I haven’t abandoned my normal restrained colour scheme of whites (viburnums, roses, hydrangeas, peonies); greens (euphorbias, Alchemilla mollis) and purple/blues (phlox, iris sibirica, alliums, clematis) but last year I wanted to add colour to the beds further away from the courtyard garden, especially the new bed facing south across the landscape to the Thames and opposite the wildflower meadow.
My scheme for the 20m border is set against the backdrop of a newly-planted yew hedge (struggling a little in this dry Spring) and is anchored by some robust planting: bronze fennel; artichoke ‘Violet de Provence’, which is already showing a plentiful harvest, and three 2.5m Cotswold obelisks planted with varieties of cultivated blackberry.
Last June I attended a botanical painting class led by Mary-Ellen Taylor and, during a break, I stepped outside into the wonderful gardens at Heckfield Place where my eye was caught by Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ – just the thing to add the colour I wanted to my planting.
In the autumn I put young plants into the long border and the bed below the apple espalier. I have been delighted by how they have flourished; bulking up into good-sized clumps that came into flower in early March and are now in full glory. I shall keep cutting them for the house and deadheading and hope they will flower well into the Autumn.
For early colour against the dark greens of the yew, I added Narcissus ‘Surfside’; Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ and the purple form of Hesperus matronalis - its flowers are lovely and it cuts well but it has proved rather a thug so I shall cut it back soon to make way for the other plants that will come later in the year.
The long border is a bed in an area favoured by browsing deer so I have tried to bear that in mind as I added rosemary bushes; patio Buddleja ‘Blue Heaven’; Campanula ‘Sarastro’ and Nepeta faassenii with Salvia ‘Nachtvlinder’ weaving through with its delicate, dark flowers. This Autumn I shall add Allium ‘Purple Rain’ for its wonderful pops of colour in May.
And then the oranges? Five clumps of the geum are already flowering along the length of the border so, for my highlights, I have put in 2 varieties of Dahlia, ‘Totally Tangerine’ and ‘David Howard’, and Alstroemeria ‘Orange Glory’ which will provide clumps of vivid orange – both the dahlias and the alstroemarias are wonderful cutting flowers.
The bed will look out onto a wildflower meadow dominated from June onwards by black knapweed (Centurea nigra) and I hope the strong colours I have chosen will give it presence.
I shall post photos throughout the summer so that you can follow the progress of my new borders and hope that I have inspired you to add impact to your planting.