Our First Garden – A Learning Curve

The second half of Monica Wylie’s journey to create the perfect garden in Craiglockhart, Edinburgh…

Christopher Lloyd observes that there are two approaches to garden design; those that follow a plan and those that muddle through. We are clearly the later having a design that has been pretty much rethought.

Willie Duncan and Barbara Whitelaw of Upper Largo, Fife have a garden approach of a certain appeal too. They started in the middle of the garden, each heading the opposite direction from the other and gradually worked towards the other. Interestingly you wouldn’t sense that when basking in the richness of their garden, so there must have been innate creative osmosis at play.

As a team we have found that we work very well as Jamie has a natural flair for space and balance being able to see clearly how we might create areas that maximise the movement of the sun throughout the day, seasons and year, whereas I have a strong sense of colour, shape and form. We are drawn to similar plants and agree on the atmospheres we would like to achieve.

So what have we learnt so far?

We have a penchant for wayward looking plants and have certainly over bought having a habit of purchasing on the hop on seeing an unusual specimen or bringing a memento back from a fine day out . We are constantly moving plants, even trees as we realise that they might need a little more room to spread than we initially thought.

We were completely naive about the work required just to prepare the soil and had no idea about compacted soil and how tough it is to penetrate, we really  should have hired the mini digger earlier. We underestimated the wind having removed two of four bulky trees, we now have to consider shelter.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have tried to do it all at once as we really are only just beginning to see the emergence of the bones of a considered garden on the west side whereas the other side is relatively unresolved. I also think it was a mistake to keep some of the plants we inherited that we didn’t like simply to fill the gaps but really they complicate visual development process.

And where are we now?

The canopy of small trees is in and with time will give some much needed height to the west side while the mid level of shrubs are settling in. We have found that we are particularly fond of southern hemisphere plants for their texture and dry atmosphere; the leptospermums, ozothamnus, and olearias. There is something of the scrubby moorland in these that we like.

Then there are the nothofagus with their decorative leaves which in 20 year’s we will most certainly  have to remove. We are at the stage of trying to create layered planting that will give pleasure throughout the year and it’s not as easy as one might think .

Dan Pearson, in his design for the Tokachi Millennium Forest, talks about ‘emergents’ that stand above the other species, ‘space fillers’ which to my mind are those linking plants that bring harmony, low level ’procumbents’  which are ground cover in our garden and ‘treats’, eye-catching splashes of unexpected colour or form such as hellebores in the early spring and peonies and dahlias in the summer. We are at the low level procumbent stage aiming to be rid of brown soil by next year.

I think we both realise that our garden will never be finished and will constantly evolve.  We both really enjoying being out in the garden and seeing everything beginning to grow.  There is only one doubt which occasionally passes through our minds as we squeeze the latest treasure into the planting scheme….

Do we need a bigger garden?

Find Monica at: www.flowersbymonicawylie.co.uk



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