Garden :: Loves and Hates

Last week, I asked my design students at the Norfolk School of Gardening to do a quick homework assignment. They had to send me two images: one image of a garden feature that they love, and one of something they hate.

The pictures could be taken from magazines or websites, or taken during their travels in the week. It could be hard landscaping, a plant or planting combination, a pot or bench, whatever took their fancy. Tomorrow, I’m going to ask them explain why they’ve chosen their two images.

I thought it wasn’t fair to make them do the assignment if I wasn’t prepared to share too, so here are my two. For convenience’s sake, they’re both pics quickly snapped in the rain in my garden this morning.


The only thing worse than bare fence, is new bare fence. And the only thing worse than that, is the wrong side of new bare fence. True a new fence is better than a rotten, falling down one. But it’s just sooo bare and sooo yellow. Before, this boundary was covered in ivy and you didn’t really notice it. It just receded into the background. Now, it glares at me across the garden.

I know the timber will silver with time, and I’m training climbers on it to try to green it up again. The fence is north-facing and in constant shade, so it’s important to pick the right plants.

The three new(ish) Prunus ‘Kanzan’ trees should help to soften the hard edges up as they mature. You can just see, behind the trees, a climbing Hydrangea petiolaris that I put in a few years ago, and to the right (out of shot) is a honeysuckle, Lonicera… ‘Unknownus’… something or other (I can’t remember!) Further to the left, I’ll be planting an evergreen Jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides. These three climbers should be plenty to cover seven panels, with the trees there too.

Top tip: Do not make the mistake of assuming you need a climber on every panel! Check the plant’s height and spread measurements, and only plant as many as you need, otherwise you could end up with a tangled mess. And do give them a framework to climb – trellis or wires will do. I hate to see the poor things languishing with nothing to grab hold of.


My ‘love’ image is all about self-seeders. Who doesn’t love free plants?! In spring, the primroses, Primula vulgaris, pop up all over the place, having set their seed last year. I love the way they cluster around the bases of shrubs, and snuggle next to ferns and tree trunks. They’re a welcome patch of brightness in the gloom on cloudy spring days.

Plants will self-seed and thrive where they want to grow, which takes all the difficulty out of working what what to plant where. If you have a proliferation of one particular plant that you don’t remember planting, it means they have found a spot they are very happy in. And self-seeded plants scattered hither and thither create a natural, uncontrived look that can be hard to achieve.*

Other plants that do this in my garden are mostly woodland floor dwellers: Pulmonaria (top pic), Dog Violets, Geranium phaeums and Shuttlecock ferns. Plant a few, and next year you might well have more.

Have you got any garden loves or hates? I’m looking forward to seeing my students’ pics and hearing their reasons. I wonder if we will all agree…

*Sadly, this is also true for many weeds, but weeds are just plants growing where you don’t want them to be, after all.