By Nicola Kawana
My own backyard has been undergoing a gradual transformation. I won’t even mention the plants that I’ve put on the berm or squashed into the garden bag. For awhile they are perfectly good and popular plants, but they no longer fit in with my more romantic theme, my vision of next summer, my own English inspired garden, right here in the antipodes.
The English garden is a combination of two distinct styles of British landscaping. There is the centuries old Cottage garden which hails from a working class background. These gardens would be a mixture of edibles and ornamentals, bees and often livestock, created and maintained by the owner.
At the other end of the spectrum was the grand estate gardens or more so landscapes. These high end gardens would include avenues of trees, clipped hedges, topiary and expansive lawn. Estate landscapes were the creation of designers and maintained by staff. The more hedges one had to clip the more staff one would require. The sprawling estate gardens were a symbol of wealth and status.
In order to create your own little bit of Britain, think romantic sweeps of flowers with strong borders, old fashioned roses climbing over a garden shed or fence. Violets peeking out from a shady corner. Topiary in pots. Surprising combinations of foliage. A kitchen garden is a must, if only for herbs and citrus and of course rhubarb. A water feature, an espaliered tree and clipped ball of green will pay homage to the grander gardens of old. And of course a place to sit and ponder and simply enjoy the delightfulness of such diversity. And diversity really is key when it comes to creating your own garden in this style.
When choosing flowers think of all year round interest, there will be a bloom for every season. While perennials dominate, there will be spaces during the cooler months to tuck some annuals into. When planting be mindful of layering, with low growing varieties at the front graduating to the taller guys at the back, pretty much like an old school class photo, we want everyone to be seen. Another feature is to plant in drifts, so in groups of 3 or 5 or even 7 if your garden permits. Odd numbers tend to be the rule of thumb when planting in groups, I suppose it helps achieve that natural by design look.
As for the structured bits, a clipped buxus or Korokia hedge will serve as a good looking border and I reckon planting a few random clipped balls in amongst the flowery bits makes for some great contrast. There are a variety of pittosporums which are perfectly suited to this.
A good rambling rose or two is a must and with so many varieties to choose from you’re bound to find the perfect one for you. Take advantage of the quirks in your garden, whether it’s a mass of wild violets growing through the cracks in the concrete or pretty sea green moss growing in the damp bits, it’s this invitation of nature in all her beauty which I think is really at the heart of a classic English garden.