Hazy lavender, silvery foliage, aromatic herbs – these are the first plants to spring to mind when I think about a Mediterranean garden. But it’s not just the right selection of plants that will conjure up that holiday feeling. It’s the whole caboodle – the laid-back, make the most of the outdoor space, relaxed ambience of a week in Provence – I want to recreate!
For gardeners dealing with the real thing, Mediterranean climates can be problematic – trying to keep a collection of plants alive when every drop of water is precious. Fortunately, many typical Mediterranean plants are drought-tolerant and are often able to cope with nutrient-poor soil. With our increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, growing more drought-tolerant plants in...
Sometimes we don’t know what we want until we see it in someone else’s garden!
In all these internet searches every month, what gardeners are looking for is a little inspiration. Pinterest is great for sharing ideas. Try scrolling through some images to see which ones you instinctively fall in love with and start collecting your favourite pictures on your own board.
For thousands of gardening ideas, click here to follow the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner on Pinterest.
Even with a glorious mood board of beautiful images to inspire, though, it’s not always easy to transfer these ideas to our own garden borders. Here are some ideas for creating the garden of your dreams.
Our main garden is an elongated, right-angled triangle, bordered by a wild hedge edging a country lane. When we first moved in, the entire garden was laid to lawn and could be viewed in all its triangular, tapering glory! Pythagoras might have been delighted with the opportunity to experiment with the properties of our triangle. We were more perplexed by the dilemma of how to make a triangle look more like a rectangle!
In our vast expanse of grassness, we were also keen to add interest by creating pathways and hidden areas, as well as planting up flower borders to soften the boundaries.
Winter is not all bare branches and empty garden borders! Camera in hand, I set myself the challenge of tracking down plants which brighten up the dead days of winter.
Even when frosted with ice or with a sprinkling of snow, holly can be relied on to provide deep greens and rich red berries. Ivy and mistletoe complete the trio of festive evergreens.
In the medieval, walled town of Pérouges, in eastern France, I spotted a collection of window boxes which combined Christmas baubles and pine cones with winter pansies and cyclamen. When it’s time to take down the Christmas decorations, the pansies and cyclamen continue to brighten up the window sills.
Decorating the house walls above them, traditional bunches...
There are some things the French seem to do effortlessly. Crème de cassis and white wine. Raspberry tarts. Shabby chic. The careless and uncontrived juxtaposition of faded elegance and modern buildings.
And what is it about the French and flowers? Their streets are a blaze of carefully designed colour and a visit to a public park feels like an outing to the botanical gardens.
Grasses and sedges add movement and airiness to the designs. In a park near the railway station, fluffy lagurus ovatus contrasts with statuesque canna leaves. The pretty, delicate Gaura lindheimeri adds a light touch to many of the flowerbeds. I want to whip out my camera and analyse the plant combinations.
Traditional cottage garden favourites are daisy-style flowers, such as asters, fleabane daisies, coreopsis and echinacea.
Coreopsis verticillata ‘Grandiflora’ has cheery yellow, starry flowerheads, carried in abundance on wiry stems in summer.
Asters come in shades of white, pink, purple and blue. I love Aster pyrenaeus ‘Lutetia’, for its starry flowerheads in palest lilac, with yellow centres. It has a long flowering season from mid-summer to mid-autumn and is completely resistant to powdery mildew – a disease which plagues many asters.
If you love charm over elegance, profusion over minimalism, natural haphazardness over control and order, the chances are that you love the cottage garden style.
Planting will be exuberant, with self-seeding annuals and low-maintenance perennials packed in together and spilling over border edges. Climbers scramble over fences, garden gates and trees.
Historically, gardens for pleasure were the preserve of the wealthy. Cottage gardens were for the poorer levels of society and were purely functional. The first cottage gardens met the needs of early tenant farmers, by providing the vegetables, herbs and fruit which formed the mainstay of their diet.
Vegetables included garlic, onions, cabbages and beans. A fruit tree here and there offered shade, as well as its crops of...
Sultry, seductive, with a slight hint of chocolate – my first climbing plant was Akebia quinata. I fell in love with its photograph and set off to track one down for my very own!We had just invested in a beautiful pergola. It was delivered – a collection of posts and panels and a hefty stash of 3in nails – and assembled by a local builder. It was all looking rather good. Until the moment when we realised that we still had a rather large collection of nails and, on closer inspection, discovered that the builder had gone home before securing the rafters. And, right on cue, came the first gust of wind and rumble of thunder. The pergola’s first night...
I’ve visited lots of gardens, but The Water Garden at Emquartier – slap bang in the middle of a luxury shopping mall and five storeys above the city streets – was a new experience for me.
EmQuartier is Bangkok’s brand new shopping mall, next to Phrom Phong BTS station and just across Sukhumvit Road from the well-established (and recently renovated) Emporium mall. Alongside the modern glass and chrome architecture, there’s been a real effort to create breathing green spaces on every level.
Outdoor walkways connect the different zones and from these vantage points, as well as superb views of the city, you can spot the foliage of the Water Garden high up in the Helix Quartier and an impressive waterfall,...
You know the scenario – you’re wandering around the garden centre, a horticultural show, a friend’s garden, and there’s this gorgeous little plant you desperately need to own. So you buy it (or dig up a clump if offered or take a few seeds). Your own garden is bursting at the seams. There is no room for a single extra plant, but how many gardeners are staunch minimalists who will stoically turn their backs on that enticing little plant?
So the borders are bulging with delicious combinations of plants and you dig up more lawn for an extra bed. You plant up huge flower pots and hanging baskets. You drape fences with climbers – perhaps even cover the shed roof...