Getting The Gardening Bug

I love it when we bump into our clients and they tell us how much they love their garden. They often express surprise about how often they sit out there; how they never used the garden before and now they sit out there all the time. The other rewarding part is when a client who had no idea about plants suddenly gets ‘the bug’ and starts to become interested in all the things we put in their garden for them. Of course we plant low maintenance gardens if required, but there’s no such thing as a ‘no maintenance’ garden and anyone who has plants takes on the responsibility for these living things. We provide a list of the plants we use with a maintenance plan to help the terrified and often pop back just to get things started and explain pruning and dead heading.

I have many favourite plants but the one thing I couldn’t lose from my own garden would be the clipped box pyramids and spheres. We plant them in most of our new gardens too. They’re my punctuation marks in the border – the exclamation marks and the full stops at the end of the planting. Somehow they anchor all the other plants and their solidity brings structure when other plants flop around blowsily in flower. If you’re not a fan of clipped box then other plants look just as good.

Yew columns have been used for years and take no end of hard cutting back, and other trees and shrubs like pittosporum, hornbeams, hebes and skimmia will bring the same element of order. The garden definitely starts to lose its shape in the late summer. Plants are more organized in the spring and things flower more stiffly. As summer moves on the plants are flowering at the end of their stems and men start to complain that the geraniums and alchemilla are flopping across the lawn causing havoc with their mowing. (We don’t mention, of course, how they flop across the sofa but that’s another story.) Structured plants in pots will also bring an arrangement of planters together.

I have a number of smaller clipped box balls and pyramids in containers around the garden. These do need more attention to watering than those in the ground, but they’re still good tempered and easy plants to maintain.

Box looks wonderful with roses and in herbaceous borders but I’ve also planted five pyramids in my lawn, spaced out precisely. You can imagine how that went down with the man who uses the lawn mower, but they look wonderful. In the winter, when they were covered in snow, it was like having five snow men on the grass. I have round clipped box balls all around the garden too, in the borders and in large pots, and it looks as though a group of chubby friends are standing around out there.

Box also makes a great edging hedge. We’ve just finished a very formal garden for one of those seaside villas in Hove and the terrace is surrounded with square beds, all with low clipped box hedges. It will be planted up with white herbaceous and evergreens, but we’ll put in hundreds of white tulips for the spring and they’ll have their own mini stately home borders. I use an electric hand clipper for all my box shapes and spent last weekend clipping them. I can look out of the window now and see them all standing neatly around the garden. In fact I think one of them just waved. Such friendly plants.

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