GBFD – Changes to the garden 4

Welcome to Garden Bloggers Foliage Day, the place to share all the things you love (or even hate) about the foliage in your garden.  To join in just leave a link to and from this post; whether you want to share all the beautiful foliage in your garden, or would like to highlight one plant, or tell us about how you use foliage in your garden; you are most welcome

I’m going to use this month’s post to continue sharing with you the process of changing the design of the main area of My Hesperides Garden; you can read the story so far here, here and here.

As some of you have said that you can’t really picture the area (and I know just how you feel when I read other blogs) I took some photographs from an upstairs bedroom window.

1. Left hand border, mulberry in the corne, left hand Walnut and Bay block (roughly central) on boundary

1. Left hand border, mulberry in the corner, left hand Walnut and Bay block (roughly central) on boundary

As you can see progress is being made in removing the lavender and Perovskia and turning them into mulch.  The green in the foreground is Wisteria on top of the pergola that surrounds the house on three sides.

2. The right hand side Walnut, fig and shaped olive on the boundary. Small Island and circular rose bed which I may join as one bed

2. The right hand side Walnut, fig and shaped olive on the boundary. Small Island and circular rose bed which I may join as one bed

The dark green mass behind the shaped olive is a huge Bay outside the gate at a much lower level than the garden.  The mountains in the distance aren’t visible from the garden; they are hidden by the line of trees and Bamboo.

3. Sorry about the angle, I was leaning out of the window

3. Sorry about the angle, I was leaning out of the window

The field has turned green after a couple of days of rain, it is incredible how quickly it changes from straw yellow to vivid green.  You are looking at the small island (with Stipa gigantea at its edge); the circular rose bed with a Feijoa in the centre); and behind the Upper Slope Path border (bit of a mouthful, I need to rename almost all the beds!

I have been drawing some of my ideas to scale; it is the only way to be sure that I’m not imagining the space to be larger than it is.

One of my plans to scale, showing semi circular gravel bed, paths giving long views from the ends of the terrace

One of my plans to scale, showing semi circular gravel bed, paths giving long views from the ends of the terrace

The area behind the semi-circle will be filled with spheres and cubes of clipped evergreens (obviously not box!), including a clipped Quercus ilex as bushes and a tree.  Behind this a more enclosed space using either Trachelospermum jasminoides or bay as a hedge.  Possibly with ‘windows’ eventually cut to allow glimpses through into this area and allow some light in.

I will move the swing seat I have to here for a different view and to temp me out from the terrace to use more of the garden.  I do feel that the garden as it was became a route through with little opportunity to stop.  What the planting will be in this space which is 4 metres deep will be is, as yet, undecided.  It could be irrigated which would allow more options so I will probably lay a connecting pipe from the pillars (which are rarely watered).

Looking south from the terrace (I'm sitting on the steamer chair so this is the view I don't want to lose)

Looking south from the terrace (I’m sitting on the steamer chair so this is the view I don’t want to lose) looking toward the olives in the distance.

Looking out to the left (east) from centre of terrace

Looking out to the left (east) from centre of terrace

I love the shape of the Mulberry trunk so I want to be able to see that from the kitchen window, if possible.

The pillars of the terrace with Wisteria

The pillars of the terrace with Wisteria

I could remove the foliage of the Wisteria on the pillars and perhaps plant something more colourful for the summer but I rather like the shaggy look the wisteria gives and I love seeing its flowers on the pillars in spring, but Trachelospermum could be planted to clothe the pillars giving an evergreen mass.

One conclusion I have come to, is that in the hot dry summers here I really don’t want to be looking at plants that are stressed, so the main plantings that are visible from the house will become evergreen and ever-silver with texture and form being the most important features.  Flowering plants which successfully flower in spring and very early summer will have their places but not where they will detract from the beauty of everything else in high summer.  I believe that it is essential in this garden to designate different areas to different seasons.

Over the last couple of years I have begun to appreciate more and more how important planting for the conditions really is; having begun my gardening in the Southern England where almost anything is possible and where even Mediterranean plants can look better than in the Mediterranean, I believed when I started this garden that I could create a drought tolerant garden that had flowers throughout the seasons by choosing the right plants.  I have come to the conclusion now that is not possible.  Almost all plants that are drought tolerant and will survive the winter cold (because I’m not in a true Mediterranean climate) are usually dormant in summer; winter flowers can also be difficult because it isn’t cold enough.

Here are some images that have informed my ideas for the garden:

La Louve, Provence designed by Nicole de Vésian

La Louve, Provence designed by Nicole de Vésian

I love the different volumes and forms and the colour variation between the each plant (albeit green) is inspiring.

