Garden renovation series. Charlie Dimmock and the Rich brothers compete to design a zen space for a young couple longing for a Japanese garden.
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With her can-do attitude, love of simple gardens and decades of experience...
Hello! ..Charlie Dimmock is one of Britain's best-loved gardeners.
Looking good, boys!
But the new kids on the gardening block are the Rich brothers.
We want to be the brothers that change people's perceptions of gardens.
Winners of multiple medals at the Chelsea Flower Show...
Amazing, isn't it?
..the boys have become known for their dramatic outdoor spaces.
Now these two different generations of gardening are going head-to-head.
I know they've got a gold medal, but I can come up with a few ideas!
They're meeting frustrated garden owners across the country...
The photos made it look tiny. It is, isn't it?
I'm sure you've seen larger! I don't know what to do with it.
..and will each pitch them a design based on their needs...
Wow! ..and budget.
It looks really exciting.
This doesn't look like it could be our garden!
The winner... Hey!
Woo! ..brings their design to life.
Hold on, hold on! Sweet as a nut!
And the loser has to help them build it.
I'm getting irritated now with faffing around!
This is what happens...
Does he ever get irritating? All the time!
..when different styles collide...
Who chose these? One, two, three...
This looks like your design!
..to turn garden dreams into reality.
Open your eyes. Wow!
It's time for Charlie and the Rich brothers to reveal today's challenge.
What are our feelings on Japanese gardens?
Oh, I love them.
Yeah? Yeah, done in the right way.
Well, Nic and Kath went on their honeymoon to Japan and just fell in love with it.
They've since been back on holiday,
which has just reinforced they want a Japanese garden.
Graphic designer Kath and aeronautical engineer Nic moved into their home
in Blackburn 18 months ago,
and absolutely love everything Japanese,
especially the gardens.
I don't know what it is, but when you walk into them,
it's so tranquil and calming.
Yeah, and the first time round, we went in spring, so...
We were so lucky, we got a load of cherry blossom.
And there's one feature that's a staple of the Japanese garden that Nic has a real passion for.
We like rocks. I think I love rocks. You love rocks!
I like rocks too. Yeah, big rocks.
The bigger the better!
They may have a taste for the Orient, but as it stands,
there's nothing Zen about their garden.
It's nice, it's just not us.
Yeah. At the moment. There's not really anywhere to go in it.
You just kind of, like, stand at the edges and look in.
It's a mess.
But the eagle-eyed designers have spotted some existing features
that might help them with the brief.
So, I mean, the birch sort of says Japanese.
Yeah. And it looks like there's a few
kind of Japanese-style rocks as well.
In some ways, it's great there's ponds there.
I mean, it might mean... Because Japanese gardens,
it screams out for water, doesn't it?
Yes. And they would love a Japanese teahouse!
Oh! That sounds very nice. Very cool idea, I like that.
With a baby on the way,
Kath and Nic won't be jetting back to the Land of the Rising Sun any time soon.
So they want something authentically Japanese on their doorstep to tide them over.
And they're prepared to spend to get what they want.
Well, we've been saving up for a while and we've put 7,000 down, haven't we, for it.
It is a big space as well. It's a massive space.
I hope we don't end up with a six-grand rock!
And then just a few plants!
I'd be happy with that! I wouldn't!
So we're combining rural Lancashire with Japan.
I am a little nervous, you know, because they've been twice to Japan.
I've never been. Have you been?
No. Have you been?
No. I'm glad they've come to us for the design, then!
?7,000 is a serious budget for this project.
But the elegant manicured look of an authentic Japanese garden
is extremely difficult to carry off.
Especially in rural Lancashire.
So it's time for Charlie and the boys to do their homework.
They each have to come up with a garden design and pitch it to Kath and Nic,
who will choose which one gets built.
But it isn't over for the loser,
as they have to get their hands dirty helping the winner build their garden.
It's the day of the pitch, and the designers have travelled to Blackburn to present their ideas.
Here we go!
None of the designers have been to Japan.
So can they win over Kath and Nic?
Hey, guys. Hello! Right!
'It's time to unveil their plans.'
Oh, wow! This is our design.
