Planting Tips for the Garden

Now it is time to give life to your design. The trees and shrubs you choose should, of course, reflect the scale of your site, but thereafter you can give full rein to your creativity, planting a relaxed cottage garden or formal structured groups or whatever you fancy. As well as the prevailing conditions and functions of your garden, your choice will be governed by factors such as colour, shape, perfume and flowering times.



A traditional way of tackling bare walls is to find a suitable climber that will attach itself to the wall of its own accord and yet do no damage to the fabric of the wall or invade, in a triffid-like manner, the windows and doors of the house. We no longer need to consider only ordinary ivy as there are some modern cultivars that are a great improvement on the fairly undistinguished dark green climber. Try Persian ivy Hedera colchica ‘Variegata’; this has large splashes of golden yellow on the leaves and is very spectacular on a north wall. Likewise the self-clinging Hydrangea petiolaris enjoys covering a north wall and produces greenish-white flowers in June. The grape vine Vitis inconstans, which produces vivid autumn colours, is rather invasive but very striking.

There are two main ways of supporting plants on a wall. The simplest unobtrusive method is to purchase wall-eyes; these are large galvanized nails with a hole in the top through which is threaded wire to which climbers can be attached with string or wire or plastic ties. The other method is to nail or screw battens of wood to the wall as a base on which to fasten trellis. The climbers can weave in and out of the trellis (but wooden trellis docs need maintenance, either painting or treating with preservative). Jasminum officinale has a delicious scent on summer evenings and looks very attractive on trellis. It is a very vigorous climber and needs to be pruned accordingly. Actinidia kolomikta is also a strong climber, with beautiful white-tipped leaves. Lonicera species (honeysuckle) can make a wonderful display but like to have their heads in the sun and their roots in the shade.

There are numerous roses to choose from and as selection is largely a matter of personal preference, a good garden centre or rose specialist should be visited to help choose the right rose for your locality. My personal preference is for the copper-pink ‘Albertine’ and I am also very fond of the single yellow ‘Mermaid’. Wisterias are extremely showy and, provided they have something to twine round, are self-supporting; with their long racemes of purple or white flowers they are really quite spectacular in May and June. Wisterias need a good soil and full sun.

A more vigorous clematis, such as C. montana, will quickly cover a large area of wall space and is not too fussy as to aspect. A more delicate and later flowering species is Clematis orientalis which has delightful yellow bells in July and August.


Besides walls, you may wish to hide or disguise other less-than-attractive features of the garden. Manhole covers are unsightly; sometimes the garden design may be clever enough to incorporate them in to paths so that they can be ignored. If manhole covers occur in a border or a lawn, it is perhaps wise to plant something that will hide the eyesore in a short space of time – the best plant for this purpose is Juniperus sabina ‘Tamariscifolia’ which is low-growing and spreads with attractive silvery foliage that is a feature in itself and soon hides any manhole cover. If it is necessary to inspect the cover frequently, you could place on it a light tub which can be removed when required. I have even seen a small statue placed in such a position on a plinth of uncemented bricks.

Oil storage containers are not a pretty sight, however well the architect may have disguised them and really need to be screened by a hedge of conifers or by an evergreen shrub, such as Garrya elliptica with its lovely grey tassels. There are many evergreen plants suitable for screening purposes. Elaeagnus has many species, that would do well, as would Viburnum tinus. Ceanothus, Myrtus myrtle, Pyracantha firethorn and Vitis grape vine species would also serve to conceal this kind of unsightly feature.


What really draws your eye in the best gardens you know? Probably not that glorious distant view, the cleverly placed statue, the fountain or the summerhouse. Such things can delight us, of course, and remain in the memory. However, in most successful gardens the centres of focal interest are provided by the planting, by arresting shapes, appealing textures, unexpected or subtle arrangements of colour. The suggestions given here are necessarily limited by shortage of space. Use these tables as appetisers to arouse your interest in the possibilities you can create within-the environment of your own garden. The list below ‘plants of architectural merit’, needs a little explanation. This is simply a title which expresses my own preference of some particular species which I regard as really noteworthy in themselves and which will certainly attract your eye!


