I am hoping that this will be my first blog post of many! This one (and the next) are dedicated to planting - and more specifically native planting and its place in future trends in garden design.
The world over innovative designers have used their native plants in their designs to produce stunning works - Roberto Burle-Marx in Brazil, Ted Smyth in New Zealand or Steve Martino in Arizona for example. Britain has however been a little different. The British are proud of their long history of gardening with plants from around the world (from Humphrey Repton, William Robinson, Gertrude Jekyll, Vita Sackville-West, Geoffrey Jellicoe and on to our modern designers) - and this means that an international plant palette has become common place in our gardens - they have naturalised in our consciousness.
There are however many fine native plants in the UK which can add to any garden and which hit the mark with regards to putting the right plant in the right place - this ensures that chances of success are maximised, and maintenance requirements are minimised. It also offers a sustainability that fits with many modern design concepts, especially if the plants are locally sourced.
Also, low maintenance has become a by-word - although one that is not always clearly understood by those who use it. Most people want a stunning garden but many also want no maintenance - something that is not prove possible to achieve (weeds will colonise in places even if you concrete over all of your soil)! But perhaps native plants can offer a way forwards.
That is not to say that non-native plants should not be used, this is not a native hegemony, merely that they need to be carefully selected where minimal care is required! (This may well form the basis of a future blog post.)
So what planting combinations are possible with native plants?
For me simplicity is the key.
The classic naturalistic spring planting is where single-species of bulbs grow through the grass of meadows or in areas of longer grass in lawns. Choice of plants is key and I would recommend any of the following, planted in large bold drifts with individual plants positioned by throwing the bulbs into place to ensure the finish look is suitable random.
In the past I have also drawn inspiration from the hedgerows around me - watching the progression of white flowers bloom and fade as the year progressed along just a small country lane near to my home. These plants were however something different to the skillful artifice of the White Garden at Sissinghurst:
All flowered and then faded but the rhythms and the repetition of nature were held together with that one colour. A selection of these plants can be used in a planting design - although Hogweed should be avoided as its sap can cause severe blisters.
In my next post I will detail more combinations of native plants and how these can be used - from forest gardens to naturalising perennials in grass....
matt haddon - garden designer based in East Yorkshire
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