Tag Archives: grasses

I Can Sing A Rainbow

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I think now, at this time of year, is a good time to show you some of my grass collection, and some of the ways I use them in the garden. These photos are not current – they were taken earlier in the year, when I was tending to my pots, and this idea came to me then.

Scent is not my only love in the garden. I love the graceful movement that grasses give to a garden, with their wonderful light and airy texture, and their tactile qualities. So I have lots, and use them in many different ways.

I came up with the idea for my Rainbow pots, while admiring all the colour variations, you can get with grasses. Knowing there were many brightly coloured glazed pots available on the market, I thought, “Why not have a collection of cojloured grasses with complementary pots? They should look good lining the path against the wall, in the hot coloured Grass garden.” So here they are all in a row!

They don’t all actually sit in a row on our bench! They’re arranged in two groups either side.

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This group are the hotter coloured pots….

GREEN – Miscanthus sinensis “Gold Bar”
YELLOW – Carex oshimensis “Evergold”
TERRACOTTA – Anemanthele lessoniana
RED – Imperata cylindrica rubra
BROWN – Uncinia rubra

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….and the cooler pots.

PALE BLUE – Carex comans “Frosted Curls”
MID BLUE – Panicum virgatum “Heavy Metal”
DARK BLUE – Festuca glauca
BLACK – Ophiopogon planiscapus “Nigrescens” – which isn’t, in actual fact a grass, although it is frequently referred to as the black grass. It is a member of the lily family, also known as Lilyturf. But it has the same effect.

And so a collection of colourful grasses!

Having shown you Anemanthele in one of my pots, see what a difference some shade makes!

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The Anemanthele on the left is so much more lush and green, growing in a pot in another, shadier part of the garden.

Another experiment I tried, which I think has worked extremely well for me, is using Hakonechloa macra to line a gravel path.

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Here, it lines the gravel path adjacent to the garden wall, interspersed with boulders. Although it is a shade lover, it’s doing really well in this sunny position. I love the effect it creates here, en masse!

And to round up on a fun note –
– what better way to plant up an old, chimney pot?….

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….or to skirt the base of an old, rusty water pump?….

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….than our old faithful, Carex buchananii!

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The Summer Garden’s Second Phase

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The Cottage border has now done its thing, and is looking a bit flat and tired out. Even the brave attempts by the Leucanthemum daisies, are now looking a bit half hearted. But all is not over yet.

Travel through the archway, and you’ll find our Grass garden, a border of grasses and hot coloured prairie style planting, that happens to flower later in the summer, providing a well received injection of colour. You’ve had glimpses of it in the past, but now is the time to show you in detail.

Hot Grass border

Hot Grass border

This was the border, as we saw it from the archway, way back in June, when it was just filling out. It’s looking nice and “tidy” (a word I hate when applied to the garden!) at this time, and you can make out the basic layout.

It’s a border about 30ft long by 6ft wide, bounded by two paths – the long central grass path, and a concrete/slab path, that originally ran the length of the garden by the garden wall. The slabs had been removed from the top half of the garden, right at the start, to create our cottage border, but the solid concrete path remained, and has now been incorporated into the gardens designs, as an alternative route round the garden. A gravel path links the concrete path to the Cottage Garden beyond the trellis fence, and has been continued to cut through the Grass border. As the border is so long, with paths either side, I thought it would be nice to link the two paths, creating a path through the planting, to “get up close and personal” with the plants, in particular the oh so tactile grasses. In actual fact, at this time of the summer, it is probably a bit too “close and personal”! More like cutting through the undergrowth – not an easy route!

You can also make out our homemade bench. Two metal gabions, filled with empty wine bottles, and a scaffolding plank across the top. We had fun making that! It’s a lovely, hot sunny spot to sit in, in good weather (with a glass of wine, of course!) Several rusty artefacts have also found their way there, their colouring blending in well with the colour scheme here.

The border is, in actual fact, a combination of three colour-themed borders, merged together.

Firstly, the Chocolate-orange border is the one furthest away in the photo.

Chocolate-orange Border

Chocolate-orange Border

The border is backed by the shrub, Cotinus “Grace”, with its gorgeous, chocolatey leaves. It needs to be hard pruned every spring to maintain its size, as it can grow quite large, but this way it produces improved leaves. Akebia quinata, the chocolate vine, clambers over the archway. The orange flowers here are Helenium “Moorheim Beauty”, and the remnants of flowers and seed heads of Crocosmia “Lucifer”. The spires you see, are the dead flower spikes of Digitalis parvifola. Geums and Kniphofia continue providing more orange elements. The grasses here are Stipa gigantea, the bronze Carex buchananii and Miscanthus “Ferner Osten”, with its wonderful chocolate/wine plumes.

Miscanthus "Ferner Osten" with Cotinus "Grace"

Miscanthus “Ferner Osten” with Cotinus “Grace”

The central section is the Wine border.

