Thursday, 20 November 2014

It's how all the best gardens are made!



A stone trough, grown tired with rampant Persicarias... an Agapanthus (if I remember correctly) and other oddities! Let's give it all a huge cut back; take it all down and maybe take most of it out! Then, let's look around the garden and see what free plants there are we could work with. 
 

I am often asked about the process of garden design. The task
 of designing a garden seems, at times, almost an impossible
thing to do. Think about it. How do you create a garden like
those you see out and about when visiting professional or
public gardens? It’s a mammoth task really! You want (need)
trees and shrubs to give height, structure and a sense of
permanence. You need smaller herbaceous plants which rise
and fall at different times of the year. You’ll want all-year-
round interest, yet given the constraints of border space, how
can you achieve this? After all, a plant can only accommodate
one unit of soil space at a time. Right?   Then, there’s bulbs…
annuals! Throw in the added complications of soil type (clay,
sand, acid or alkaline etc) and an aspect you can do very little
about (North facing, part shade, full sun…) you
really have your work cut out!
 
 
 
Condition the soil (whilst you're at it!)... then we found we had some 'spare' Hostas lying around, a couple of newly-divided Agapanthus, some Heucheras, a spare Lavender.. a Gladiolus or two. I think I even found a small Acer palmatum sitting and doing little in a pot somewhere. Anyway, a couple of hour's work can revitalise a small area.
 

Of course, the world is not full of skilled horticulturalists or
professional garden designers, and given that fact, is it any
wonder that the average British garden is just…. Well, Kind of
average really. In truth, considering your average garden
owner hasn’t been to college and spent several years
studying plants and gardens, our gardens aren’t too shabby
really.
As a matter of fact, I think people’s gardens are a bit like their
pets; they often reflect, display and say a lot about their
owners.
 
Later that same summer! For just a couple of hours' work and a bit of jiggery-pokery. A great improvement!
 
 

Walking down most roads and looking at the gardens on
display – and they are very much on display! – they usually
fall into three quite distinct categories, each type revealing (to
my imagination at least) much of the psychologies going on
in and around their homes and gardens.
Firstly, there’s the garden that wishes it simply wasn’t there.
Or at least, the owners wish wasn’t there! It mainly houses old
shrubs in need of either a severe prune, or replacing completely.
There’s usually always some Ivy rampaging over a rotting
fence with the tall, leggy ghosts of a once compact shrub rose or
Lavender: the rose now some 12ft tall, with 2 very weak buds
trying their best to flower at the tips of their stems!
 
 
Another border! Same garden, funnily enough. In great need of a revamp.
 
Overgrown Roses... a sneaky Cotoneaster...Lamium. You name it, it's probably in there somewhere!
 
 
Next up is the average garden. To my mind, at least
these display some desire to create something nice. And
remember, when you do have that desire to make your garden
(your external display) look good, it is both a gift to yourself
and to others also. I mean, don't expect grateful passers-by to
slip notes of gratitude through your door, but you’ll be
amazed at how many heads turn to look at your creation….
Usually with both appreciation and admiration. One thing’s
for sure, put some thought (no matter how little) into height,
structure, texture and colour, and it will result in a nice
garden. Just add a little care, attention and nurture - that's
all.
 
Again, might as well start from scratch. Improve the soil; stick a few canes in to denote the quantity and spacing of potential planting. It's all good.
 
 
Lastly, sometimes you come across a garden where you can
plainly see that the owners not only know a thing or two about
plants and gardens, but that they also have some creative flair
for design; a desire to make something beautiful, and a
willingness to invest some serious time (and money!) into
their garden.
Later that same summer. Not a bad effort me thinks. Dahlias, Heleniums, Osteospermum... a Delphinium... a Lily. Room at the front for some ground cover plants... maybe add the odd annual or two.. a climber at the back perhaps... and Bob's your uncle! 
 
 

I believe the stand out garden of any street usually has
elements such as these:

 
     A use of plants not taken straight from your average  
garden centre or DIY store. There are probably around 50 – 100 
very common plants (and their cultivars) used in gardens  
today. When making planting decisions try investigating 
contemporary ideas in garden design; borrow some of what 
you see in the magazines; visit independent nurseries and 
experiment with exciting plant combinations! It’s elements 
such as these which will reap horticultural rewards and give 
you a first class garden.
 
 
     In these gardens there’s usually also more border space
than lawn. Look at those wide rows of houses and gardens
you see in American films. A front porch; stars and stripes 
blowing in the wind.
Big, timber-fronted houses with an expanse of lawn at the
front, usually boundaried with a white fence and a few
static low-maintenance shrubs scattered around the lawn’s
perimeter or lining the front of the house. Nondescript,
evergreen shrubs offering a little lip-service to horticulture.
Also, make no mistake, lawns in general are far from low-
maintenance! A garden that has little - or no – area of lawn,
is to me, a garden proper! Plants have something to offer
during every season and can be managed with greater
sustainability than any lawn and return far much more
back to the gardener, the environment and the local
wildlife. 
 
Here's another border i'm currently working on improving. Tall Rudbeckia taken down (top left-hand)... two clumps of golden Artemisia, down and controlled... canes in places to give me ideas. This autumn the border has been revamped with the addition of orange Heleniums, Spartina grasses and a Stipa gigantea at the rear. Next year, it will also be inter-planted with Dahlias, Cannas and Ricinus - see my little design below.  
 
Watch this space. I'll post a picture of the finished result next summer.
 
 
Lastly, I wonder if these people have a gardener. To be honest,
and yes, as a self-employed gardener I realise this might
smack of self-promotion, but having a regular
maintenance gardener, one who knows his plants, who is a
little creative and is both keen and able, really helps improve
a garden no end. 
 I’ve been a witness to this many, many times!
 
To my mind, obtaining the services of such a person is by far
the best way in which to design, develop and move a garden
forward. But, I suppose I would say that wouldn't I?
 
How very splendid!
 
'till next time.

Le Jardinier.

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