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16 October 2014
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Autumn 2001

Planting The Garden
By Brendan Little

Before we discuss the subject of plants and planting it is important to stress that impulse buying and random siting must be avoided at all costs. As a general rule of thumb, the larger a plant is the longer it tends to live. Therefore, when it comes to choosing the bigger trees and shrubs for our gardens, it is important to be aware of the ultimate size of the plant. In the garden center, a tree, which may grow to 20 meters in height, can look the same as one that will only grow to three.

It is advisable to carry out the planting of any garden in stages indeed finances may dictate this. The first planting should include the major trees, shrubs and hedging. The sooner these plants settle in and start to grow the sooner the composition begins to take shape. The larger woody plants will form the backbone of the garden. Within this framework, you can add infill plants such as bulbs, perennials and annuals.

SBerberis darwiniipring is one of natures miracles, a season which should unfold rather than explode in the garden. For me Amelanchier lamarcki, with its tiny white flowers is a must have small tree for the spring garden. Shrubs, which deserve consideration, are the viburnums,
Viburnum opulus and Viburnum x juddii which carries pale pink scented blooms.
Be cautious when choosing the bright oranges, reds and yellows.
Red azaleas, forsythia and Berberis darwinii can be difficult subjects to blend into a spring garden.

Verbascum  Helen JohnstonThe problem with summer is what to leave out, I like to use the term ‘controlled abundance’ This is the season when perennials take center stage and the range is enormous so here are my favorites, Morina longifolia an elegant plant which carries whorls of pink blooms, Verbascum ‘Helen Johnson’, Peony ‘Sara Bernhardt’ and Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’. For the first-time gardener the choice may be overwhelming and looks far more complicated than it actually is. Remember stick to your chosen colour scheme and make notes of what does not work as adjustments can be made during winter.

Malus 'Golden Hornet'I love the curtain call of autumn, the slowing down before the sleep. The ornamental crab apples come into their own at this time of year, Malus ‘Golden Hornet’, with its swarm of warm yellow apples, is a source of food and decorative in its own right. The apples make a marvelous jelly. The ornamental rowans are also laden down with berries; the pure white Sorbus cashmeriana is my favourite. This time of year also sees the fruiting shrubs shine, Rosa rugosa with its succulent hips, pyracanthas, hollies, berberis and cotoneasters are now heavy with berries until the birds make off with them.

Winter is the season that provides the sternest test of good garden design. When I design a garden I generally begin with the plants for winter interest and think of Viburnum bodnantensethe other seasons later. Winter is the time to enjoy your evergreens, not just the neatly clipped hedges but also the winter flowering shrubs such as Viburnum tinus, Viburnum bodnantense, Lonicera standishii and the mahonias. Another winter delight is Garrya elliptica with its long catkins. And no garden is complete without a cluster of snowdrops; they are the great harbingers of spring, which means the cycle starts anew!


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