The work to the new house is finally coming together, and I’m now ensconced at my new working space with a view of the back garden. One day I hope this scene will soothe my email-addled brain and inspire feature ideas in a way staring at the blank wall at my old house never could. Unfortunately at the moment the back garden is not even a work in progress and is inspiring just frustration.
We have finally got a bit of a plan for the hard landscaping, which just needs finalising before we can look to tackle it, but when it comes to the planting I feel like I’m drowning in decisions. One of the most wondrous things about gardening is the sense that you’ll never know everything and never see or have a chance to grow all the plants that you want to. Of course, many of these plants wouldn’t suit my Pennine climate, but if you include houseplants and specimens that will be happy growing with the protection of a greenhouse alongside plants that will cope with the cold, wet winters and generally damp summers in an acid, clay soil, the choice is still vast. I find this mindboggling in a good, awe-inspiring way and in a frustrating ‘how can I narrow down my plant selection?’ way.
Recently we took a break from DIY and visited the new gardens at Lowther Castle in Cumbria. The gardens have been created by Dan Pearson, a designer with a remarkable lightness of touch when it comes to planting schemes. His designs can be both dramatic and understated and include such a fabulous range of plants.
At Lowther Castle he has planted borders in among the ruins of the stately home, creating a fabulously gothic feeling space. The shade-loving plants and atmosphere he’s created was very inspiring and made me come home thinking it’s something I could take ideas from for the end part of the back garden. I was particularly taken by the flame-coloured Tropaeloum speciosum. A scrambling nasturtium, it looks incredibly exotic, but its common name, Scottish flame flower, indicates this isn’t a tender plant at all. It’s native to Chile and thrives in a cool, moist climate, is remarkably hardy and thrives in an acid soil. One for our garden I think!
Outside the castle ruins is a parterre, known as the Tapestry Garden, which is richly planted with blocks and drifts of grasses and perennials. The planting is on a big scale which suits its location, and even though I’m looking to include more shrubs in my garden, there were still planting ideas to take away. The delicate pale lemon flowers of one plant caught my eye. It looked like a salvia, but after a bit of research at home I discovered it’s a catmint, Nepeta govaniana, which loves semi-shade and moisture. Sounds perfect for my Yorkshire garden.
Discovering yet more plants is fascinating, but it does make the task of choosing which plants to grow more complicated. At least I now have an idea in my head of how I’d like the shady end of my garden to look like. And that’s a start!