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At an apple tasting in Cheshire recently, my eleven year old couldn’t get enough of the heritage varieties of apple being offered to visitors by a group of National Trust volunteers. Although delighted he was packing in his five a day in as many minutes, I couldn’t hide my surprise, as when offered an apple at home, he typically reacts as though I were trying to poison him. The difference, I suspected, was in the taste – confirmed when I nibbled a few samples myself.
The Acer palmatum, or Japanese maple, seems to be high on the wish list of trees for gardens and often when I meet clients to discuss their garden plans it’s one of the plants they’d like included. I’m not surprised as it’s such a pretty, elegant tree – but if you’d like to grow one there are a few things it’s useful to know.
A few weeks ago we spoke about the tiny, early spring bulbs that flower in late winter and at the very start of spring. This week let’s consider narcissi – known to most of us as daffodils. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the bulb and the earlier it flowers, the sooner you need to get it in the ground to allow root and shoot formation in time for the main event – blooming. It’s still a bit early for tulips as current advice is to plant them when it gets really cold – November or December is fine and you can even get away with planting them in January, as all but the early ones don’t flower till April or May.
If I asked you to name shrubs that flower in autumn, I wonder how many you could think of? I’d imagine many of us would struggle as a lot of our favourite garden shrubs tend to flower in spring and summer. Then you have the wonderfully scented winter blooming shrubs, daphnes, witch hazels and lots of other gorgeous things, but we tend to associate the autumn months with fruiting and berrying plants and those whose foliage gives us the spectacular display of gold, scarlet and copper. There are some shrubs that will offer you flower colour at this time of year though and its well worth finding room for one or three in your garden, to keep the flowering season going just that little bit longer. These three will look super alongside bright autumn foliage too. Here are a few to consider:
Now that the Autumn Equinox has passed and it’s absolutely, officially, positively autumn, it’s time to take stock of this summer, or this growing season in the garden, and decide what worked for you and what didn’t. If nothing at all worked and it’s time for a redesign, you know where to find me. (Hint – look at the top of the page). If it was mostly a good year though, and you’re happy with things in general, now’s a good time to plan a few tweaks.
Today I thought we might look at some soft, gentle colours for planting schemes. Softer colours make for a restful scheme, but even if you’re fond of brights and like to have pops of vivid colour in the garden, paler pastel shades are a good way to offset these, and a good way to link groups of more vivid colours.
I know it feels as if summer is only just over and there’s still a lot of this year left to go, but it’s already time to be thinking about next year and planning for the early months of 2019. There’s something special about the very earliest of spring bulbs. After a brown and grey winter, with little colour apart from green, it gives me a great sense of hope to see tiny shoots poking their tips out from the cold earth, ready to burst into blooms of glorious colour. Although they’re tiny, they’re not deterred by cold, frost and rain, they just carry on regardless, and this is one of the reasons why I love them.
Let’s think about scale today. I wonder if you’ve considered scale in the garden, at least in terms of plants? If not, it’s worth considering, as playing with different sizes can add an extra dimension to the space. As a garden designer, I’m always thinking of proportions – the layout of a garden on the ground has to be worked out until it’s just right before moving on to planting, and the proportions of all the different elements have to work, not just for the property to which the garden belongs, but for the human beings who will be using and enjoying it.
Have you ever thought about shapes in the garden, or to be more exact, in the planted areas? It’s worth thinking about because a well-planned garden will include a variety of plant shapes to achieve the most visually pleasing look. It can be tempting as a new gardener to focus only on the flowering potential of your new best friends, and I understand this completely, having once been a rookie myself. It’s so tempting to wander through a garden centre and be seduced by the colour, texture and fragrance of blooms, and to fill up your garden with attractive flowers.
I’ve recently acquired one of those cute little bamboo coffee cups that you can re-use over and over again, and at the end of its life it composts down, apart from the rubber lid. It’s much nicer to drink from than a plastic or metal re-usable container or indeed the single use paper cups it’s intended to replace. It’s getting a lot of use, as I’m on the road a lot visiting clients’ gardens and after a couple of hours on site it’s safer for all concerned if I get my caffeine hit. It made me think just how many of the single use cups I used to get through – many of us have only recently realised that these can’t be recycled because of the thin inner layer of plastic.