structure – hedging and clipping – and contrasts

September 21, 2010

We’ve been working up some planting schemes on paper this summer and consequently always feel the need to experience planting on the ground as much as possible during the process. Nothing can – memory, experience, note taking, the web – come anyway near the sensory impact of plants and the way they affect one’s mood – brighten, delight, transfix and absorb – I could go on!  Combining plants together is similar to working up a canvas or composing a piece of music – many layers, proportions of density and lightness of touch, textures – all woven together. In this art form we have to consider sound and smell as well. We also consider wildlife especially insect life. The spatial area that the plants are to occupy is another necessary consideration – a framework of paths, hedging, walls – all form part of the composition. The area of sky above is a crucial and often forgotten part of planting design.

Structural hedging, as a visual backcloth as well as providing shelter for plants and those enjoying them, is an important element in these schemes. So, a necessary and always uplifting visit to Great Dixter at this time of year when the hedges are being clipped and ‘tweezered’ is part of our CPD. Anny’s blog (on the  blogroll) is centred on Dixter at the moment. How excellent the lines of Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ and low Aster laterifolius ‘Horizontalis’ look against the clipped yew in the Peacock Garden in the image above.

The old pear trees are the primary structure in the High Garden. A secondary line of hurdle type constructed structures echo the context of this garden within the farming land of East Sussex. Lovely dark dahlias and teazles!

Back to the hedging and the treatment of the yew which is the predominate material here. Allowance for the clipping with a metre wide maintenance path – enough for ladders and the other paraphanlia for hedge work and for gardening into the border. A channel for air and light between hedge and planting is crucial and also a pleasant experience to wander down the back of a border on occasion.

Great textural planting here – simple large blocks, with a simple range of colour, of eupatorium, persicaria and miscanthus with the sharp weight of the castellated yew beyond emphasising that form and texture and habit are what it’s all about. 

Conversely, this grouping shows more obvious tonal contrasts with the yew. Hot dotted colour with  just one large-leaved canna, maybe ‘Durban’ in the foreground. 

The teazles again, Dipsacus fullonum, self-sown most likely with Fergus making the final decision on whether the seedlings are allowed to develop into these candelabra statements – brittle architectural giants rising above the firm framework of the yew. A line of grasses with glimpses of pokers beyond – layers and screens.

Here is the wider picture, quite complex if deconstructed but fairly perfect in the simplicity of the visual composition . . . .

. . . but just shifting the angle and the focus and mood change. Dramatic topiary – brilliant scale – forms a full stop and sets off the foreground planting in a different way. Applause here I think?

The ‘transparent’ grass . . .

 . . and soft tones and seed heads against the strength of the background trees. The foliage of the macleaya is starting  to turn buttery . . .

 . . a tapestry of delicacy made more prominent by the tall block of miscanthus . . .

. . . moving to a stronger colour palette against the mellow tones of Great Dixter house. Canna indica ‘Purpurea’ is the prima donna. Below shows the compact Viburnum opulus, guelder rose, with berries that remain as rich luscious fruits because birds don’t like them. Thank goodness! Love the touch of Mina lobata,of the Morning Glory family but looks nothing like it, in the bottom right hand corner.

. . . .  and perfection of contrasts with Dahlia ‘Ann-Brechenfelder’ and Selinum – a later cow parsleylike umbel – more delicate with a sense of the wild. And some music since it’s Dixter.

2 Responses to “structure – hedging and clipping – and contrasts”

  1. Kathryn Says:

    I have never thought about the fact that sky plays a role, but that makes such sense. Several years ago I was driving across a very flat landscape and noticed that the clouds were actually casting shadows on the ground. Beautiful!


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