It's the season for flower shows and whether it's Chelsea, Tatton or your local flower show, you see these amazing spaces and possibly think I want that!
How much is it a reality?
To start with the 'garden' is designed to look great for just a few days, you may have heard how this year many of the Chelsea gardens had a different variety of plants in bloom due to the early Spring and mild temperatures. In the floral pavilions some plants were displayed that have not previously been seen there.
Traditionally plants earmarked for Chelsea are either 'brought on' by using a heated greenhouse or 'held back' by using a cold store with reduced light levels. Is this practical in your garden? I don't think so, and what about the other 51 weeks a year?
Most people want year round interest in their garden with maybe one bed particularly impressive during summer when they are in the garden. This often translates into using trees, shrubs and grasses which flower or have berries or leaf colour, covering all four seasons with Spring or Autumn bulbs providing splashes of colour.
Herbaceous perennials are traditionally what gives the variety of colour and height in the borders from mid Spring to early Autumn. This can be boosted with the use of annuals, often in pots or hanging baskets. I have a fondness for Pelargoniums (often mistakenly called geraniums) as they remind me of my childhood and flower for a long period.
The design of the space is more of a reality but still many parts are implausible. If money is no object (often not the case) it is more possible but even then there are practicalities which are not addressed. For example where is the kitchen window and so the view from it when doing the washing up?
Show gardens in essence have enormous windows on all the open sides. They look great when in them but only by seeing it on TV can you get any idea of what it is like to actually be in it, otherwise you are looking in, as if from one of the big windows.
Practicalities such as how to gain privacy from your neighbor or where to put your rotary washing line or the kids trampoline are overlooked in favour of uncluttered design. The idea of a show garden is to show you ideas of what you do in a part of your garden or the planting combinations that work well together at a given time.
If there is grass it is immaculate, a rarity, most lawns have weeds in that can be reduced by spot weeding (time-consuming) or continuous application of chemicals (both environmentally damaging and costly). Having clover and daisies in your lawn actually increases the habitat for wildlife which a lawn of 'pure' grass is almost non existent. On top of all this is the constant need for water and cutting. Many clients ask for a low maintenance garden, grass doesn't come into this category but we still crave it! Even a wildflower meadow which looks uncared for actually needs many hours of labour to create and maintain the effect.
So one of the key points of inspiration in a show garden is the planting, clipped topiary gives a green structure that usually lasts all year and if it is beech the leaves remain on the plant well into winter adding a copper beauty to the garden.
The flower shows tend to be in the Summer so there is a profusion of herbaceous perennials, generally this is the colourful months, some perennials flower into early Autumn - Astrantia and Helenium - and some, provided they are in a sheltered spot, retain their height and form and appear almost as dried flowers throughout winter - Echinacea and Rudbeckia. This is of course what you don't see in show gardens.
So get yourself to your local flower show or take a trip to the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show http://rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-flower-show-tatton-park and get some inspiration for what you could achieve in your garden.
If you need help translating the ideas into reality call us for help on 07967 181950 or visit our website www.northleedsgardendesign.com