One of the great things about planning and developing a new flower garden is that it is a wonderful excuse to go out and seek inspiration from other people’s gardens (not that we really need much of an excuse to visit the beautiful gardens across England!).
During last week (w/b 7 October 2017) we visited four varied Herefordshire gardens to find out how they had maintained the colour in their borders into October. We want to be able to extend the flowering season well into autumn if possible. We had not visited any of the gardens before and everyone offered something to think about.
Firstly a little about the gardens and then we will say something about the planting combinations we discovered:
Hampton Court Castle (www.hamptoncourt.org.uk)
Located at Hope Under Dinmore just south of Leominster, Hampton Court has been standing by the River Lugg for 600 years. This wonderful ‘formal’ garden is divided into a number of garden rooms with island pavilions, pleached avenues, grottoes, a yew maze and more. We thoroughly enjoyed this garden and will try and visit again at other times of year.
Croft Castle (nationaltrust.org.uk/croftcastle)
A National Trust garden situated near Yarpole and the home of some wonderful ancient oak and spanish chestnut trees. If you like walking and have a dog the estate is dog friendly and there are a range of well marked walks throughout the parkland. The castle has a walled garden and working vineyard.
Hergest Croft Gardens (www.hergest.co.uk)
A plantman’s garden with a wide range of interesting and unusual trees and plants. Located in the grounds of a building of the arts and crafts period the garden draws on specimens brought back by the plant hunters of the period. The garden boasts over 90 champion trees.
Berrington Hall (nationaltrust.org.uk/berringtonhall)
An absolutely stunning Georgian Manor and parkland near Leominster. The manor sits within the last landscape commission of ‘Capability’ Brown as well as having excellent walled gardens, kitchen garden and orchards.
October colour in these enchanting gardens
The first observation is that it is clearly possible to maintain the colour in your herbaceous borders right into October as long as you are clear of frost.
At Berrington Hall we saw beds of complementary colours brimming with colourful cosmos in a range of varieties and shades, complemented with pink malope (Malope trifida). These beds also made use of Nicotiana sylvestris creating a wonderful structural candelabra effect (and I suspect that in the evening these beds would also be bathed in scent). Contrasting some of the darker, purple cosmos was the lovely perennial sunflower which we assume was the variety ‘Lemon Queen’
Berrington Hall also made wonderful use of grasses within the borders which really come into their own as this time of year. The tall Miscanthus with its slightly pinkish seeds heads sits well with the candelabra of the Nicotiana sylvestris, Malope trifida and cleome. The Rudbeckia ‘Cherry Brandy’ brings in a subtle red/brown which works well with the rest of the border.
But of course contrasting colours can give a totally different effect and bring a zing to a border. At Croft Castle the perennial sunflower ‘Lemon Queen’ sits alongside the tall floating stems of Verbena bonariensis. In the evening light this Verbena almost has a fluorescence as the light fades.
And lets us not forget the strong shades of autumn colour that can really bring a garden to life. Here at Croft Castle the Vitis coignetiae was in its full glory in the walled garden.
At Hergest Croft Garden we saw a more traditional autumn border of michaelmas daisies, sedum and saxifrage in pink, mauve and white. Very much loved by butterflies at this time of year these combinations are not to be under estimated.
In contrast, Hergest Croft also showed that the more tender perennials such as Salvia confertiflora and Salvia involucrata ‘Bethellii’ can still provide striking border plants at this time of year if frosty nights have not yet arrived. Mixed with dahlias and other salvias and edged with Liriope muscari these borders are still brimming with colour into October.
Dahlias also featured in the beds at Hampton Court Castle gardens along with white cosmos to give a light airy feel and more cottage style to the borders. A very striking addition was the strong architectural shape of the deep burgundy amaranthus, grasses and white cleome in these borders – stunningly effective planting.
In addition to this stunning planting of complementary shades, many of the borders a Hampton Court Castle also used contrasting colours to great effect. Combinations of strong blue with a very dense double ‘feverfew’ and also the yellow perennial Rudbeckia fulgida with tall stands of blue Monkshood (Aconitum) made wonderful combinations for an October border.
Plenty to think about…
Well there is certainly no doubt that, with planning, your herbaceous borders can look full of colour right into October. We will certainly be adding some of these combinations to our future planting plans for the new garden and I hope it has also inspired you to see that the garden has much to offer at this time of year and is not simply shutting down for the winter.