Small and Beautiful Town Garden

Nov 21, 2016 - POSTED BY Anna Halloran - Gardeners Choice , Whats Hot

‘Who needs to go to Giverny?’ That was the comment one visitor made when she first laid eyes on this small and evocative town garden situated in Old Headington, Oxford.  The garden is constantly on view from the house, so it was really important to create an ever changing picture where each season would delight and surprise the viewer. By planting in layers you can grow together a mixture of both bulbs and perennials which will give that ‘English country garden’ feel to your borders. Plant these in drifts scattered between the shrubs and grasses and you can  have a great planting display to enjoy right from year 1. On this site we were able to keep 3 trees and a couple of shrubs from before alongside the hornbeam hedging, which helps to give an air of maturity to the garden. Spring came in with a blaze of colour as tulips of every colour popped up to welcome the new season in.  Before the tulips there were drifts of snowdrops that glittered in the winter sun in the shadier parts of the planting borders. These will need to be kept in check but were a welcome sight during the cold Winter days.

The ‘bones’ of any garden are actually the most important part of your garden design. In the last few years I have noticed a softening in garden designs, even for the more contemporary urban gardens, with greater use of curves and less reliance on straight lines. This garden is no exception, as the focal point is an Indian sandstone circle which has one part of the outer circle removed to form a semi-circular rill.  When the fountains are softly splashing, this circular seating area becomes a truly peaceful retreat where you can enjoy the beauty of the plants and take pleasure in the many butterflies and occasional bird that hover in amongst the flowers. In Photo 3 you can see the start of the Summer season, with the striking blue of the Geranium Rozanne edging the flower borders. Geranium Rozanne was voted Plant of the Centenary by the public and holds the RHS AGM award..

In amongst the planting of the central border stands an elegant metal heron, made in Zimbabwe from recycled metal.  His feet are secured to sunken bricks, just to ensure he doesn’t fly off in a strong wind. He looks out over the water into the sky beyond. Coming into flower in Photo 4 is one of my favourite Hydrangeas, Hydrangea Annabelle, which will literally flower from Summer till mid-Autumn. At this time of year the colour scheme becomes softer with the pretty white flowers of the tall Leucantheum T.E.Killin, the purple and white flowers of Hesperis mixed together, the large white mopheads of the Hydrangea Annabelle and the azure blue of the Geranium Rozanne.  To edge the water feature is a line of lime green grasses whose colour is echoed on the other side of the circular patio with the new and stunningly beautiful shrub Choisya Aztec Gold. These compact shrubs are evergreen and have highly scented white flowers for many weeks in Summer, and if you are lucky they will flower again in the early Autumn.

The semi-circular bench was made to order to exactly fit the Indian sandstone circle and with time the teak will age to a softer grey/brown colour. In late Summer the garden picture changes again, with the flowering of the golden Rudbekias which contrast so well with the Hebe Midsummer Beauty and the continuously flowering Geranium Rozanne.  Roses of every colour are also in flower at this time of year, both climbers and shrub roses, and the tall spikes of Veronicstrum provide a contrast in shape and texture. In early Autumn the Dahlias start to emerge, taking the place of the poppies that gave a brief but startling display in the early Summer. Planting poppies and Dahlias in the same patch of ground is a great way to make the best of every inch of your garden.

I love Verbena bonariensis, which can either be planted ‘en masse’ together, or as in this garden, dotted in between other perennials in the planting border. I call these Verbenas my ‘see-through’ plant, as they look just like floating purple stars to me, on strong but thin and almost transparent, dark green stems. You can be sitting on the bench and look right through them as they move gently in the breeze. In the last 2 photos Summer has become Autumn and still the flowering display continues. Dahlias, Anenomes and Verbenas dance amongst the flowering roses and Hebes and Grasses.  A beautiful sight to behold as the nights draw in and Winter descends.