Mind Gardens 4 – Romantic Strolling Garden

Tuin met geliefden: Square Saint-Pierre – Garden with lovers
@ Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Stichting)

Through design and planting a garden acquires a distinctive mood and for this Mind Garden I imagine an informal space through which to wander, relax and feel secure. Van Gogh’s garden with lovers is just one of such images that artists have created throughout history illustrating the sort of strolling garden l have in mind.

This will be a garden without a focal point, it will surround you with a single sense of place, allowing you to wander, focused upon your inner thoughts or the person with whom you are sharing the space.

My eBook “Shrub Features” details the idea of surrounding specimen shrubs and trees with appropriate schemes of mixtures of perennials. These shrubs stand free from the garden’s boundaries or shrub borders and are thereby presented to their best advantage and allowed to grow naturally.

A series of borders featuring widely spaced shrubs and separated by winding paths is the model for this strolling garden. In the smallest of gardens we may be looking at no more than a couple of such shrub feature borders, but ideally this is an idea for a larger garden space with room for a more extensive network of paths with here and there benches to stop, relax and maybe steal a kiss.

Strolling Garden 50 m. x 50 m.

There are two types of borders: some with small, evergreen Arbutus unedo trees and the others with Hydrangea paniculata shrubs. Each type will have a basic perennial meadow mix covering 75% of the ground area. Additionally, up to ten different complementary plants (small shrubs and perennials) will be planted as bold groups randomly throughout the whole garden space; each group being repeated at least twice.

Repetition is the key to creating the unified space filling this garden. Arbutus trees are multi-stemmed with flowers and fruit in late summer. The plants surrounding them will reinforce their evergreen character and give the garden its year round impact.

The hydrangeas are wide arching shrubs that flower for a long period in late summer. They will rise above a border dominated by arching green Hakenochloa macra grasses. In winter this grass will turn straw coloured, but remain effective through to the following spring.

The repeating clumps of complementary plants add additional interest to the scheme as well as weaving it into an all embracing familiar whole. Strolling through the space the same plants will be seen in ever changing relationships with one another.

Feature Border with tree – Arbutus unedo as a multi-stemmed tree and additional evergreen shrubs including Choisia ternata ‘Astec Pearl’, Viburnum utile and Ilex crenata or Buxus will be included here.

Theme plants – per square meter

2 × 3 Polystichum setiferum ‘Pulcherrimum Bevis’ – fern

1 × 1 Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Nora Barlow’

2 x 1 Epimedium rubrum

3 × 1 Phlox divaricata

2 × 1 Aster divaricatus

Feature Border with deciduous shrubs – Hydrangea paniculata and edging clumps of Sarcococca oriental give these borders their structure.

Theme plants – per square meter

3 x 1 Hakenochola macra ‘All Gold’

1 x 2 Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Alba

2x 1 Euphorbia x martinii

1 x 1 Aster thompsonii

2 x 3 Amsonia hubrichtii

Complementary Plants for use throughout the whole garden in groups that will cover approximately 1 m2 each time.

Rodgersia podophylla 5 x, Hosta sieboldiana 3 x, Astilbe thunbergii 8 x, Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ 8 x, Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ 5 x, Luzula nivea 10 x, Aruncus ‘Horatio’ 3 x, Dryopteris erythrosora (fern) 8 x, Chelone obliqua 8 x.

In many ways the actual plants proposed for this Mind Garden are less important than the ways the different groups are being used. The small evergreen tree Arbutus may be difficult for some to find at an adequate size. The trees could just as easily be small deciduous species such as Acer, Sorbus or Prunus and in a larger garden even Betula. Similarly the perennials need to form a harmonious understory with interesting variations in texture, scale and seasonal flowers. Nothing should dominate and which species are actually used will be dictated by the constraints that apply to all the perennial meadows discussed in this blog. What is important here is the repetition at ground level, mid level and tree level giving this design its strong character.

The theme plant schemes are similar to a number included in my eBook on Shady Perennial Meadows. There you will find detailed descriptions of the plants used together with suggestions for a range of different planting schemes.