‘Plant Zookeeper’ – a new name for gardener?

Good design should reflect the wishes, likes and dislikes of the garden owner – regardless of country or climate’ – RHS Encyclopaedia of Gardens – good advice and certainly one of the best books on my shelf for planning, building and planting ‘your perfect space’.

This week, with 19 weeks until Open Gardens, I am tidying borders, thinking about changes to the layout and considering the design advice in my gardening books.  I don’t have any horticultural training but have learned how to tend my garden through trial and error, friends and books.

‘Think of yourself as a kind of ‘plant zookeeper’ and learn about your plants’ natural habitats’  writes Carol Bruce who also opens for the NGS, her three acres at The Old Bladbean Stud, near Canterbury, and was featured in an excellent article in The English Garden magazine (May 2015).  

‘Never act on impulse – instead, plan on impulse then act on the plan’ advises Carol.  Great advice and I mean to take it on board but I have already bought ‘on impulse’ several ferns, two Leycestria formosa ‘Golden Lantern’ shrubs and a full grown Acer ‘Little Princess’.  This is a great time to trawl the garden centres for last year’s stock at a fraction of their usual price and, with a bit of care and good mulch, these bargains will reward you when the warmer weather comes.

I’ve been working my plot for fifteen years now,  and had the back garden professionally designed five years ago. It was worth every penny and I was completely involved at every stage from planning to planting. The design books helped a great deal in making me aware of the questions I needed to consider.

Looking through other design books on my shelf, I can see that there is a lot of duplication of information and usually the second half of a design book is a directory of plants to use. A different approach is ‘Rejuvenating a Garden’ by Stephen Anderson, in how to deal with a neglected existing plot.   The plant directory focus on the practical aspects of pruning the index of shrubs. 

I am keen to redesign some of the planting in the borders around the garden, so, over the next few weeks I will be reviewing my border planting planning books.  I’ll be taking pictures of each border, spending time reviewing the contents and then draw up a plan for moving some shrubs and perennials to better positions where they will have more space and to create harmony.

Have a good week in the garden or armchair planning, whatever the weather!

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