As Garden Adviser to all Cognatum estates, Charles Gilchrist aims to increase the gardening knowledge and motivation of estate managers. In addition to regular visits two or three times a year, he is introducing 10-year plans in consultation with owners.

Gardens do not stand still and every 10 years or so it is necessary to look at the most overgrown plant beds and replenish the stock, in keeping with an overall concept, as well as addressing common problems such as lack of colour and high, dense planting in front of windows.

To introduce a system of restocking, 10% of the plant beds will be looked at each year (in an order of agreed priority) so that every bed gets refreshed every ten years and all newly planted areas conform to a unifi ed garden design. The average life expectancy of a shrub bed is approximately 10 years although some shrubs, correctly pruned, have a longer life span. Plants such as hebes and lavender will be ready for replacement.

The plan from Abbey Mill in Prestbury is an example of how this works. The main features are detailed planting plans and cost estimates for two years ahead, with flexibility for swapping of priorities in future years. The plan solves the problem of someone who has replanted their garden with plants that cannot easily be maintained by the estate gardeners and wants to hand back the responsibility to Cognatum. It ensures that back areas, sometimes neglected as low priority, are not overlooked in the replanting programme. Garden costs will be evenly spread over the 10-year period.

Abbey Mill planting plan