Planting ideas for a Hertfordshire garden

I know that our clients choose us with great care and it is always a real privilege to work with them on their precious gardens and outdoor spaces.  Some are enthusiastic gardeners themselves; many are not.  A recent project in the Chilterns was interesting and enjoyable not only because of the wonderful opportunity offered by the location, but also because one of the clients was a keen plantsperson; he wanted planting ideas for a garden to be enjoyed and nurtured over time (he and his wife had recently retired).  Here’s the process we worked through together…

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The property was on a steeply-sloping site with excellent views of the surrounding Hertfordshire countryside and – in the distance – the National Trust Estate at Ashridge.  The clients asked for ideas for deep borders with expansive planting, along with some less common and less hardy plants that could be over-wintered in a new greenhouse. The garden could be viewed from inside the house and these views were an important aspect of the planning. Framing and enhancing the impressive views over the Chilterns valley was another key design principle. The overall purpose of the design was to create a thriving garden that made the most of the sloping site and flowed cohesively from one area to another.

Our planting ideas included specific plants that were chosen to echo the surrounding countryside and its ephemeral nature. Light and airy deciduous shrubs and textural plants were chosen for their skeletal effect, adding volume and creating separate areas that were still closely connected, and diffused by the taller plants rather than separated. These included Stipa gigantea, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Giant Bronze’ and Miscanthus sinensis gracillimus. Plants were also selected to soften the slope effect by forming soft curves and mounds rather than anything too rigid or formal, creating clumps of herbaceous plants, shrubs and grasses including Geranium ‘Brookside’, Cistus x purpureus and Sesleria heufleriana.

Deep curving borders enabled intimate spaces to be formed throughout the garden. Carefully selected accent plants provided visual impact and added interest. These included Aloe striatula, Kniphofia caulescens and Dierama pulcherrimum ‘Blackbird’. Another level of sensory enjoyment was created by using scented plants including Rosa ‘De Rescht’, Viola odorata ‘Red Charm’ and Oenothera odorata ‘Sulphurea’. Kept from the original garden was a mature willow tree, which was pruned and crown-lifted. This added some character to the outdoor space while the new plants ‘settled in’.

Every project brings its own challenges!  In this instance, there were no significant planting restrictions owing to the light or soil conditions; the site was relatively open, with some shade on the southern boundary from neighbouring trees, and there was reasonable drainage, with shallow clay soil over chalk as is commonly found in this part of Hertfordshire.  Actually, the main challenge we faced arose from sourcing some of the lesser-known varieties of plants on the plant list, such as Gentiana sino-ornata and Lampranthus spectabilis.  Our plant suppliers (Joseph Rochford Gardens Ltd and Orchard Dene Nurseries) could not have been more helpful.

Our clients were delighted with the completed project. The garden is full of interest in different seasons and is a lovely place for them to spend time in (mainly – as keen gardeners – with gardening fork in hand!). For more examples of planting ideas that we have implemented in Hertfordshire and throughout South-East England, please visit our design projects page.

This blog is based on an article which originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Pro Landscaper.

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