The common Ash tree ( Fraxinus excelsior), native to this country, was one of the first trees I learned to identify at college, mainly because it was such an easy one. They have distinctive black buds, and because they aren’t too fussy and grow almost anywhere, they often pop up as unwanted, self-seeded trees. It’s easy to take plants for granted when they aren’t too demanding isn’t it.
I’ve been a bit distracted in the last few days by the news of the disease that’s spreading through our Ash trees. The landscape relies on all it’s componant parts to make a complete picture, just as garden plants do.
Even if your not familiar with the Ash trees, their disappearance will have an effect on the general shape of our landscape and the wildlife they sustain. I guess it’s the downside of globalisation, but couldn’t somebody have done something about this before it was too late?
Ok, little rant over.
Back to the more uplifting topic of plants for your garden. Just like the general landscape around us, plants in gardens are made up of a range of shapes, sizes and colours. How we place them together and how the scene changes through the seasons can lift an ordinary garden into something much more special.
Our climate means that we can grow a huge range of plants in this country, and that really is the dilemma for most gardeners. Where do you begin to choose what will work best from this seemingly overwhelming choice?
So let’s look at the positive side of things, with this huge choice you will easily find the right plants for your garden. Firstly, you need to know your garden really well.
You may already have most of the information you’ll need, depending on how long you’ve lived in your house.
Write it all down, draw a simple sketch of the garden and make your notes on to it to build up a picture. I know preparation can seem dull, but don’t skimp this bit because it’s what will determine the choice of plants for your garden and their ultimate success.
One of the first things I do with a new client is spend time getting to know their taste, how they’d like the garden to look. Note down your answers to these questions so that you have a clear idea of what you want:
- how do they want their garden to look?
- what style do they like?
- what colours and shapes will work best with the surroundings?
- what’s their budget?
- do they have a gardener, or how muchtime do they want to spend gardening to keep it looking good?
Then I spend time getting to know their garden:
- what type of soil do they have?
- where are the sunny areas?
- how much shade is there?
- identify the plants that already grow there?
- what existing plants can be moved, pruned ?
- what plants need replacing?
- any areas that are a bit exposed and windswept?
- are there parts of the garden that get water-logged?
Knowing the conditions in your garden means that you can make a list of plants that you like, using all the information from your plan and notes.
Immediately you’ll be ignoring all the plants that don’t stand a chance of thriving in your garden. You’re plant list can be refined until it becomes a much more manageable size.
So, for example, if your garden has light, sandy soil and lots of light you can choose appropriate plants like lavender and herbs. But if your garden has heavier soil, roses and plants that like more moisture will be a better choice.
Part 2, published at the end of the week, will be about how to place plants together to create that lovely scene.
By the way, the fungus that’s causing problems for Ash trees is Chalara fraxinea. There are no visible symptoms in the early stages, click here to get through to The Forestry Commission website to find out more about it and how to identify it.
Sign up at the top right side of the page to have blog posts sent directly to you.
images: Jill Anderson