A wild garden can be a tricky thing to manage. If the garden is formal you can keep it neat and tidy throughout the year and during any low points you can always fall back on the strength of architecture and design. But in a wild garden it’s always a fine line between a beautiful naturalistic planting and a tangled mess! One of the toughest, yet most rewarding parts of our wild garden is the spring garden bank, which sits above our flower garden. It is a constant backdrop to the hotel, so must look good all year and early autumn is a season we have been working really hard to develop.
Through the winter the evergreen structure and heather keep the garden interesting. Spring is easy, at the gardens peak, with carpets of naturalised bulbs and of course the azalea. These make the most stunning backdrop to our spring plantings in the flower garden and are followed quite nicely by the naturalized self-sowers such as Echium, California poppy and ox eye daisy’s. It is the late summer and early autumn when the wild garden starts to get tired that our challenge starts.
The most important aspect to keeping the wild garden interesting through this tricky time is to maintain spots of colour through the planting. Careful plant selection is critical for success; They must be tough enough to fight it out in the wild garden and compete with the competition of other plants on our heavy clay soil. They must be showy and flamboyant enough to stand out from a distance and of course they must flower at just the right season. Crocosmia have been one of our successes, filling in the gap in July and August. Lucifer is earlier and one of the showiest but the yellow citronella and orange zeal tan has also been very effective.
Later, in September the bright red Schizostylis coccinina has worked well as well as our native Devils Bit Scabious creating a blue haze. Star of the show however, has to be our stunning kniphofia rooperi. This is one of the latest red hot pokers and lights up the garden like a torch. Its intense orange and yellow could be a little harsh at other times of year but in is almost made to fit with the mellow light of early autumn. We have been developing this plant for about four years now and this is the first year when the clumps have become really established. With luck they should continue illuminating the garden until the autumn colour of October begins.