Celebrating the opening of the Spa Temple Gardens, Tunbridge Wells

Earlier this year, Ali and the team completed the landscaping at Tunbridge Wells hotel the Spa. We couldn’t be more excited to share the project’s story, from it’s inception through to the launch party in June 2019.

The garden’s design

The design brief was for Ali, Owner and Designer at Sandstone, to create an elegant venue for weddings, outdoor events and performances that reflected the Spa’s grandeur.

Work began in November 2018. The first step was relocating the previous wedding gazebo to a new location. This made way for the ground works and building of the Temple paving base, supplied by Chilstone – makers of fine cast stone.

Early in the new year, the team installed the Spa Temple structure and dome before completing the ground works and final planting.

Photo used with kind permission from The Spa Hotel

In the completed gardens, a pathway invites guests through a romantic archway and towards the Spa Temple. Taking advantage of the gently sloping gardens, a shallow Amphitheatre of curved terraces and planting surrounds the Temple to create a venue for both intimate and large events.

The archway entrance and guests enjoying the gardens

There is year-round colour and interest in the garden. Guests enjoy scented plants such as lavender, rosemary and honeysuckle on spring and summer evenings. The design also beautifully frames views over the North Downs and rhododendrons in the Spa’s grounds, blooming late spring.

The seasonal lavender and rhododendrons in bloom

We were proud to receive a wonderful testimonial from Emily Keegan, Events Manager, on behalf of the Spa Hotel:

“We are delighted with the work that Sandstone have completed in our gardens, Ali and the team are very knowledgeable at what they do and they turned our ideas into an incredible design.

“They were professional to work with, timely and communicated with us every step of the way. The area has been transformed and as a result we have seen an increase in outdoor wedding and event enquiries. We wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Sandstone design.”

Ali, Sandstone’s Designer and Owner, reflects on the project 

“Sandstone is pleased to work with The Spa Hotel to create a flexible, individual space that will be enjoyed by guests and residents for many years to come.

“We pride ourselves on having built our reputation in Tunbridge Wells; we work with many brilliant clients in the town and the surrounding areas. A few years ago we won a BALI (British Association of Landscape Industries) Award, a very prestigious award in the industry, for clients in Tunbridge Wells.

“It is also a pleasure to work with local companies like Chilstone, who introduced us to the Spa’s MD Ant Scragg, How Green Nursery that supplied the planting and Addagrip and True Grip that supplied and installed the resin bonded surfaces. It’s a Tunbridge Wells based project that has been beneficial for a lot of companies.”

Photography: Emily Brown Photography

Take a look at our award winners at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

Chelsea Flower Show 2019 is in full swing. We couldn’t be more thrilled to share news we’ve continued our run of top awards for the third year, winning a five star and a four star award.

Ali Dempster, Sandstone’s Owner and Designer, was delighted to be commissioned to design and build the trade stands for two renowned UK brands, Chesneys and Chilstone.

Take a tour and find out more about the stands here.

Chesney’s five star award winning trade stand

Winning five stars, the Chesney’s stand showcases the company’s outdoor living range of stoves and grills. For their second year at Chelsea, the stand displays the company’s HEAT range, which can be enjoyed whatever the weather.

Chilstone’s four star award winning trade stand

The miniature front garden designed for Chilstone, makers of fine cast stone, was awarded four stars. Exclusively launching two new sculptures for Chelsea, the stand includes romantic planting in the iconic Chilstone purple.

We’ll be sharing more updates on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages as Chelsea continues and do visit stands PW252 for Chilstone and PW607 for Chesneys if you’re visiting this year.

We’re also looking forward to taking Chesney’s stand to RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in July for their first ever year exhibiting at the event.

Thank you to our suppliers for the stands:

Lighting for Gardens

Roundwood of Mayfield 


How Green Nursery

Photography: Emily Brown Photography

Roll on nice weather! Owner and Designer Ali Dempster on what’s coming up at Sandstone this spring

April’s always a great month in the landscape calendar. Everything’s in blossom and leaf; the clocks have gone forward and it’s getting nice and light in the evenings. Here at Sandstone HQ, our stands for this year’s RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court are beginning to take shape. Not only that, our team has also started work on three of our major Tunbridge Wells landscaping projects for clients in this area.

Stands for RHS Shows 2019

It’s a fascinating time of the year as we begin building our two stands for this year, our third time at Chelsea. I’m really looking forward to going this May and meeting up with old friends again that I haven’t seen for a year, swapping stories and working together at the most respected horticultural show in the world.

A look back at one of our stands at last year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Last year we won a 5 star award and a four star award; this year we’re hoping to top that off with two five star awards for the stands.