Wine Border

Wine Border

Here, the colour scheme is of deep winey reds, with Persicaria amplexicaulis “Firetail”, Sedum, Knautia macedonia, Sanguisorba menziesii and the annual self-seeder, Atriplex hortensis rubra all set off with the silver Artemisia ludoviciana, and pink Echinacea purpurea. The grasses here are the upright Calamagrostis “Overdam”, the ethereal Molinia “Transparent” and the silvery fountain that is Miscanthus “Morning Light”.

The Grass Border finishes (or starts, depending on how you look at it!) with the Gold border, in shades of golden yellow contrasting with blues and purples.

Gold Border

Gold Border

The gold is provided mainly by the flowers of Fennel and of an unknown perennial Helianthus. At the back of the border, the steely blue orbs of globe thistle, Echinops ritro, tower over 6 ft tall. Thalictrum delavayi, with its lilac froth of flowers blends well with the fennel, creating a very hazy scene, punctuated by spots of purple provided by Phlox “Nicky”. Aster x frikartii “Monch”, is yet to add its lilac flowers to the froth. Elsewhere, there are the blue spires of Perovskia, Veronica, and, earlier, Salvia, with added gold shades from an orange Hemerocallis. Another Calamagrostis, the green “Karl Foerster”, repeats the punctuation provided by the previous silver edged “Overdam” and, sadly, a Melica Atropurpurea, with its beautiful purple plumes, struggles to break through.

You may also have noticed popping up, the purple flower heads of Verbena bonariensis, allowed to self seed throughout the whole border, its repetition linking the three borders together.

And when this border has finished its flowering, it’s still not over. Flowers have been chosen, that have interesting seed heads and shapes, to remain with the dead grasses, giving texture and interest into autumn, and hopefully winter, when frost creates yet another beautiful picture.

There you have it! A riot of colour! Hope you like it!

The Cuttings Calender – June

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If I allowed myself, I would have had a joint winner this month. I was so certain it was to be the vase of roses I showed you earlier in the month, in a moment of self satisfaction, but the next vase I did, had me struggling to choose between the two. And to remind you….

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….here is the first one!

The centrepiece of the winning vase is a bloom of my Rosa gallica, which is a lovely magenta pink. It is exactly the same shade of pink as the Silene I bought earlier at Malvern Show, growing alongside it in the garden, and I was keen to see how it fared as a cut flower. (Wellywoman? Just to let you know, it works well!). I thought it would look good contrasting with silver foliage, so in went some Artemisia ludoviciana. Sadly, they drooped immediately! I repeated the colour with some sprigs of everlasting sweet pea, added a darker shade with some Knautia and Sanguisorba, and then added a few flower spikes of Melica altissima “Atropurpurea” – a wonderful wine colour – for added textural interest. Voila!

I finally made the decision, by considering how well they lasted. One week on and….

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…. the majority of the planting is still going strong. The silver foliage quickly perked up once in water. The central rose, Rosa gallica has gone over, but been replaced with the adjacent bud, opening up a paler pink. The perennial sweet pea has faded to a pale, lilac-white. It really lasted well – it evolved!

Other contenders …..

Geranium "Confetti"

Geranium “Confetti”

A single sprig of each of my geraniums in my milk bottle crate, made for a delicate display, and despite them dropping petals almost immediately (hence “confetti”) it lasted quite well. Pretty!

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I had cut another spray of Rose “Albertine”, while deadheading, so it couldn’t go to waste – in went some Alchemilla mollis.

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This was a poor “A+E” contender. I found a broken stem of Iris “Cable Car” in the border – upsetting as it was a new plant and its only flower spike. Still, it wasn’t wasted. It made a stunning display in its matching glass bottle!

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And finally, I had to bring the scent of Mock Orange indoors, with a cutting from my Philadelphus “Sybille”.

Well, I’ve managed 6 months now – halfway to my goal. I think I’ll be keeping it up. I, too, am making plans now for a cutting patch! All recommendations gratefully received!

My cunning plan – An apology!

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It has just come to me, that I didn’t post the Picture Plant List that I created for the plan. (This was intended to give the Commitee some idea of the plants I was considering). After all, this is, most likely, the bit that interests us all. So I must put that right!

The suggested plants don’t all appear in the final plant list, partly due to availability, and partly, how the planting plan developed. Most notably, I couldn’t fit the Perovskia into the planting plan. And this is just a sample – a taster, if you like! Many more plants were added to the final list.

Hope you enjoy!

My cunning plan – The story so far!

Mood Board

Mood Board

I have been busy working on a voluntary project, to design a garden for a local Health Centre. From these “Before” pictures, you can see what I have had to contend with! “Tombstone City” is how the Chairman of the Patient Commitee introduced it!

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If you read my first post on the project, you will know the ideas I was playing with – A “Healing Garden”, with medicinal herbs and plants, A “Memory Garden” with roses and plants donated in memory of loved ones, and a “Serene Garden”, designed as a calm, relaxing space. I opted for the latter.

