Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Planting with Style

In a garden designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole in south Oxfordshire, sweeps of naturalistic planting merge together to form a plausible community of wild plants - plausible, but not genuine, and certainly not wild.
The planting is beautiful, however. Here, Bradley-Hole has employed his grid system, with square beds of perhaps four metre dimension separated by gravel paths. The planting is so dense that the pathways become visible only when you are looking directly along them, and each square of the grid echoes its neighbours in the choice of plants. Dynamism and variety are introduced almost mathematically - the proportions of each type of plant change with each bed, and select additions subtly bring new colours or forms to the overall pattern.
Elsewhere in the garden, a fringe of massed grasses and huge Persicarias along the boundary picks up the theme of these plants which runs through the planting as a whole, and a mown circle of grass allows for rough-grass planting of spring bulbs around its perimeter. The terrace, raised above the level of the garden, is fringed by a tall bank bearing swathes of different Persicarias and more grasses - looking at this head on gives the impression of a huge pointillist screen, ranged in colours of rust, plum and tawny yellow.
Some find this pattern of planting somewhat 'spotty' - too many small groupings of plants (often in fact single plants) creating, for them, a hectic mess of plant material.  This is highly skilled design, however - although the plantings cannot be read easily at distance, closer inspection reveals the rhythm built through repeated forms, closely-related varieties of the same plant and the same colours, appearing in the foliage and flowers of completely different species.  I find the style deeply satisfying - a creative response to the environment that suggests wild places and natural communities of plants through highly knowledgeable design.

Paul Ridley Design
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