‘The Toffs and the Commoners’ – A Garden Designers Round Table Post on designing with native plants.
As you fly up out of Bristol
through the hills of Leigh Woods
towards the motor way and the west
the spire of St Mary Redcliffe,
set amidst the hubbub of the city,
lies way back below you.
You are suddenly in the beginnings of semi rural North Somerset, yet you are also really just the length of Brunel’s amazing suspension bridge away from up-town, prestigious, regency Clifton.
This leafy south facing slope is studded with Victorian villas
and turreted splendour. With old money and new money.
So given its proximity to the city it is very much one of Bristol’s premier locations. Second only to Clifton in its salubrious and select allure.
It is a neighbourhood of electric gates, clipped laurel hedges. Impeccably managed lawns.
But, what can they be thinking of?
Scuzzy weeds on the public verge?
In the past there would have been sufficient power here for a swift call to the requisite authorities which would result in a public verge ‘crew cut’ pronto.
But of course with the passage of time in cash-strapped Britain we have now all become recessionistas, finding new ways of things costing less.
And ‘ecological’ has achieved street cred!
So here on this verge, this year, we have so far had wondrous flushes of golden taraxacum, clouds of creamy cow parsley, tawny hazes of grasses. For a few weeks the traffic junction at the top was jamming with the acid yellow daisies of ragwort and the rose-mauve glow of thistles.
Now it is the turn of Heracleum and Rumex.
And much as individual plants can be enjoyed for their own sake it is when you combine plants deliberately that, leaving aside the odd happy accident (!!), things really begin to happen.
And when your combinations are quite simple and on a certain scale the results can be quite special.
Of course ‘Dame Nature’, as another Dame, Dame Edna Everage, would call it, is good at both the happy accidents and the scale.
Here, the white flowers of common hogweed and the drying rust coloured spikes of common sorrel flowers combine en masse to make quite a striking sight.
There is contrast of form, texture and colour here.
Me I’d like a third to join it. Say lemon yellow oenothera or perhaps soft orange hemerocallis to make a happy trio. But don’t worry, I am not going to guerrilla garden. That I do not subscribe to.
Yeah, I am calling it ‘designing with natives’!
Still wondering what the natives are making of it tho!
Robert and Lesley
As opposed to this ‘happenstance’ I am sure our US colleagues will really be talking about designing with natives so do check in with them on the links below and find out how it is done: