Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ideas for Adrian's garden

My colleague Adrian, like many Londoners, has a small garden - a shady, brick-paved courtyard. (That's not his on the left, by the way, but belongs to my friend Philip, whose garden in Homerton is in the Yellow Book.) Like many journalists, Adrian works long hours, and he would like to come home on a summer evening and be able to spend what is left of his day breathing in the fragrance of flowers. I think this is a lovely idea, and I also think he ought to try to find white scented flowers, as they will not only provide perfume, but be easier to see at dusk.
My suggestions included Trachelospermum jasminoides, known as star jasmine (or Confederate jasmine in the USA). This will survive quite happily in a big pot and as well as white fragrant flowers has the bonus of glossy evergreen leaves. Admittedly, it doesn't flower as freely in shade as it does in sun, but the screen of green leaves is worth having anyway.
Nicotiana is a must. I find N.affinis does well in pots and seems to be more snail-resistant than N. sylvestris. Adrian might also like to try the F1 Perfume series, which are smaller, but very reliable. The pale lime ones look good with white.
Lilies are a must and all seem to do well in pots. L. regale has a knockout perfume but in my experience is more susceptible to lily beetle. Perhaps Adrian could go on a lily beetle hunt of an evening, squishing the little red b****** while pretending they were a particularly uncooperative, late-filing contributor. Very therapeutic.
The new varieties of nemesia have wonderful scent. N ‘Wisley Vanilla’ makes a wonderful mound of ice-cream scented flowers. And although busy lizzies aren't scented, they are perfect for shade and good at providing pools of white at twilight. The 'New Guinea' ones have bigger flowers and more interesting foliage.
I think people often underestimate the importance of foliage in gardens in their feverish search for flowers. Personally, I'd have lots of hostas, and perhaps Japanese maples and ferns, which will all survive in pots. I'd probably have a fatsia, too, or a choisya, again to provide year-round evergreen interest. In my opinion, as you can see from the photograph of Philip's garden above, a lush green background is far more restful than a blank wall and offers a real sense of sanctuary from the world.
A water feature - perhaps one of those overflowing pot versions with moving water that won't allow mosquitoes or midges to breed - provides a restful background noise which distracts from traffic and aeroplanes. Here's the water feature in Philip's garden, which is simply a ceramic bowl with a wall spitter connected up to a pump. All the boring bits like pipes and wiring are hidden behind the surrounding pots of hosta and zantedeschia, and large cobbles.

Anyway, these are just off the top of my head ideas. What I'd like - and what Adrian wants - is lots and lots of suggestions. So get thinking - and commenting!


petoskystone said...

i don't know how appropriate the specifics are for the u.k., but this is what i think of for a garden space to be enjoyed later afternoons...

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

I love all the plants you suggested - and am with you that foliage is key. Should be a beautiful space if he follows your advice!

Helle (Helen) said...

In principle I find your suggestions very appealing, all the lovely green foliage, the fragrant flowers etc. Personally I would like a few more flowers with colour, especially blue or lilac. E.g. lavender or ornamental salvias, sorry I'm not very good with the Latin names. A great inspiration would be the late Elspeth Thompson's London garden, more can be found on her website where there is an article about her small quite shady garden.

Esther Montgomery said...

Suggestions are beyond my ability - except, perhaps, to urge caution on the scent front. Sometimes it's nicest simply to breathe air and if there are too many scents they can become overwhelming.

You might need to advise him how to keep slugs at bay if he's going to have lots of hostas.

What's he going to sit on? That matters a lot too - what it feels like and what it looks like.


Victoria said...

Petoskystone: What a great site, thank you. Very inspiring.

Janet: Hmm, have you ever noticed that people ask your advice and then completely ignore what you say?

Helle: Yes, you're right - soft colours would be pretty. I suppose because my garden is full-on colour, I'm a bit shy of suggesting colours to other people. Wasn't Elspeth Thompson wonderful? I was such a fan. Tragic.

Esther: That's a good point. I love scent, in flowers and in bottles - but there are smells that make me feel ill (notably vanilla).
I have hostas in pots, so I keep slugs at bay with copper tape wrapped round the pot. It works very well - but you have to make sure that leaves don't droop over the edge and provide a "bridge".