Plan now for a great gardening year

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Gardening News

by Sue Neave

I am a bit of a plotter and a planner and now is a good time to plan some new planting for the borders. Perhaps sit down with paper and pencil and a good gardening book and identify what you like.

Last time I talked about hard landscaping, and when that is all finished it may be time to consider a new border... or maybe enlarge an existing one.

Think about the plant combinations. Choose some tall, architectural shrubs for the back if you have room. Even in a small garden, something with big, dramatic leaves can look brilliant. Don’t be afraid to be bold.

Plants can be pruned to keep them in check – or contained in a pot. Look at the shape of the leaves and plant to contrast with its neighbour. Try spiky sword-shaped leaves next to soft, rounded shapes.

Also think about putting different coloured foliage together – it’s only the same as planning a room scheme in the house. Burgundy and purples look lovely next to greys, or a sharp citrus green is good with burgundy too. There are many shades of green to consider – you could almost do a whole garden planting based on greens without even thinking about the colour of the flowers.

I love edgings around paths and patios and box is great for introducing neatness and order into the garden. You can have a fairly wild untidy border but if you edge it neatly, the whole thing will look as if there is someone in charge!

Alternatively the cottage garden country look is always enhanced by an edging of lavender or catmint. Remember to keep the lavender well clipped – then it will stay bushy and not go horribly woody.

It’s all very well for me to expound about buying this and that when my favourite nursery has just closed down and I am floundering around myself deciding where to source my plants from in the future. There are several nurseries in the area, but nowhere that specialises in interesting and unusual perennial plants. I have done a little bit on the internet, but it is one of my favourite tasks when I have a commission to plant up a new garden to take a couple of days designing and then wandering the nursery with brimming trolleys. Sitting at a computer is not quite the same!

I ought to try harder to grow my own but its a case of horses for courses – my strengths are designing layouts and putting plants together and nursery people are the experts in growing.

I hope you’ve all got some good gardening books for Christmas. It’s the best thing ever stealing away from all the fray to open a new book and pour over shiny pages full of new ideas for planning and planting. Someone has just given me ‘Gardens of the National Trust’, a super book full of lovely gardens all over Britain. It tells you what type of soil there is and whether it’s a cold or moderate climate and I’ve made a note to visit Gunby Hall again in the fens – full of roses and country house planting – it sounds delicious!

l Sue Neave designs and builds gardens www.hopehousegardens.co.uk .