I spotted this planting scheme at Stourhead the other day. Lavender is interplanted with Verbena bonariensis and alliums, extending the season of interest. I might well nick this idea for my front garden, which looks lovely when the lavender is in flower, but a bit boring the rest of the time.
There are rich pickings for nosey garden bloggers in Bradford-on-Avon at the best of times, let alone when it’s the Bradford-on-Avon Secret Gardens festival. We had a jolly afternoon ogling at gardens large and small, many finding clever ways of dealing with the steep slopes that are a feature of this part of the world.
I really liked this unusual parterre in a front garden, planted with alliums, heuchera and sedums for a long season of interest. It was originally lined with box, but that had to be replaced with yew thanks to box blight. It will darken with age, making it look even more contemporary.
The Secret Gardens festival runs on four weekends and you can still catch the last two, on the last Sundays of June and July. The gardens vary each time, but they’re well worth a visit.
There’s a new entry to my notional and ever-changing list of Top Ten Gardens That I’ve Ever Visited: Tom Stuart Smith’s garden in Hertfordshire. It was open for the Yellow Book a couple of weeks ago and a £7 donation to charity bought the opportunity to see the private garden of one of Britain’s best garden designers.
And boy, it’s good. The setting is incredible – just off the M25, in one of the most densely populated areas of the country, yet surrounded by green fields. And of course there’s oodles of space – perfect for experimenting with different planting styles and indulging every design fantasy. But just like Tom’s gold medal-winning Chelsea Flower show creations, his own garden is not remotely showy, just perfectly executed.
The hard landscaping is classy, but not flash – it doesn’t detract from the plants. Part of the garden is more traditional, with deep, tall herbaceous borders against a backdrop of shaped but shaggy hedges. The more contemporary part of the garden is home to the water tanks that formed part of his Chelsea 2006 garden – one of my favourites ever at Chelsea. At the moment the dominant colours are acid greens, dark pinks and purples from astrantias, euphorbias, French lavender, grasses and sage.
I’ve seen Tom do talks on his Chelsea gardens, and he’s very modest about his achievements. He makes the whole thing sound so effortless – like it’s really no big deal to create a Best in Show garden. On the open day, I heard him telling one visitor that he doesn’t do any particular lawn care and saying to another that many of the plants he uses are ‘bog standard’ – Geranium psilostemon, alliums and sweet rocket. I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse – most people have bog standard plants in their gardens and don’t bother much with lawn care, but their gardens don’t look like Tom’s. Not least because of their size, but also because it’s darn hard to put plants together well. Mum and I went back to her problem border (home to several of Tom’s ‘bog standard’ plants), and made a note to get hold of some sweet rocket pronto asap. Well, it’s a start.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve featured this little area behind my office. The silver birches are underplanted with hellebores, which flowered for months this year, and alliums. Last year there were lots of foxgloves, but I couldn’t spot any this year. I wonder what’s coming next…
If you’re feeling glum because the days are shortening, the temperatures are falling and everything is dying back, take yourself to the Inner Temple Garden without further ado. The High Border is still a riot of colour, and for a few glorious moments you can kid yourself that it’s still late summer.
The border contains many of the plants you’d expect in a late-season garden – grasses, dahlias, rudbeckias, asters, cosmos etc – but head gardener Andrea Brunsendorf puts them together in an original and adventurous way. She chooses varieties for their form, flower shape and colour, and thinks carefully about how they might complement other plants; the centre of one flower might complement the petals of another, for example. And she isn’t afraid to mix colours in combinations that more traditional gardeners would shy away from: orange, pink and red sit happily next to each other in the form of Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’, Dahlia coccinea ‘Mary Keen’ and a red rose (above), as do red roses, magenta dahlias, blue salvias, purple aconitums and yellow rudbeckias (below).
The border also looked pretty amazing when I visited the garden in May. At that time it was filled with alliums, aquilegias and oodles of tulips; oriental poppies then carried it through until June. Andrea admits that the border has a ‘June hole’ when she lifts the tulips and replaces some early flowerers with the tender late season plants such as dahlias. But for a border that powers on until the first frosts (which can be as late as December in central London), that’s a very small price to pay.
My current accessories, a Nora Batty-style bandage and a crutch, are not conducive to taking pics for this blog. So it’s time to call in some favours. For the next few posts I’ll be employing some roving reporters to take pics on my behalf.
First up is Danny’s garden, taken by Paul Lindt. Danny is a man of many talents and his garden is a wonder, cleverly designed and laid out with his own fair hands, and packed with plants. Not that an estate agent liked it much, though – when he came round to value the house a while ago he informed Danny that the garden ‘could be very nice’.
Anyway, Danny’s front garden has been shortlisted for a ‘Best Kept Front Garden’ award in Walthamstow, and deservedly so.
Over to Danny…
‘In a blatant attempt to curry favour with the judges, and tick the criteria boxes (attractiveness, creativity, wildlife friendly, choice of plants), my supporting text for my entry read:
It’s not the most manicured of gardens, ‘natural’ you might say, but Danny’s crammed it to the gunnells with lovely plants that vie for the attention of passers-by.”
This is the garden of a client of my friend Naomi and I sometimes help her with it. This was the sight that greeted me when I first walked through the gate in May last year, and I was dead impressed. Alliums are flowering so early this year that I was worried I’d miss them in their prime.
The rest of the garden is pretty huge and divided into rooms. It’s Italianate in style, based on the grand gardens currently being toured in Monty Don’s TV series.
Much as I love it, the pond is a nightmare to mow around with an electric mower.