Visiting gardens is a great way to get ideas and be inspired to get the best out of your own garden. Compton Acres, between Poole and Bournemouth in Dorset, is always a pleasure to explore, but there are plenty of ideas you can take home with you. So here are 8 ways of adding some magic to your garden.
8 pieces of garden inspiration: one of them is bound to make you think "I could do that" or "I'd love it if my garden had some of that". I'd love to hear what ideas inspire you and how you use them in your garden, so please share your ideas using the comments box, or on my Facebook page. And I'll be visiting other gardens soon looking for more inspiration, so keep checking the Green Fingered Blog for updates.
Pack your garden with plants
A large part of Compton Acres is woodland planting that fills a steep sided valley. And when I say "fills" I mean it. From the bog garden at the bottom to the viewing area at the top, it is packed with lush dense planting that creates a natural and secluded atmosphere. It features several layers, from very tall pines, to large shrubs like rhododendrons, smaller plants like hydrangeas or thistles, and all the way down to ground cover like pachysandra and ivy. If your garden doesn't have room for a massive pine, try something like an Acer palmatum or Robinia, or smaller varieties of silver birch. Underplant them with shrubs, and fill in all the gaps to give that dense woodland feel.
Create a journey through your garden
In a large public garden there is plenty of space to create a journey. Compton Acres is really a collection of several gardens and you walk through them all in succession. But even in a small space, all you need is a winding path. If you can't see too far ahead of you, and the path is always bending out of sight, then it makes the garden feel bigger and makes your journey through it more interesting. At Compton Acres there is not a straight view in sight once you've passed through the initial formal Italian gardens. From then on your destination is always out of sight around the next bend.
Add inviting entrances to your garden
Whether it is the garden gate or a simple archway to walk through, something should literally invite the visitor to explore further. How could anyone not want to walk through this archway to see what is beyond? It doesn't have to be the actual entrance to the garden, it may be just a transition between two elements, such as a narrow entrance through planting that opens out into a wider area beyond. It could be as simple as a climber trained over some wire above the path. This hides what is to come from the viewer, adds a sense of anticipation, and breaks up the journey.
Make the most of a sloping site with different levels
The wooded valley at Compton Acres is very steep so shallow slopes have been created for paths to wind back and forth in order to traverse the changes in level gradually. This helps create the journey with a winding path, but the dense planting means that each level is hidden from the others, because you cannot see any level other than the one you are on. From the top of the valley you can't even tell that there are any paths below you at all. This is a great way to use a sloping site, and gives the feeling of seclusion as well as the changes of level adding interest in themselves.
|The Old Post Office, Gwaelod y Garth|
And if you're thinking that is too difficult to do or won't work on a smaller scale then you're wrong! At The Old Post Office in Gwaelod y Garth on the edge of Cardiff this is exactly what has been achieved in a standard size garden on a similarly steep slope. The paths wind up and down in exactly the same way, and as you can see here, from the bottom, you hardly notice that there are paths all the way to the top because they are hidden from each other by the planting rising between them. (You can visit the Old Post Office as part of the NGS Open Garden scheme.)
Emphasise any height in your garden
If you have a raised area, whether a natural slope or potentially a man made mound of earth, it can be made to appear taller than it really is by planting something tall and slim on the top. The effect is seen here at Compton Acres using huge Echiums but could equally be achieved back home using a small tree, shrubs or flowers. The tall spikes of flowers on a lupin or foxglove for example, or the narrow columns of an Italian cypress or Juniper communis "Compressa" can all be used to make a mountain out of a molehill so to speak.
Use water to play with light
Any amount of water, however small, can be positioned to take advantage of the light. It can be still and reflective, gently rippling or cascading, it doesn't really matter. Any water will add some movement, colour and reflection (see the pic at the top of this post) that constantly changes, providing added interest. This is the case whether seen through dappled shade or in full sunlight. At Compton Acres a small waterfall created gentle movement in the small pool below that was reflected on the underside of the leaves of the tree above. You can see the effect in the video clip below, and this is something that could be easily created at home with a small water feature with a shrub or tree overhanging it.
Create areas with different levels of light
A notable element of a visit to Compton Acres is the number of times you move from the light into an area of relative cool and darkness, and then back into bright sunshine again. On several occasions this is through tunnels used to access separate areas, but equally it can be into a densely planted grove of trees and then out into an open area. This is another way of breaking up your journey around the garden, and adding an extra dimension along the way. And using dense trees and shrubs is a method of achieving the effect that is available to any gardener with a modicum of space. A mini woodland garden can be created with any medium overhanging tree by surrounding it with some Laurel, Viburnum or Photinia to provide a smallish area of dense shade through which to emerge into a lighter, more open area such as a lawn or border planted to a lower height.
|GREEN FINGERS TIP!|
Use sculptureThere is sculpture everywhere at Compton Acres and you can see it used in various ways. There are focal points...
|The Italian Garden Compton Acres|
|The Japanese Garden Compton Acres|
|Compton Acres Japanese Garden|
|Bird Sculpture, Compton Acres|