I just happened to be in Herefordshire the weekend garden writer Dr Noel Kingsbury and Jo Elliot opened their garden and grass meadows for the National Garden Scheme, and what an unexpected delight it was!
The garden explores the borders between the wild and the cultivated. Self-seeding is actively encouraged, so swaths of buttercups and cow parsley appear everywhere amongst the planting, while aquilegias of every shade of pink and purple have self-seeded with glorious abandon.
The slope of the land faces south and has very fertile soil, which retains moisture and is distinctly wet in parts. The garden is not organic as some very aggressive weeds need to be treated – not all that is wild is welcome!
There is a summer flower cutting garden, a wild garden, a grass roof and then a truly wonderful plinth of nursery beds and trials areas.
Lower down the slope is a pond with yellow flag irises and beyond that, a native community of rushes and sedges with meadowsweet and lesser knapweed and spotted orchid and an arc of globe flowers – which have been reintroduced from another meadow nearby.
At the very bottom of the valley is an acre or two of true wildflower meadows – filled with buttercups and Lady’s Smock. From the house the garden blends in with the fields below.
Gardening with minimal care
Noel Kingsbury has studied and written books on meadow-style planting and has worked with Piet Oudolf – he of the New York High Line.
Noel is looking at how it is possible to reduce maintenance and yet still have a good-looking range of perennial plants to admire. Close planting (around seven plants per square metre) and grasses certainly seem to play their part in this.
In one area he has used 50% Carex grasses – I am sorry I don’t know which ones, and then planted the rest of the area with perennials including Lysimachia Firecracker. A roaring success!
In another he has planted a series of trials using different grasses with Iris Sibirica. Interestingly Panicum and Miscanthus grasses disappeared over time – but Calamagrostis Karl Foerster has proved a winner and the area looks fantastic.
So what a treat to wander around this enchanting garden for a couple of hours on a golden sunny Sunday.
More info about Noel Kingsbury here including a link to his ongoing gardening soap opera ‘Dig, Plant and Bitch’!