Visiting gardens open to the public is a great way to pick up ideas for your own garden. Gardens like Hodnet Hall, near Market Drayton in Shropshire. Very few of us have outdoor spaces this big to play with. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make use of some of the design techniques employed there. Here are just a few examples:
1. Contrasting colours.
The twin highlights of a red Japanese maple and an Exochorda in full bloom stand out from a mostly mid-green background. The contrast between them is stunning; the fact that it will only last for the few weeks the Exochorda is in flower only serves to make it even more special.
This rustic stone archway and metal gate were surely intended to arouse your curiosity. Who wouldn’t struggle to resist the urge to pass through it to see what lies on the other side?
Regular repetition of these cardoons (Cynara cardunculus) along the back of this herbaceous border give it cohesion and continuity. Plants with such strong architectural form are particularly good for this purpose (it helps to have such an attractive wall as a backdrop!) The silvery, grey-green foliage of this ornamental globe artichoke will be topped with striking thistle-like flowers in summer.
The spiky leaves are complemented by it’s smaller neighbours – euphorbia, grasses, melianthus – all have leaves that contrast gently, without being too different. And you may just notice flowers of Cirsium rivulare – another, smaller, thistle nestling among the euphorbia.
4. Include some small surprises.
These trilliums are less than half a metre tall, and grow in shady spots, but with both leaves and petals arranged in triplets, they are as beautiful as they are different.
Okay, so you probably don’t have room for your own lake, complete with resident swans, but water adds great interest in a garden, including sound, movement and reflection.
6. Plant at all levels.
The circle garden has rings of peonies and roses that will provide colourful blooms over a long period (here, they are yet to flower). It’s a central feature in a landscape that has plants of all heights, from low ground cover, right up to tall trees.
This technique effectively pulls a garden up from two dimensions into three, giving it much more interest. It can easily be replicated in even a small garden – you just need to choose the right plants.
text & photos © strelitzia garden design 2022