Flowering Plants for Your Garden Designs

Garden Designs

Flowering plants

The different sorts of plants at our disposal —flowering trees and shrubs, climbers, roses, hardy perennials, hardy annuals, tender perennials, biennials and bulbs — must each be considered according to their category. Flowering trees and shrubs could be divided into two files, one labelled ‘VIP, do not disturb’ and the other ‘Disposable when it suits’. Climbers  have special appeal to those with crowded gardens — there always seems to be room for another clematis. A rose can be chosen to suit almost any garden; their adaptability to different climates never ceases to amaze — Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’, for example, flourished equally well in Dublin, Ireland as in San Antonio, Texas and Christchurch, New Zealand.

Flowering Plants for Your Garden Designs - Eryngium giganteum Hardy perennials are another category. By adding one or two structural evergreens one could make a brilliant flower garden of these alone. The frivolous element is provided by hardy annuals and tender perennials. These are the ephemera of summer, to play around with and to use in daring planting schemes — even if they do not come off you will have still had all the fun. Many biennials, such as foxgloves, honesty or Eryngium giganteum add joy by sowing themselves in the oddest places, while bulbs are essential to any flower garden as they beckon in spring and, in autumn, wave a final goodbye with Colchicum, Nerine, Cyclamen and autumn-flowering snowdrops.

Trees and shrubs

To form the background for your summer flowers, and to give shape and interest to the garden in winter, the first plants to decide upon are your structural evergreens. The plain, dark green of box (Buxus sempervirens) and yew (Taxies baccata), laurustinus (Viburnum tinus) and Sarcococca, Viburnum davidii and Osmanthus delavayi will never pall. The bright, spring green of some evergreens, Griselinia littoralis for example, while quite acceptable in summer, is curiously disturbing in winter — perhaps subconsciously we only associate so fresh a green with spring.

Faced with an empty garden, the first instinct is to go out and buy a quantity of trees and shrubs. But as you patrol the lines of plants at the garden centre, have a serious think before putting your hand in your purse: the agony of digging up something because it is squashing everything in sight or is not nearly as pretty as you thought, is worth considerable trouble to avoid. A more useful approach is to decide at the outset which are going to be your important trees and shrubs, those that no other plant is going to interfere with in any way, and to plant beside them some easy, short-term fillers — short-lived shrubs and easily-moved herbaceous plants and annuals — that you will not mind sacrificing after a few years.

Another consideration is to find out which plants respond well to pruning — it is not for nothing that yew, box and holly have been beloved by centuries of garden designers, as regular assaults on their twigs and foliage leave them quite unconcerned. Choisya ternata, growing 1.8-3m (6-10ft) high can be kept to 1.5m (5ft) by pruning, a most enjoyable operation accompanied by the delicious spicy scent of the cut leaves and stems. Fuchsia, pruned by frost in cold gardens, can be treated as you like in mild areas — you have a choice of letting them assume tree-like proportions against a wall, or alternatively you can cut them to the ground in spring. Pyracantha can be allowed to grow into a large evergreen buttress, thus providing comfortable homes for nesting blackbirds, or can be tightly clipped to a wall, better to display their sprays of creamy blossom and bright berries. Buddleia davidii positively must be pruned hard in spring, otherwise you get a lanky, jack-in-the-beanstalk effect, and you would not see the butterflies that so love its flowers — they would be hovering way above you.

Choisya ternata You can never tire of the divinely pretty foliage of Rosa glauca (syn. Rosa rubrifolia), a sort of rosy-mauve with a bloom on it, on purplish stems. If you are prepared to sacrifice its single soft mauve-pink flowers with crimson hips to follow, and cut it nearly to the ground each spring (giving it a generous feed to make up), it can be treated just as a foliage plant — the leaves, even more richly tinted on 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) stems, will make beautiful harmonies with any colour scheme you have in mind.

But you do have to know which shrubs you can take liberties with — even to approach a Magnolia, Daphne, Cornus (except the sort grown for their coloured winter stems) or witch hazel (Hamamelis) with secateurs would be a sort of horticultural sacrilege. (But one is permitted to give a very cautious trim to Daphne cornus in order to keep it neat after flowering.)

From mid-summer on, the flower garden will be a banquet of scent and colour, as perennials and annuals take the centre stage. The flowering of Carpenteria californica and californian tree poppy (Romneya coulteri) will be eagerly anticipated, both are aristocrats among flowering plants. These stand in their own right as stars of their season, but for your main background planting you might consider using winter-flowering shrubs — the lovely pale yellow Mahonia x media ‘Underway’, Daphne bholua, Viburnum farreri or V. x bodnantense ‘Dawn’, Jasminum nudiflorum, and the compact Viburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ with buds of bright pink. Particularly if you are the sort of gardener who shuts the garden door at the end of autumn and would not dream of going out again until the first signs of spring, these essential shrubs of winter will both furnish the garden and give the impression to anyone looking out of the window that you have made an effort.

The smaller the garden, the more thought you should give to leaf colour when choosing shrubs. The right foliage colour, aptly placed, can transform a quite ordinary flower bed into something special. Decide what sort of colour scheme you would like, and pick something that will enhance your ideas. A bed of flowers in pale colours, soft pinks, mauves and primrose yellow would ask for silver foliage, while a range of scarlet, orange and strident yellow would positively gleam with vibrancy by the addition of shrubs in bronze and purple hues.

27. December 2010 by admin
Categories: Planning and Design | Tags: , | Comments Off on Flowering Plants for Your Garden Designs


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