Carol Klein talks huge-leaved fo­liage and green and white colour schemes

Beau­ti­ful wed­ding cake tree re­flects the colour theme and most of the plant­ing in Al­ice’s gar­den

Garden News (UK) - - Contents -

Athick, cloud-pruned hedge of var­ie­gated box sep­a­rates the brick gar­den from the beds be­low which have come to be known as Al­ice’s gar­den. This hedge isn’t straight, in­stead it forms a sin­u­ous line across the breadth of the gar­den with one break in the mid­dle where brick steps lead down to the next level. The box has grown so well that, de­spite be­ing pruned as­sid­u­ously, you have to turn side­ways to get through. We might have to take out the two end bushes and read­just the shape, af­ter all there’s no point hav­ing steps if you can’t get down them!

You can ap­proach Al­ice’s gar­den four ways, ei­ther from steps down from the brick gar­den, steps up from An­nie’s gar­den or from the track where you have the op­tion of tak­ing the broad path that sep­a­rates it from the sleeper wall that raises up the ‘hot bed’, or through the cen­tre up two broad steps. Al­though we talk about it as one gar­den, in fact it’s four beds sep­a­rated by wide slate paths.

There’s one sig­nif­i­cant tree here that al­ways makes its pres­ence felt what­ever time of

year. It’s a wed­ding cake tree, Cor­nus con­tro­versa ‘Var­ie­gata’. At the mo­ment it stands leaf­less, its ge­o­met­ri­cally tiered shape ex­posed, but the crim­son buds that con­tain next year’s leaves are al­ready dec­o­rat­ing the bare branches.

This tree sets the scene for Al­ice’s gar­den; in leaf it’s green and white, light and airy and much of the plant­ing here re­flects the same theme. Many of the flow­ers here are white and there are hostas whose leaves are edged in white. Hosta ‘Thomas Hogg’ (now known as Hosta un­du­lata al­bo­marginata) has been di­vided from time to time and clumps of it, here and there, help bring co­he­sion to the beds.

The best time to split hostas is now as they’re be­com­ing dor­mant, or in late spring be­fore the leaves emerge. We dig up the whole clump and slice it into chunks with a sharp spade but try to make the slices dif­fer­ent sizes so the plant­ing doesn’t look too con­trived.

Selinum wal­lichi­anum is an­other stal­wart here. In to­tal con­trast to the large en­tire leaves of the hosta, this classy um­bel has in­tri­cately lacy fo­liage. In late sum­mer through into au­tumn it flow­ers with typ­i­cal plateaux of tiny white flow­ers. Equally dec­o­ra­tive seed heads fol­low. Un­like so many other mem­bers of the Api­aceae fam­ily, which tend to be ephemeral, selinum lives for a good long time, get­ting big­ger and bet­ter each year.

An­other pretty um­bel in this part of the gar­den, Pimpinella ma­jor ‘Rosea’, a pink-flow­ered ver­sion of a na­tive plant, is not so long-lived but seeds it­self around. How do plants al­ways seed them­selves in just the right spot, cre­at­ing com­bi­na­tions that look so much more as­sured than any­thing you would care­fully plan? Pimpinella along­side the dainty in­flo­res­cences of Mel­ica uni­flora, for ex­am­ple.

An­other de­pend­able plant that fits in well with Al­ice’s pre­ferred colour scheme of green, white, pink and oc­ca­sional crim­son is Lamium or­vala, a very hand­some dead net­tle.

As you come down from the house, this is the first time you en­counter roses (apart from the Banksian rose on the house wall). Here you’ll meet three shrub roses, ‘Lit­tle White Pet’, ‘The Fairy’ and Al­ice’s spe­cial favourite Rosa mundi, with flow­ers striped ran­domly with pink and white. But we won’t be aware of them un­til the sum­mer.

Mean­while, groups of dif­fer­ent snow­drops will take the stage, get­ting 2019 in Al­ice’s gar­den off to an aus­pi­cious start.

‘Many of the flow­ers here are white and there are hostas whose leaves are edged in white. They help bring co­he­sion to the beds’

Hosta un­du­lata al­bo­marginata in full swing – but now it’s dor­mant it’s time to di­vide it up

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