We really needed to create a garden
that had a lovely balance between the natural landscape in which you live,
but also the Japanese landscape which you're inspired by.
So we've given you this journey,
but we wanted to give you a destination at the end of the garden.
The final destination is this teahouse,
and what we've done here is we've created a kind of solid back with just an open door here.
So, you know, you can't really see what's there,
and it's about kind of obscuring the views of the beautiful landscape.
So when you get there, it opens up.
So this is like
a walkway of timbers that are quite narrow,
leading round and into your pavilion.
OK. Something simple.
It's going to look something like this.
So off the pavilion we've got stepping stones
that lead you on a journey around the garden,
to this moon gate.
Which is going to frame the view
of maybe an Oriental lantern, or it could be a cloud-clipped holly.
And then we'll have a teahouse here
which'll be a shed that we've modified so the doors slide back like that.
The boys are using their teahouse
to frame the view of the surrounding countryside.
But Charlie's offering two separate buildings.
Will that impact on the other features she can provide?
What's nice about this building as well is that
we've done it so that it overhangs slightly on the pond.
So, when you're sitting there, you feel that connection with the water.
Yeah. The pond is bigger than you have now.
So, you will lose some of the lawn.
Water is a crucial element in a Japanese garden.
And both designers are planning to cantilever their teahouses
over the pond.
The next challenge was to give Nic some serious rocks to play with.
We want to play around with this area and have these lovely, like,
sculptural boulders that kind of sit within the spaces.
We've got some large, sort of,
really attractive rocks that then we just rake the gravel round.
Both designs have boulders, but the boys have gone for bigger and better.
But what about the Oriental planting?
I want to show the seasons.
So, cherry for the spring, peonies for the summer.
Some evergreens as well.
Surrounding these individual areas,
we've got these planting beds.
We're having this modern take on the Japanese stepping stones.
Then, within the planting,
we wanted to pick out some ornamental cherry blossom trees, of course.
It's such a massive thing in Japanese gardens, isn't it? It is, yeah.
I'll leave you to think on it.
The couple are giving nothing away, and rightly so.
With seven grand to spend,
they need to choose a design that gives them everything they want.
It's hard, isn't it?
Will it be Charlie, with her twisting path to two separate buildings and a moon gate?
Or the Rich brothers,
with their giant boulders and dramatic cherry trees?
The decision is theirs.
It's been a really tough decision,
because you both kind of hit the nail on the head, really.
But we've made a decision. And...
It was the cherry trees that swung it!
Awesome. Great news!
What made you decide...
Because this was probably something we wouldn't have done.
There was quite a lot in it that we thought oh, gosh.
But actually... It just feels like something that we'd just never be able to do ourselves.
I hope we've made the right decision!
Yeah, you have! It's good, it's good. We're professionals!
So, it's sayonara to Charlie's design,
and down to the Rich brothers to deliver
Kath and Nic's dream Oriental garden.
But this is going to have to be a team effort,
because not one of them has even set foot in Japan.
Go on, crack on, then!
It's a sunny start on day one of the build in Blackburn.
and the boys have set the landscaping team to work, clearing out
the old pond.
More sludge, vicar. More sludge!
Including carefully removing any resident wildlife.
Before the hole can be expanded with the help of a digger, to make a much larger pond.
Meanwhile, the Rich brothers are briefing Charlie on their plan.
So, this has given me quite an interesting one today.
Got some really big elements to put into this garden.
And, you know, these boulders are going to take some moving.
So, it's going to be about logistics.
It's mega-logistics, this, isn't it?
There was already a little pond and kind of boulders in there.
We've taken them out, but we're putting a pond
and we're putting bigger boulders in, so...
But we're doing it really well.
Yeah, so on the pond, please.
Yeah, that's OK, then.
Yeah. And then also salvaging lots of plants that are existing in the garden.
Is that because you've spent all the money on the rocks?
Yes. Yeah, budget is definitely tight on this one.
OK. Right, get on. Let's get on.
While Charlie considers the bomb crater Andy has created,
the brothers are getting excited.
The boulders that are crucial to their design are on their way.
So, the boulders we've got coming.
