When I have visited garden shows or gardens open to the public in 2018, I have taken photos from all angles, sometimes waiting for a cloud to cover the harsh sunlight and get a better photo. And then, I get home and do nothing with these photos other than share the odd one on social media. Why? Well, As per my last blog post, I did not feel qualified to talk about show gardens when I clearly have no technical knowledge. However, I can talk about the gardens I liked the most, and the plants and colour schemes that moved me. So, here are my favourite garden designs of 2018.
Intriguing colour combinations
The first colour that surprised me was the vibrant orange of these tulips. Given a choice, I lean towards muted colours, but I could not stop looking at these at Ascot Garden Show. The photo below shows how the designer Kate Gould put punchy colours together such as the orange of the tulip, the fuchsia of the Fritillaria and the green of the Euphorbia, which I would have originally thought would clash. However, the abundance of foliage together with the muted tones of the grasses and Heuchera made me want to keep looking and pick out tones present in a petal, a leaf, a stem.
Yellow and blue is also a combination I found incredibly effective. I saw it at Catherie Macdonald‘s show garden at Ascot (photo below) as well as Garderner’s World Live, at the Marie Curie border designed by Emma Berry. It transmitted a sense of calm, although there was a tilt towards softer yellows. This particular example shows narcissi and Brunnera macrophylla. The Marie Curie border used lupins, roses, achillea and salvias to name a few.
A combination that I found particularly pleasing to the eye was a mix of purple and fuschia Erysiums (wallflowers), pale pink daisy-like flowers, possibly Osteospermum, and peach Geums. I spotted this at on of the Beautiful Borders at Gardener’s World Live 2018. I think it might have been Natalie Forkin’s Going Back to Your Roots, but I can’t find any information to cross-reference unfortunately.
I often take photos of plants I like but cannot buy at the time, preferably with the name attached to it. That way, if I come across it again or I can grow it from seed, I will know what it will look like at its best.
I have mixed feelings about bedding plants. Pansies and violas are treated as annuals, but I feel it is bit of a waste, so if I see a viola that fits my colour scheme I tend to make a note of it. This one lives in the Eden Project, and is a horned pansy Viola ‘Belmont Blue’. Plus, pollinators like it as it is an open flower.
At the Eden Project I also came across a Jacaranda. I was gushing over a pelargonium Attar of Roses when the scent of this tree hit me as I left the planting pocket. It is a South American plant, can withstand -7 degrees, and has lovely scent and flowers. However, the Eden Project described it as quite invasive in South Africa and Australia. Another plant I would like to add to my collection is the oak leafed Pelargonium, also discovered at the Eden Project. It is used to make infusions to aid the treatment of rheumatism, hypertension and hear disease.
I have become a big fan of Salvias this year. Whenever I need compost, I have a look around my local garden centre and take stock of what they have. Last September, they were selling Salvia African Sky and Salvia Joy. I was also intrigued by their geum Cesation Two Tone Pearl, their Molinia Karl Foerster grass and geranium Dreamland. During our trip around Cornwall, I also liked the look of Viola ‘Rebecca’ and Geranium phaem.
Inspiration can be round the corner
As National Trust members, we try and visit as many properties (read: gardens) as we can throughout the year; we like going on road trips and will often plan in a property as a pit stop. We were blown away by the tree ferns at Glendurgan Garden. The mist on that day made it look all the more… jurassic-y, and we joked that dinosaur could stomp around the area and not look out of place. While we won’t have tree ferns in our garden, I came across my first Daphne shrub at our local National Trust, Basildon Park. My shrub knowledge is not great, so I didn’t know what the sweet smelling thing was but I wanted it as much as those bumblebees.
As someone who has to garden with containers and has limited space, I really liked the use of this raised bed, it is what got me thinking about adding grasses to our garden. This was designed by Pip Probert for Yardley London at the Ascot Spring Garden Show. Grasses and tall plants do not have to necessarily be at the middle or back of a border, I really enjoyed the aesthetic of the grasses and frothy stems being at the forefront, yet allowing you to spot other plants behind.
This cut flower patch was part of the Made in Birmingham show garden designed by Paul Stone. The mix of so many colours and flowers tells me it is to be used, not just looked at. There should just about be enough for us and enough for the bees.
Peter Cowell’s Inspiration in the Raw was the first garden I lay my eyes on when I arrived at Gardener’s World Live. And it took me a while to start looking at anything else! The planting style reminded me of a prairie, and the use of wood worked really well I though. There were bug hotels at different points, so it invited the wildlife in as well as all family members.
A Mermaid’s Tale, by Sandhurst Garden Design was the last garden I got to. And boy was that the right decision. A breeze had started, and could not help but smile when I saw the grasses and long flower stems swaying. It looked like they were under the sea.
And there we are. A look back at the plants, designs and ideas that grabbed my attention. When attending garden shows I look at the garden as a whole, but then I focus on the materials, or the plant combinations, or the colours. There is always something you can “save for later”, or perhaps you will be lucky enough to find the exact same plant in your local nursery. Here’s to a 2019 full of more garden inspiration.
PS. If you’re interested, I interviewed garden designer Claudia de Yong about her 2017 Gardener;s World Show Garden Romance in the Ruins.