As you can imagine, drawing up the initial base plan was somewhat on the tricky side – an intricate design to say the least! Lack of funds meant the layout had to stay. My brief was to design the planting for the area. Yes, you are right! Not only is it an uninspiring area of bark-covered membrane, it is also littered with dead tree stumps and drainage covers! I was worried I had volunteered too quickly! You can imagine my relief when I was told they were to employ a gardener to clear the area. As if the clean-up op wasn’t daunting enough, there is no direct outdoor access. It all would have to be removed through the building. (The garden is situated in an internal quadrangle.)

On to my task! I planned to solve the drain cover problem, by incorporating them into a path of stepping stones through Prairie-style planting, to disguise them to some extent. All the boulders would be recycled and employed in the new scheme.

I would use lots of grasses, for their calming movement and sound. Scent would also be an important feature. The colour scheme I chose was to be white, for its cool, calming effect, and yellow, as it is cheerful and uplifting. The second photo shows a perfect spot for a seating area – sheltered, backed by a brick wall, and in full sun. This would be the white, scented garden, with roses and lavender, backed by the beautiful, white climber Trachelospermum. Oh, and, of course, a bench! The main bed in first photo was to have the prairie planting of grasses and mainly yellow flowers, with hints of blue/purple for contrast and depth. The smaller beds would have mass planting of grasses. All chosen to grow easily, with the minimum of maintenance.

With my ideas formed, it was time to put pencil to paper.

First, was to create a Mood Board, to try to convey to the Commitee, the essence of the garden, which is what you see at the top of this post. I did with it a written outline of what I planned, along with a picture Plant List, to give some idea of the planting I was considering.

So then came the main Outline plan.

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Once happy with that, I moved on to the Planting plan, complete with plant list, plant availability, costings, (which incidentally, was on target!) and, to round it off, a care plan. I added into this the possible next step, of adding bulbs to the scheme in autumn, suggesting that these could be donated by staff/ patients, with the aim of encouraging their participation in the garden.

This has all now been submitted. The next Commitee meeting is at the start of May, so now it’s the waiting game!

I have a cunning plan!

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Or at least I hope I will!

I have been asked to create a design for a Health Centre garden – an unpaid venture, but I’m excited nonetheless, as it’s my first, apart from family and friends.

The chairman of the Patient Group for the surgery met me yesterday, to introduce me to the garden. Her way of describing it in advance, was “Tombstone City” and when we arrived, I could see why! It was an internal, open quadrangle, with the strangest arrangement of geometric shaped beds – all wooden edged, with woodchip covered membrane studded with boulders. Hers was a good description! It came complete with drain covers and old tree stumps, and only one poor plant, which I identified as a hydrangea, was struggling to survive.

It would have been a nightmare, trying to measure the beds accurately. Fortunately, the paved pathways – basic and past their past – were a regular 2×2 ft so provided a simpler method of measuring up.

I had an easy ride in a way. As there was little in the way of funding available, due to the money having to be raised, the basic structure had to stay. My task was to provide a planting plan. I had arrived armed with several ideas.

My first idea was “An Apothecary’s Garden – the healing power of plants” showing the wonderful array of plants that can have medicinal properties. It was to be centred around several “Apothecaries Roses” – the very old rose, Rosa gallica officinalis with beautiful, crimson pink, highly scented flowers, followed by rosehips, if not deadheaded. It was to include many flowers with medicinal properties – Digitalis, Vinca, Echinacea to name a few, – along with some of our more familiar garden herbs. I even envisaged designing an information leaflet to go with it, naming the plants, and describing their medicinal properties, to be available if anyone wanted more info.

Another, was a “Memory garden”, possibly a rose garden, with plants donated in memory of a loved one. Maybe though, too down beat, so I dismissed that one. I was looking for something more uplifting, more positive and hopeful.

My third idea, and the one I favoured, was a “Serene Garden” – a space full of tranquility and calm. I wanted to use lots of grasses for their properties of soothing sound, mixed with lots of “prairie-style” plants, in soothing, but uplifting and cheerful colours of white and yellow, with possibly a hint of blue to give depth to the planting. My colleague fortunately liked the idea of that as well. A garden to soothe both the sick and worried patients as well as the overworked and stressed staff!

The aspect of the garden revealed a lovely sun-trap, in a sheltered position. I asked if the budget could stretch to a bench, which I thought would be ideal there and was pleased to hear that would be possible. I want that area to be filled with lots of scented plants, including climbers (Jasmine? Trachelospermum possibly?) against the brick wall.

I finished off my measuring up, and was then shown around the surgery and introduced to the Practice Manager, who seemed very nice and approachable (good for the many visits I may have to make!) and who seemed pleased and excited by what we were planning to do.

So home I went, with all the cogs whirring away in my head. I’m surprised you didn’t smell the smoke! And now to (rather nervously!) put pencil to paper.

I will keep you all up to date with my progress and, hopefully, before and after piccies. Wish me luck!