Bestall & Co awarded Best of Houzz 2018


Over 40 Million Monthly Unique Users Nominated Best Home Improvement and Design Professionals in the UK and Around the World.

SHEFFIELD, United Kingdom, 19 January 2018 Bestall & Co of Sheffield has won “Best Of Customer Service” on Houzz®, the leading platform for home renovation and design. The design firm, specializing in sophisticated and inspirational gardens and landscapes, was chosen by the more than 40 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than one million active home building, home improvement and design industry professionals.

Customer Service honours recognised

The Best Of Houzz is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 40 million monthly users on Houzz. Customer Service honours are based on several factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2017. Architecture and interior design photographers whose images were most popular are recognised with the Photography award. A “Best Of Houzz 2018” badge will appear on winners’ profiles, as a sign of their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals on Houzz.

Bestall & Co announced: “We’re over-the-moon to have been awarded the “Best of Customer Service” for Houzz 2018. It means so much that our clients appreciate the work we put into making their dream outdoor spaces a reality. We certainly enjoy the process, and hope they continue to enjoy relaxing and entertaining in their gardens.”

“We’re so pleased to award Best of Houzz 2018 to this incredible group of talented and customer-focused professionals, including Bestall & Co,” said Marcus Hartwall, Managing Director of Houzz UK and Ireland. “Each of these businesses was singled out for recognition by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts for helping to turn their home improvement dreams into reality.”

Follow Bestall & Co on Houzz here

About Houzz

Houzz is the leading platform for home renovation and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. Headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, Houzz also has international offices in London, Berlin, Sydney, Moscow and Tokyo. Houzz and the Houzz logo are registered trademarks of Houzz Inc. worldwide. For more information, visit houzz.co.uk.


Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)

The jeopardies of Japanese knotweed

The mere mention of Japanese knotweed strikes terror into the hearts of many. Fallopia japonica was imported by the Victorians, apparently to assist in their industrial endeavours, but causes horticultural headaches and construction nightmares for us modern Brits.  

An invasive non-native species 

Where those in the 19th Century thought it would stabilise railway embankments, we’ve discovered it gets everywhere and will break through even the sturdiest of materials. Asphalt and deep burial are no barrier to this invader. Building foundations and drains are susceptible to damage. 

The good news about Japanese knotweed is that it rarely sets seed in the UK climate. Of course, the huge downside is that it can grow from even the smallest piece of rhizome – its modified underground stems. This means that, if you attempt removal and forget even a fragment, your problem won’t have gone away. The chances of missing some rhizome increases when you consider they can extend up to three metres below the surface and spread seven metres from the original shoot. Japanese knotweed spreads at a rate of more than a metre (roughly one yard) per week. 

Japanese knotweed can tower up to three metres in height, dominating its surroundings. Even when invisible, its rhizomes can remain dormant yet viable for up to 20 years. As soon as the ground is disturbed, away they go, wreaking havoc on what had become a controlled plot.  

Legal implications 

As you may expect, such a tricky plant carries some serious legal implications.  

Since 2013, anyone selling a property or land with Japanese knotweed present must declare this via a TA6 form, which can be found here. 

Additionally, the government amended the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to cover issues around Fallopia japonica. You can legally grow the plant on your own property, but you must control its spread. If it has a ‘detrimental effect of a persistent or continuing nature on the quality of life of those in the locality’, the owner could be prosecuted. As with other harmful or invasive weeds, perpetrators (wise or unaware alike) could pay fines of up to £5000 or face a 2-year prison sentence for its spread into the wild. 

In light of this, the prospect of keeping the plant on your property seems far from ideal. So what can we do? 

