Plants clipped into geometric or fanciful shapes are as relevant as ever, says Franchesca Watson
Plants trained into shapes can give permanent structure to a garden around which to build more seasonal plantings. They act as a backbone to softer and more ethereal plants that may come and go in the garden. shaped plants can be evergreen or deciduous, and can take many forms, from giant hedges and shaped objects, to more down-to-earth edgings or archways. once established, most clipped plants can be economically watered with a drip irrigation system. even the actual clipping becomes routine and easy once mastered.
A way OF THINKING
some of my favourite ways of incorporating clipped plants into modern gardens have to do with green architecture. Try to think of the plants as columns, doorways, screens, walls or floors. I also use more modern shapes such as flattened pyramids, repeating thin columns, flowing short curves like water flowing over the ground or randomly undulating like a set of natural hills and valleys.
Hedges as Edging I like to combine simple edging hedges with unusual planting such as vegetables or grasses.
Try keeping the hedges unusually short (less than 200mm high) or unusually wide (over 750mm) to add a contemporary feel. Hedges along Boundaries at the moment I am planting a lot of mixed hedges, a combo of up to five suitable plants, and only clipping perhaps twice a year. This way the hedges are allowed to develop a slightly shaggy, natural feel, which is also a result of the different natures of the plants.
Pillars I love a repeating vertical element lining a walkway or punctuating a space. Instead of traditional pyramids, try simple rounded or square columns. Very slim or very stumpy will give them an edgy mood.
Buttresses a way to ornament a boring wall is to add living buttresses to it, which gives it shape and little bays for special planting at the base of the wall.
Carpets I have been doing quite a bit of horizontal planting along the lines of the historical parterre idea, but with a new twist in modern patterns and using leaf colour, texture and varying heights to create extra interest. Against the House I love to clothe entire walls with plants, clipping them to surround doors and windows – this can be done with shrubs or creepers. It’s quite a good idea to use deciduous plants for this, as the dropping of the leaves means that little beasties don’t overwinter.
SOME SUITABLE SOUTH AFRICAN PLANTS
almost all small and medium searsia species, Maytenus procumbens and bachmannii, Jasminum multipartitum and angulare, Anastrabe integerrima, Olea africana, Buddlejas, Carissas, Coleonemas, Eriocephalus sp, Freylinia tropica, Trichocladus sp, Rothmannia globosa, Gonioma kamassi, Halleria sp, Nuxia floribunda, Myrsine africana, Ochna sp, Plumbago, Tecoma capensis, Portulacaria afra, Syzygium pondoense, Podocarpus sp and even Sideroxylon inerme (milkwood), if you are taking a longterm view.
Franchesca Watson 082 808 1287
clockwise the gardens of Marqueyssac in Perigord, france; town Place garden; fourquarter garden at leeu estate, franschhoek
town Place garden in SUSSEX, england