat, sustainability, ecosystems…

Verbena bonariensis with a small tortoiseshell butterfly taking a drink. An excellent pollinator plant.

I try to explain it to my clients. Some get it and some don’t at all. It goes back to a microbial level – plants, insects, birds, mammals – it all comes back to the soil in the end.

Creating a garden is like creating a series of habitats so that everything that comes will find shelter, food and water. People just hang up bird feeders, but birds need somewhere to perch and look for a cat. They need shelter.

We’ve lost so much diversity of wildlife. It’s plummeted in my lifetime. We need to do something.

I’d rather use natural, hard materials. But man-made materials can turn out to be more sustainable than opening a new quarry. You can reuse old paving stones in your garden.

An oak boardwalk by a lake and a huge moss covered boulder in a large Monmouthshire garden.

Tell me about a project you’re proud of

I’m rather proud of my garden.

When I finish working with a client, they’ll talk to me as if it’s ‘my’ garden. It most pleases me when people start to call it their garden and take ownership.

People sometimes build my designs themselves. When they do employ a landscaper, they’re sometimes scares to touch it afterwards!

I like it when people garden and make their own decisions.

I’m also proud when I see wildlife come into a garden. One client’s garden wasn’t amazing initially, but I suggested Meadowmat as turf. In terms of diversity creation it was huge. The clients were so pleased they turned up at the Monmouthshire Meadows Group with their meadow! They now have an enthusiasm for the natural world in their garden.

A pretty country cottage in Herefordshire, surrounded by self sown Verbena bonarienses.

We are so divorced from nature and its processes as people. We’re in danger of letting it go to rack and ruin unintentionally. People as old as me don’t know how to identify one tree from another. For a child, the first place they have contact with nature is in their garden.

I get very annoyed about plastic grass. People are destroying their own natural habitat. They may as well paint concrete green… A plastic lawn won’t change with the seasons.

If you go to a garden centre you’ll see more bottles and packets and chemicals that kill things than plants. People are so badly educated they think they need it.

A colourful wildlife garden behind a new estate house, not a boring fence in sight!

What’s your local garden tip?

First of all, don’t look at your garden in isolation. Look at the surroundings.

If you’ve got an area surrounded by architectural shapes, like in a city, the layout will need to relate to its surroundings. If it’s a rural landscape, then the undulations of the countryside will lend themselves to the garden.

The garden is the foreground – create lines that relate to how it sits in the landscape.

Your garden is the foreground to the landscape.

Always plant the right plant in the right place. Aspect, soil type, wind and shade all have to be considered. You can’t cheat nature.

Keep materials to a minimum. Look at the house and its surroundings. The most obvious mistake is Cotswold gravel in an area of red sandstone. Choose the materials that are appropriate to the place.

Find out more about Cheryl Cummings

Wild garden of British native species and local stone found and reused around the garden.

What customers say:

“Cheryl, your design looks even better on the ground than it did on the plan! The curves fit so well with the wider views, and soften the angles of the house. I love having the planting next to the house, as it really softens the stone. We also particularly liked the meandering paths through the beds at the side of the house, and being able to walk through the planting. We are now going to enjoy seeing how the plants emerge!”

“Your visit was extraordinarily useful and has equipped me in a way I wouldn't have thought possible in one session. I think it was because you dealt in principles - natures, shapes, colours etc. It somehow felt integrated and that was what I was after, a garden that makes sense......I think it will be lovely and we are both looking forward to seeing it grow.”

“Thank you so much for designing us such a beautiful garden.”

“Thank you so much, this is just what I wanted, I would never have been able to do it without you.”

Find out more about Cheryl Cummings