Since visiting the fabulous ' Secret Garden of Louth' earlier this month we have been inspired to go outside and garden more, plan more, sow more and grow more. It is, as its name would suggest, a hidden garden in the centre of a Lincolnshire market town, presenting a frontage which gives no clue to the riches which lie within. It is a sub tropical garden, bursting with colour and lush foliage with not a straight line in sight. I took no photos on my visit which are worthy of sharing, ( the photos on this post are of our own sub tropical garden), but you can find them on Facebook if you just search 'Secret garden of Louth'. They open for the N.G.S. several times a year in late summer.
It is always a pleasure to see how other gardeners tackle this very specific way of gardening, which can break the conventions of traditional gardening . The main period of colour tends to be in late summer and usually comprises of hot, rich colours like oranges, yellows, russets and reds. Foliage tends to be lush and large, using as many hardy plants as possible for the backbone of the garden, with infill of tender stuff and annuals. Whereas cottage garden borders are graded in size, with the smallest plants at the front, leading to the largest at the back, sub tropical or exotic planting often sites large plants at the front to heighten the 'jungle' feel. In my opinion the best sub tropical gardens have a feeling of enclosure, with large plants so close to paths that you have to brush by them.
There is an area of our garden, affectionately known as the 'Bus shelter bit' for obvious reasons! It has had several reincarnations over the years, but I have never got it quite right, and it has not had a real identity. I have tried it as a grasses garden, and a foliage garden and it is currently full of mixed planting. After visiting the 'Secret garden of Louth', and discussing it later, over several glasses of wine, we hit upon the idea of extending our adjacent sub tropical garden into our 'Bus shelter bit'. It would lend itself very well, as it has a lot of appropriate planting already - bamboo, cotinus, Fatsia Japonica, Miscanthus, Hemerocallis, heuchera, hostas, Persicaria, Phlox, ferns and hardy fuchsia . The backbone is halfway there, and there are some mature plants already giving height. It is an enclosed space, as it is flanked by two tall boundary hedges, (laurel and conifer,) and divided from the rest of the garden by a climber-covered trellis, and a lonicera hedge and arch.
There are some plants which will need to be moved - most worryingly two beautiful English roses "Wisley' and 'St Swithuns', as I don't think they would fit in with the new planting. I have taken lots of cuttings from them over the years, so even if they do not survive, they are cloned elsewhere in the garden. There are also some low growing perennials, such as Phlomis, which will have to be be moved.
The cruellest cut of all will be to the four Picea, growing in the central island bed. They have to go as they are far too formal, but I will miss them as they have been there for years and years.
This bit of planting will be staying - Brunnera 'jack Frost', Bergenia and hosta give low, ground cover planting in front of the 'bus shelter' seat.
There is only one tree, a Prunus Serrula, which will, of course, be staying, although it will have its canopy raised a little to allow more light in.
After all the unwanted plants have been moved to other areas of the garden, then the fun can begin... and most of it will be free ! I have masses of plants to transplant into this new sub-tropical area, such as a huge Miscanthus (which will divide into 4), a huge clump of bamboo (which will also divide into 4 or even 6), giant lillies, hostas and ferns.
|An existing corner of the 'Bus shelter bit'|
|The huge leaf in the centre of the photo is a Tetrapanax|
The photo above shows the Ricinus grown from seed this year. Next year I plan to grow a wider variety of Ricinus, including the massive Zanzibarensis, in another seed collection from 'Jungle Seeds'.
An excellent blog I follow is Mark & Gaz's 'Alternative Eden' ( www.alternativeeden.com )', as they also have lots of wisdom to impart.