Form factor – our garden in June 2016

The best thing I’ve added to our border this year (I think so far) is Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ – it hasn’t even flowered yet, it’s the leaves. I had no idea the leaves would be so plump and large. In amongst all of the smaller leaved plants, they’ve added the necessary contrast in leaf form our border was missing. As they say, the best things in gardening happen by mistake. I’ve tried to capture this in this photo:

Nicotiana alata 'Lime Green'

With the non-stop storms and lack of sunshine, our flowers aren’t yet at full pelt which has given me time to reflect on the foliage of the garden and the forms of the plants. I like the higgledy-piggledyness of our garden. Looking at it objectively though, there are repeated foliage forms that have happened somewhat by mistake. The Sambucus nigra f. porphyrophylla ‘Black Lace’ for instance is reflected by a Dahlia at the other end of our border.

Our garden is very far from perfect, lots of it is a mess, which I don’t mind. The garden is a living experiment for trying stuff. Some works, lots doesn’t. If it were perfect it would probably be a sign that it’s standing still too much (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). For instance, the position of our Salvia x jamensis ‘Nachtvlinder’ in the middle of the patio in a pot next to a galvanised steel micropond was haphazard, but I liked it so much that’s where it stays,

Salvia x jamensis 'Nachtvlinder'

Why do some things work and others not? Well, colour is important but increasingly it’s clear to me that it is form perhaps more so. Our seed grown Echiums will have show stopping inflorescences, but the leaves – the leaves are beautiful. The side alley, where I started my little garden adventure fluctuates in and out of ‘working’, as you can see below. What do you think works and doesn’t?

Jack Wallington - Littlebury Road

The Hosta I love, some of the ferns I love. And I know a focal point in the border is essential – you can’t see it just yet but if using a magnifying glass you will spot our focal point to be, the Eucalyptus. But the rest looks a bit too messy at the moment. It blurs.

In addition, form and colour I have learnt change depending on where you are. Our Astrantias look dark and trendy up close, but faded and insignificant from afar, for instance.

Yet raise a plant up above eye level and zoom in, and new secrets of form are revealed. I love the alien-like bonsai feel of this Pelargonium sidoides.

Pelargonium sidoides

I’m really interested to learn how the glaucous, cut foliage of the soon to be giant Melianthus major seedling changes things. I’ve hand reared this from seed and – despite that being quite easy – I’m very protective of this little champ.

Melianthus major seedling

Last year the standout foliage form in our garden was palmate from the Ricinus. This year with fewer of those, our Canna breeding faster than rabbits and the introduction of two baby banana plants, it is likely to be the tropical giant ovate leaves of these plants.

Jack Wallington - Littlebury Road

Today I had my first RHS Level 3 exams which felt like they went OK, and although there are storms, I had the pleasure of revising outside in the sun earlier in the week (above). Reading about design and staring at that Muso on the table generated this ramble I’m afraid.

I always get reflective after the milestone of an RHS exam and it struck me today that a year ago, Chris and I were beavering away on our own in the garden to try and impress Monty Don. It was fun and exhilarating but between filming quite lonely as I knew no one who liked gardening as much. Today, I had lots of encouragement from you all on social media and elsewhere making everything a much better experience and I’m very grateful to everyone who chats to me and listens. It’s not an exaggeration to say your own gardening experiences are endlessly inspirational and I hope to one day be as good as you all! 🙂

Oh, and the Dahlias are starting to flower…

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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