Autumn in your Lymington garden

Autumn in your Lymington garden: designing ... with plants!

Autumn is a good time to review your garden and plant with new harmony.

By Debby Lockey


Autumn is here, and although it is still mild, the plants are beginning to die back and there is a feeling of change in the air. It’s about this time that I often get calls from clients who are ‘just not happy with their planting’. They feel their borders look a mess, there is no interest, but they don’t know where to start. If you are in that position, now is a good time to look critically at your garden and think about re-designing your plants. With the soil still warm you can dig up those plants that have outgrown their spot, divide, reposition them, and then get them back into the ground where the roots can get re-established before winter comes. But before you start digging and dividing let’s analyse what the plants should be doing. 


Survey the site

Gardening Lymington Debby Lockey Autumn gardenWhen I am designing a garden, the planting plan is the last thing I do. By that time I will have done a site survey analysis of the garden, chatted to the client and generally got a feel for the garden and for what the client wants. From this information I will be familiar with the sunny and shady areas in the garden, the soil structure and pH, whether there is a problem with the drainage or if it is an exposed site. This enables me to choose plants that suit those conditions. You have probably heard of the expression ‘right plant, right place’; well that is absolutely right if you want your plants to survive and flourish.

During the survey, I will also have noted which plants already exist in the garden and their size.   Often I see shrubs or trees that dominate a particular site, with other attractive plants either hidden or so squashed their beauty cannot be appreciated. In this situation something has to be done, but rather than remove them immediately I like to see whether they are doing a job. Do they provide privacy from the neighbours, or do they demarcate one part of the garden from another? If so, could they be pruned to allow the other plants space to flourish? Or could the lower limbs of a tree be removed? This would lift the canopy allowing the under storey of planting to be appreciated. Or could the weaker plants be removed so the stronger plants can be admired? I always think it is a shame to remove plants regardless as existing plants give any garden a feel of maturity which cannot be cheaply or easily replicated.

Getting down to planting

Gardening Lymington Debby Lockey Autumn gardenIf the garden does require more plants, they need to relate to those that are already present. Be aware that it may take some shrubs or trees 5-10 years before they reach maturity, so give them room to grow and expand, otherwise you’ll end up with all your plants crammed together again. If you feel the garden is too bare, try using annuals to fill the gaps. It will only be for a short time while the plants get established.

Knowing the conditions in the garden, and having an idea of the size the plants will grow to, makes it much easier when it comes to choosing which specific plants I will use. But before buying anything, think about the style of your garden. Many garden styles require distinct plants to achieve the look. Think of roses, lupins, catmint and hollyhock and you are probably thinking of a cottage garden. Whereas clipped box and espalier fruit trees conjures up images of formal gardens. So follow through the style of your garden with your planting. And if you don’t feel you have any particular set style, buy what you like as your garden should reflect your personality.

Harmony in the garden

One last piece of advice before you do anything is to think about how you can introduce some unity and harmony into the garden. Plants that have just been bunged into the soil tend to make the garden look slightly disjointed. By repeating certain plants and colours into the scheme you will have introduced some unity and harmony into the garden. Also think of the shapes of the plants. This could either be the overall shape of the plant; its form, or the individual shape of the leaves.

Create interest by putting different shaped plants together so they complement but contrast with one another. So the mound forming Choisya ternate or hebe could be planted with grasses. This combination provides not only contrasting shapes but the static feel of the mound forming plants is contrasted with the movement of the grasses. In a shady part of the garden, plant hostas next to ferns, then underplant both with the tiny leaved ‘Mind your own business’. In a tropical garden, the fan leaved palm Chamaerops humilis can be planted with spiky leaved phormiums. By doing this you will add interest to the garden and it will encourage your eye to rest on, and so appreciate certain parts of the garden.


So when you next get out in your garden, look at it critically. Is there any sense of unity and harmony? Is the planting interesting or is your garden a bit of an amorphous mess? If it is then now is the time to get out there and do something. It may need a complete overhaul, but hopefully with the tips I have given you it will just need a bit of tweaking. Now all you need is a few dry days.


Debby Lockey Garden Design




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