Andy knew a farmer in the Peak District,
so a beautiful place in the country.
And these rocks were in a middle of a field, overgrown, naturalised.
Exactly what we wanted for this garden.
We don't clearly know what they look like,
because we've only seen them in pictures.
So, you know, they were loaded up late last night and they're on their way now, so...
Hopefully, hopefully, they will be what we imagined.
Meanwhile, all the way from the Peak District, the rocks are here.
And they are massive.
They're amazing! Look at them!
Have we got enough garden to fit those rocks in? Yes.
You wait till you see them all together!
Stunning. Put them on top of each other, they'll be fine.
They are amazing. Big old boys, aren't they? They are.
I reckon Nic and Kath are going to be really kind of excited about seeing these.
I think they don't really have an idea either, do they?
I didn't have an idea they were this big, not even from the pictures,
so I think they're going to be shocked!
Beautiful as they are,
waxing lyrical about them all day isn't going to get them into the garden.
And with each one weighing over a tonne,
the boys have to decide exactly where to put them before they can be moved.
Him, by the pond. He'd look amazing by the pond.
Rocks are essential in Japanese garden design.
They represent mountains, and are revered by some as sacred spirits.
Japanese gardens are full of symbolism, and use elements like rocks, ponds,
bridges and paths to create miniature reproductions of natural scenery.
Bridges to islands symbolise health and longevity.
Paths are important too,
as they lead visitors traditionally to different areas of the garden
for quiet contemplation.
And water symbolises cleanliness and is normally found in the form of natural ponds.
And for Charlie, ponds are familiar territory.
So, it's pretty obvious this is the pond.
So it's a lovely, simple shape.
And I know the boys want to get some of those glorious rocks sort of
touching the water.
Yes! So, what's going on here, then?
Show me the... That's where I've been, I've been out with my plan,
doodling. Putting names to boulders.
Have you? What do you mean, giving them names?
What? George, Sharon...
Peg Tooth. Peg Tooth.
Cow Poo. Cow Poo?
So, we've got Trapeze.
Here. Yeah, we just thought it would be nice actually bringing it into the water.
So the level of the water will be about here,
which is just beneath the deck.
And then we're going to sink this boulder in so you don't
really see the end of it. I think that'll be perfect.
It's going to be glorious, isn't it? So this is going to be a really natural pond, isn't it? Yes.
'It's a good job Andy's got his digger.'
You're just going to hit the tree there, Andy.
Just go down as soon as possible.
That's all right. That's OK, it's only the weeping bits.
Whilst the boys play with their rocks,
Charlie's commandeered Paul to help her line the pond.
To start with, she's lining the hole with bonded fibre fleece.
So, this material is synthetic.
So it won't rot away.
It's meshed so tightly together that roots and stones can't pierce through it.
So it will really protect the rubber.
The pond has been dug to a depth of 70 centimetres.
Deep enough that the water won't freeze in the winter,
so any wildlife will be protected.
Are we just going to do another layer with this, then?
The first layer of fleece is topped with a rubber pond liner,
and then another layer of fleece will be added on top of that.
It gives the liner further protection.
Would you rather do that bit first, over there?
No, do that bit there. OK.
Organising boys, it's like herding cats!
There's quite a few cats on this job, in't there, Charlie?
Yeah, it is a bit...
So, the next thing is get soil in.
Adding soil back into the pond gives any plants something to root into.
Good for the pond, not so good for Charlie's laundry bill.
Now the pond's prepped,
the boulder that will sit on its banks can be manoeuvred into place.
It is as clean as a whistle.
It's so exciting!
That's the one! Well done.
Boulder in place, now it's time to fill the pond with water.
We're going to put the hose on,
but weight it down in the bucket so the bucket will slowly fill up and
And hopefully it won't disturb too much of the soil.
That's the theory, anyhow.
OK, do you want to pop the hose on?
Here it comes.
Filling the pond will take a while,
so the team crack on with the enormous job of placing the remaining boulders.
This boulder coming in now, we've nicknamed the sleeping crocodile.
Because, if you kind of get it at the right angle, it looks like a crocodile head.
With no eyes! Well, they're closed, you know!
