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With it being the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this week, it’s always good to see what could be the next big thing, or what the designers are picking up to use from the wider horticultural industry and those already in the know about the latest plants, reliable old-timers making a comeback or materials from around the world. The biggest stand-out themes for me at the moment are all around the environmental and well-being benefits of gardens, many of the designers have clearly had nature in mind with their designs as well as what gardens can mean to people’s mental health and sense of calm in a stressful world. So here are some ideas around what I think you could transfer to your own space.
Making it fun
The Space Within garden, by Dorset-based designer Michelle Brown, shows how a smaller area can be divided up to create different zones.
It includes a bench to provide a sociable space for friends, and a secluded spot with a daybed for lounging and reading a book. A timbre tunnel with an angular apex provides fantastic support for a magnificent white Wisteria, which adds to the seclusion and separation of the seating – it’s like emerging into a secret childhood den where you can escape to your own little world of fun.
Dramatic bold plants such as King Sago Cycas, Phyllostachys Bamboo, and Trachycarpus palm offer some really nice architectural touches, and these are easy to obtain and add some architecture to any un-inspiring space at home. Try zoning your own space with plants of trellis to create the same effect.
A Place to Escape
Jamie Butterworths Place2Be garden is all about keeping things simple and offering a haven of security away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life – here you can easily relax, as you’re almost hugged by planting surrounding a sunken clearing.
The colours are mostly shades of green, the materials are natural sandstone, oak and metal edgings.
Add the sound of running water to your space with a small recirculating pump and something as small as a half barrel as a water feature to relax frayed nerves in your own space.
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Go Big or Go Home
Chris Beardshaw is on the money here advocating a trend we saw last year, in the RNLI garden he’s layered structured planting in the borders so they have a real impact with some decent height to them.
This is all about plant choice, Chris isn’t on my payroll but he recommends pink-flowered Dahlia imperialis which “come out of the ground like a rocket in spring”, these were one of our best sellers here last year, and we already have a waiting list for this summer’s stock.
When going for different heights to layer in a border, it’s all about being clever with your plant choices and choosing something to suit you. Digitalis foxgloves at 1.5m towards the middle of the border, 50cm Garaniums such as Rozanne or Wargrave pink at the front, with all of this framed by those dramatic Dahlias or perhaps a Cynara cardunculus – the ornamental artichoke with amazing silver cut foliage.
Add some grasses such as Miscanthus that can sway in the wind to make your own borders flowing and graceful rather than just a regimented block.
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The Perennial Garden: With Love designed by Richard Miers is a perfect example of a calming garden using symmetry and repetition to create this effect. Richard’s palette of colour is one of greens and whites, with rich plum tones carefully added to bring extra interest.
These all complement wonderfully and this is a technique straight out of the design playbook you can easily make 2+2 into 5 when you combine the right colours as they show each other off to their best when they fix your gaze.
Top plants to watch for used here are Double White Peony, Foxgloves and the ubiquitous Chelsea favourite, the Alliums. A feeling of security thanks to a boundary of hornbeam hedging and repetition in the canopies of hawthorn trees adds to the soothing effect of this garden.
The effect is delightfully soothing, as is the feeling of security and enclosure that is engendered by hornbeam boundary hedging and eight flat-topped hawthorn trees.
The final garden in my round-up here (there just isn’t enough space to cover the rest) is one I really hope could catch on. It’s named The Core Arts Front Garden Revolution and has been designed by Andy Smith-Williams.
This garden is all about the magic that can happen when two neighbours remove the boundary and work in unison to create a special front garden space, one that draws in passers-by to be sociable as you garden in this environmentally-friendly shared spot.
Andy had suggested using free draining gravel to prevent runoff as well as recycled slabs in random shapes for the hard landscaping to create a stepping stone path. This is something you could easily try at home. Planting is completed with ornamental grasses with shots of colour added with tough perennial Verbascum and Gladiolus byzantinus.
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