Poison, bury or burn 

According to a 2017 ProLandscaper article on Japanese knotweed, 69% of people believe Japanese knotweed can’t be removed. This simply isn’t true. Firstly, several options are available to you for DIY removal: 

  • Use approved herbicides: Check out this government webpage for further details. However, this route can take up to three years and cost you dearly in the long run. Furthermore, rhizomes will be dormant, not destroyed. 
  • Burn it: A much more drastic course of action. You need to check your local council allows private garden fires. Also, the crowns and rhizomes can survive flames, so there’s still no guarantee of success. This then necessitates careful disposal of remains (see below). 
  • Bury it: Plants need to be buried at least 5m deep and covered with/wrapped in a root barrier membrane layer. Bury it alone, and on approved sites only. 

 Call in the professionals 

Registered, approved organisations exist nationwide for expert removal of Japanese knotweed from your property, and this is by far the wisest option. It’s less hassle for you, and more effective than DIY measures. What’s more, use of professionals ensures you an insurance-backed guarantee. This is vital if you plan to sell your property on. It’s also equally important if you’re having disputes with neighbours based on the presence of knotweed.  

If you’re seeking a mortgage, many lenders will only give one for a property with a KMP (Knotweed Management Plan) in place through a recognised eradication firm. 

An agency such as Japanese Knotweed Ltd or Environet will use trained, registered carriers and deposit waste in approved sites. Looking in-depth at the latter company, they offer three different forms of eradication. The most efficient is Dual Action Residential Treatment, entailing herbicide treatments in summer and physical excavation during winter dormancy. The process has a 10-year insurance-backed guarantee. If further regrowth occurs, the company will provide further treatment free of charge. 

You can visit the PCA Invasive Weed Control Group website to find a register of vetted consultants and contractors.  


Hopefully this article has helped you become untangled from the troublesome Japanese knotweed! 


Image : By MdE (page at dewiki | page at commons) - own photo, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3506558

Lee Bestall

Spear and Jackson teams up with award-winning garden and landscape designer, Lee Bestall

Brand-leading garden tools company Spear and Jackson has teamed up with the award-winning garden landscape designer Lee Bestall, of Bestall & Co. Both based in Sheffield, the two have a long-standing relationship. Spear and Jackson are pleased to announce that Lee will officially act as their Brand Ambassador with effect from 1st January 2018.

Lee Bestall


A passion for gardening

Spear and Jackson have found in Lee a partner who shares their passion for gardening and outdoor living. A regular contributor to industry titles and a stand-in presenter on BBC Radio Sheffield’s Gardeners' Question Hour, Lee has an increasingly popular public profile. He's enjoying great success as a garden designer at high profile events such as RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Spear and Jackson have worked with Lee on a series of short videos aimed at amateur gardeners, which Lee presents. They provide regular hints and tips on seasonal gardening jobs, coupled with advice on the best tools and how to use them. Most recently the manufacturers developed a series of project videos in which Lee provides practical advice. They include bigger garden jobs like installing a fence, creating a raised bed and building a deck.

Spear and Jackson Managing Director, Ian Archer, says “We’re delighted to be working with Lee Bestall as our Brand Ambassador. His gardening expertise, enthusiasm and professional reputation are a perfect fit with our heritage brand and we are very excited to be working with him once again in 2018.”


An increasingly public role

Lee will be taking on an increasing public-facing role for Spear and Jackson within the garden centre environment and will be on hand at the forthcoming Garden Press Event in London on 28th February 2018.

Lee will continue to present the next series of Spear and Jackson garden project videos. He'll also appear as a monthly guest blogger on the Spear and Jackson website. Lee will additionally be making a series of public appearances with the company. These will include key shows and summer events at selected garden centres.

Lee said: “It’s going to be a busy year, but I am very excited to be part of Spear and Jackson’s plans. I can’t wait to get out on the road to share my love of garden design and I hope to inspire as many like-minded gardening enthusiasts as possible at the summer events.”


For further information

Please contact Karen Abbott, Marketing Manager, Spear and Jackson

Email: kabbott@spear-and-jackson.com

Mobile: 07736 697109

Office: 0114 281 4278


A review of 2017 Chelsea Flower Show garden

A review of 2017

2017 was a busy and momentous year for us here at Bestall & Co, and so we’d like to present to you our review of those exciting 12 months. We’ll look at what we’ve achieved, and also what’s been going on in the industry as a whole. We often consider trends a key part of fashion or technology rather than horticulture, but there have been some interesting developments in the world of landscape and garden design. 