The boys have to get these stones in the ground and make it snappy,
as there's plenty more still to do -
including marking out where their concrete lintels will go
to create a path of stepping stones.
How wide is that?
We are going to have two, four, 600, plus 300 is 900.
So if you measure 900 off the deck.
Then we've got the start.
What are you laughing at?
Your maths. I was just saying how impressed I was.
'Meanwhile, the subframe for the teahouse has been put in place.
'The plan is for it to sit six inches over the edge of the pond.
'But to get the perfect finish,
'it's critical that none of the liner is visible.'
All we are doing here is putting a bit of soil over the membranes.
That is just a bit wide. And from over that side of the pond,
you can just see underneath.
The water level is going to raise a bit, but just to be sure,
we want to cover it with a bit of mud, and then you won't notice it.
Yeah, that's it.
'This garden is slowly coming together, stone by stone.'
So we've got the last boulder coming in now.
It's been a really long day of bringing in
these huge bits of stone.
So it will be a nice day tomorrow, having all this in place,
and we can start bringing the trees and plants in,
and start creating different spaces.
It's the next morning,
and the first task is to offload seven tonnes of fine gravel
to create the meandering path that will take Kath and Nic
to different parts of their Oriental garden.
Why? You've got 20-plus tonnes of rocks,
you've got seven tonnes of gravel.
We've got loads of concrete lintels, and not a plant to be seen.
Don't worry, Charlie.
The boys have got it covered.
Another big delivery has just arrived.
With a ?7,000 budget, the boys have invested in mature plants.
In a Japanese garden, the planting is often very architectural,
with a smaller number of impact trees and shrubs.
As its name suggests, the Japanese maple, or acer, is a stalwart.
It gets to two metres, so it is basically at full height.
Gorgeous. I love the bark on it.
It looks like bamboo, doesn't it?
It does. So, where is it going, boys?
I am just about to start chopping my liner.
Before the acer can be planted, since the pond is now full of water,
Charlie needs to neaten the edge of the pond liner
by cutting off the excess.
When it comes to trimming the liner back,
people get a bit concerned about how much they need to leave.
You really only need to leave four inches, five inches.
That's plenty to anchor the liner in place.
And it allows you to be able to plant right up to the pond edge.
Meanwhile, the boys are placing the other trees,
and they have decided to make some changes.
In their design, cherry trees were dotted throughout the garden,
but now they've arrived, the boys can see they're too big,
and have changed tack.
We have got the one cherry, which will give them the blossom,
but we've got two smaller amelanchier, which blossoms,
beautiful autumn colour, and links with the natural as well.
And it is definitely a point of right tree or right plant for the right place.
Those cherries were too tall, they were going to grow too large,
so it is the right decision to just keep one of them.
Whether as focal points, or for creating a journey in the garden,
trees play a key role in Japanese garden design.
Just like the boulders, the trees have all got an individual character,
so what we are trying to do is fit them best in the garden,
and this big one here is a bit fuller,
it's going to block out the view nicely,
so what we are going to do is we are going to put him in here.
I will grab him. So we are going to put him in his space here,
and he will really block off the pond area, especially the acer,
so you will have to walk the whole garden, move in to the teahouse,
and then you will be able to see it, all will be revealed.
'While the boys play around with the trees,
'Charlie is finishing the pond to prepare it for planting.'
It is a bit of a faff, but it's worth taking your time.
Cos, of course, we've got lots of time. We haven't got much to do(!)
Just a little planting.
About 600 plants!
'With so many plants to find a home for,
'Charlie starts with the aquatic ones for the pond.'
When it comes to your pond,
you want it to stay clear by just using plants,
you need three different types.
You need marginals, so we've got the water mint, we've got the irises.
You need oxygenators, which aren't overly pretty,
but they do a really good job,
and then you need something to shade the water surface,
and these have got to be the easiest plants in the world...
..to plant. There you go!
They will sink down and root into the soil that we put over there,
so this is the oxygenator.
You want half the base eventually covered with oxygenators,
and about half the surface covered with lily pad leaves.
And, that way, the pond will stay clear and balanced and support wildlife quite happily.
