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

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!

Spring, spring, spring

Wow, spring is really underway now with the trees looking feathery, bulbs bursting out of the ground and landscape enquiries everywhere. How very positive it’s all looking.
Current work being completed by the team at Sandstone includes planting a 3 acre site in the Weald near Tonbridge to provide wonderful summer colour, building a lovely small courtyard garden in Tunbridge Wells and completing the modern oak framed garage.
Preparation is well underway for this year’s Hampton Court Garden with Ali Dempster having had a very constructive meeting with Garden designer and R.H.S. judge James Alexander- Sinclair and Chelsea gold medal winner, designer Ann-Marie Powell; the appointed mentors of the winning designers. Those designs will address the theme of a “Feel Good Garden” and the winners are going to be announced in May. So watch this space for more detail on the build for those gardens which commences in June in order to be ready for the show from the 5th -10th July.
Marvellously busy!

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.

Well I did say marvellously busy……..

…… busy at Hampton Court in fact that there hasn’t been a moment to write Sandstone’s blog.

Why? Because Ali Dempster and Sandstone’s fantastic team of skilled landscapers spent 3 weeks creating the 4 winning “Feel Good Front Gardens” of the RHS and BBC Local Radio’s competition; this year’s contribution to build on the 2015 RHS campaign to Green Grey Britain.

A little background – Earlier this year 40 of the BBC’s local stations promoted the competition to find winning designs by amateurs using the theme “Feel Good Front Gardens Inspired by Where I Live”. The judging panel, Ann Marie Powell, James Alexander Sinclair and AliDempster then chose the winning designs to be built by Ali and the Sandstone team.

The winning gardeners and their gardens –
Kent’s Sarah Morgan and her “Beachscape Oyster Garden”, taking her inspiration from Whitstable and the North Kent Coast Landscape.
Bristol’s Simon Judge and his “Bristol Fashion” garden, with his inspiration from the S.S. Great Britain built in Bristol and designed by Isambard Brunel.
Manchester’s Lee Burkhill and his “Fancy a Brew Take a Pew” garden, with his inspiration coming from Manchester’s rich industrial past and community spirit.
Cornwall’s Jenny Booty, Lizz Dobinson, Nicky Shellis and Tim Walker and their ‘Tre Wostiwedh, (Home at Last)’ garden with the inspiration being Cornwall’s tin mining industry.

“CONGRATULATIONS all of you, it was a pleasure to work with you and turn your designs into the wonderful gardens that were received to such high acclaim by the experts and the public at this year’s RHS Hampton Court Flower Show.” (Ali Dempster)

As stated by Ali the gardens were very well received indeed, in fact Gemma Lake (Deputy Show Manager) wrote the following:
“Ali Dempster, from Sandstone Design, joined forces with the RHS in early 2016, to act as contractor for RHS and BBC feature ‘Feel-Good Front Gardens.’ This was a key feature at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show where 4 amateur gardeners won the chance for their garden designs to be built at the show. Ali worked closely with all 4 winners to create four fantastic gardens – the build, materials used and finish was top quality and Ali and his team’s dedication helped make a memorable and successful feature at the show.”
A thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile experience for all at Sandstone Design especially as the RHS are continuing the campaign of Greening Grey Britain by hoping to turn 6000 grey spaces green by the end of 2017.