RHS Flower Shows 

2017 saw us entering two of the RHS’s flower shows, the renowned Chelsea in May, and the inaugural Chatsworth hot on its heels in early June. It was a busy few weeks, ensuring two show gardens were completed for the thousands of guests! 

We designed the 500 Years of Covent Garden space for RHS Chelsea. A combination of formal and informal elements evoked the iconic location’s ancient origins as an apple orchard, before developing into a thriving marketplace. We used the same cobbles as those of Covent Garden to really capture its feel. Conversely, the seating was more contemporary, yet reminiscent of apple storage crates. The design gained us useful exposure via BBC coverage and won us a Silver medal. 

Our Experience Peak District & Derbyshire garden for RHS Chatsworth built upon this; we received a Silver-Gilt medal and the great appreciation of the public. The design pulled together elements of the Derbyshire locale. Formal features represented the area’s magnificent stately homes. Juxtaposed were aspects conjuring the parklands and pastures of its dales. Cows – sculpted, of course – completed the look, lending an extra talking point. 


Northern Design Awards 2017 

We also built on this year’s victories with a stupendous success in the Northern Design Awards, held in Manchester. Bestall & Co clinched the trophy for Residential Landscaping Design of the year, for our idyllic project at Bay Tree Farm in North Yorkshire. A buoyant Lee was present to accept the award, along with an overjoyed property owner. 


Company expansion 

Success has enabled progress, with two new additions to the team. We now have a second dedicated office-based designer, fresh from her studies in France and valuable apprenticeship with ourselves. Furthermore, we’re training a graduate with a passion for horticulture to work both in the office and outdoors. This expansion will lead to greater efficiency when dealing with ever-increasing numbers of clients, as well as the expert maintenance of past projects. 



What the Garden Design Journal had to say 

The ‘Garden Design Journal’ has recently reviewed 2017 for the industry, and highlighted a number of significant points. 

Several themes have dominated thinking:  

  • The importance of green spaces and improving air quality, for their positive effects on health and wellbeing 
  • Increasing use of organic materials such as porcelain, rather than plastics 
  • The threat of new plant problems, like the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa 
  • What role gardens will have in younger generations’ lives, which increasingly revolve around experiences and renting 


Reflecting on the RHS flower shows again, the ‘Garden Design Journal’ made some key comments: 

  • Chelsea witnessed a drop in the number of show gardens, adding to the dominance of James Basson’s landscape-based design. A similar situation arose in 2015 
  • Chatsworth had a welcome change in its unjudged Freeform category of gardens, but otherwise was a little underwhelming: ‘the show promised the shock of the new, although most exhibits displayed a sense of the familiar with a few flashes of inspiration’ 
  • Hampton Court brought a thought-provoking and innovative new category of its own – Gardens for a Changing World. These entries reacted to issues around society and the environment 


International shows get a mention too. Excitingly for our industry, these are increasing in number. A new show, Radicepura, took place in Sicily, and the New Zealand Flower Show was held in Auckland. Hopefully these and future additions will help answer some of the questions raised in the course of 2017. All of these developments certainly make for interesting foundations for 2018! 

Building regulations

Spotlight on building regulations & planning permission

It's been said more than once that as professional designers, we have a responsibility to our clients to know as much about the law as possible. Rightly so. There are several aspects to consider when re-designing an outdoor space, not least to avoid any hold-ups with implementation and last-minute expenses that could have been foreseen.


The approach

On entry to a property, it must be borne in mind that even the driveway is subject to legislation. Planning permission requirements changed in late 2008 when the government acted to reduce the impact on flooding and watercourse pollution from residential properties.

Permission is required where a surface area of 5m2 is to be covered in impermeable materials. This will call for completion of an application form, scale plans and a charge of £150. Sean Butler, writing in Pro Landscaper magazine, highlights how ‘planning applications for this type of development will normally be decided within eight weeks of submission’.

