Our Clematis amandii is in flower and for me that’s the signal that spring has started. Time to get blogging
New Garden at Urban Jungle
The cold weather last month forced a retreat inside and though frustrating, being prevented from doing some of the jobs we’d intended to tick off the list, we were able to focus on a project much more enjoyable than cleaning greenhouses and pressure washing benches – the design for a new garden that we’ll be planting at Urban Jungle later in spring. The benches will have to wait until next year now,
The Edible Garden last year
The area previously known as The Edible Jungle is having a revamp. For the last 3 years, this has been our stock garden for tender and borderline hardy plants. We also combined unusual and ornamental fruit and vegetables among the exotics, such as the black Nymans lettuce, Rainbow chard and the stonking Tamarillo tree (Solanum betaceum), intermingled with some more run-of-the-mill edibles such as tomatoes and sweetcorn.
Actinidea sellowinana ‘Unique’, a self pollinating Kiwi with stunning flowers
We allowed the Nymans lettuce to go to seed and they made 1m tall towers
Tomatoes, Dahlias and Hedychium gardnerianum made a colourful combo
Solanum lacinatum (Kangaroo apple with edible(ish) fruits. A 3m tall plant from seed in 1 season
Rainbow Chard works brilliantly as bedding. Crazy colours
Like all gardens, it was hard work of course and exasperating when we were battling with the elements and wildlife - rabbits, deer, pigeons, and caterpillars all made a nuisance of them selves last year. And lack of rain meant we were planting in soil that was the texture of kitty litter. But it was also fun and rewarding, and gave us a great sense of achievement (not to mention an awful lot of stock to divide and repot). And what better way to help sell the non-descript looking plants in a 2 litre posts than a nursery garden full of ‘living labels’. We raised nearly £1000 for charity by charging a small admission fee, and even more amazingly no one asked for a refund! But time for a change.
Dismantling the garden in November
At the end of the season the garden was cleared as usual, and the Cannas, Colocasias, Gingers, Bananas, Dahlias etc. were tucked away in their winter quarters.
Very soon we’ll divide and pot to make sales stock. We hold back between 10 and 20 large plants of each species to plant out again in late May/early June for next year’s stock, and so the cycle continues. In case you’re wondering about a complete dereliction of duty, we’ll still be having an exotic garden this year (without edibles), but located another area of the nursery – the car park.
Original design for the Edible Jungle. The layout of beds and paths was accurate but we went completely off piste with the plantin
The key difference between the old and new layout is the creation of 1 large central border instead of 2 separate smaller borders. In fact the whole, carefully thought out geometry of the original layout has been abandoned. That’s not to say it didn’t work but it wouldn’t be suitable for the informal blending and intermingling of the wide range of species we want to use in this new garden.
In this new garden we’ll be using mainly grasses and perennials. Without a name we’re referring to it as the Prairiesque Garden for the moment, but of course that’s a pretty tenuous use of the term ‘prairie’. Prairie gardens are large and open and this garden is only 30mx30m and fairly enclosed by trees and bamboo. Rather, we’ll use plants that are normally associated with Prairie gardens, such as Miscanthus, Deschampsia, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Eryngium, but also adding our own take in the way of spiky Yuccas, Phormiums, Pseudopanax. Some of the beds will have a fairly restrained prairie colour palette, with combinations of blues, pinks and purples, but in others we’ll totally let rip with vivid oranges, reds and yellows.
Jamie Spooner. We’re lucky to have Jamie working with us again. Jamie was head gardener at the Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe in Norfolk between 2005 and 2008. The Millennium Garden was designed by Piet Oudolf, the Daddy of Prairie Gardening no less. Jamie has also worked at Piet’s nursery in Holland. I’ve run the design by Jamie. He seems to approve. He’s a polite chap.
Part of the planting design for the 'Prairiesque 'Garden
This new garden will be a stock garden but again, we’ll do our best to use the plants in dynamic combinations, rather than in utilitarian/stock border style. Once the plants have established (about 3 years) we’ll be able to lift and divide regularly for sales stock. We’ve been staggered by the amount of plants this garden is going to swallow up. We’ll be using small plants in 9cm pots and in the design we’re drawing the plants to scale at maturity. The design is only half finished but it looks as though we’ll be using well over 1500 plants. For the first year or two the garden may look a little sparse until the plants mature but we can be patient, and it’ll be fascinating to watch the garden growing week by week, season by season. Work should start in March and we’re hoping to plant during spring and early summer. Some of the plants aren’t readily available to us so it will be a case of hunting them down from specialist nurseries. The only real potential spanner in the works is the drought. Bring on the rain.
the plans look fantastic, and I really look forward to seeing this new style develop! fingers crossed we get some good rain this spring' as last year was hellish and hard on the hose!