Welcome to my second post for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day hosted by Christina of My Hesperides Garden. This month I am looking at the various forms of topiary, which provide colour and form in my January garden.
I have written before about the scale of my garden – around 5 acres with the house sitting well inside the plot. This gives me a front garden of about an acre, a back garden of 3 acres and a kitchen garden of about a further acre. The land in front of the house has been kept as a garden for many years – there are beautiful mature trees, hedges and evergreen shrubs. The land behind the house has been used for cattle and horses for many years, so the garden I am making there is quite immature, although there are a few mature trees. The photographs above and below were both taken in the front garden.
You can see that the house is approached by a long gravel drive – I was standing by the house when I took the photo above, looking down the drive towards the road. I love to see the garden like this – with its bare bones showing. A garden that does not delight in winter is a garden without structure and for me clipped evergreens are an essential part of my winter landscape.
When we moved in the yew hedge that you can see on either side of the arch was mature but topped at about 4 feet, allowing an open view across the front garden. I prefer to add a touch a mystery, so have allowed the hedge to grow much taller and added the arch to tempt the visiter through to explore. I took this photo last spring when the forsythia was just starting to flower.
On moving in I started to renovate the rather empty borders in the front garden, adding plenty of bulbs and perennial planting. I had a sharp lesson to learn about the wild life here though – the front garden is populated by a large number of rabbits and the occasional deer, as well as being home to my free range chickens. I now know that I have to plant with care – much money was wasted with those early plantings. I have found that box is immune to all the wildlife, so I have used it to provide structure in all the front beds. Above are a group of box balls that I have cultivated from small misshapen plants bought for a £1 a pot bargain at a garden centre.
Looking back over the box balls across the front garden you can see the strong fence that divides front from back, keeping the wild life out of the back and the dogs in. In the view you can also see a clipped laurel hedge in the distance and a very large clipped box dome shape on the other side of the path. I have often wondered if the entrance was once make by a pair of domes, but is so one has disappeared without trace. Growing amongst the smaller box balls you can see a contorted hazel tree.
Above you can see more of the yew hedge which I have allowed to grow in height. I usually park my car against this hedge and now cannot see across into the garden when I get in and out of the car.
Yew plays an important part in the front garden. There are 2 very old full size yew trees, the tall yew hedge described above and a number of large topiary pillars like the one you can see outside the old coach house. This yew is essentially a chicken hotel – a number of the garden chickens choose to roost here overnight and it provides a good place for them to shelter on a wet or windy day.
Above is one of the old full sized yew trees.
Moving to the back garden there are a couple of mature yew and box features and then planting such as that under the pergola above, where I have added box edging and balls. When planning a new bed I almost always include some clipped evergreen features to make sure the garden looks beautiful in winter. Under the pergola I have added low box edging, which is just reaching maturity and the three box balls, which have grown to quite a substantial size now.
Whilst the clipped hedge adds structure and colour in the winter, it also gives a neat boundary to enclose my more exuberant planting style throughout the summer months. In these photos it does look like it could do with a good clip to tidy it up!
I also have a number of box balls and pyramids in pots around the house – again I like the permanence they give to the planting throughout the seasons.
I add box balls to most of my borders.
This is a very old box hedge just outside the kitchen. Although largely straight when we moved in, I have allowed the shapes to grow organically with a minimum of trimming and love the undulations the hedge has developed. This hedge is a good screen – cutting off the view of the front garden from the back of the house.
Above is the same hedge as it will look in a couple of months time when the hyacinths and narcissi are in flower.
I have included this photo taken in the autumn as it gives an aerial view of part of the back garden with the Kitchen Garden in the distance. You can see the immature yew hedge that I have planted all around the boundary of the Kitchen Garden and that divides the plot into quarters. At present one quarter is the Cutting Garden, one for vegetables and one for fruit. The final quarter is currently undeveloped.
Back at ground level this is the developing yew hedge in the Kitchen Garden. Planted four years ago I can still see over it, so it needs to grow a few more feet in height, but I hope that eventually this hedge will enclose the Kitchen Garden like a wall, creating a ‘secret garden’ within the garden.
I also use lavender as topiary – I love the way the look of the plant changes throughout the seasons. In the winter the lavender makes neat silvery grey hummocks.
In the early summer it keeps its neat shape, but with fresh airy foliage.
And then there are the beautiful flowers in mid summer, before it is trimmed and the cycle starts again.
In the back garden I also have this bed, which largely relies on yew and box for its impact. The high yew hedge provides a back drop and sets off the statue at the back of the border. I have added two box pyramids and a box edging to provide structure for the planting of roses, peonies and japanese anemones. These will look better as they mature.
This is the back view of this border with a very old mulberry tree in the foreground.
And here is another aerial view, taken at leaf clearing time in the autumn.
Although there is a strict regime of clipping and feeding to keep the topiary looking at its best, I love the contrast of the sharp green shapes against the bare bones of the garden in winter and the loose abundant flowery growth of the summer.
I am looking forward to taking my photographs for the next GBFD on 22nd February, when I plan to take a look at the role of winter flowering shrubs in my borders. In the meantime you can find plenty more foliage blogs today over at Christina’s blog.