I completed my first professional gardening project a week ago. The site, a local front garden, is already hard-landscaped to a high standard, with a Cotswold stone chip parking area bordered with brick edged paving. My brief was to soften the harsher lines of the space and provide an elegant feature to either side of the front window of the house. The existing layout includes a long rectangular border from street to house, a blank canvas save for a shaggy 2.5 metre high Yew shrub near the front door.
Having carried out a thorough weed and leaf clearing exercise and applied and dug in topsoil and well rotted manure to the border, I lopped a couple of feet off the Yew and clipped it to as boxy a shape as possible. This instantly created a focal point at the house end of the border.
I’ve always admired the airy lightness of Nandina domestica, Sacred Bamboo, which isn’t a true bamboo and has none of that genus’s invasive tendencies. It is a member of the Berberis family. The smallish leaflets have a pronounced tip and possess the photogenic ability to suspend water droplets in a similar fashion to Alchemilla mollis, Lady’s Mantle.
There is an extensive stand of these evergreen shrubs in Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s Bamboo Garden, surrounding the Japanese silk weaver’s dwelling, the Minka House. These have reached a height of about 1.5 metres and demonstrate the shrub’s quality of creating a screen without the density of traditional hedging species.
Sprays of white flowers in summer followed by red berries are further appealing features. Four waist height specimens filled the border satisfactorily, with space between them in this season for white ‘winter bedding’ Cyclamen planted in groups of three. I continued the white and green theme with a scattering of Muscari armeniacum ‘Venus’ bulbs along the length of the border.
I sourced a recycled plastic range, ECOPOTS, ecopots.eu, for the three containers for the remainder of the planting scheme. These are high quality, beautifully finished and surprisingly weighty and their mid-grey shade is a good foil for evergreen foliage. Rather than opt for the predictable pyramids of Bay, Laurus nobilis, to fill the tall square-tapered containers to either side of the window, I chose a handsome alternative, Prunus lusitanica ‘Angustifolia’, Portuguese Laurel, which has striking burgundy stems. It will require shaping in coming seasons.
The final space to be filled on the site was a very shady corner behind a low wall facing the street, overhang with a neighbour’s Magnolia. I needed a solution which will in due course screen the dustbin and recycling boxes and which will tolerate the lowish light levels. I found it in the heft and strong structure of a Fatsia japonica with a speckled variegated leaf, the cultivar ‘Spider’s Web’. The white veins of the leaf patterning lighten a potentially gloomy corner. Here I used a large circular container in ECOPOTS’ Amsterdam range.
I was fortunate in my first assignment in having a straightforward site, a few streets from home with clients prepared to host my first professional venture. May it be the first of many projects for Weeds Roots & Leaves.