La Louve, Provence designed by Nicole de Vésian

La Louve, Provence designed by Nicole de Vésian

La Louve, Provence designed by Nicole de Vésian

La Louve, Provence designed by Nicole de Vésian

Now you know where I got the idea of the three cypresses to hide the unwanted view of new houses.

La Louve, Provence designed by Nicole de Vésian

La Louve, Provence designed by Nicole de Vésian

This wonderful tapestry of strong shapes is how I envisage the areas beyond the semi-circle of gravel.

Olives pruned as ornamentals by Marc Nucera

Olives pruned as ornamentals by Marc Nucera

I have already started to prune the one olive that is in the ornamental part of the garden, I am considering more; although I think these look totally unnatural because of the bright green grass beneath them, unless it is spring rather than summer.

Olives pruned as ornamentals by Marc Nucera

Olives pruned as ornamentals by Marc Nucera

The images are from Mediterranean Landscape Design – Vernacular Contemporary by Louisa Jones.

Let me finish by sharing how this is beginning to work in other parts of the garden.

Looking across from the drive a typical Mediterranean 'green' garden in high summer

Looking across from the drive a typical Mediterranean ‘green’ garden in high summer

Looking south from the right side of the terrace

Looking south from the right side of the terrace

form and texture

form and texture

My cypresses are in need of a prune, in another couple of weeks it will be cool enough to do it.

The new Arbutus is slowly putting on more foliage

The new Arbutus is slowly putting on more foliage

Sorry, another rather long post.  I look forward to reading yours whther it is long or short!





63 thoughts on “GBFD – Changes to the garden 4

    • I’m glad this post helped describe the garden better, it is so hard to imagine what a garden really looks like even when you see lots of images. Thanks for joining GBFD again this month.

  1. I’m glad to hear that the worst of the heat is over. The Italian countryside is such a wonderful backdrop for your garden.
    I love the shape of your design and I really like seeing the inspiration for what you are trying to achieve and it is very beautiful!

    For the grey spheres, last autumn I planted out tiny plugs of Westringia ‘grey box’ as I am going to introduce that element into my garden in the sunny sloping areas where I can’t be bothered watering. It’s an Australian native and very summer drought hardy. All but one survived the bitter cold (43C) areas, so the fact that it puts up with both extremes is quite amazing.

    The other one (as much as hate to recommend it) is agapanthus….neither summer drought nor winter cold kills them!

    Here is my less-than-stellar entry for this month 🙂

    • I did try Westringia but it didn’t survive a very wet period we had, but it might be worth trying again. I’m glad you liked La Louve, if you’ve ever seen Monty Don’s gardens of France he shows some beautiful views of it. Thanks for joining in again this month.

      • They do hate wet feet, but on a slope they should be fine even in wet weather – and it looks like wordpress edited my post – it was supposed to say “…cold (lower than minus 10C), but it is used in areas that typically have weeks of 43C weather)…”

  2. Your design has put everything in its place, I can imagine it much better now. Most of the gardens we have seen in the summer in the Med. area have always been very formal with shaped foliage, loved the photo near the end with all the round shapes and found the clipped olives rather amusing like dancers in a line!
    My offering is at

    • The wild natural landscape also has forms sculptured by the wind, maybe that’s where the idea of pruning evergreens into shapes first came from. Thanks for joining GBFD so consistently, I love seeing the beautiful foliage on your garden as much as the flowers.

  3. the first photos enlightened me Christina to the round bed and rose bed following on from the formal garden and then the slope following on from the round bed and rose bed, I had previously imagined them on different sides of your house,
    I know when we have conversed before that you like honesty and I am just not able to gush when I don’t feel it, I’m not a lover of tight clipped shrubs and trees, I can see why, given all that you have explained regarding your climate why this works for you, also it is ‘The Formal’ garden, I actually prefer the photos you post at the end of your own garden areas as they are now, a bit looser, free and natural, I especially like the first of those last 4 photos, looking across the drive, looking across the gravel to borders like that one would be very nice, I like the lay out of the design and the idea of windows through to enclosed areas, as you may have realised your slope is my favourite part of your garden,

    my August foliage post is posted,

    thanks for hosting this meme, Frances

    • Thanks Frances, it is unlikely that I will keep everything as tightly pruned as in the images I showed, also I think the garden at La Louve was pruned just before being photographed so that would be looser some of the time on the same way that the image you liked looks different when it has been pruned. I do like your honest comments otherwise there doesn’t seem much point! Thanks for your contribution this month

  4. Oh, I do hope you will keep the wisteria; I like the shaggy look too. Plus, you will need the contrast for your clipped shapes. I can’t wait to see how you get on with the plan. It’s so exciting to see a garden come together from start to finish.

