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How to design your classic garden

Design your classic garden

Planting schemes are simple, emphasising structure and creating a restful, relaxing space to sit.

The splendid formal gardens of many stately homes typify the classical garden, but you don’t need acres of garden to achieve this look. Neat circles, straight lines and symmetry, with beds flanked by low hedges of clipped box or lavender.

The Classic Garden

Classic garden

Click on the image above to enlarge.

H = Height | S = Spread

1. English Yew Taxus baccata
A very slow growing conifer with needle-like dark green leaves. Female plants have bright red berries in winter. Good for hedging and topiary. Prefers a sunny position. H.6-10m S.5-8m. All parts toxic. Fully hardy.

2 & 3. Box Spiral & Box Ball Buxus sempervirens
Evergreen shrub ideal for hedging, screens and topiary. Dark green glossy leaves. Plant in sun or semishade and avoid waterlogged soil. Eventual H5m. S5m. Fully hardy.

4. Bay Laurus nobilis
Aromatic, glossy, dark green leaves widely grown for culinary use. Ideal for containers. Prefers a sheltered position in full sun and fertile well drained soil. H.12m S.10m. Frost hardy.

5. Conifer Spiral Cupressocyparis leylandii - 'Castlewellan Gold'
Upright, vigorous conifer which can grow up to 90cm per year. Excellent for fast growing screens and hedging, but must be trimmed regularly. Good for topiary. Grow in sun or partial shade and any free draining soil.

6. French Lavender Lavandula stoechas
Dense, bushy, evergreen shrub with silver-grey aromatic leaves. Short flower spikes which have deep purple flowers topped with rose-purple bracts from May to August. Ideal for containers or a sheltered garden position. H60cm. S60cm. Full sun and well drained light soil. Hardy.

7. Climbing Hydrangea Hydrangea anomala petiolaris
A self-clinging, climbing hydrangea which, from May to July has lacy white flower heads 15cm across. It has attractive serrated leaves which fall in winter to expose the woody stem. Good for covering a north facing wall. Full sun or semi-shade and well drained soil. H15m. Fully hardy.

8. Cranesbill Geranium (in variety)
Fast growing perennial, sometimes semi-evergreen, with flowers from May to July. Grow in full sun or partial shade. Fully to half-hardy.

9. Fuchsia 'Swingtime'
Deciduous shrub ideal for hanging baskets and containers. Produces large double flowers from June to October with creamy white petals and red tubes. Prefers full sun or semi-shade and well drained light soil. H1m. S1m. Tender.

10. Crab Apple Tree Malus (in variety)
Decorative tree with an abundance of blossom in spring. Ideal for small gardens. Usually self fertile with colourful fruit in autumn. Full sun or semi shade. Fully hardy.

11. Star Magnolia Magnolia stellata
Bushy, dense, deciduous, slow growing shrub. Fragrant star shaped white flowers from March to April. Plant where it will get shade early morning and sun later, to prevent buds being damaged. Any well drained light soil. H3m. S4m. Hardy.

12. Ivy Hedera (in variety)
Evergeen climber particularly useful for covering a shady wall. Will grow in full sun, semi-shade or shade and in any soil. Attracts insects and wildlife. Fully hardy.

13. Marguerite Argyranthemum 'Madeira Series'
Bushy tender perennials which bare masses of daisy-like flowers from late spring till fi rst frost. Good for bedding, borders and containers. H35cm.

14. Mophead Hydrangea Hydrangea macrophylla
Bushy deciduous shrub for beds, borders and patio. Flowers borne in July and August. Blue or purple flowers are produced in acid soil whilst in alkaline, the flowers will be pink. Requires full sun and shelter from cold winds. H1.5-2m. S2-2.5m. Frost hardy.

15. Californian Lilac Ceanothus thrysifl orus 'Skylark'
A dense evergreen shrub which bears powder blue flowers in summer. Requires a sheltered, sunny position and well drained soil. H1.5m. S2m. Hardy.

