Planting inspiration

Posted: Thursday 3 May 2012
by Andy Sturgeon

Driving around the country or gazing out of the window from a train is a great source of inspiration.

Foliage of Anthriscus sylvestris

Driving around the country or gazing out of the window from a train is a great source of inspiration. So, if you see me doing it, just remember that I am not being lazy and I am actually working.

There’s an impressive section of the M23 where there is a vast forest of birch trees set against a low hill covered in pine. In winter the haze of naked birch twigs looks purple against the conifers and right now they are the most incredibly uplifting fresh green.

At this time of year when you gaze across the landscape, many trees including sycamores and oaks have a bronze tinge as their new leaves unfurl. This contrasts dramatically with horse chestnuts and other trees that are pure green. I find those contrasts genuinely exciting and have tried to distill that down into the M&G garden at Chelsea.

I wish I was brave enough to make a motorway embankment garden at Chelsea one day. Near where I live the chalky slopes are lined with hawthorns, which are pure green and elegant in outline. There are blobs of dark gorse, low drifts of bronze-coloured brambles and, in places, cow parsley pokes out above lush grass and patches of oilseed rape escaped from farmers’ fields. It’s all quite beautiful.

One advantage of this cold wet weather - and I’m clutching at straws here - is that some plants are retarded, and it may make them look a little different; better even. The fresh foliage of Aruncus sylvestris (pictured, above) is bronze and there is now a chance it could still be exhibiting some of this by the third week in May. It’s the same for Rodgersia and a few others - I’ll be really happy if they hang on. I do need a bit of subtly darker foliage in the scheme and I have got Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’, but I’m not really a fan of purple leaves so can only use it sparingly. So let’s hope it stays cold and wet for the next few weeks.

Only me, then?

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Chromebaby 07/05/2012 at 13:43

I love motorway verges. Especially when covered in ox-eye daisies. I have them, as well as teasel and hawthorn, in my garden.

Also cowslips appear to be very populous this year. There's a huge carpet of them along the A50 in Derbyshire between J24 of the M1 and Derby. Stunning.

Joe_the_Gardener 07/05/2012 at 16:33

It does seem to be a vintage year for cowslips.