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28 October 2014
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Gold Medal

Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'
Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'

This vigorous upright shrub is a good-value plant for a garden. It has attractive, grey-green variegated leaves in summer. In autumn its leaves turn reddish-orange before they drop. Flowers are followed by white, often blue-tinged fruit. In winter its bright-red stems bring a welcome dash of colour. Fully hardy, it prefers full sun to partial shade in moderately fertile soil. In March, cut the stems back hard to within 5-7cm from the ground and apply a generous layer of mulch around the base of the plant. This plant works particularly well with other purple or orange stemmed varieties of dogwood.

Cornus alba 'Aurea'
Cornus alba 'Aurea'
Red-barked dogwood

A Siberian and Korean shrub, this is very vigorous and eventually makes a large plant if not pruned regularly. Hard pruning helps to rejuvenate plants and replace old, dull stems with brightly coloured young growth. The species has fine, red stems in autumn and winter, but is too vigorous for many gardens. Garden varieties are more restrained, and 'Aurea' is one of the best, combining winter colour with the soft greenish-yellow of its foliage in summer. To get the benefit of both, cut down one third of stems each spring. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it the Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Stipa tenuissima
Stipa tenuissima
Feather grass

A neat, compact, perennial grass, this has lots of close-packed, stiff, thread-like stems forming a strongly horizontal shape about 60cm (2ft) tall. In summer, plants are covered with masses of elegant pale feathery seed-heads which are held a little above the foliage. These can be cut and dried when first opened for use in winter arrangements indoors. Alternatively they make a useful winter food source for finches and other seed-eating birds. Plants like a sunny well-drained spot and associate well with compact alstroemerias, rock plants and other grasses that enjoy similar growing conditions. To propagate, divide plants from mid-spring to early summer.

Aesculus hippocastanum
Aesculus hippocastanum
Horse chestnut

A superb tree with lots of advantages. It will grow in any soil, is absolutely huge, and has wonderful white flowers at the end of spring, running into early summer, when it is definitely at its best. The flowers are followed by masses of conkers inside their spiny shells. There are alternatives but this species is still the best, and it has been given the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Corylus avellana
Corylus avellana

Often grown as a large, multi-stemmed shrub rather than a tree, the common hazel has large, rounded, leathery leaves. It makes a good addition to informal shrub plantings, where is forms a useful backdrop to more showy species. Plants bear attractive, long catkins in spring which are followed in autumn by edible nuts. It responds well to coppicing and the resulting straight stems can be woven into screens and rustic plant supports. It dislikes shallow soil which quickly dries out in summer.

Take a look at the winner of the BBC RHS People's Award 2007.

Design inspiration

Adam White and Andrée Davies"Playscape sits somewhere between the traditional playground design and the play value of building snowmen or climbing in trees. Forget swings and roundabouts, this innovative design rejects preconceived notions of a playground in favour of a more natural approach to play. Remember how a fallen tree trunk could provide hours of entertainment, a sprinkling of snow endless fun? Playscape returns to these simple pleasures encouraging engagement with natural surroundings and taking acceptable levels of risk.

"The name Playscape aims to emphasize that the total environment can have play value, not just a corner of a park or garden. Think grassy mounds, innovative planting, timber decking, trees, water, bridges and boulders complemented by modern well designed play equipment and you've got Playscape: an exciting and challenging space to play with unlimited creativity and imagination."

Designers, Adam White and Andrée Davies

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