Oct 092012

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.

Sep 282012

St Albans

I went back to my hometown of St Albans the other day and nearly fell off my bike when I saw this annual mix on a roundabout.

It would have made an impact if I’d been sailing past it in a car, but at close quarters it really was something. Cosmos, calendula, nigella, poppies, mallows and nicotiana were all doing their thing perfectly.

A notice next to the roundabout explains that St Albans Council has replaced some of its bedding schemes with annual seed mixes as they’re more sustainable, wildlife-friendly and (ahem) drought tolerant. The schemes have won two Anglia in Bloom awards recently.

If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, the mixes have gone down well with the locals. My sister’s friend Nina likes the scheme in Clarence Park so much she wants to sow one in her own garden, and my friend Jo, not known for her plant knowledge, mentioned in passing that the roundabout by the Cricketers pub is looking different this year.

Meadow-style planting is certainly having a moment, thanks in part to the planting at the Olympic Park, and sales of ‘wild’ flowers are apparently at an all-time high. I really hope St Albans Council (and other councils around the country) continue planting annual mixes – they’ve got to be more exciting than boring old coleus and begonias.