Monday, February 26, 2024

Create your own English garden in North Idaho

by VALLE NOVAK / Contributing Writer
| November 26, 2023 1:00 AM

Today, we take a page from the gardening books of two great ladies of English horticulture fame. Gertrude Jekyll and Rosemary Verey inspired today’s suggestions, since plans created by each of them jibe so beautifully with possibilities for our own location and climate.

They’ve chosen the colors and arrangement and I’ve simply substituted more suitable selections for an equally stunning outcome. Everything on my list will be hardy in Zones 3-5, and if there’s a choice between a Zone 4 and 5, I’ll always pick the “4."

First, remember these are perennials, and it will take the better part of three years for them to become established. You may chop some of the time off by buying locally (you should anyway) so as to plant more matured specimens.

Our plan contains plant spaces denoted “T” for "theme" color; “S” for "secondary" color; “B” for "balance" — complementary or enhancing colors; and “F” for "focal" points — little surprises or extras.

Here’s how it works: Say you’ve decided on red (T) and yellow (S) for your main color scheme. Notice the way the “Ts” begin at the top (the largest shrub) and wind their way down in a small river of like color but in all different plants — think true red Azalea, then a clump of Lobelia, then Penstemon, then Monarda — all selected, of course, for their likeness of red. At the left, perhaps a handful of red Astilbe or red-blooming coral bells. More reds include Blaze rose; True red Azalea; Peony; Oriental poppy; Daylily, Oriental lilies; Hollyhock; Lupine, Dianthus.

Next, fill in the complementary “S” (yellow): At the top, two different Coreopsis — delicate, lacy Moonbeam, and heartier Lanceolata; other “S” sites may contain bright yellow Achillea, Helianthus, Solidago, yellow Foxglove or Primula veris.

The “Bs” could hold small clumps of red hot poker (Kniphofia) in red and yellow, a mass of native red and yellow columbine, and the magical yellow-eyed, red-petaled Pyrethum “James Kelway.” Yet another Coreopsis is possible here; Yellow w/red “Sunfire," and pale yellow with red “Autumn Blush.”

As for the “Fs," how about a clump of Japanese blood grass and a dramatically potted, moisture-loving yellow Iris pseudocorus? The bottom center “F” could be a cluster of bi-color yellow and green Hosta. You could also dazzle with the use of chartreuse — Lady’s Mantle, a surprise clump of dill, the yellow-green Helleborus “Mellow Yellow,” and even a mass of Sedum in one of its new, exciting variations.

Reverse this plan if you wish, using yellow for the T: Simply select a larger feature plant in yellow, perhaps a Laburnum (yellow chain tree); Sunsprite, Honey Perfume or other hardy yellow rose; Potentilla — then take it from there with the Coreopsis; daisies, sunflowers, Yarrow; Columbine; Foxglove, etc.

Get the idea? Choose blue and yellow, red and purple (be careful), pink and white — there’s a plan for everyone, and no two plants (except in clumps) are ever repeated. I’m providing a list of some size and color choices, and you can mark them on our plan. Now, here’s where the fun begins! When you’ve perused our list, and every catalog you own, make up a great big butcher-paper plan following our design, and cut out pictures of each of your choices, making sure they are zones 3, 4, 5. Tape them to the space you think they’ll look best and after our seven feet of snow melts, you can go shopping.

T/S plants: Large shrubs on down to border plants: Blue- Perovskia; Nepeta “Six hills Giant," “Walker’s Low”; Lavender (Hidcote or Munstead); Culinary sage; Echinops; Salvia “East Friesland," “Prairie Sage”; Aster - Michelmas daisy, “Wonder of Staffa”; Campanula (varieties); Tradescantia; Lupine; Veronica; Centaurea; Monkshood; Harebells; Virginia bluebells; Muscari; Forget-me-nots; Crane’sbill Geranium “Walker’s blue”; Creeping Veronica (liwanensis).

Pink/purple-Cotinus (Purple smoke tree), “Purple Pavement” Rosa rugosa; Wiegela “Monet Moment” or “Days of Wine and Roses”; Meadowrue (Thalictrum); Foxglove; Astilbe; Achillea; Heuchera; Hollyhock; Mini-rose “Crystal Pink”; Bleeding heart (Dicentra); lilies; Coneflower; Dianthus, creeping Thyme/Phlox and/or Veronica in pink/purple shades.

Balance and focal point plants include the many Artemisias, the grey/green of which complements many schemes; Stachys (Lamb’s ears), ditto; Sea Holly (iridescent blue-green-lavender); Hostas; Ferns; grasses (selected for hardiness); Sedum; Tophat blueberry (in a pot for drama!); Alpine strawberries as groundcover; Johnny Jump-ups and all the viola/pansy family (in great one or bi-color masses); and the rough but pretty surprise of a purple/red Barberry plant.

Special large shrubs/trees for main plant consideration include Red-osier dogwood; Ornamental crabapple, plum or cherry; “Black Lace” Elderberry with pink stems and purple foliage — in short, glean ideas from all sources, paste up your possibilities and see if your “painting” provides the picture you want. What a fun way to spend the winter! You can’t see out the windows anyhow, so enjoy!

Editor's note: For many years, Valle Novak wrote gardening and cooking columns for the Daily Bee. "Weekend Gardener" and "Country Chef" became renowned for their humor, information, and common-sense advice on how to do everything from planting to cooking. She left behind many columns to delight her many fans. This is one such column, originally published on Feb. 10, 2008.

    This loosely-designed takeoff on a Rosemary Verey garden plan can be extended, curved or narrowed to suit your own needs. It can be as large or small as you want it, and filled with your personal choice of shrubs, grasses, flowers and potted specimens that will be hardy here in North Idaho. Select your main "theme" color, your "secondary" color, and choose "balance" plants and "focal" points to complement and enhance each other throughout the whole scheme. The end result? Breathtaking.

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