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Res­cue es­tab­lished plants to add char­ac­ter to your gar­den makeover

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - Outdoors -

WHEN cre­at­ing a new gar­den, it’s a good idea to see what can be sal­vaged from the old one. “I al­ways like to keep a few el­e­ments if I can, be­cause you just can’t buy a gar­den with char­ac­ter,” says gar­den de­signer Dan Bris­tow, bet­ter known as Prop­a­gat­ing Dan. “A com­pletely new gar­den al­ways takes a few years to set­tle in.”

Prime ex­am­ple of res­cu­ing plants — and up­grad­ing them — is in this Peck­ham gar­den. It needed a to­tal ren­o­va­tion af­ter the own­ers had an ex­ten­sion added to the back of their home, which left a mass of builders’ rub­ble as well as ne­glected shrubs and trees.

“There was an over­grown myr­tle, an elder against a wall, a silver birch and a huge fuch­sia, four me­tres wide, and you can’t find that size for love nor money. We topped the silver birch, fan- trained the elder and cloud-pruned both the myr­tle and the fuch­sia. The myr­tle now makes a great ev­er­green sculp­ture and when the fuch­sia blooms, the flow­ers look like pink rain, and the beau­ti­ful peel­ing cop­pery bark is on dis­play.”

Along with the gar­den’s con­tem­po­rary glass-walled stu­dio, th­ese plants are now star fea­tures that un­der­score the Ori­en­tal de­sign Bris­tow pro­posed to the own­ers. step skim across the stone, mak­ing a safe jour­ney. Two in­te­grated oak benches, sim­ple but so­cia­bly placed, and with lights set into the legs, make an ar­chi­tec­tural fea­ture. “When you sit on them, you feel en­closed by the gar­den,” says Bris­tow.

Here and there, among the plants, slabs of re­claimed West­more­land stone add to the nat­u­ral­is­tic feel. “Rock­ery stone is deeply un­fash­ion­able,” says Bris­tow, “but if you know how to lay the stone show­ing the strata, it can look like there are smaller ar­eas of rock peek­ing out from a bedrock be­neath.” two in­te­grated oak benches give a feel­ing of en­clo­sure

The plant­ing needed to soften the lines of both build­ings. Bris­tow achieved this with lay­ers of tex­tu­ral green­ery, us­ing dec­o­ra­tive grasses and wood­land na­tive plants such as Solomon’s Seal, Iris foetidus and pretty, shade­lov­ing ev­er­green Dis­porop­sis pernyi. He also in­cluded the stun­ning fo­liage ground­cover Trachys­te­mon ori­en­talis, which he says thrives in the deep­est shade and re­li­ably pro­duces early bor­age-like blue flow­ers.

A pur­ple Ja­panese maple cre­ates a feath­ery cush­ion by the stu­dio en­trance and a wall of bam­boo against a bound­ary wall pro­vides stature as well as screen­ing. In late spring, two Crambe cordi­fo­lia burst into bil­low­ing flower — Bris­tow calls them “fire­work clouds” — while Iris sibir­ica and aqui­le­gia are scat­tered all over the gar­den.

TINY- LEAVED Cor­si­can mint does a great job of car­pet­ing awk­ward slop­ing ar­eas. “The idea was to have a chang­ing ta­pes­try be­neath the of­fi­cial plant­ing,” ex­plains Bris­tow, who achieved the ef­fect of plants flow­ing one into the other by giv­ing com­mon creep­ing ox­alis and herb robert their head, show­ing de­light­fully that one gar­den’s weed can be an­other gar­den’s trea­sure.

Cre­at­ing in­ti­macy: Dan Bris­tow can be com­mis­sioned at prop­a­gat­ing­dan.com

On the jetty: the lime­stone pa­tio is raised by one foot, Ja­panese style, to give a more in­ter­est­ing view of the plant­ing

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