Nic and Kath's garden is finally coming together.
The rocks are all in place.
The trees are in.
Charlie's pond is taking shape,
and the concrete lintels are starting to be laid.
Ten mill, five mill.
Stepping stones are often used in Japanese gardens,
as they slow down movement around the space, and encourage contemplation.
Once you get this sorted, it goes down really quickly.
That is bang on.
Meanwhile, Charlie is on to the last stage of her pond planting,
and she has got a neat trick for submerging her water lilies.
Normally, you would plant water lilies up in containers like this,
baskets, but because we want this to look as natural as possible,
I am going to plant them up in a piece of hessian.
First, she gets a hessian square,
adds pebbles to weigh the sack down,
then adds soil, and the plant itself, with the crown poking out.
Then ties it all up in a parcel.
And then it's just a case of throwing them in.
Meanwhile, Lee has finished the component parts of the teahouse,
so they are ready to be fixed into place.
But this is a sturdy structure, so all the lads, including our director, Rich,
are needed to get the roof on.
It seemed a really good idea to build it outside and then carry it in!
I'm sure someone is going to end up straight in there!
It don't fit! Take it back!
Yeah! All right!
'But there's no time to let the muscles recover.
'It's all hands on deck to get the remaining plants in the ground.
'The boys have designed beds to flank the sinuous path around the garden...
'and are now focusing on shrubs like this rhododendron.'
What I have done is I have placed it here next to the boulder,
and that is because, in nature, you'd find they are quite shallow rooted,
and they grow over rocks and, in a Japanese garden,
it's all about replicating the larger landscape,
but putting it into your own garden.
'As well as the shrubs,
'the brothers have chosen a mix of grasses and flowers
'that will add texture to Nic and Kath's garden across the seasons.
'Charlie's making good use of all the salvaged plants
'from around the old pond by creating a border behind the new one.
'The brothers are giving the sides of the teahouse an Oriental feel,
'using simple wooden batons.'
Then, with a last push from the team on the planting,
and a last whack from the whacker plate,
this garden is done.
In a previous life,
Kath and Nic's garden was a mishmash of tired, old features.
Now it's had a ?7,000 transformation.
And Harry and David's design has turned it into a Japanese-inspired oasis.
Harry and David have created a path
using a modern take on Japanese stepping stones
in the form of these concrete lintels.
With the gravel, they cost ?535,
and create a journey around the space.
The teahouse is delicate and elegant...
and cost ?650.
From here, Kath and Nic can watch the sun go down on their new garden.
The pond is a beautiful link to the landscape beyond the garden,
and cost ?600 for the liner and the plants.
In no time at all, it will look like it has been there forever.
The boys went for an instant impact with mature trees,
at a combined cost of ?2,700.
And the pieces de resistance are the huge rocks.
They add drama and structure to this space,
but that drama doesn't come cheap,
and the rocks put a ?2,500 dent in the budget.
But the real test is what the clients think.
Here they come.
Please open your eyes and have a look.
What do you think? It's not our garden!
It's completely different.
And the boulders? What do you think about the boulders?
Oh, they're amazing.
Yeah, they're big enough.
They have got moss on and everything.
And you enter the teahouse, and here's the new pond.
Can you imagine spending some time here?
Absolutely, yes. The pond looks so natural as well.
It's quite tranquil here, isn't it?
Do you feel Zen?
This is very much like some of the rooms in Japan.
Does it bring back fond memories of when you were in Japan?
It does, yeah.
Definitely. There is a little route around that we haven't explored yet.
So it is quite a big budget, guys,
so are you happy that we spent the money well?
Absolutely, yes. I think it's the best money we've spent.
It's like getting another room for the house, really, isn't it?
When it's sunny!
We would never have done this ourselves, ever.
We would have never got to this.
Dip into the BBC Proms.
Charlie Dimmock and the Rich brothers compete to design a zen space for a young couple longing for a Japanese garden. With a £7,000 budget, our designers bring a taste of the orient to Blackburn, turning the couple's mismatched garden into an area of tranquillity and serenity. There is a teahouse, enormous rocks and a pond. It is a big build and not one for the faint hearted.