“I fell in love with prairie style” This coun­try gar­den uses a ta­pes­try of peren­ni­als and grasses for nat­u­ral colour and move­ment

This coun­try gar­den is full of plants for colour and tex­ture in early au­tumn. Owner Liz Davies ex­plains her ap­proach

Garden Answers (UK) - - Contents -

Old meets new in this stylish coun­try gar­den. With its charm­ing 16th-cen­tury stone long­house as a back­drop, you might ex­pect owner Liz Davies, who lives here with her hus­band Barry, to have gone for a tra­di­tional mix of jostling cot­tage f low­ers. In­stead she’s plumped for bold blocks of colour­ful prairie peren­ni­als and drifts of sway­ing grasses. “I love the New Peren­nial plant­ing style,” en­thuses Liz. “It in­volves com­bin­ing swathes of flow­er­ing peren­ni­als with na­tive grasses in ta­pes­try-like blocks and drifts, for a re­laxed, nat­u­ral­is­tic look. “Back in the 1990s when I was re­vamp­ing the gar­den I came across the work of two Amer­i­can land­scape

The gar­den was full of rocks that we had to dig out by the trailer-load

de­sign­ers, James van Swe­den and Wolf­gang Oehme,” says Liz. “They were cham­pi­ons of the new Amer­i­can Meadow look. The idea is to make the most of plant com­mu­ni­ties that are low main­te­nance and which age well. For ex­am­ple, plants such as rud­beckia ‘Gold­sturm’ reach their peak in late sum­mer, then age hand­somely into au­tumn and winter. They keep their sculp­tural shape un­til the stems and seed­heads fi­nally die back in late winter.” Liz’s favourite peren­ni­als in­clude per­si­carias, phlomis, san­guisor­bas and Ja­panese anemone ‘Had­spen Abun­dance’; grasses in­clude wispy Pan­icum vir­ga­tum, Mis­cant­hus sinen­sis ‘Malepar­tus’,

De­schamp­sia ce­spi­tosa ‘Gold­schleier’ and Stipa gi­gan­tea. “The gar­den looks its best in au­tumn when all the grasses are bathed in the low-an­gled sun­shine,” she says. “I love the warm tones of this time of year. The grasses re­ally stand out, along with de­cid­u­ous trees such as Liq­uidambar styraci­flua and Catalpa bignon­ioides.” The gar­den didn’t al­ways look as colour­ful or ap­peal­ing. “When we moved here in 1976 the land had been used for graz­ing,” says Liz. “It was on a slope and there were no trees or hedges. The ground was full of rocks that we had to dig out by the trailer-load. “Orig­i­nally the farm­house was built into the slope for shel­ter but this made the walls damp, so we had to ex­ca­vate the soil around it for bet­ter air cir­cu­la­tion. We made a flat area at the back of the house for a pa­tio, us­ing flag­stones re­cy­cled from the barn, and built a re­tain­ing wall to turn the slope into a ter­race. “I didn’t know much about gar­den­ing when I started,” Liz ad­mits. “I planted a lot of conifers be­cause they were cheap and quick to grow. But I sat there one day and thought, ‘this just looks aw­ful’. I de­cided to be ruth­less, pull them all out and start again. “It took me a while to re­alise that I would have to sort out the slope be­fore I could make progress on the plant­ing,” says Liz. “When it came to it, I stood in the mid­dle of the gar­den wav­ing my arms around to show the man op­er­at­ing the dig­ger where to cut out wedges of soil to make new plant­ing ter­races.” Liz took in­spi­ra­tion from the late gar­den de­sign guru John Brookes, and signed up for an in­ten­sive year-long course. “My time had been taken up with small chil­dren but as they got older I could spend more time on the gar­den,” she says. “Even­tu­ally some friends asked me to de­sign their gar­den and that spurred me on to get the right training.”

Liz went back to the draw­ing board, plant­ing her own gar­den with new trees such as Cor­nus con­tro­versa ‘Var­ie­gata’, liq­uidambar and catalpa for their fo­liage shape and sea­sonal in­ter­est. Box balls were trimmed into ever­green top­i­ary and state­ment plants such as Te­tra­panax pa­pyrifer po­si­tioned as fo­cal points. “Now, each of the curv­ing ter­races has be­come a dis­tinct plant­ing area with its own per­son­al­ity,” says Liz. “There’s a for­mal court­yard full of pink flow­ers and pur­ple fo­liage plants such as Per­si­caria mi­cro­cephala ‘Red Dragon’, Rici­nus com­mu­nis ‘Car­mencita’ and Ac­taea sim­plex Atrop­ur­purea Group. “We also have sweep­ing lawns and deep ar­eas of prairie plant­ing, a wild meadow and a stone folly, built by my hus­band Barry,” says Liz. “I al­ways wanted to cre­ate a gar­den that would be good enough to share with the pub­lic. I’m so glad we’ve fi­nally man­aged it.”

I love the warm tones of late sum­mer and au­tumn. The grasses re­ally stand out

GOLDEN FROTH An is­land of de­schamp­sia ‘Gold­schleier’ floats around an armil­lary sphere in the front gar­den. Clipped box balls are dot­ted through the gravel, with spires of pen­ste­mon and salvia around the walled edges

PRAIRIE STYLE (clock­wise from above left) Per­si­caria ‘Red Dragon’ and rici­nus ‘Car­mencita’ sur­round a ter­a­cotta urn; cro­cos­mia, phlomis seed­heads and yel­low ligu­laria ‘Des­de­mona’ above the pa­tio; black aeo­nium with rodger­sia; anemone ‘Had­spen Abun­dance’; Cor­nus con­tro­versa ‘Var­ie­gata’, rud­beckia, yel­low cro­cos­mia, per­si­caria ‘Fire­tail’ and Phlomis rus­seliana

WAVES OF GOLD (clock­wise from above) Rud­beckia ‘Gold­sturm’ with cata­lapa ‘Aurea’ and per­si­caria; Cor­nus con­tro­versa ‘Var­ie­gata’ above mis­cant­hus and red spikes of per­si­caria; rici­nus ‘Car­mencita’; Stipa gi­gan­tea, per­si­caria ‘Red Dragon’, lo­belia and anemone ‘Had­spen Abun­dance’ IN­SET Ja­panese anemone

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