HE­LEN YEMM THORNY PROB­LEMS

This week: a wall of green­ery in a small gar­den, how low can you go with au­tumn cut­backs and a tour of French gar­dens

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - GARDENING -

My daugh­ter’s pro­posed home on a new es­tate will be over­looked by other prop­er­ties. There are 6ft high gar­den fences, but she will have lit­tle pri­vacy. Can you rec­om­mend any plants which will quickly pro­vide cover?

MICHAEL ORMSBY – VIA EMAIL

In in­creas­ingly squashed-to­gether new-builds we are just go­ing to have to get used to lim­ited pri­vacy – and I sug­gest the idea may be slightly less of a trauma for the younger gen­er­a­tion than it is for ours.

My sim­ple an­swer to your ques­tion is this: yes, you could cre­ate a mini Colditz us­ing fast-grow­ing lau­rels or po­ten­tially mon­strous bam­boo all around your daugh­ter’s (prob­a­bly) tiny gar­den. This rather bor­ing thicket, of lim­ited aes­thetic or eco­log­i­cal value, would go some way to­wards block­ing out her view of the neigh­bours and their view of her, but also would keep out some­thing far more vi­tal – light.

Or you could en­cour­age your daugh­ter to grow and en­joy roses, honey­suckle and clema­tis on the fences and at­tract ben­e­fi­cial in­sects, cre­ate a dis­trac­tion by in­stalling a tiny pond, and add a strate­gi­cally placed, small-leafed de­cid­u­ous tree, the light canopy of which could be­come a fo­cal point and a vis­ual dis­trac­tion from the houses.

My front run­ners would be Be­tula utilis var. jacque­mon­tii (a birch whose trunk and branches be­come bright white as they ma­ture, bril­liant in win­ter) or a blos­som­ing tree such as a rowan, hawthorn or ame­lanchier.

Ev­ery au­tumn I cut back peren­nial plants such as cro­cos­mia and Ja­panese anemones, leav­ing stumps. How­ever

TIP OF THE WEEK

I have no­ticed that other peo­ple take them down to the ground. Which way is best for the plants?

MAR­GARET TURNER – VIA EMAIL

Ev­ery­one has their own way of “do­ing” au­tumn. Some do very lit­tle cut­ting back, re­ly­ing on a spring blitz to re­store or­der. Oth­ers cut back and clean up with the aim of pre­vent­ing a build-up of de­bris that could har­bour fun­gal spores, small slugs and other pests. But this leaves an or­derly waste­land, with noth­ing for birds and other ben­e­fi­cial wildlife.

Like you, I do a “half-way-house” treat­ment, but slightly later, in early win­ter. By that time the leaves and stems of some perennials (e.g. cro­cos­mia and al­strome­ria), pull away

cleanly in my hand. Au­tumn leaves are down, so as I clear them I also I cut tougher-stemmed perennials, leav­ing vis­i­ble stumps, so that I will know the ex­tent of most bor­der plants come spring. In early March I trawl the bor­der again, tidy­ing, mulching and feed­ing. So, to an­swer your ques­tion, the “best “, I think, is what suits you and your gar­den.

Cut back large spec­i­mens ofand top-heavy roses (but not on­ce­flow­er­ing old shrub roses like ‘Charles de Mills’, that will bloom next year on last sea­son’s new growth) to pre­vent gale-dam­age to roots. Re­turn to them in early March to prune more el­e­gantly.

SCULPTED LAND­SCAPE Nicole de Vésian’s La Louve gar­den in Provence

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