English Gardening

I’m watching Olympic cycling this morning, laptop clicking away with quick glances at the big screen trying to get a glimpse of Box hill Road. If you didn’t know, this month is talk like a Brit month at the garden center. We will be calling basil (known as “bay zell”) “bah zill”, cotoneaster (known as “ko-tony-aster”) “cotton-easter”, and our friends “blokes”. When watering we will be referring to our irrigation system as our “lovely gubbins”, and our daily work will be “easy peasy”. While you’re at the nursery, be sure to check our horse chestnut tree where we will be fervently watching it grow so we can get some horse chestnuts this fall and play a game of “conkers”. Maybe I can play conkers in my yard with the spruce cones that will be dropping soon.

The English are to me the ancestors of garden lore. What is an English Garden like and how does it differ from an American Garden? The English Garden is more of an “Outdoor room” an extension of the house that should be just as attractive and comfortable as a room in the house. We call the front of our house the “yard”, whereas the Brits call it the “garden”. It is seen less as somewhere to “produce” things – food, flowers for cutting, but more as an outdoor living space.

In designing an English garden, create your framework through the use of hedges and borders. Taller hedges include holly, escallonia, or even clipped cedar trees. Softer hedge lines can be created using hydrangeas or even grasses such as Miscanthus “Adagio”. Perennial flowers are a major part of the inner color of an English garden. In our area, try Rudbekia, Shasta daisy, Crocosmia “Lucifer”, or Lobelia “Cardinalis”. Unknown but worthy perennials for taller lest windy areas of your garden can include Rodgersia and perennial Phlox.  Be sure to include herbs and vegetables in a sunny well drained corner; try Rosemary “Arp” or Lavender “Silver Edge” for larger herbs, creepy Elfin Thyme for your pathways. Colorful Swiss Chard “Neon Lights” is a great edible border addition.

No EnglishGarden is complete unless it includes a rose. Disappointed with hybrids teas? Try a hardy shrub rose such as the Knockout roses or the very hardy Rugosa rose.

Be sure to include a small patio; it can be of pavers or even small gravel. Upon it you need to put your lounge chair and small table. At 4:00 we will over to enjoy a spot of tea!