6 Clever Garden Design Tips from a Visit to Kingston Maurward

Red Garden Kingston Maurward Green Fingered BlogHave you ever visited a large garden and thought there was nothing there that you could copy in your garden? You were wrong! Here are 6 clever garden design tricks you can use in your garden. 

It might seem like these huge gardens open to the public have nothing in common with our own back yards, but if you look closely enough there are always a few ideas that will translate to any garden. It could be a plant, a combination, a way of growing them, or a place to put them. I've been to Kingston Maurward in Dorset, where I found these great ideas.

Kingston Maurward is an animal park and gardens in the grounds of an 18th century mansion house just outside Dorchester. It's a great day out, with paddocks of animals to see, large landscaped grounds with a lake, and a range of formal and informal garden rooms on a variety of themes. Strolling through a beautiful garden like this is pleasant enough in itself, but pausing for a few minutes provides the opportunity to take in some of the details and realise that some of it can be easily recreated at home. Here are my 6 takeaways from Kingston Maurward... 

Make triangles

Garden Design Triangles Kingston Maurward Green Fingered Blog
Kingston Maurward - The Crown Garden
These white foxgloves really stand out against the dark hedge, but they have also been spaced at an interval between the tall obelisks and the lower planting. These different heights have been positioned to create triangular lines down to the middle of the bed, and following the line of the top of the hedge. Any plant with tall slender flower spikes could be used to achieve this which means it can be done in any garden and at different times of the year with flowers that bloom later or earlier than foxgloves.

Concentric circles

Garden Design Circles Kingston Maurward Green Fingered Blog
Kingston Maurward - The Brick Garden
This garden room is lovely and colourful but look carefully. The blue wallflowers form an outer circle. Inside this is a circular brick path. The central bed has an outer circle of pansies, and within these is another circle of loose, airy flowers punctuated by balls of lonicera nitida. A simple theme that can be done on any scale, but visually striking. 

GREEN FINGERS TIP: This effect is most spectacular when the circle is the same colour all the way round!

Erigeron on steps

Erigeron garden design Steps Kingston Maurward Green Fingered BlogErigeron garden design Steps Kingston Maurward Green Fingered BlogThe Mexican fleabane, Erigeron karvinskianus, beautifully decorates a set of steps. As you can see here, it looks equally delightful whether it is a grand curving staircase or a simple flight of a few steps. It nestles in the angles, down the sides and around the base, and looks fabulous against the stonework in a kind of Mediterranean way. Well worth a try!

GREEN FINGERS TIP: To get this look you only need to buy a single small erigeron plant. Plant it in the nearest patch of earth to your steps and within a year or two it will seed itself all over them from top to bottom.

A Red Garden...

Red Garden Design Kingston Maurward Green Fingered Blog
Kingston Maurward - The Red Garden
One of the garden rooms is surrounded by the Copper Beech hedge you can see at the top of this post. The beds are edged with Berberis, with dark red Phormium as the centre piece. There are also bronze leaved Cannas and scarlet Salvias. Emphasising one colour can create quite an impression. Which colour will you go for?

...or a Yellow One

Garden design Yellow Kingston Maurward Green Fingered BlogEven a single block of one colour can stand out, as here with yellow irises behind a low conifer hedge. In a smaller space, Lonicera nitida could provide the hedge. Day lilies or daffodils could provide the flowers at different time of the year. The backdrop needs to be a contrasting colour to make them stand out.

Walk through a hedge!

Garden design hedge Kingston Maurward Green Fingered Blog
I love this one! A proper thicket of chest high box completely fills the transition area at one end of the red garden. To move on to the next part of the gardens, you walk past the dark copper beech hedges into this mass of bright green box, through a twisting narrow path. It looks great at the end of the pool and is a very novel way of lining a path.
Garden design hedge Kingston Maurward Green Fingered Blog
The sinuous curves lend it a less formal, more mysterious Alice in Wonderland air. And what could be simpler to create in your garden? Just plant a load of box, lonicera nitida, privet or similar, and cut your path through as your hedge grows higher. Easy! 

If you enjoyed this post, then check out the ideas I've got from visiting other gardens, and if there was nothing here that would suit your garden, maybe there is in one of these:
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  1. I love that box hedge walk - would love to have a tall version where you can't see it leads through to a secret garden

    1. Hi Craig, thanks for visiting the Green Fingered Blog. Yes its a great effect. It is actually quite tall for a box hedge, not the sort that is normally at the front of a border, it was above waist height, but you can see it. leads through an archway. I do love these sorts of devices, and try and come away from any garden visit with something to try at home at some stage, or when designing gardens for others. Hope you'll come back to the blog again - I'll be visiting as many gardens as I can looking for ideas.


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