While on the topic of flood risks, it is necessary to fill out a Flood Risk Assessment if a space of 1 hectare or more is being developed, necessitating consideration of possible effects, how these will be managed in future, and how they might be reduced during work.

Away from surfaced parking spaces, patios and paths come under similar scrutiny, but more important here is that such a surface does not decrease ease of access to the property and related buildings in relation to the present situation.


Blurred lines

Looking up from the driveway, we also find that any walls dividing two neighbouring properties – whether owned by both sides or simply standing between but owned by one – have legal requirements themselves. This is outlined in the Party Wall Act 1996, and we must note how it is vital the client notifies his or her neighbours of any alterations affecting the party wall. The act in question also mentions party structures – any other edifice or groundwork used to delineate boundaries.

What changes could the designer and client be considering that would have an effect on party structures? Construction of a wall where none exists to date or demolishing and rebuilding a current one. Building into/out from a dividing wall to raising or lowering its height, or even excavating below the level of a party wall.

A fence, wall or gate must not be any taller than 1m when adjacent to a vehicle highway or associated footpath, nor higher than 2m in any other location. If it would be, or if it affects the curtilage of a listed building, planning permission must be sought.

Similarly, hedges must be limited in their height. To try to reduce the incidence of boundary disputes and subjectivity towards it, the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003: Part 8 actually defined what a “high hedge” is. Chiefly, a line of trees or shrubs more than 2m in height and semi- or totally evergreen. If a hedge fulfils this definition, legal complaints can be made, and the owner will have to take action. If we as designers intend to install a hedge, height must be considered. Certainly the nature of the hedging plant (i.e. evergreen versus deciduous) should be carefully evaluated too.

This category – shared boundaries - is generally the most contentious issue relating to planning and legislation in outdoor space.


Stealing the limelight

How do our designs influence a neighbour’s current levels of light or breeze - often through the introduction of tall features? A neighbour’s light levels cannot be legally altered without planning permission. These may require the completion of a Microclimate Assessment too.

We must underline that the granting of planning permission by a local council does not assure immunity to any later action by a neighbour under the Rights of Light Act 1959. It's best to restrict any works that might overshadow the adjoining properties/spaces from the outset.

Elevating things to another level

We've touched upon regulations around changing the height of a party wall/structure. However, we must also consider the re-levelling of ground in the garden. The most obvious aspect to ponder first is what impact such an alteration may have on surrounding properties.

That raised terrace at the end of the plot may be a fantastic sun-trap, but will it also make seeing your neighbours relaxing by their pool an unavoidable pastime every moment the clients are sipping their G&T?

Likewise, the elevated hot tub we’ve carefully embedded into our design might be a stone’s throw from the back door, but it also creates noise and commotion by near where the client’s neighbours have to store and access their bins. Oh, and it looks over directly into their kitchen window.

Hardly desirable for either party, and as is evident, as much an ethical and common-sensical consideration as a legal one. Decking and other raised platforms are “permitted development”, exempt from planning applications, according to the Planning Portal. Nevertheless, restrictions apply: the platform cannot be more than 30cm above ground level. It shouldn't cover (in combination with other structures) more than 50% of the outdoor space.


Wild at heart

There has been a huge push on ecologically sustainable gardening, not just for flooding and pollution purposes as already mentioned, but also to help do our part as individual households for our flora and fauna. Many of us love having birds visit our gardens, and enjoy spotting hedgehogs, badgers or similar pottering about our outdoor spaces.

In this respect, projects may occasionally require submission of an Environmental Statement as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations. This is essential in areas marked out as areas of ecological interest (identified in the Unitary Development Plan and Nature Conservation Strategy, found in local libraries as well at First Point). If the project site is marked out, or contains protected species as listed in The Conservation Regulations 1994 (such as badgers, great crested newts or otters), you would be advised to contact a local Ecology Unit as early as possible. The assessment could then require a full ecological survey or an individual species survey and report.

