“I’ve planted for a suc­ces­sion of colour”

This beau­ti­ful gar­den on the out­skirts of Lon­don is full of bright ideas for late-sea­son colour. Owner Ali­son Green shares her clever plant­ing and de­sign ideas

Garden Answers (UK) - - Contents -

This beau­ti­ful jew­elthemed gar­den shines in au­tumn

Au­tumn colour can be so vi­brant and ex­cit­ing – not least in this spe­cial gar­den just north of Lon­don. The two-acre plot has been spe­cially de­signed for a suc­ces­sion of year-round flow­ers, in colour-themed ar­eas di­vided by yew hedges. “The grade II listed farm­house was built in 1650,” says owner Ali­son Green. “We bought it in 1999 from a prop­erty de­vel­oper and spent a few years restor­ing it us­ing tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als. I started work on the gar­den straight away, and within the first few weeks a ley­landii hedge and sev­eral self-sown trees had been cleared.” Ini­tially the house sat in the top north­west cor­ner of a huge field. “The de­vel­oper had cleared the site, re­mov­ing lots of old fruit trees and laid it all to grass,” says Ali­son. “I loved the fact the gar­den was so big and such a huge blank can­vas. I had qual­i­fied in the mid-1990s with a City & Guilds in Gar­den De­sign from Capel Manor so I was keen to get started. I wanted to use the con­cept of ‘gar­den rooms’ to di­vide the space into dif­fer­ent

plant­ing ar­eas. Each room would have a com­pletely sep­a­rate char­ac­ter with plants for a suc­ces­sion of colour all year.” Ali­son and her land­scaper, Marc Ra­pa­ci­oli of CMC, soon got to work, re­mov­ing grass, mark­ing out new borders and plant­ing yew hedges. “We started by cre­at­ing four small gar­dens around the house, mak­ing them sym­met­ri­cal for a sense of bal­ance and pro­por­tion. There’s a small shady court­yard on the north side; a gravel gar­den with lots of white roses and peren­ni­als to the west; a knot gar­den to the south, in-keep­ing with the age of the house; and a small cir­cu­lar lawn and seat­ing area to the east.”

“I wanted to use the con­cept of ‘gar­den rooms’ to di­vide the space into dif­fer­ent ar­eas”

In 2004 Ali­son be­gan plant­ing a Jewel Gar­den com­plete with or­nate cen­tral foun­tain, in­spired by Monty Don at Long­meadow. “The borders are planted with flow­ers and fo­liage in sat­u­rated jewel-like colours,” ex­plains Ali­son. “It was the first time I’d got away from the cool end of the colour spec­trum and I be­gan plant­ing in or­ange, pur­ple, red and bright yel­low. In spring there are tulips ‘Red Shine’, or­ange ‘Bal­le­rina’ and ‘Black Par­rot’, which give way in sum­mer to or­ange heme­ro­cal­lis and al­stroe­me­ria ‘Inca Ex­ot­ica’. “In au­tumn, un­til the frosts, there are tall canna lilies such as or­ange ‘Pre­to­ria’, or­ange and yel­low ‘Trop­i­canna Gold’ and stripy ‘Dur­ban’, with rich blue Aconi­tum carmichaelii, yel­low rud­beckia and cro­cos­mias, late-flow­er­ing red pen­ste­mons ‘King Ge­orge V’ and dahlias in­clud­ing sin­gle red ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and ma­roon-and-white ‘Tar­tan’. I’ve planted Ver­bena bonar­ien­sis at the front of the borders here, so you can see through them to the dahlias and can­nas be­hind.” Nearby, Ali­son’s peb­ble mo­saic gar­den is full of tall grasses such as Mis­cant­hus sinensis ‘Ze­bri­nus’ and Phormium tenax Pur­pureum Group, which help to screen the swim­ming pond just be­yond. In land­scap­ing terms, Ali­son’s piece de re­sis­tance is her Spi­ral Gar­den, with a raised spi­ral land­form based on the golden sec­tion. “It’s planted with nine ‘Grayswood Ghost’ sil­ver birches,” ex­plains Ali­son. “We mea­sured out all the squares and rec­tan­gles on the bare soil, marked out the curve in spray­paint, then cre­ated the spi­ral bank us­ing soil we’d ex­ca­vated from other gar­den projects. The idea is that the el­e­vated bank and tree trunks cre­ate a se­ries of pic­ture win­dows to frame the views.” Ali­son has in­cor­po­rated sev­eral stun­ning herba­ceous borders that re­veal her eye for colour and form. “By the spi­ral is an ex­otic bor­der that’s hid­den by a yew hedge un­til you turn a cor­ner,” she says. “Here I’ve planted the yel­low daisies of Sil­phium per­fo­lia­tum, Achil­lea fil­ipen­dulina ‘Gold Plate’, dark or­ange Hark­ness rose ‘Fel­low­ship’, pur­ple and red lo­belia, or­ange titho­nia, black-leaved canna ‘Trop­i­canna Black’, heme­ro­cal­lis ‘Stafford’, red rose ‘Dusky Maiden’, pur­ple salvia ‘Amis­tad’ and brood­ing black Eu­comis co­mosa ‘Sparkling Bur­gundy’.

“I’ve also planted a blue bor­der with flow­ers in blue, white and pale lemon,” she says. “You have to have some lighter hues to com­ple­ment the blue, or the blue just dis­ap­pears. The dis­play starts in early Fe­bru­ary with Iris retic­u­lata ‘Kather­ine Hodgkin’ and early nar­cis­sus, then dark­ish-blue for­get-me-nots and white tulips. In sum­mer we have Cam­pan­ula lac­t­i­flora ‘Prichard’s Va­ri­ety’ and Cephalaria gi­gan­tea with its pale lemon scabi­ous-type flow­ers. Drifts of tall white al­li­ums ‘Mount Ever­est’ and aconi­tums in pur­ple-blue, creamy white and sil­very blue ‘Stain­less Steel’, help the bor­der hang to­gether. You have to be care­ful not to be too bitty.” There’s a large wood­land gar­den along the south bound­ary. “We kept the na­tive oak, hawthorn and black­thorn, adding more spec­i­men trees so it’s now a lovely wood­land walk,” says Ali­son. “In au­tumn the ac­ers turn a daz­zling shade of red.”

“The borders are planted with flow­ers and fo­liage in sat­u­rated jewel-like colours”

CRE­AT­ING A SPEC­TA­CLE Lay­ers of colour-rich plant­ing and dra­matic fo­liage en­liven the borders at Theobald’s Farm­house all year round. In the bor­der here are the striped leaves of canna lilies, blue aconites and dahlias ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and ‘Tar­tan’

DES­IG­NATED ROOMS (clock­wise from above left) A ma­ture fig tree dom­i­nates the gravel gar­den; the farm­house dates from 1650; the knot gar­den com­prises un­du­lat­ing hedges of buxus; stripy can­nas, dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and or­ange chrysan­the­mums grace the Jewel Gar­den un­til the frosts; tall reeds Phrag­mites aus­tralis screen the swim­ming pond

Hid­den Delights (clock­wise from above left) Cot­i­nus ‘Grace’ with yew archway; foun­tain in the Jewel Gar­den; the cir­cu­lar lawn, with storks; Ver­bena bonar­ien­sis; Ali­son’s peb­ble mo­saic; ‘Grayswood Ghost’ birches around the spi­ral; Aconi­tum carmichaelii

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