    • I expect I will keep the wisteria on the pillars as I like the flowers there so much, obviously I wouldn’t remove the wisteria as we need it for shade on the pergola, but many people just have stems going up to the pergola level.

  5. What an excellent and well illustrated exposition of the design process, this series is such a useful object lesson in ‘thinking slowly’ before ‘acting fast’.
    Views from windows is a very good way of bringing a vision together, I imagine the clipped shapes whether cloud form or formal would work well as a way of delineating the spaces ….
    Thanks for introducing me to Marc Nucera’s wonderful olives. Regarding the parallel flat plane of mown grass – maybe he wanted to set the trees at odds? I wonder what else would work as an underplanting? In a very modern London garden we inherited a combination of lollipop olives and Euphorbia ‘Wulfenii’ – having read your post I wish we’d clipped the tops like this!

    • I suppose I just thought the bright green was a bit incongruous; but if the image was taken in spring it would be green, if it was summer then it should be dry and golden; olives don’t like a lot of water in summer so if irrigation is being used for the grass then the olives will suffer.

  6. I particularly appreciate your including the sketch of your plan. It really helps to understand the direction in which you are going. I have the sense that you are having fun. Keep at it.

    • I’m glad you’ve been able to be outside enjoying your garden Anca and thank you for joining GBFD this month, my apologies for not responding sooner but I haven’t been able to use the computer this weekend and I can’t leave comments on blogspot with the iPhone.

  7. Your latest images are much easier to read and give a much clearer idea of the area involved.. I love the designs of Nicole de Vesian and can see why you are attracted to her ideas for your garden. Exciting times ahead and I shall follow the transformation with interest.

  8. I very much enjoyed seeing both your plan and the photographs of the inspiration behind your thinking. I love formality and structure and I think it will work very well in your setting. It seems somehow to appear cooling and calming. I agree that it is impossible or very hard work to have flowers all through the year, but at the same time, having a pause between seasons always makes the next highlight seem even more worthwhile.

  9. It’s so interesting to read your thoughts about the changes you are planning for your garden Christina. The images from La Louve are most striking and pleasing to the eye – all those different shapes and shades and no doubt scents too. I imagine that plants in Provence also have to contend with an equally challenging climate. I’m joining in this month albeit on a much, much smaller scale :
    Thanks for hosting.

    • Hi Anna, thank you for joining GBFD this month, I’ll be able to comment when I get back to the PC. Yes, the climate in Provence should be similar to here, and the plants I will be using will all be native or Mediterranean climate hardy.

  10. The photos from the upstairs window were really helpful Christina and made it easier to link 2d plans with 3d reality. It was also intriguing to read your thoughts about planting in your climate and what you have learned by experience and by studying other gardens. You will see in my post that I have had a bit of a foliage epiphany which has clearly been coming on gradually! Thanks for hosting – it has proved to be a very useful meme, as many memes are!

  11. Like Cathy, I really appreciate the views from above. I love the idea of the soft formality of the shrubs, with all the variation coming from form and foliage colour. I have never been one for the tightly clipped look, but I realize that I have rarely seen it used with such a wide (or suitable) variety of plants. The views of La Louve are lovely, I must say!
    My own GBFD post is a departure as it looks at a few shrubs that are just waiting for autumn planting…

    • Sorry to be late responding to you, I was away from home and only able to use the iPhone to comment. I used to hate clipped box, now I feel completely different about clipped forms, I was looking at the natural landscape near the beach and it was all evergreens clipped by the wind! Thank you so much for joining I this month.

  12. it needs to be a longer post, I’m finding this armchair gardening a fascinating counterpart to my garden which has left me stiff and aching after some satisfying planting.
    I have a small wild olive which I plan to prune to shape, once it gets bigger. Hmmm and a tall inherited olive … which I could prune!

  13. I like the idea of clipped evergreens but, in my own case, I know I wouldn’t be up to the maintenance challenge. However, whatever direction you take with your redesign, I know it will be pleasing and make good use of the surrounding countryside (while hiding whatever needs to be hidden).

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence, Kris. I’m looking forward to creating some separate areas out of this one space. I won’t want precision pruning; I would be happy if the plants looked as if they had been sculpted by the wind.

  14. Christina, I am already in love with your future garden, just from viewing the gardens that are serving as your inspiration. Though my climate is quite different from yours, I too have come to appreciate form and texture and all the shades of green and how important these are to the predominantly green summer landscape. I think I may not miss your lavender much after all. No! I can’t believe I said that!