One of the stands we’re then taking on to Hampton Court Palace Flower Show to exhibit there. It’s the client’s first time at Hampton Court and so we’re really excited about working with them for this.

We look forward to exhibiting again at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019, here is another award winning stand from last year

Our landscaping team is expanding

We’ve recently employed one more person and looking to employ more people to expand our team of expert landscapers as our reputation grows throughout the area. And it’s always nice to do landscaping and design projects for local people in Tunbridge Wells and surrounding areas.

Although there’s huge uncertainty about the current economic situation, it’s great that we’re booked up until the autumn and hopefully, by then, the waves will be a bit calmer than they are now. Roll on summer and roll on nice weather to do the work in!

If the start of spring has inspired you to begin thinking about a new design for your garden, get in touch to discuss your ideas with Ali and his team by emailing info@sandstonedesign.co.uk or by phone on 01892 668404.

An exciting chance to join our team – Experienced Soft Landscaper / Gardener

Would you like the chance to join our multi award-winning landscaping team?

We’re expanding and have an exciting new opportunity for an experienced soft landscaper to be responsible for all aspects of planting on landscape projects.

The right candidate must have experience in planting borders, maintaining gardens and all aspects of soft landscaping work. We are based near Tunbridge Wells and work in the surrounding area of Kent and Sussex.

Recognised RHS or other relevant horticultural qualifications are always welcome but not necessary.

We are looking to employ on a full-time basis with salary depending on skill level and experience. Applicants should have a clean driving licence and their own transport.

To be considered for the role, please send a current CV and a covering letter telling us about your previous experience and why you would be a good fit for this role, to ali@sandstonedesign.co.uk.

Gardens Revisited – Terraced garden for outdoor entertaining

To celebrate the start of spring and warmer months, we’re revisiting a Tunbridge Wells garden design built by Sandstone Design a few years ago.

The clients told us they wanted to chase the sun throughout the day with a range of entertaining spaces. We transformed their garden from a challenging sloping site into a secluded haven, with a range of terraced areas, an outdoor fireplace and lighting to create different zones. Now, let’s explore this beautiful space.

Terraces for outdoor entertaining

Ali and his team converted the sloped site into terraces so that the homeowners could enjoy the sunny parts of the garden throughout the day.

The first terrace was in a half-circular shape and made the most of the sunshine at lunchtime. Despite being in the middle of Tunbridge Wells, this garden design also allowed the clients privacy. Ali included a romantic pergola, which was planted with scented hops and wisteria, to create a private dining space perfect for relaxed evening meals.

The secluded dining area of this terraced garden in Tunbridge Wells.

The clients could enjoy the garden long into the evening. Lighting was crucial to create different moods and zones; we used eyebrow lights on steps between the terraces to highlight one transition to another.

We also built a bespoke outdoor fireplace from block work. What could be better for cooking full meals, barbecues or just keeping cosy during the evening?

Some of the highlights of this terraced garden, including (clockwise from top) the half-circular terrace, eyebrow lights, driveway, outdoor oven and pergola.

Practical garden areas

Making great use of the space available, Ali and his team created an oak frame double garage and utility shed which was screened from the garden. In the front garden, the team built a block-paved drive for two cars. This, with interesting planting, made a low-maintenance, practical but also beautiful space.

The clients were keen to develop the design over time. Ali’s selection of plants, including perennials, shrubs and climbers, meant there would be colour and interest in the garden throughout the year.

We hope you enjoyed revisiting this beautiful garden as much as we did!

Suppliers for this garden

Driveway – Marshalls Paving

Paving for terraced areas – natural sandstone from Strata Stones

Eyebrow lights – Lighting for Gardens

It’s been an exciting month at Sandstone as we continue to get ready for the 2019 flower show season as well as beginning some new projects in South East England. Keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for sneak peeks of our designs in progress.

Feel the heat

In our last post, we touched on how lighting can be used to help us fully enjoy our outdoor spaces year-round. Heating is an equal factor. I don’t know about you, but for me it doesn’t matter how beautifully illuminated my garden is, if it’s freezing cold I’d rather stay inside with my wood burner!

Take a look at some of the ideas below – combined with the lighting options mentioned earlier, there’s really no need to hide away indoors until spring!

The Corten Steel Fire Pit, from our neighbours Round Wood of Mayfield, is made of a special type of steel originally developed for bridge building and skyscraper construction due to its exceptional properties. As well as being incredibly strong, Corten steel develops its own protective layer as a result of the weathering process and consequently has a far higher resistance to atmospheric corrosion than other steels. Freshly manufactured steel is blue but, as it is exposed to the elements, gradually takes on a lovely rich rust colour. It’s available in 5 sizes and the smaller sizes can be used with a tripod grill (also available from Round Wood) so you can cook on it too! We think these fire pits would be a great addition to any garden, practically and aesthetically.

