Gardens of Inspiration

Sitting here on a bleak December day I have been contemplating lots of changes to the garden next year and have found myself  looking back at gardens I have visited this year for inspiration. 

I have realised that when I visit gardens my interest is really drawn to particular plants rather than the planting overall.  I suspect this is because I am more of a plant person than a garden designer.  However,  my borders are feeling rather bitty at the moment so I have been reviewing photos to look more closely at other people’s borders to see how they have combined plants and what appeals to me.  The photo above was taken at Stockton Bury, Herefordshire in August this year.  I was particularly taken with the planting around the pond and the way it hides the edges so well and blends into the adjacent borders.  I have been trying for some time to achieve  this sort of affect around my pond. I have always thought that it was good  design to combine leaf shapes but  the picture above shows lots of plants with strap like foilage and  not much variety.  Personally I think this would look  better with some broad leaved plants.  So whilst I am impressed with the lushness and excuberance of the colours for me this  isn’t quite right and I would include some Ligularia and Hostas.

A visit to The Tynings, Stoulton in  July failed to provide me with any design inspiration but it did show me that lilies are much  better planted in the ground rather than in pots.  The owner had lots and  lots of lilies all in the borders but only one plant had suffered lily bettle damage whilst  my few lilies in pots at home had really been attacked.  My suspicion is that the lily bettles lay their young in the pots where they are protected more from pests and the cold than they would be in the border. I also think the plants look very messy when the flowers have finished but planting them in the border surrounding plants hide the dying foilage.

One of the real garden visiting highlights was Dumbleside in Nottinghamshire.  The garden was stunning and had everything you could wish for – a small meadow complete with orchids, beautiful borders but its real gem was the planting along the stream (see photo above).  I loved the combination of foilage which provided a delightful textural background to seasonal flowers – when we visited in June it was Primulas. I think what I took away from this visit was  a desire to plant more densely and to concentrate on foilage as much if not more than the flowers.

However, a visit to one  of my garden club members’ gardens, also in June, shows that texture can be achieved with the clever use of flowers (above) in this case through using dainty pastel shades and small delicate flowers.

So my review of photos taken over the last year has given me a lot of food for thought and ideas to mull over.  I also have a pile  of gardening magazines to browse through and I am already seriously considering a jungle/tropical border something I would never have considered a couple of years  ago.  I am planning lots more garden visits in 2010 and this time I think I will be looking more at the planting than focusing on particular plants  but I am sure that there will be plants that creep on to my never ending wish list.

Author: Helen Johnstone

I live in Malvern, Worcestershire and am a very keen gardener. I started the Patient Gardener Blog in January 2008 as a way of recording what was happening in my garden and connecting with other like-minded people. I started a second blog PatientGardener 365 January 2013 in order to try and post a photo a day to capture what is growing in my garden or places I have visited

17 thoughts on “Gardens of Inspiration”

  1. A dire day here too Helen – one of those that when it never seemed to get light. Sounds as if you made the most of the day. We must get to Stockton Bury next year after reading your posts about it 🙂

  2. Beautiful gardens are indeed inspiration. I’m more of a garden design person than a plant variety sort. Lovely photos of wonderful gardens that keep the winter cold at bay.

  3. I have serious gardens-to-visit envy, seeing these wonderful places to visit that you have in the UK. Here in NS, not so much. I’m with you, being more of a plant person than a design person, so my garden is rather ruthlessly eclectic. But I do plan to impose a wee bit more order on the chaos this coming year.

  4. I’m also more of a plant-person gardener, my tendency has been to have specimens rather than groups of stuff. But over time, I’ve also started to look more (and plant more) for general effect. Maybe we plant-lovers get to the point where we want to give those well-loved plants the best setting possible?

  5. I love the image of the Dumbleside. I hope you enjoy your planning, a tropical border sounds lovely! I like your thoughts about looking more at the planting and less at the individual plants on garden visits. This is something I try to do, but seem to always get distracted by a leaf or a flower. I am so not a “big picture” sort of person, which is why I struggle with my own landscape. Happy New Year, Helen!!

  6. I’ve been guilty of the same thing, looking at the plants more than the garden I’m visiting. Next year, I intend to try to experience the garden as a whole before looking at the pieces & trying to figure out what it is that makes it work. I wish there were more open garden days near me. Gardeners in the UK seems to have an embarrassment of riches in nearby inspiration.

  7. A belated merry Christmas to you, Helen, and wishing you a happy and healthy 2010. I love the lush planting in the photo of Dumbleside. I, too, am starting to look more at structure than individual plants, but I suppose it needs a more conscious effort than my normal ‘look at the pretty flowers’ wander round a garden.

  8. Thanks for the dose of inspiration. Those are gardens I’d never have a chance to visit, but inspiration comes from everywhere, gardens seen live, gardens in pixels, gardens in print… Enjoy dreaming up what you’ll take on in 2010.

  9. I see you are a canna. Can you grow cannas there?

    I ask for a reason, for the canna is a lovely plant to grow around the pond. I have many that will grow IN the pond, and I like the different effects I can get with the many colors of foliage and flowers.

    I have enjoyed this post and I plan to explore your blog further, as I have the feeling that I will enjoy it very much. I am planning big changes to my garden this year as well. It is time I got started on the planning.

    Happy New Year!

  10. These are some great gardens! I agree that the pond garden does need some broad leaf plants; just a few more, and big ones! It looks like they have a gunnera which looks lovely among all those strappy leaves. I was surprised at how well the multitude of strappiness actually looked though. I will have to look for more for my own garden!

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