The garden may be situated in a conservation/protected area. This can range from an internationally designated region to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to marked out ancient woodland. Clients should often already be aware of such a designation from purchase of their property.


Closer to home

The work we do as designers not only influences the wilder reaches of the outdoor space, but also man-made structures within said space: the houses and any outbuildings. Never begin work re-structuring a garden that will impact on these buildings if listed, monuments or “non-designated heritage assets” (for example, archaeological or historic sites) without looking into planning permission and the potential need for a Heritage Statement first.

The erection of smaller detached buildings such as greenhouses, summerhouses or sheds is not subject to building regulations if the floor area will cover 15m2 or less and will not be used for overnight accommodation. It can be subject to building regulations, however, if it's 15-30m2 and either 1m or less from a plot boundary or built from combustible materials.


The final picture

Researching shows that the relation of garden design to building regulations and planning permission is an unclear area. If unsure as to the appropriateness and legality of a feature, the best course of action would be for designer or clients to discuss potential plans with their neighbours, or check with the local planning office before embarking on a costly court case or reconstruction after the horse has bolted.

Sources/Further reading


The topic of trees

Trees add a vital element to a garden, no matter the size of the specimen. They're often the first thing considered when re-designing a garden; many of us have existing trees we don’t wish to remove. Where this isn’t the case, they add a focal point for the garden. The species to be planted is usually assessed for multiple merits such as foliage, blossom, fruit or bark texture and colour. They're the bare bones of any natural landscape and as such need to captivate through 12 months of the year.

There are other significant factors to consider when it comes to designing around trees however. First and foremost is whether existing specimens are protected: do they hold a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).


All for one and one for all

TPOs do not exist primarily to serve the tree, nor its owner (who must, nonetheless, maintain it to the best of their abilities). They are in fact in place for the amenity of all who may encounter them. They're brought into force by the local authority, either off their own bat or at the request of someone else.

These orders can cover single trees, small groups or entire woodlands. TPOs don't cover hedges, but should a hedge contain trees or be made up of hedging which has overgrown into a line of large trees, these can be protected.

The term “amenity” is undefined by law, so careful assessment is required when planning to put one into place. Several factors need to be considered beforehand, such as:

  • The tree’s visibility from public spaces
  • Its size and form
  • Its future potential
  • Whether the tree has rare, historical or cultural value
  • Its contribution to the landscape, a conservation area, the conservation of other flora and fauna, and its effect on climate change

The local authority can also vary or revoke an existent TPO. This may occur in instances where land is being developed, the tree originally covered has for some reason been removed, or where the original order map is deemed unreliable, amongst other factors.

A TPO comes into effect on the day the authority creates it provisionally. It lasts for a maximum of six months, unless the authority decides to either confirm it in the long-term or to reject the proposal.


Proposing works on TPOs

As the owner of a preserved tree, one has to seek permission from the local authority before making any changes. The application form can be found on the Planning Portal or via the local authority. Even diseased or dying trees require prior permission from the authority, unless exemptions exist, such as there being danger of imminent serious injury to persons or damage to property. Combatting serious plant disease is another exemption.

Fruit trees with TPOs also hold exemptions if they’re cultivated for business reasons, such as sale of their fruit, or if their harvest will be enjoyed privately so long as good horticultural practice is adhered to by the owner.

It can be a good idea to invite the local authority to carry out a site visit before formally submitting work proposals on a TPO site.

Also bear in mind that consent to work can be granted with conditions; these can include planting of replacement trees, regulation of the standard of work, or amendments to the usual time limit on when the work can happen (normally there is a 2-year window).

Anyone altering or destroying a protected tree or group of trees without permission from the local authority is guilty of an offence and may be fined several thousand pounds. Any tree unlawfully removed carries with it a duty to replace  it. Such a responsibility passes over to a new owner, should the offender move home before replacing the tree him-/herself.

