Contrast structure with wild elements
T HIS medium sized garden in leafy Redland had the bare bones of a landscaping scheme in place when I arrived, but the hard lines needed to be softened and improved with a variety of planting.
The garden is divided into three. Closest to the house is a flagstone patio. Beyond this, an octagonal lawn with borders and a small raised seating area, and finally, a rather more natural area of rougher grass and shady borders.
In order to define these three areas, I planted the borders around the lawn in a formal way, using cultivated plants, rather than native ones. By contrast, the natural area is softer and less structured, blurring the edges of the garden into the landscape beyond, and encouraging wildlife.
Existing trees, including a mature silver birch and a purple- leaved cherry, provide welcome structure and height. Without the trees, the garden may well feel rather overlooked.
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As with many gardens in the Bristol area, the soil is thick, oozing clay (enough to start a pottery), so before planting, I dug in large quantities of horticultural grit to break up the clods, and added plenty of compost to aid drainage.
It is best to do this work before planting, otherwise it becomes impossible to skirt around the roots.
The resulting tilth resembles a crumbly topping rather than a sticky paste, and the plants have responded well.
When planting from scratch, as was the case in this garden, I always check with the clients whether they have any likes or dislikes regarding planting style, type and colour. I had pretty much a free rein here, though I did prepare a suggested plant list with images before starting, just to make sure.
There are several elements to consider in any planting scheme.
Firstly, the shape and form of the plant; secondly, the colour palette and thirdly that the selected plants combine for all-round interest.
I always include a "skeleton" of mixed shrubs (both evergreen and deciduous), a selection of perennials for colour, a mass of ground cover to discourage weeds, and a spring flowering bulbs to gladden the heart after a long winter.
It is worth remembering the maxim "right plant, right place", as I have learned over the years that there is no point fighting a plant's natural inclinations.
I planted the shrubs first, allowing enough space for natural growth habits, and then filled in gaps with perennials, ground cover and bulbs.
I stuck to a limited colour palette, bearing in mind the use of complementary colours to add some "zing" to the result. In this case, there is a purple/pink/blue palette, contrasting with some yellows and oranges and dark purple foliage.
The trellis is planted with a mix of roses, clematis and chocolate vine, which have now clothed the trellis well and restrict the view, so that you do not see the whole garden at a glance. Next to the trellis, a small border holds a mix of herbs and perennials, usefully within easy reach of the kitchen.
Once the borders closest to the house were finished, I set to work on the natural area. For these borders, some of which are in deep shade, I used native plants such as bleeding heart and guelder rose, with foxgloves, columbine and Lenten rose. (All of these are good self-seeders, which is always a bonus).
In the lawn, I planted some small spring bulbs, such as crocus, narcissi and snowdrops, together with some primroses to give a natural feel.
The rustic arch which leads to the wild area is populated with climbing roses and honeysuckle to provide fragrance near the small seating area.
As this seating area is raised above the lower level of the garden, the clients felt they needed some privacy from the neighbours, so I planted some tall bamboos in large pots to create a moving screen rather than a solid barrier.
Gently swishing bamboo stems have the added advantage of masking traffic and other unwelcome urban noise and, when planted in pots, cannot run wild in the borders.
The finishing touch was to plant up some pots on the patio close to the house with seasonal colour. It is worth bearing in mind that a few large pots are better than a multitude of small ones, as they retain the water better in hot weather (not that that has really been a problem this year!).
With the addition of a bird box camera set high up in a tree, which had us all enthralled the following spring as we watched the antics of the baby birds in their nest, this garden was finally ready to provide enjoyment and delight to the clients.
If you would like Sue to create a planting scheme for your garden, call her on 0117 944 2432, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.