Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Divide and Rule; Gunilla Pickard Created a Unique Garden Using Privet, Box and Hornbeam to Divide the Space into 'Rooms', Each One with a Different Character, Says Pattie Barron

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Divide and Rule; Gunilla Pickard Created a Unique Garden Using Privet, Box and Hornbeam to Divide the Space into 'Rooms', Each One with a Different Character, Says Pattie Barron

Article excerpt

Byline: PATTIE BARRON

IT TAKES a certain style to place two lollipop trees of clipped honeysuckle at the entrance to the garden shed, and Swedish garden designer Gunilla Pickard has style by the barrowful. She also has a wealth of horticultural knowledge that, encouragingly for the rest of us, she insists she learned not at college or through books, but through her mistakes over the years.

These days, however, the garden that wraps around the pretty weather board house in Essex she shares with husband Tom is picture perfect. Like many gardeners, her inspiration was a trip to Sissinghurst, but instead of rushing home to recreate a white garden or mile-long purple border, she took home a more practical, achievable idea: that of dividing the garden into a series of rooms within green walls.

Today, 23 years on, the hedges of privet, box and hornbeam still form the main structure, outlining different areas of the garden, providing valuable shelter from wind, and setting boundaries for the abundance of flowers, herbs and vegetables within.

The cleverest of these boundaries is a broad, circular sweep of privet hedge, with a narrow gap for entrance, that conceals a small room with a rose- covered pergola, constructed from scaffolding pipes, and a carpet underfoot of wild strawberries and Corsican hellebores.

Another outstanding area is Gunilla's Shoe Bed - thus named because for some inexplicable reason there were 200 pairs of shoes originally buried in there - which has dry, poor soil, boosted annually with mushroom compost.

Now it is home to gold, limegreen and white plants, notably asphodels, phlomis, Viburnum opulus, pale green Kniphofia Green Jade and a tiny-leaved Euonymus japonicus Microphyllus, which Gunilla clips into a big cushion. And at the front of the house is a delicious, smallscale-knot garden of box walls, planted with blue and white flowers that emerge in smooth succession through the year, from snowdrops in February to indigo flowered hardy plumbago Ceratostigma willmottianum in October.

But, despite the extravagant planting that wraps right around her house, sculptured greenery is Gunilla's secret weapon, from the manicured baby myrtle trees on her conservatory table to the outsize pair of squat, plump green birds nestling in the border, which she created by carving out a generous ridge in each of two big box spheres. "You can't rely on flowers because they're so short-lived," she says sensibly, although she confesses to 48 clematis rampaging through the garden, up the sides of the house or on rustic wigwams in containers.

Evergreen cones and vertical bolsters anchor the flower borders, making restful pauses; some of them are, would you believe, leylandii, dramatically pruned into submission. …

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