Corten Steel Fire Pit & Eco Nuggets from Round Wood of Mayfield

Of course you’ll need something to burn on your new Corten Steel Fire Pit – Round Wood of Mayfield also supply Eco Nuggets, briquettes made at their own mill using recycled hardwood waste and sawdust from their own mill. They earn bonus green points right there! They are clean to handle, easy to ignite and have a low ash content. They can even be used to light damp logs. The nuggets can be used in all stoves and open fires as well as BBQs, fire pits and chimineas, and their high burn temperature means they give off incredible heat, so they’re a fantastic option to keep you toasty warm outside (or inside) and are an excellent environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels.

Or, if you’re after a more integrated solution, how about a bespoke outside fireplace/oven? The one below was designed and built by Sandstone for a client in Tunbridge Wells. It’s made of concrete blocks, has a heat-proof render inside and out, and a custom made grill is tucked inside. It blends in seamlessly with the patio and the stone detail matches the stone capping on the wall. Round Wood’s Eco nuggets would work beautifully in a fireplace like this!

Rendered concrete bespoke fireplace in Tunbridge Wells

A new range that we’re really excited about comes from Chesneys’, a company known for their exquisite fireplaces and an award-winning range of wood burning stoves. HEAT is a collection of barbecues that also function as outdoor wood burning heaters.

Chesneys’ HEAT 500

Chesneys’ challenged themselves to create a BBQ/heater hybrid that would not only be efficient, clean (no smoke, people!) and beautiful to look at but also provide a versatility and functionality that would appeal to the ambitious outdoor chef, as well as the ease of use and reliability required by the weekend barbecue enthusiast.

It seems they have ticked all those boxes and more, and celebrity chef James Martin is a big fan:

“Chesneys’ new Barbecue Heater is brilliant. It’s the most versatile cooking appliance I’ve ever used and afterwards it’s the perfect way to stay warm and create an atmosphere that makes the party last all night.  It changes the whole experience of outdoor living.”

Whichever method you choose, the aim is to create a comfortable al fresco experience for sipping hot chocolate (or cocktails in summer) and stargazing – make the most of your garden, whatever the weather!

Light up your life (well, your garden anyway)

Autumn is imminent and already the air is a bit damp and slightly chilly. The leaves are turning, acorns are falling (ouch) and darkness has begun its creep towards the daytime hours. Although there have been rumours of an Indian summer headed our way, particularly with the glorious weekend just gone, I think it’s safe to say that summer is over for this year.

But that shouldn’t mean you have to abandon the garden as a place of evening enjoyment. You can extend the summer into autumn with some considered lighting.

The development of LED lighting has introduced so many different solutions for garden lighting. We are no longer limited to boring wall-fixed lights that flood the whole garden in a bright white light or more-subtle-yet-unreliable candlelight; the possibilities are now endless. We can create atmosphere and, if the space affords it, we can even use different types of lighting in different areas to create ‘zones’.  A control box with several circuits allows you to illuminate specific areas or focal points depending on the desired effect.

From left to right: An East Sussex courtyard as dusk falls; Sandstone seating with integrated spotlights; fairy lights and candlelight complement a Barlow Tyrie teak table

For example, a big party might mean you need to have all the lights (and circuits) in use at once, but a more intimate dinner party may just require a seating area to be delicately lit. You could use one circuit to uplight particular trees, a fountain or a statue – a view to be enjoyed even from inside your home – and another to add a glow to the base of a wall around your patio.

From left to right: A concrete wall lit from the inside and the outside; Recessed lights give a wall a wash of warm light; Bright white rope lighting

Recessed lights can be discreetly placed to highlight the edge of a patio or raised deck, while rope lighting dropped in a slot between a wall and deck gives a lovely continuous line of light. Integrated lights can be placed in walls and steps and along paths and driveways to safely and stylishly light the way.

From left to right: Bollard lights edge a driveway in Mayfield, East Sussex; Steplighting in a Kent garden; Recessed step lights in the front garden of our BALI award winning project in Tunbridge Wells

Lighting in or around a swimming pool or other water feature creates a feeling of tranquility.

Uplighting and crosslighting can be used to emphasize particular trees, statues or other objects and make a dramatic impact, while spike spotlights in beds and borders add depth and create interest.

Uplighting, cross lighting and accent lighting create focal points

Just remember that, while it’s important to have enough light to create a lovely ambience, there’ll no doubt be times when you want to just kick back and admire the stars and too much light can take away from the experience. Low-level lighting is the best way to ensure a beautiful night-sky view.

