How to walk on the wilder side
Visit gardens specialising in naturalistic plantings
Seeing how individual plants grow together and behave throughout the year will give you ideas for your own patch. Scampston Hall (Yorkshire), Broughton Grange (Oxfordshire), Waltham Place (Berkshire), Knoll Gardens (Dorset), RHS Hyde Hall (Essex), The Garden House (Devon), Great Dixter (Sussex) and the Olympic Park (London) are all worth a visit.
Match the plant to the place
Knowing the type of habitat that the plant originates from, along with their size and growth habit, will help you understand the correct growing conditions and companions they prefer. For instance Cephalaria transsylvanica
and Verbena ‘Bampton’ will happily self-seed along sunny path edges and open grass, but will not tolerate too much competition. Succisella inflexa ‘Frosted Pearl’ and Foeniculum vulgare ‘Smokey’ are both perennials, stronger in growth and able to cope with a little crowding.
Get off to a good start
Remove any vigorous perennial weeds, establish yellow rattle ( Rhinanthus
minor) into grass swards to reduce vigour. Create planting pockets at the base of walls and edges of drives and paths by enriching small areas of soil, this is particularly of use for shade loving woodlanders such as Beesia calthifolia, Disporum longistylum ‘Knight Heron’ and Hakonechloa macra. Plant in spring using plugs or small plants and water regularly while establishing, these will take hold and grow quickly, needing less aftercare than larger specimens.
Slowly build up the plant palette for a particular
site Start off with just a few species and add more each year. Incorporate bulbs, annuals and biennials to extend the season and encourage self-seeding by using plants like Erigeron annuus, Eryngium giganteum
and Euphorbia oblongata. Experiment, have fun and treat your failures as lessons.