In most instances, the landowner has to plant a replacement tree ‘of an appropriate size and species at the same place as soon as he or she reasonably can’ (https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/in-your-community/tree-preservation-orders/).


Other important considerations

TPOs are all well and good as initial legal factors to be aware of as a landowner. But what about beyond the law? Trees and hedges don't carry building regulations as such, as long as they do not constitute a “nuisance” to neighbours (i.e. blocking out their light) or impinge on their own property by crossing boundary lines, all as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003.

It’s essential to consider the impact of a tree’s planned position when planting a new one. The Planning Portal points out that some species of tree ‘can affect foundations over 20 metres away’. A book recommended on one website which clearly lists the potential spread of tree roots is ‘Tree Roots and Buildings’ by Cutler and Richardson. It's well worth looking into should you be particularly concerned about the effects planting a new tree might have.

There are three main ways that trees can adversely affect a property:

  • Damage to structures caused by subsidence, most hazardous for properties built before 1950 due to their shallower foundations.
  • Damage to drains, where roots find a way in and block them; unmanaged watertight drains are generally never impacted.
  • Damage to roofs and guttering due to moving or falling branches, or to paving and lighter structures from suckers and growing roots.

A phenomenon known as seasonal soil moisture deficit causes the most damage structurally. Soil underneath buildings contracts as tree roots take up water during drier months. It’s worth bearing in mind though that before we “resolve” this problem through removal of a tree, such an act can lead to the opposite effect. This is heave, whereby the soil re-wets, rises up (particularly upon freezing), and lifts structures anyway. Mature oaks, elms and ashes, to name just three,  can draw up to 50,000 litres of water a year from surrounding ground.

Lists of trees by how much water they demand can be found. For example, Corylus, Liquidambar, Magnolia and Pinus demand less water, while Eucalyptus, Quercus, Salix and Cupressus are the contrary. Large wall shrubs such as Pyracantha and Wisteria can cause localised subsidence to structures too.

It's said that crown reduction of a tree of around 70% volume (about 35% of its height) can reduce movement and water withdrawal. That said, other sources state that this is a barely effective procedure, only working in the first year. After then the pruning causes more side branching, larger and more numerous leaves, and even greater water uptake. Should crown reduction be employed, it needs to be performed on a three-year basis.

The RHS recommends anyone in possession a substantial tree have this professionally surveyed every few years to keep an eye on its health and any necessary work to maintain it and minimise risks.

Patios and paving should not be performed within a 1m radius of a tree trunk. This is for the benefit of the tree and the preservation of the groundwork. This is the area where most surface lifting takes place, especially with species such as Prunus with a large proportion of roots near to the soil surface. Between 80 and 90% of all tree roots develop within the top 600mm of soil. 99% or so of a tree’s total root length is within the upper 1m.


What about my neighbours?

Are you concerned about the influence a neighbour can have over your trees? As long as they're not creating a nuisance, as mentioned above, there's very little a neighbour can actually do. They can’t make you reduce the height of a tree, and they can't force you to reduce or remove specimens due to perceived damage to their own property because of their presence.

If they believe one or more of your trees are causing structural damage, neighbours must firstly inform their building insurers. The company will investigate to find the cause for themselves. Should your trees be to blame, only then can they inform you of which remedial measures are necessary.


Seeing the wood for the trees

All in all, there aren't many significant legal considerations surrounding use of trees on a property. As with most things in garden design, it’s common sense on the whole, with a good dash of morality.

The most significant consideration of all is that around the world, trees are being lost at a rate of knots. They provide us with shade, shelter and oxygen. They gave us fossil fuels which are replenishable after only thousands of years. They offer sanctuary and home to birds, insects and a multitude of mammals.

And yet even our local councils are playing it too safe, worrying excessively about lawsuits and payouts from uncommon instances of structural damage, and chopping down trees on street after street, where they should be preserving and replanting.

What can we do? As garden designers, continue seeing trees for the many merits they hold. As garden owners, plant them and care for them as best we can. As people, encourage our friends, loved ones and neighbours to plant their own.

Sources & further reading