Each of our gardens is a piece of the larger landscape, a small part of the world that we happily tinker with to suit ourselves. Our gardening hands shape these spaces – literally – and whether that space includes a mile-long avenue of trees or a kitchen window ledge, everyone’s take will be different. What’s coming below is a collection of images I’ve taken, each one celebrating what we gardeners manage to achieve. Not all will appeal to everyone, but it’s fascinating (well I find it engrossing) to see what gardeners from all over the place manage to think up and make happen. Here is Nature manipulated to please ourselves….
Sometimes the effort justifies the result: this bed of tulips at Keukenhof in the Netherlands couldn’t have been easy to plant, but then creating astonishing visions with massed bulbs is why everyone makes the effort to visit these gardens – especially in Spring.
I love the Green Wall all at Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens because it’s how I imagine a garden on a space station should look. It’s a great example of making plants grow in a way they normally wouldn’t, so the result is contained and restrained but – thanks to the plants – loosened off. If you’ve ever had a hankering to garden vertically surely this example is enough to convince you to get onto it.
Standing looking out over the gardens at Het Loo (a former palace of the Dutch Royal Family), a little voice in my head said, “And when you’ve finished clipping the box hedges, mowing the lawns and raking the gravel paths you’ll be ready to do it over again”. Yup, this is one high maintenance landscape. But isn’t that what all these mega-power royal palaces were about? When this landscape was created, a monarch’s power was measured by the size of their landscape maintenance crew.
In Surrey, someone at Guildford Castle must have looked out over the crenellations one day and said, “It’s so dull living in a castle. Can’t we do something to brighten things up a little?” And hey presto – massed planting was laid out like floor rugs against the English green sward. You could argue that there is absolutely no way Nature could or would (or perhaps should) form itself into this landscape if left to its own devices. But it’s very cheery.
There is a brilliant way to mess with Nature but in a way that doesn’t involve too much work. This massed rainbow effect is very strong, happy and powerful. It’s also easy to do as long as you stick to your guns. Divide your garden bed into defined strips and color within the lines with plants of your choice.
On a trip to China I was taken to see this extraordinary show garden for oversized bonsai. Bonsai are a good example where nature has been fiddled with. Left to their own devices, none of these trees would grow in a pot or be this cleverly contorted or groomed. This takes an artisan team many hours and years to achieve.
Here pots on poles are obscured by the foliage of the hostas growing in them. The effect sits somewhere between a pom pom standard and topiary. Why do it? Because a gardener thought it would be a good idea and they made it happen. Oh, and it’s fast and easy.