Alison Levey of http://www.blackberrygarden.co.uk is an obsessive gardener based in Leicester and like our very own Mr McGregor would never describe herself as a professional, although we would certainly always take her advice on board. Through this article Alison tells us why she is growing a fondness for shrubbery.
Shrubberies are a bit old hat really aren’t they? I cannot think of a time recently when anyone has passed a comment such as ‘that’s a really cool shrubbery’. Shrubs seem to have become something that are associated with supermarket car parks and are generally seen as dull, boring and a catcher of crisp packets.
I find the more I garden the more my taste in plants and planting evolves. Now it might not be improving in some people’s view, but I sense changes and start to like plants I have dismissed previously. Shrubs were not high on my list of plants to buy when I moved into my current house a few years ago, in fact I removed quite a few that I believed then to be in the wrong place. Thankfully I still think that and I have not planted any back where they were removed from. I was lucky in that the back garden in particular was pretty much a blank canvas, little more than a slightly shaped field, which excited me hugely at the thought of the possibilities.
The design of the garden has also been an evolving progression than a mapped out drawing. Some areas have had more formal planning than others and some areas, like the Wild Garden, have developed over time from the messages the garden itself gave to me. This might sound a little odd so let me explain further.
The garden is south facing and slopes a little down and to the side of the house. It is a very gentle, barely noticeable slope, but as I have got to know the plot more and more I understand the contours of it better and how it influences what I do. There is line that cuts through the garden that runs along the edge of this incline. It is now more formally delineated as it is marked by the edges of borders, the top of the pond and a line of purple beech twigs that will one day be pillars. At first though this delineation was more of a feeling than something I could see. It meant I divided the garden in my mind quite quickly; the two thirds closer to the house would be the formal gardening area that would contain the main borders and the formal lawn. This is all ‘this side’ of the pond that fitted neatly into the bowl of the incline. The top third is where the Wild Garden would be. At first I planted a couple of trees in this area and quite a lot of native wild-flower plugs. I had a meadow-type idea in my head but not the annual flowery meadows that are very beautiful but more work than I would wish to put in. The meadow has been slow to establish but it now works quite well. It is particularly enjoyed by various bees, moths and butterflies throughout the warmer months. I scythe it down in September and give it a mow or two but otherwise it looks after itself.
So what has all this to do with shrubs? As time has gone on I added the odd shrub or small tree, a viburnum here, a hamamelis there and a hydrangea or two. After a while I realised I had planted quite a few shrubs as an Edgeworthia was added and a clethra and a rhododendron or three. These are all still relatively small at the moment but they are changing the character of the wild garden and attracting even more wildlife into the area. I think the garden is now at its full quota of trees, there are limits to what will fit in and I think this led to a re-interest in shrubs as I see them as useful underplanting and a way of getting even more Spring and Autumn interest in particular into the garden.
I am very fond of my accidental shrubbery, I had no idea that one shrub leads to another, but it turns out they do.