Invite touch with tactile plants
Stimulating the senses is key to creating a sensuous romantic garden. A formal garden with straight lines and manicured lawns where borders are tidied up in autumn will do little to invite you to explore or tempt you outdoors. Instead, incorporate plants that invite you to reach out and touch them. Trees with peeling bark, revealing smooth polished wood, such as Prunus serrula, cry out to be stroked. The furry buds of pussy willow are equally irresistible – Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’ is a good option for small gardens. Alongside, grow feathery calamagrostis, molinia and miscanthus grasses and leave their fading seedheads over winter. Romantic gardens often have a loose, wild style of planting with a frothy mix of flowers and foliage that intermingles in a naturalistic way. Planting your garden with herbaceous perennials that create this effect in summer will help carry on this look through autumn and into winter. When the flowers are no longer there, the winter garden will rely on their attractive seedheads, so choose plants with a long season of interest and resist the temptation to cut them back in autumn. Look to perennial sedums and achilleas with flat-topped seedheads, the pepperpot seed pods of poppies, ghostly-white stems of perovskia and rudbeckias and echinacea, which, once their petals have fallen, leave behind attractive cones. Find space for lacecap hydrangeas too, whose faded, parchment petals glow in the low, wintery light.
LEFT Tactile pussy willow catkins are underplanted with conifers, heathers and other cushionlike plants