Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make Room for Something Fresh and Exciting; It Is Time to Be Ruthless: The Easter Break Gives You the Chance to Rejuvenate Your Garden

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make Room for Something Fresh and Exciting; It Is Time to Be Ruthless: The Easter Break Gives You the Chance to Rejuvenate Your Garden

Article excerpt

Byline: Pattie Barron

[bar] T EASTER the garden centres are full of the most seductive plants in bud, blossom and bloom. But the plants in most small London gardens are already fighting for space, so instead of shoehorning in yet another one, take a different tack: make some space. Cast a long, cool look over what you already have.

If a shrub is neither use nor ornament, get rid. It can always have an afterlife on the compost heap, and just think of the space you are freeing up. Cut off the lower branches of small trees and shrubs and create an understorey for plants at ground level. Who said an eleagnus or a viburnum needs to produce leaves right down to its base? Get creative with shears or loppers and turn a shapeless shrub into a broad, bare-trunked canopy that can shelter any number of spring perennials: pulmonaria, dicentra, hellebore, corydalis. Water in well, mulch thickly with bark chippings and you have a delectable mini woodland that will thrive whether we end up with a longterm drought or monsoon summer. Even a flowering camellia might be improved by making it more of a mophead and less of a full-length flowerama. A bare-stemmed mahonia with a crown of foliage cartwheels takes on the persona of a palm tree, complete with dates when the lengthy clusters of navy-blue berries appear.

Pull off the basal, dead leaves of cordylines -- a satisfying task -- and you create a longer, clearer stem with a higher fountain of foliage, so smaller plants can frolic around its base. Once you realise that a plant won't drop dead from a strategic haircut, and will probably be much improved, there will be no stopping you. Spring-flowering clematis from the macropetala and alpina group -- not the larger montanas -- are dainty, pretty and irresistible. They reach a manageable height of under 10ft, so they suit small gardens.

Fit one in comfortably by buying a long, U-shaped cane from the garden centre -- imagine a giant bamboo hairpin -- and push it into a small patch of ground, or a container: instant height to display a clematis gem such as dusky blue alpine beauty Frances Rivis.

Alternatively, thread these early clematis through foliage or summerflowering shrubs, to break up the greenery with flowers. …

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