Please visit the Garden Lighting portfolio on our website to see more lighting installations completed by Sandstone. We would be de-lighted (sorry) to discuss any ideas you may have for your own garden. Just call us on 01892 668404  or email info@sandstonedesign.co.uk.

As we’re on our way to even chillier evenings (but hopefully lots of dry ones) look out for our next installment on garden heating ideas!

2017 RHS rundown

As well as our private client projects, we’ve had a lot going on this past year, culminating in our two biggest events of the year: RHS Chelsea Flower Show and RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Well, now that the show gardens have been dismantled and the dust has settled, we can sit back and reminisce…

Image by Emily Brown Photography

In May, after months of planning, we were at RHS Chelsea to build the Chilstone stand. The design centrepiece was the Kew fountain, which ran on recycled rainwater collected from the living Sedum roof of the bespoke garden studio.

The award-winning Chilstone stand. Image by David Bartholomew

The compact stand was designed by Sandstone’s Ali Dempster to elegantly display Chilstone’s stunning stonework, not least their contemporary Leda and the Swan sculpture, which was a finalist in the Garden Product of the Year category.  Well done to the Chilstone team!

And to top it all off, the stand won a 5 Star Tradestand Award!

Chilstone’s Pair of Doves. Image by David Bartholomew

Then, in July, following the success of last year’s collaboration with the RHS and the BBC, Sandstone Design were back building at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. This time we built the ‘delightful and delicious’ RHS Kitchen Garden, designed by Juliet Sargeant.

The garden, which took 19 twelve-hour days for 5 people to build and just 3 days to dismantle, was made up of mainly edible plants, an aquaponics glass house, which uses a sustainable and eco-friendly method of growing, and even a Pimms planter!

A glimpse of the RHS Kitchen Garden, built by Sandstone. Image by Emily Brown Photography

If the fabulous foodie garden itself wasn’t inspiration enough to grow and eat your own produce, The Hairy Bikers, Si King and Dave Myers, were broadcasting their new series Kitchen Garden Live throughout the week and in front of a celebrity audience. You can still watch all the episodes on BBC iPlayer. In episode 1, you can see Ali sitting next to Hollywood megastar, Stanley Tucci!

Sandstone owner and designer Ali with The Hairy Bikers and plantswoman Rossana Porta. Image by Emily Brown Photography

Ali also rubbed shoulders with TV presenter Charlotte Hawkins and Strictly judge Len Goodman. Other celebrities spotted included Bill Bailey and Mary Berry.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is the world’s largest annual flower show, attracting an average of 130,000 visitors every year. We’re already looking forward to next year!

In other news, we’re excited to be working on a shiny new website and it’s due to launch at the beginning of September. Keep an eye out for it!

February has flown by leaving me grateful for the leap year.

In fact spring does seem to have started a little early this year judging by the number of enquiries that Sandstone is receiving, despite the rather wintry temperature.
Perhaps it’s just that people are more prepared and realise that if you want a new garden for the summer the process needs to be started early or that reputable companies fill their books well in advance.

As previously mentioned, Sandstone is proud to have been commissioned by The R.H.S. to build their “Health and wellbeing garden” for the Garden Show at Hampton Court July 2016. Plans are now under way and details will be posted on Twitter and Face book as they arise.

As well as this ongoing project, Sandstone is also completing other interesting work ranging from the installation of a hot tub into a natural stone terrace under a glazed canopy for clients in East Sussex, to a modern oak framed garage using slatted hardwood timber with modern metal roofing for clients in West Kent. Ali Dempster is also excited to be designing a large garden on the South Downs that is going to incorporate a swim spa covered by a glazed roof where the occupants will be able to enjoy a fantastic sea view.

Seasonally Cold?

Well, we wouldn’t like to hazard a guess as to how long this cold snap will last but we are grateful that up until Christmas work continued with very few hold ups.
With any luck modern methods of laying paving and general hard landscaping will continue pretty much unscathed thanks to Sandstone’s brave, hardy and reliable team of landscapers. Ali has recently made the decision to put all planting on hold as he doesn’t want “the poor little things” to either drown or freeze and after 17 years of business Sandstone are in the fortunate position of being able to plan projects that can be completed regardless of external factors i.e. Naff weather. More sensitive work is held off until March / April including placing those young plants, which may be affected by frost, in the ground.
On another upbeat note we’ve probably all noticed that the days have begun to get longer and this means so does a landscaper’s working day relieving the pressure of trying to achieve eight hours work in the seven hours of light available. Roll on spring.