This is the second blog post in our short series on the design and implementation of a large garden in North Leeds last year.  Today I am looking at the planting in the rear garden and giving you inspiration for your own outdoor space.

Recycling plants

This garden had quite a few mature shrubs but the weeds were winning the battle, and most had not had a yearly prune, so they had grown lopsided or too dense.  It is always difficult to decide what is worth retaining; mature shrubs not only save money but give a good structure to a newly designed and planted garden, if they have been properly trained and are in the right position to suit the new design.

Of course, with care some shrubs can be successfully moved and thrive for many more years.

One mature plant we particularly wanted to retain in this garden was  a well-shaped Crab Apple tree.   It made a lovely focal point in its existing bed near the conservatory.  Unfortunately, most of the other plants in that bed were infested with weeds or were very weak plants and so had to be removed.  But we did manage to retain a lovely Potentilla with its primrose-coloured blossoms that flower all summer long.

Nearby, on the left bed by the boundary fence we also found we had some great garden shrubs to clothe the fence and provide structural interest.  We were able to keep an Eleagnus, Cotoneaster, some Cornus, a Garrya, a small Hawthorn tree and a Eucalyptus.   We then added many Hellebores and Hakanchloa (a Japanese broad leaved yellow grass) which will give colour and shape all year round to this shadier spot.

Taller flowering plants (perennials) such as Japanese Anemones and Helianthus then give more splashes of colour throughout spring, summer and autumn.  We made good use of the fencing to add a limited palette of climbing plants, especially one of our favourites, the evergreen, summer-flowering Berberidopsis corallina with its gorgeous drooping pendants of tiny red flowers.

Using vertical space

When considering your planting always remember that vertical spaces such as fences and walls are there to be planted, not just the ground-level beds.  This is especially important if you have a small garden – it can easily double the amount of planting space you have.

Use the space to grow climbing flowers such as clematis and honeysuckle, or grow cordon apples trained to sit against the wall.

In this garden we used a system of tensioned wires on much of the fencing and along the garage.  This enabled us to use these vertical spaces to bring new interest into the garden and ensure there is an ever-changing view from the house. When we looked in detail around the garden we found various Honeysuckles and Clematis which could be re-used; these were initially potted up into good quality compost, then kept watered in a sheltered spot out of the way.

The client had also been given a vine – which we found room for on the new metal pergola set round a new circular patio.  This frame was handmade for the garden by a local firm of fabricators, enabling us to include tensioned wires to help the vine and some beautiful Clematis and scented Jasmine spread out over the frame.   Next to it on the garage walls we were able to re-establish the rescued Honeysuckles and Clematis.


Behind the circular patio we planted a line of Yews to fill the awkward gap between the fence and the rear of the garage.  In front of it is a stand of the tall grass Miscanthus sinensis, with airy Verbena bonariensis alongside it, to add movement and the quiet sound of whispering grasses to this secluded corner.  Surrounding these are blue Irises to catch the eye in June, feathery Fennel, and the wonderful black grass Ophiopogon.

The large leaves of Golden hop will climb across the rear fence in summer, its leaves being easily collected by the lawnmower when they fall in the autumn.  From being an ugly area by the garage, we have transformed it into a space for reflection and tranquillity.  As the plants take up their place it will be an enticing area to sit, surrounded by flowers and scented climbers.

In a new wrap round bed next to the patio, which continued under the Crab Apple, we mainly used grasses, and sub-shrubs such as Lavender and Perovskia, to provide height and structure throughout the year, and give a sunny feel to this seating area.  A riot of colourful flowers, including Phlox, Echinacea, Helenium, Geum and Hemerocallis then fill the gaps and give colour and scent from spring to autumn.

Our clients are looking forward to sitting here with a drink to enjoy the buds opening, the sun shining through the petals, and the butterflies dancing!   These plants are all easy to find in the garden centre and easy to grow provided they are put into soil that has been improved with organic matter such as compost, and are watered during dry spells.

Anchor plants

Although we have used a wide variety of flowering plants across the garden, we have repeated certain key plants such as Hakanchloa and Phormiums; these act as an anchor around which other more colourful plants swirl.  Too many different shapes, colours and forms can be overwhelming, so although each area of the garden has its own feel, overall we have limited the palette to ensure a sense of harmony and rhythm.

These plants were installed in their new homes in August and September.  Thanks to a very warm autumn they had several months to get established and several, such as the Heleniums and Heliananthemums, were still flowering in November!  It is always a pleasure to see a planting plan being implemented and the plants you chose all looking good together. We will be keeping an eye on this garden to see how the plants knit together and form the year-round-interest that was originally in the brief.

Check our Facebook page for updates on this and other gardens we completed last year.
Our next blog will take a walk around the front and side gardens so be sure to check it out.  If you’d like to see some of our other projects, go to our portfolio pages.