Few of us are lucky enough to have acres of land to sculpt into the garden of our dreams, but the public parks and gardens of the UK have plenty of valuable lessons to teach any gardener. Even if all you have is a small suburban back yard you can learn a lot from visiting these wonderful places. Here are a few examples to look out for while you enjoy a new garden:
Victorian landscape gardeners were masters of theme. Their finest creations contained cool ferny nooks, formal lawns, open parkland, and wild-looking rockeries. Each section was carefully designed to contain only elements that meshed perfectly together.
Trying to cram too many different themes into a small space is a mistake but wandering through an extensive Victorian garden is an excellent way to decide what kind of atmosphere you really want in your garden. You’ll probably see anything from three to half a dozen themes on your walk, and can pick the one or two that suit your space best.
Modern gardeners have access to a far more diverse range of species than their Victorian counterparts did. That means access to a wider colour palette, especially when it comes to foliage. Contemporary gardens like that at Veddw House in Monmouthshire use purple hedge plants and silver shrubbery to create a very striking effect.
If you want to make your garden stand out from the one next door, creative but tasteful use of colour is the best way to do it- take a walk through a modern open garden and keep an eye out for combinations you like and plants you could use to bring colour into your own garden.
The best open gardens give thought to the whole year (though some do close to the public in the winter). The designers gave careful include a feature for every season- spring bulbs, summer greenery, autumn foliage, and winter colour and shape. Of course, showing off the best of every season is another feat that’s much easier when you’ve got a generously sized garden but it’s still possible to borrow some wonderful seasonal ideas, from autumn grapevine bowers to camellia hedges for cold weather flowers.
Almost all grand gardens were built for beauty rather than usefulness, but walk around the grounds of almost any historical manor house and you’ll find a herb garden and perhaps an orchard. In most cases even the food-producing areas are beautifully arranged- a graceful mulberry tree may be used as centrepiece for an open lawn, for example, or fruiting trees carefully trained to spread along walls.
Another great trick is to use herbs to add scent. Both the cottage gardeners and grand landscapers of yesteryear understood that edible plants can be useful in the garden as well as in the kitchen.
In the UK we’re lucky enough to have a huge number of wonderful gardens and even some superbly landscaped public parks to which entry is entirely free. They are well worth visiting for pleasure or to pick up some valuable tips to use at home, or both. Every great garden is unique- there is always something different to catch the eye and always something new to learn.