When Robert first visits a school, he notes the position of the sun throughout the day.
He also checks and notes any existing greenery which he always retains in his designs.
Roberts primary interest for the children is to create a Natural Trim Trail area, complete with an abundance of all year interest vegetation.
In his designs (free of charge to schools), his first task is to mark in a series of timber planters around the edges of the Trim Trail area as well as Arches for entrances and exits.
He then adds all his Activity items, carefully spacing them, to allow for a fall distance between and to allow wherever, for additional planting.
He then strategically positions trees in timber planters, throughout the area.
Generally speaking, he uses ground cover of Cultivated turf (with Compliant Rubber Tiles) or Artificial Grass.
Thus, once the construction is finished, the green flooring coupled with all the border planting and the randomly positioned trees, all combine to produce the effect of a very Green and Natural Trim Trail area.
Most of Roberts school Trim Trails, contain areas of strong sun, dappled shade and deep shade.
Robert carefully organises the plantings, according to the position. For areas of shade, he concentrates on shade loving shrubs, such as Camellias with a variety of flowering colours; another of his favourites is Sarcococca humilis which has the most amazing early year perfumes.
His other main large Shade Plants include Fatsia, Fatshedera lizei, Skimmia japonica, Osmanthus decorus, Garrya elliptica, Ligustrum japonicum, Ribes sanguineum, Lonicera nitida, Taxus and Rhododendron.
Smaller plants he uses in shade areas include a large variety of ferns, grasses, Pachysandra, Liriope, Bergenia, Viola, Lamium, Gaultheria, Hedera, Anemone, Waldsteinia, Euonymus, dark leaved Heuchera, Buxus, Hypericum, Vinca, Helleborus.
His main climber for shade areas is Trachelospermum jasminoides as its evergreen leaves soon cover any trellis or arches and its long lasting tiny heavily scented flowers, will fill the air for several months.
For trees in his shade areas, Robert normally sticks to 2 firm and reliable favourites of Dicksonia Tree Ferns and Trachycarpus fortunei.
For sunny positions, Robert has hundreds of plants to choose from. However, he concentrates on Sensory planting and thus organises All Year Interest plants which offer a variety of colour, flowering seasons, leaf textures, scents, sounds and tastes in certain cases (Rosemary, Sage, Thyme etc).
Maintenance of plants is always a nightmare for schools so Robert concentrates on dwarf shrub varieties which apart from watering and occasional trimming, require very little maintenance. All Roberts designs include several trees in timber planters.
Robert uses some of these trees for all year shade such as Trachycarpus fortunei, Dicksonia Tree Ferns, Olive Trees, Eucalyptus Niphophila, Cytisus battandieri, Cotoneaster Rothschildianus, Eriobotrya japonica and Dracaena fragrans.
However, dependant on the ground cover, he does often use graceful weeping trees in School areas, such as Weeping birch, Weeping pear and Weeping mulberry. Fruit trees also feature regularly in Roberts Trim Trails and he normally keeps to such well known and hardy ones as Apple (various varieties), Pear (various varieties) and Plum (various varieties).