Wealden Times | WT213 | November 2019 | Gift supplement inside

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Wealden Times - The lifestyle magazine for the Weald


Structural Assets

Jo Arnell shares her recommendations for plants with year-round staying power

A

herbaceous border in full swing at the height of

summer is a wonder to behold, but come the autumn

it does rather collapse into a heap of old sticks. This is

fine if you have an enormous garden and can shut off part of

it for the winter, and not be left to stare bleakly at the scene

from the window, lamenting the end of days and pining for

the colour to return. If only we could have some plants to

enhance the view until the flowers come back in the spring.

Actually, we probably do have a few, but not enough – and

when you look at them with your interview face on, eyes

narrowed, are they really up to the job? We need plants for

structure, some for seasonal interest and some to be quietly

companionable as the garden ebbs and flows through the year.

Where’s your backbone?

Structural plants are strong and reliable, lynchpins, carrying

the border through the seasons and linking one part of the

garden to another. The neighbouring plants will rely on

them through thick and thin – as supports, as backdrops

and as friends to lean on. They need not be evergreen,

but should have some presence over the winter months.

This can come in the simple form of stems and bark, or

as complete and beautiful skeletons. I’m particularly fond

of Cotoneaster horizontalis; its stiff herringbone stems will

spread slowly up walls, or into arching mounds if gently

encouraged and will reward you – and the birds and bees,

with spring blossom and then berries and brilliant autumn

colour. Many dogwood species that might look like

dowdy nothings with their leaves on, reveal their glorious

coloured bark once winter sets in and strips them bare.

Evergreen structure

Well behaved, tidy evergreens are great for low maintenance

borders, acting as anchors and punctuation points. Some are

naturally neat, but if you have time to keep them trimmed,

small leaved shrubs like box will provide formal structure

and a refined and soothing symmetry. Low growing Hebes

fall into the naturally neat category, as would Pittosporum

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