  15. Hi Christina,
    I agree that one of the least attractive things to see during the summer are struggling, unhappy, droughty plants. I try to remove them here as well and don’t blame you for not wanting to sit back and wait for just the right summer rain to come along and make them happy for a few days! There are so many other interesting things to enjoy during the summer and if you really want floral color there’s always the option of a potted plant or two.
    I love the terrace views you’re uncovering.
    I’m a bit late but here’s my contribution!

    • I will be able to content myself with the flowers in the cuttings garden so I am willing to have texture and form in most of the rest of the garden in high summer; i can enjoy all the flowers in spring that either disappear or the foliage is ok in summer; it is too much to ask plants to flower and survive the heat and drought!

  16. Your plans are really exciting. La Louve is completely new to me and I can see how it could inspire as with the ornamental Olives. I agree about growing plants that will only be stressed if the climate doesn’t suit, I want my plants to look happy in the garden. Amelia

    • I think it should be inspirational to anyone living in a hot, dry area. It amazes me that Nicole wasn’t a garden designer but she was involved in fabric design so I suppose that’s why she understands texture so well.

  17. Really interesting post to hear the issues of gardening in your area. Who would have thought those Mediterranean plants don’t quite suit the conditions. The garden that has inspired you looks quite something, have you visited it? Those clipped olives are rather fashionable but somehow they are not quite right to my eye. Are they like poodles of the tree world? Surely olives are beautiful enough in their own right? I love the form of your design, really strong.

    • I like your new ‘baby’ olive. Are they easy to buy in South Africa? here you can buy them in all sizes depending on how much you want to pay, but even one of €100 is definitely a tree with a proper trunk.

  18. Hi Christina, I’ve been thinking about your wisteria/brick pillars and your mentions of Trachelospernum jasminoides, it’s a fabulous evergreen for training up vertical structures – we use it to clad an ugly 6×10′ butt end of wall – and I’m wondering if you could underplant the deciduous wisteria with it? Might provide a year round tapestry effect plus scent near a seating/dining area later in the season?

    • Hi Kate, thank you so much for thinking about my design. I have decided (indeed ordered) Trachelospermum to make a wall around the new mid section of the garden, the double line beyond the semi circle on the plan. It does grow wonderfully well here so much so that the perfume can be completely overpowering if it is planted too close to a sitting or dining area. I already have some around our gas tank and it works really well as a screen as you say. I’ve seen it grown as pillars in various places and it does look great like that.

  19. I am enjoying your thought processes Christina and really love the inspiration you are taking from La Louve. Just read back through your comments, I knew I had seen that on Monty Don’s French series. We saw grouped clipped box at Alhambra on the walk through to the Generalife. Even left a little shaggy I love the form. I really like your plans, I am going back to look at more of your posts.

    • Writing my thoughts down and having feedback has been an enormous help with this re-design. Today I’ve been marking out the paths and semi circle in the actual garden which is very exciting.

  20. La Louve is amazing isn’t it. Have you visited? I have only seen it in magasines, but its such a powerful statement . I love the sculptured olives too. Here in N Devon, we have many trees sculptured by the West Wind, and dwarfed by it too. Photographers love them.

  21. Christina your garden always inspires. I enjoyed seeing my favorite terrace and those longer views. Your plans are stunning and the different shaped and pruned evergreens are such an ambitious project. I look forward to seeing these…they will be stunning here. I agree we have to plant for the conditions, and I like your idea of different seasonal areas.

    • It was only when writing that the concept of it being almost essential here to consider the season of each area became clear. In that way plants that flower early but then look dreadful can be somewhere not in full view in mid summer.

  22. This gave me a huge “ahah” Christina, I can see where you are going now. I love the idea of just going with the flow, so to speak, and accepting that in summer the interest will come from shape and evergreen/silver colour, and the wonderful forms you can get from raising the canopy on shrubs, not just trees. On that, I suppose one reason for losing the wisteria leaves on pillars is that the stems can have such character, but personally I love the shaggy look. I think the thing that I would find daunting is that the wonderful gardens you show glimpses of in the inspirational photos depend on regular clipping to stay looking so good. That would put me off, as life always seems to get in the way and then I’d be looking at something rather shaggy that clearly wasn’t meant to be. Your two island beds – that would suit becoming one – always delight me because there is a combination of waftiness and more solid form. Will you incorporate some grasses in that semi circle bed to add movement and that glorious play of light on seedheads? Fascinating, thank you for sharing your process.

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