Coun­try haven grasses

Grace­ful grasses part­ner roses and hy­drangeas in this stun­ning gar­den. De­signer Sarah Murch re­veals its plant­ing se­crets

Garden Answers (UK) - - Contents -

Few gar­dens fade so el­e­gantly into au­tumn as this pretty ex­am­ple in Not­ting­hamshire. The coun­try­side plot is still full of late sum­mer flow­ers in Novem­ber – roses and hy­drangeas among them – planted along­side stat­uesque grasses and shrubs turn­ing ev­ery shade of red and gold. “I wanted to cre­ate a gar­den that would have a wild and nat­u­ral look,” ex­plains gar­den de­signer, Sarah Murch. “I de­signed it for my good friend Julie Shuld­ham, who lives here with her hus­band Tim. At the time it was mostly laid to lawn and the kids used to play foot­ball on it. Julie liked my own gar­den at El­licar in Don­caster, es­pe­cially the way I’d used grasses and peren­ni­als for a suc­ces­sion of colour all year round.” Also on the ‘wants’ list was an al­fresco din­ing area, a pond and Julie’s favourite rhodo­den­drons and aza­leas. “Luck­ily my hus­band has a rhodo­den­dron nurs­ery,” says Sarah. “So we’ve been able to cre­ate a beau­ti­ful rhodo­den­dron walk along the bot­tom of the gar­den that’s full of flow­ers in spring.” The gar­den be­longs to a tra­di­tional red-brick farm­house and is en­closed by an­cient blue­bell woods on three sides. “As it’s south-fac­ing, you get beau­ti­ful cross light from the east at sun­rise and west at sun­set. It means the grasses take on a dra­matic golden glow that looks es­pe­cially at­mo­spheric in au­tumn.”

You get beau­ti­ful cross light ...the grasses take on a dra­matic golden glow

When Julie moved here the gar­den was full of over­grown shrubs. “The grass was un­even and patchy thanks to chafer grubs,” says Sarah. “To clear the site, Julie gave her five pigs free range for the win­ter, leav­ing them to root through the soil and re­move all the grubs and weeds. It’s a great way to clear scrub­land. They’re like lit­tle four-legged ro­ta­va­tors. The passersby were gob­s­macked.” The fol­low­ing spring, Sarah had a blank can­vas on which to cre­ate the new gar­den. “We started by ex­ca­vat­ing the pond and lay­ing the pa­tio next to the house where it can be ac­cessed eas­ily from the kitchen,” says Sarah. “We built a per­gola over part of it for shade and shel­ter, and added light­ing so it can be used on warm evenings too.” The pa­tio leads to a sweep­ing gravel gar­den framed by asters, which in turn leads to an area of lawn where paths are mown through long grass and wavy-edged borders are packed with peren­ni­als. “All the plants are self-sup­port­ing,” says Sarah. “They die back grace­fully too, so they stand well over au­tumn and win­ter. We’ve got Ver­bena bonar­ien­sis, hy­lotele­phium ‘Ma­trona’, Per­si­caria am­plex­i­caulis ‘Firedance’, Rud­beckia fulgida ‘Gold­sturm’ and asters such as Aster frikar­tii ‘Mönch’ and ‘Lit­tle Car­low’. Swathes of grasses in­clude de­schamp­sia, Cala­m­a­grostis acu­ti­flora ‘Karl Fo­er­ster’, Pan­icum vir­ga­tum ‘Squaw’, Cor­tade­ria sel­l­oana ‘Pu­mila’ and Pen­nise­tum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’. “As Julie loves tra­di­tional plants too, we planted blocks of rosa ‘Kent’ among the grasses, which re­peat

Pigs are like four-legged ro­ta­va­tors. The passersby were gob­s­macked

flow­ers from June to Novem­ber. On the per­gola is rose ‘San­ders White Ram­bler’, clema­tis ‘Étoile Vi­o­lette’ and grape vine Vi­tis vinifera ‘Pur­purea’, whose leaves turn a lovely rich shade of bur­gundy in au­tumn. “Rhodo­den­dron ‘North­ern Hi-Lights’ is an­other good plant for au­tumn fo­liage; we’ve planted white-flow­ered Ja­panese anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ with it, for con­trast.” Blowsy white hy­drangea ‘Annabelle’ is re­peated around the gar­den for con­ti­nu­ity – cho­sen for its neat habit and pretty mop­head flow­ers. “It fades so beau­ti­fully – we don’t cut back the flow­ers un­til spring.” (See p42.) Sarah’s de­sign flows ef­fort­lessly from one area to the next, us­ing el­e­gant curves rather than awk­ward an­gles. “The wrought-iron gazebo was a sur­prise birth­day present from Julie’s hus­band,” says Sarah. “She rang me in a panic won­der­ing how on earth we could fit it into the de­sign but, of course, it com­ple­ments the over­all look per­fectly.”

EL­E­GANT VIEW (clock­wise from above left) Julie’s hus­band bought the gazebo as a birth­day present. It of­fers a per­fect van­tage point over the pond; the pa­tio, with rosa ‘Sander’s White Ram­bler’ on the per­gola and grasses un­der the win­dow; ruby-red blades of pan­icum ‘Squaw’; rusty steel matches the colour scheme; blocks of rosa ‘Kent’ with se­dum and stipa

AU­TUMN RICHES (clock­wise from above) Gaura lind­heimeri ‘Whirling But­ter­flies’ with rosa ‘Kent’, hy­lotele­phium ‘Ma­trona’, asters and Stipa gi­gan­tea; aster ‘Mönch’; grasses tum­ble over the path; Julie’s gazebo, sur­rounded by red pan­icum ‘Squaw’ and asters; hy­drangea ‘Annabelle’ IN­SET He­le­nium ‘Mo­er­heim Beauty’

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