Thursday, 3 May 2018

7 Garden problems solved by a visit to Kingston Lacy

Garden problems solved Kingston Lacy Green Fingered Blog
Visiting Kingston Lacy in Dorset inspired these clever but simple solutions to some garden problems. Maybe one of them is the answer you need for a problem in your garden... 



I visited the gardens at Kingston Lacy in Dorset earlier this spring, and saw ways of dealing with several problems related to that tricky time of year in late winter before most things in the garden really start growing.

7 Garden problems solved by a visit to Kingston Lacy 

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How to stop your garden looking bare in late winter


You can keep your garden interesting in winter by leaving perennial seed heads and stems in place. They can provide texture, subtle colour, some height, and shelter for wildlife. But they can also look untidy. Sooner or later, depending on the plants, and the weather, you'll need to tidy them up. 




This means at some point you'll be left with areas of bare earth, with nothing but a few twigs sticking a few centimetres above ground, lying dormant until brought back into growth by spring sunshine.



But there are a few plants that peak before the rest of the garden has woken up.



In the rose garden at Kingston Lacy, they've used Scilla. These bulbous flowers can be cheaply planted en masse, typically in blue or white. Planted in this way they create a colourful haze across the ground, filling the actual spaces in between the dormant perennials, as well as the metaphorical gap between winter and spring.

Scilla Garden problems solved Kingston Lacy Green Fingered Blog
Scilla flowers in the rose garden at Kingston Lacy


Others you might use are snowdrops, crocuses and cyclamen. Most people recommend planting snowdrops after they've flowered in spring, before they die back. Other spring bulbs can be planted in autumn.




If you've got an area of your garden that looks bare in March, put a date in your diary now to plant some early flowering bulbs this October to fill those gaps.


How to attract bees to your garden in early spring


We rely on bees to pollinate our crops, but they are in trouble. Wild habitats have been, and continue to be, destroyed. Bees increasingly rely on gardens for safe places to shelter and thrive. 



Our lives would be much more difficult without bees, but how much does your garden offer them in spring, before things really get going?



There are of course winter flowering shrubs you can add to your garden:






At Kingston Lacy, there was a very clear demonstration that Hellebores were a fantastic attraction to bees in Spring, at a time when little else was in flower. There were loads of flowers, in beds and lining paths, and they were buzzing with bees!



Hellebore Garden problems solved Kingston Lacy Green Fingered Blog
Hellebores attracting bees

So if you want bees in your garden a little sooner, plant some hellebores, and you'll be doing the bees a big favour by offering them plenty of nectar earlier in the year. 



How to brighten up a boring piece of rough ground


Have you got an area of rough grass that you don't know what to do with?



Maybe it's uneven or difficult to mow. Maybe it's next to a path or driveway. It could be an awkward spot that doesn't get much sun. Maybe you've thought about digging it up but never got round to it.



There is an easier way - plant some daffodils.



The bright cheery flowers will completely distract the eye from any unevenness of the grass, untidy path edges or other imperfections, and by planting daffodils there is no need to dig over the whole area.


Rough ground Daffodils Garden problems solved Kingston Lacy Green Fingered Blog
Daffodils on rough ground at Kingston Lacy



To make the effect last for longer, you could also add tulips and bluebells, which will carry on flowering long after the daffodils have finished.





How to separate two parts of your garden but still see from one to the other?


If you have one or two separate areas in your garden, how are they separated?



You might sit in one area while the children play in another. You may want to keep an eye on the children whilst allowing them their own space. Maybe you just want to visually segregate a part of your garden to create a secluded corner. But you may not want a tall, oppressive hedge or a built structure that will completely cut off one part from another.



On a practical level, and as a simple design trick, this bamboo screen works really well.


Bamboo screen Garden problems solved Kingston Lacy Green Fingered Blog
Bamboo with pruned lower leaves

With the lower leaves pruned, the attractive golden stems are displayed, and there is some visibility to the part of the garden beyond. In the Japanese garden at Kingston Lacy it is a source of intrigue, allowing a glimpse, but only a glimpse, of the area and the sculpture beyond. 



How do you cover a fence with interesting plants in winter?


Growing climbing plants along a fence or wall is a good way to soften the hard landscaping, and add colour and texture to your boundaries.



There are evergreen climbers like Clematis montana or ivy, that will cover a structure with foliage all year round. But many other climbers lose their leaves and are just dormant bare stems between November and April.



An alternative way to fill the space is by leaving the seed heads on a deciduous clematis. 

Clematis seed heads on a fence Garden problems solved Kingston Lacy Green Fingered Blog


The fluffy balls can be left on all winter to provide a soft woolly covering for your fence, adding significant visual appeal and texture when it's needed.




In the spring it can be cut back as far as you like, ready to regrow and cover the fence again over summer.   


Related:  When to prune clematis - made simple!




How to protect plants from frost quickly


I spotted this fabulous idea in the Kingston Lacy kitchen garden. Over a section of the vegetable patch are a few wire hoops, at intervals, with canes attached at the apex, running the length of the bed to form a framework.



Fleece is rolled up around canes or poles and laid down each side of the bed, parallel to the canes on the top of the frame.



If a frost is forecast, the fleece can simply be unrolled and laid over the framework, protecting everything underneath. Genius!


Frost protection Garden problems solved Kingston Lacy Green Fingered Blog
Quick and simple frost protection system


How do you make a small garden interesting to walk around?



It can seem difficult in a small garden to create any sense of mystery, intrigue or exploration. These are essential ingredients if you want to make your garden a multi dimensional space that holds people's attention. But it's easier than it first appears to make a small space feel engrossing.



The answer is to pack it with plants, with as many winding paths in between them as possible.



An example is Kingston Lacy's Fernery, where paths wind round in every direction under some tall conifers. It's not a large area but there are so many ways of navigating it, between all the raised beds lined with stone walls, that you can spend plenty of time travelling around it.



Any similar layout will work. You don't need ferns or conifers, or stone walls and raised beds - yours could be a cottage garden or a tropical jungle. The trick is to have lots of small beds intersected by lots of paths so that you and your visitors are tempted to enjoy every inch of the garden.



What really makes it work is the occasions when you can't see round a corner, thanks to large evergreen shrubs that block the view.


Winding paths Garden problems solved Kingston Lacy Green Fingered Blog
The intriguing entrance to the Fernery at Kingston Lacy

This is done at the entrances to the Fernery at Kingston Lacy, and could be done at any other point too. It creates places where you can only see a few metres ahead, and have to walk on and turn the corner before the next part of the garden is revealed to you, making for a continual sense of discovery, even if you've been there before.


Do you have any of these problems in your garden? I hope these ideas from Kingston Lacy will help you to solve them. 

If you have a different problem in planning your garden, I'd be interested to read about it in the comments section below, and if I've seen a possible solution somewhere on my travels, I'll let you know.

I'll certainly be visiting more gardens as soon as I can so look out for more ideas and inspiration soon.

Paul 

Oldhouseintheshires

4 comments:

  1. I don't like bees myself, but hellebores are beautiful and I should add those to my garden. Great tips on making a small garden interesting. All of my plants are scattered in pots on the balcony. Hubby made a shelf for one side and he just put up a vertical herb planter on the other side. At least its easy to redesign since all I have to do is move the containers. Great ideas though.

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    1. I love seeing the bees buzzing around the flowers. Wasps on the other hand can be more interested in my food or drink when I'm outside, they are annoying. Glad you enjoyed reading the post, thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Like the bulbous flowers idea.

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    1. Glad you like it - no doubt your garden will look great next spring!

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