Acanthus mollis – A statuesque shrub, best planted more or less on its own, in deep loam where it will receive full sun. The leaves are dark green, deeply cut, and mauve flowers appear June-Julv. Needs protection in winter. Known as bear’s breeches.

Angelica archangelica – A herbaceous plant with large leaves and a tall distinctive spike of small white or green flowers (perennial if deadheaded after flowering). Plant in deep moist loam in shade.

Betula pendula ‘Youngii’ – Weeping version of the common birch which makes a good specimen on a lawn or as a focal point. Dome-shaped branches hanging down to the ground. Good for small gardens.

Cordyline australis – Cabbage palm. Does best in southern coastal regions. From the trunks appear a mass of sword-shaped leaves. The creamy white fragrant flowers bloom in 0.6-1.2m (2-4ft) long panicles.

Cotinus coggygria ‘Atropurpurea’ – Forms a shrub with dark purple leaves (or yellow when on sandy loam). Plumes of creamy flowers appear in July. Known as the smoke bush. Spreads to about 1.8m (6ft).

Fatsia japonica – Evergreen shrub with very large palmate dark green leaves, almost sub-tropical in effect. Produces white flowers in terminal heads in October. Does well in semi-shade and by the sea. Spreads to about 1.5m (5ft).

Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Elegantissima’ – A slow-growing tree with green fern-like foliage and spiny branches. Tolerant of drought and dry conditions.

Metasequoia glyptostroboides – An elegant deciduous conifer of Chinese origin. The feathery foliage is apple-green in spring, developing a pink tinge in autumn. It thrives in moist but well-drained conditions and chalk. Spreads to about 1.8m (6ft). Called dawn redwood.

Phormium tenax – New Zealand flax. An evergreen with sword-like leaves appearing from ground level. Produces red flowers on long spikes July-September. Protect crowns in winter. There are some variegated and colourful leaf forms.

Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’ – A pear tree with hanging branches that reach the ground. Early leaves have silky white down before going grey green. White blossom in April. Ideal as focal specimen.

Rubus cockburnianus – Tree with outstanding silver bark in winter. Plant as a single specimen, any soil or situation. Small purple flowers in June, followed by black fruits. Clump may spread to 1.8m (6ft).

Salix caprea ‘Pendula’ – Kilmarnock willow. Has stiffly hanging branches. Bears catkins in March-April. Green leaves with woolly undersides.

Salix purpurea ‘Pendula’ – A form of the purple osier. When trained as a standard, forms a charming weeping willow. Prune late winter in smaller gardens. Needs moist soil.

Yucca gloriosa – Produces stiff sword-shaped leaves, with huge creamy-white panicles of flowers in late summer. Best on sandy loam.


This needs no explanation. Stunning splashes of colour from individual blooms or bold clumps of several plants together can make wonderful centres of interest throughout the year. But in many gardens they don’t because all too often the gardener regards the summer as being the real time for action. When the days shorten, it is cold and rainy, then in we come to the warmth of the fire. What a lot of pleasure we deprive ourselves of if we do not prolong the colour in the garden into the autumn. For many plants can produce the most spectacular tints in autumn and early winter and a very cheering sight they are.


These offer a good deal of colour and interesting shapes and textures late in the year when they are appreciated all the more. It is usually wise with most plants to cut off the flowers as they fade (don’t just deadhead the roses; pansies and many others will bloom all the more if you snip off the heads as they pass their best). When its strength is not going into making seeds, a plant may flower the more. But if the berries, pods or whatever kind of fruit follows are beautiful then do not deadhead but stand back and await a different kind of display. The plants in the table all have brightly coloured fruits but may only produce them if you plant male and female plants close by.

24. May 2013 by admin
Categories: Featured, Garden Management, Top Tips | Comments Off on Planting Tips for the Garden


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