How to have variety and interest in the garden

The Stonehouse Gardening Club recently went on their annual coach trip, and this year it was to the Royal Horticultural Society’s flagship garden at Wisley.  It began by threatening rain, but then went on to be a lovely day, with warmth and sunshine and dramatic skies. However, none of us managed to explore more than a few selected sections of the famous garden, as it is so large and packed with interesting features. What makes every part of the garden so sensational is the careful planning that has gone into it. As a budding gardener myself, I could not help but gawk eagerly at the unfolding planting schemes. Two lessons I learnt was how to use foliage for great visual impact, and how to get variety and interest in a garden bed through combining spear-like, flat, and ball-like shapes.

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1. An empty space comes to life with an arrangement of pots full of vibrant foliage. There were rich coloured coleus (solenostemon) in the arrangement that caught my eye, and I could see why the plants are in pots. They need to be under shelter in the winter. The pots are arranged so that the tallest plants are in the middle or at the back to contain the vibrant colour within a designed structure, and also to display each plant with an artist’s care. The entire composition can be framed by a gate, or brick wall, for a satisfying finish.

Arrange your pots to show off the colours of the plants and so they get the sunlight/shade they need.

2. In the flower beds, the planting scheme combines bladed vertical shapes, often in the form of very tall grasses, ball-like shapes sometimes in the form of sea-holly (Eryngium), or round-shaped topiary, and flat shapes, for example created by yarrow (achilleas), with their plate-like flowers.

Sea-holly and yarrow

3. The variety of grasses used in the beds in this RHS garden did more than bring shape and colour and texture to the garden. They add a sense of movement, which was amply provided by running water and fountains, true; tall grasses sway and then spring back in strong winds, but shorter grasses ripple. The rippling and swaying brings a certain airiness to all the beds, and lifts them in that way.

Tall grasses sway and shorter grasses ripple

Photo Credit: Chris Goddard and Elizabeth Goddard