16. Corkscrew Hazel Corylus avellana 'Contorta'
The corkscrew hazel is a deciduous, slow growing, bushy shrub with distinctive twisted shoots. Pretty pale yellow catkins are borne in late winter before the leaves appear. Full sun or partial shade in fertile well drained soil. H3m. S4m. Fully hardy.

17. Cosmos Sonata White
Half-hardy annual for bedding, borders and containers. Compact plants with single, large white flowers, 8cm across from July to Sept. Requires full sun and well drained moist soil. H60cm. S38cm.

18. Lily Lilium 'Grand Cru'
This Asiatic lily has large golden yellow flowers with rich red blotches around the centre borne from June to July. Striking perennial for borders and containers. Best planted in groups. Grow in full sun or semi shade in well drained moist soil. H70cm. Fully hardy.

19. African Blue Lily Agapanthus africanus
The African blue lily is a clumpforming evergreen, half hardy perennial. Trumpet shaped blue flowers are produced on rounded umbels from July to September. Grow in borders or containers in full sun and well drained, moist soil. H1m. S50cm.

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Growing herbs

Herbs can be grown in their own bed, in pots or window boxes, or among vegetables and flowers. They respond well to being pruned and kept quite small and are good to have close to hand when cooking. Once established, regular picking will encourage the tender new growth that usually gives the best flavour. Note that sage, thyme and rosemary, if left for a year or two without cutting back, will become leggy – with long, bare stems and new growth only at the tips – and take up much more space than necessary. So be ruthless.

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Mixing annuals and perennials

Some herbs are annuals while others are perennials. Growing the two kinds in one place will give you the best of both worlds: the convenience of trusty favourites that grow year after year, with the flexibility of choosing interesting new varieties to fill any gaps. Most herbs can be grown together in the same container or bed. Only mint, which grows invasively with its roots and can quickly overwhelm a planting area, is best kept on its own.

Deeply aromatic perennial

Mild and aromatic perennial

Refreshing perennial

Perennial for poultry and meat

Biennial garnish

Delicately flavoured annual

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Soil improvers - what do they do?

Good soil structure is vital for healthy root growth. Without good structure, a weak root network will develop, which may lead to poor drought tolerance, nutrient defi ciencies and unhealthy plants.

Farmyard manure
Manure not only fertilises the soil, it conditions it too. It's the ideal choice for roses and other heavy feeders as well as fruit and vegetable gardens. Fork some manure into open beds in the spring, three weeks or more before planting, or use it for top dressing around existing plants.

Organic soil conditioner
A long lasting alternative to farmyard manure, this is the ideal product for those that want a soil improver that's free from animal material. Produced from composted bark and green waste, it has a rich, dark appearance and can also be used as a surface mulch. When mixed with soil it conditions it to allow stronger root growth.

Top soil
You will need a good quality top soil if you want to create new beds and borders, replace old depleted soil or need extra soil for turfi ng. Ideally, top soil should be 30cm deep for a bed or 15cm deep for a lawn. Our top soil has been screened to remove weeds and debris and sterilised to kill any bacteria.

Weed control
The last stage after planting is mulching – this extra step will keep weeds at bay, give roots some extra thermal insulation and help keep moisture in the soil. For shrub beds and other permanent planting areas, consider laying a permeable weed-control fabric, planting through it and then spreading a mulch (or bark) on top.

Topiary is the artistic shaping of plants by training and clipping to achieve fanciful, stylised or geometric forms. These can vary from simple clipped ball shapes through to spirals, pyramids, birds and animals. Ornamental hedging is grown not merely as a means of enclosing or dividing a garden but as a decorative feature in its own right. Low-growing box or lavender hedging used as an edging for beds and paths is a familiar sight, and the key to maintaining any topiary shape is to take your time and ensure you are using sharp shears or secateurs.

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