Last year, readers of The English Garden magazine voted for their favourite National Garden Scheme garden. The Nation’s Favourite Garden competition featured seven regional categories, each one including a small selection of some of the country’s best loved National Garden Scheme gardens.
St Timothee in Berkshire was voted regional winner in the South East category as well as being named the competition’s Overall Winner.
Sarah Pajwani has lovingly developed this special garden for over 15 years and we are delighted to share her guest blog with you this week.
Left: St Timothee’s winning competition plaque, custom-made by Haddonstone.
I’ve gardened here at St Timothee for 16 years. It’s a 2 acre garden and, although I love gardening, I also need ways to make it easy for me to manage.
Here are 7 things I’ve learnt which really help me now.
Deep borders I have found to be much easier than narrow strips. This may sound counter-intuitive and feel quite daunting. That’s certainly what I felt when faced with this huge expanse to get planted.
We had asked garden designers Acres Wild to help us plan the layout for our garden and I am so glad we did.
I would never have had the confidence to create such enormous borders. I thought they would mean more work but I now find them easier than the narrow strips I had inherited in my previous garden. They allow me to pack in more plants and help ensure I’ve enough interest at all times of the year.
The front edge of a border is what gets most noticed, particularly if you’re looking from afar or looking out to your border from inside. So it’s important to avoid gaps here or plants that either die, need cutting back or just look scruffy. Longterm performance is what’s important and to think about foliage as well as flowers.
Further back in the border, it’s easier to disguise a gap or scruffy plant with something else that pops up in front of it.
Around this border, the longterm performers that work right across the Summer are Heuchera, Geranium Sanguineum, Nepeta Faasenii, Stachys Byzantina, Geranium Mavis Simpson and Erigeron Karvinskianus.
It’s easy to get carried away with flowers but foliage plays an equally important role in creating a beautiful border.
A foliage plant I use in almost every border is Heuchera. There are so many different colours and sizes. This one is Brownies with large chocolate-green leaves and it’s a great foil to the oranges, blues and creams in this border.
Others I use extensively are Black Taffeta with deep black leaves, Micrantha Ruffles, green-leaved with creamy flowers and Strawberry Swirl. All these I find particularly tough and drought-tolerant.
For a really wide selection it’s worth checking out a heuchera specialist like Plantagogo.
After creating our first border, I discovered that while many plants flower for only a few weeks, there are some which go on and on right through the summer.
Having some of these in a border makes it easy to keep the interest going with other flowers coming and going around them.
Two that I use regularly are the pale pink Geranium Mavis Simpson shown above on the left and Aster Frikartii Monch – also shown on the left as well as on the right with oranges and blues. Both are super-easy plants which go on flowering right into Autumn with no need for deadheading.
I love colour and I love all colours but I don’t love all colours mixed and muddled together.
I much prefer to choose a certain palette for different areas of my garden. I find this personally feels more calming but it also makes it easy for me to know where to place new plants and, even when certain flowers come early or late, the overall picture still works.
These pictures show the ‘Red Bed’ in my garden and how it evolves from May to August but always centred around wine red and orange with blues and purples and offset by strong black and green foliage.
I garden with slightly alkaline soil that’s a mix of heavy clay with some borders being more free draining and very chalky.
We don’t have an irrigation system and I don’t have the time or desire to water my garden when we have the inevitable period with no rain.
My answer is to find plants that genuinely like the conditions I offer and I’ve found Beth Chatto’s extensive online nursery a great way to search for plants suited to different conditions.
This is my sweep of Gaura Lindheimerii, totally unwatered across the hot, dry summer of 2018 and still looking great – which is more than can be said for the poor lawn!
If you can find a self-seeding plant that works with your border, it can be the easiest way to fill gaps, avoid weeds and knit the whole picture together.
To keep things simple, I tend to have one key self-seeder for each border. For the Pink and Blue border it’s Nepeta Faasenii, for the Orange and Blue border, it’s Sisyrinchium Striatum and then for several others, it’s some of the smaller grasses – either Nasella Tenuissima or Hordeum Jubatum and all are easy to pull out if unwanted.
For a great choice of grasses, I use the Knoll Gardens online shop.
Sarah’s garden at St Timothee in Berkshire opens regularly for the National Garden Scheme.
Her open days in 2022 are Sunday June 19th from 11am to 4pm.
Sarah is also running a ‘Talk and Walk’ on ‘Successional Planting’ on August 4 at 2pm.
Full details can be found at the St Timothee garden page here.
We love what Sarah has achieved at St Timothee.
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