Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Swish and Swagger; Winter Gardens Don't Have to Fade. One East London Designer Tells Pattie Barron How She Uses Foliage and Gorgeous Grasses for a Great Effect

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Swish and Swagger; Winter Gardens Don't Have to Fade. One East London Designer Tells Pattie Barron How She Uses Foliage and Gorgeous Grasses for a Great Effect

Article excerpt

Byline: PATTIE BARRON

ALTHOUGH Kathy Taylor's east London garden is a mass of blooms in July, it takes on a special, subtler kind of beauty in the later months of the year. All her thoughtful planting - ornamental grasses with silken, swishy seedheads, foliage from shrubs and trees that takes on autumn tints, a backbone of evergreens, a small-scale black bamboo thicket - give the garden a mass of rich tints and textures.

No surprise that Taylor is a garden designer with a particular love of foliage. Where many of our gardens look bleak in November, Taylor's, a small suburban patch 23ft by 46ft, is currently putting on an eye-watering show.

"The great trick is to exploit the situation you are given, with appropriate planting," says Taylor. "As the garden is south-facing, I grow sunloving plants at the house end, such as Ceanothus and evergreen jasmine. Down the other end of the garden, I grow shade-loving plants such as Geranium phaeum, ferns and Helleborus argutifolius. It's the contrast of the two very different styles that make this garden interesting."

Ornamental grasses, such as Miscanthus, ensure year-round action, explains Taylor. "They look brilliant right through summer and winter, then I cut them down just before spring, which makes way for new growth and early perennials such as sedums and bulbs."

There is colour and pattern, too, from the mosaic circular table she made, as well as a stunning tiered ceramic fountain against the patio wall that she created during a pottery course. " I became very unpopular in class because firing ceramic tiles takes a lot of space in the kiln. But making these things made me realise I wanted to do an art degree, and now I'm three years into a five-year part-time degree at Central Saint Martins."

It stands to reason that a former water biologist would want to have a proper wildlife pond gracing her garden. In fact, says Taylor, the rectangular pond, set into the decking so that there is a timber walkway over the centre, is - unusually a formal widlife pond, with no customary sloping sides or organic silhouette.

"The secret of making a small wildlife pond thrive is to make it deep, because if it is shallow, the water can get too hot too for some creatures," explains Taylor. "I made it a metre [three feet] deep in the middle, but all the preparation was worth it, because this pond is an absolute joy.

Aside from the fishes, frogs and insect life, it gives me a reason to grow specialised bog plants like the huge variegated reed Schoenoplectus, which looks great against the aubergine-coloured fence, and Oenanthe javanica Flamingo, which has wonderful burgundy leaf tints."

The way to replicate the bog conditions that these plants love, she says, is to create a semimoist corner next to the pond, by extending the rubber pond liner into a shallow dip and filling it with bog-garden compost. …

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