It is the end of October and the glorious season for garden visiting is not quite over yet. Last Sunday a town garden in Digswell Road on the edge of Welwyn Garden City to the north of London was just one of eight gardens open nationally for the NGS. Ferns and grasses edged the path to the side of the house where the wrought iron garden gate was open:
The back garden, about a third of an acre in size, is a tapestry of texture and harvest colour; seed heads, grasses, autumnal leaves and evergreens.
Adrian and Clare have lived here since 1976 and began to get into gardening after retirement some twenty years later. There was no original drawn plan, and a resolution was made not to hard landscape the area. The lawn is at a higher level and I imagine that the ‘little Lutyens’ style steps were built at the same time as the house.
This is a garden about plants and Adrian trips off their names with a passion. I concentrate on the border to the left of the lawn. Planting was inspired as a result of visiting a nursery nearby in Potters Bar which introduced them to the style of Piet Oudolf. Adrian delights in the performance of a new grass he has acquired, the silvery white fronds of the Peruvian feather grass Stipa pseudoichu.
I admire the pink of the Michaelmas Daisy and am surprised to find it called Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’.
The garden is divided by a tall tightly clipped conifer hedge with a gap wide enough to tempt you through the vibrant planting. Here the tempo changes, with the introduction of succulents amongst the perennials.
Travel, in particular to the Americas, Africa and Asia where Adrian and Clare experienced exotics growing naturally, has inspired this part of the garden. It is an interesting mix, with a succulent inhabiting the stone ornament softened by stipa tenuissima around its base, with a background of astelias and purple Salvia ‘Amistad’.
Mature trees surround this end of the garden and the tall palm-like Cordyline australis with its striking leaves has burst into flower.
As the end of the garden narrows and becomes shaded under the tree canopy, the path snakes through a collection of noble tree ferns,
and amongst a blend of exotic, familiar evergreen and bamboo, bananas which delight in the name Musa basjoo shed their layers.
Although the small greenhouse is almost hidden by the jungle growth, it somehow manages to catch enough sunlight from above.
There are several types of bamboo, and the lower leaves are stripped to show the strong and yellowy stems.
Leaving the shade of the jungle, the path returns to grass and takes me back towards the gap in the hedge,
and the sunshine brings out a Red Admiral who enjoys the nectar of the salvia flowers.
This small banana has wine-red stems and look dramatic amongst the grasses.
Back on the lawn I walk down the right hand side of the lawn where seed heads of the classical acanthus mingle with the golden stems of Stipa gigantea.
and teasel and cardoons stand in front of the waving Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberturm’.
Sedums never fail to bring colour at this time of year, and what is more appropriate than that old favourite Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’.
A burst of golden spikes is Molinia Karl Foerster, a name that appears in many a garden and I wonder who exactly was Karl Foerster? He was in fact a nurseryman in Germany in the early 1900s and made his name when he began to select perennials, particularly grasses that were robust, looked good in a mass and had elegant but strong flower spikes. As a pioneer of this style, I think he would have enjoyed this garden.
Down by the house I look back at the garden through the seed heads of Monarda. It has been a remarkable display of autumn colour much of which will continue through to January when Adrian will begin to cut back his garden.
Clare is serving teas and behind her hangs the special trowel, recognition that they have been opening their garden for 10 years for the NGS. This garden may be small but as an example on how to extend the summer planting, it is an inspiration.