I’m not a great fan of pastels. Of course the garden looks pretty in the spring frothy with blossom and pale bulbs, but as the year moves on, I need a punchier hit of colour. That’s why the backbone of my spring garden is euphorbia with its acid green bracts and strong shapes: wulfennii and mellifera in the border, robbiae in the woodland and myrsinitis in pots. And acid green looks good with the strong maroons and burnt oranges of wallflowers, with dark tulips and purple/black elder foliage.
Wandering round my garden (a regular occurrence with pre-NGS nerves), I’ve noticed how much strong colour comes from foliage: caramel Rhus cotinus, lime or flame spirea, dark lysimachia ciliate, cut elderflower and the pretty heart-shaped leaves of the Judas tree, sprinkled with fuschia buds. Even some of the dreaded multi-coloured heucheras are acceptable as ground cover, though bugle (Ajuga reptans) now comes in a good range of leaf colour with bright blue spires.
In the flower department I love my dark velvet iris with chance honesty seedlings; wallflowers with spirea foliage and sedum rosettes; and bright blue forget-me-nots with ‘Black Parrot ‘ tulips. And they all look good in vases in the kitchen too. My bantam hens fit in perfectly with this colour scheme and are enjoying their new-found freedom in the garden after their four months’ imprisonment in the run.
Ten gardens are opening for the NGS in Whitstable this year on May 21st, including three new ones: a beachcomber’s garden, a seaside roof garden and a plantsperson’s garden in an ex-pub. We’re opening three weeks earlier this year to give another picture of the gardens, but the vagaries of the weather may mean that they look pretty similar.