The Beauty of Structure

Read on for another guest post – this time from gardener and designer extraordinaire Rosie Hudson.  Her business Terra Firma Horticultural Services is based at Langley-upon-Tyne (01434 618208).

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The Anemone coronaria have been valiantly flowering almost continuously since last June.

One of the pleasures wrapped up in a holiday is coming home at the end of it and seeing the changes that the garden has gone through in our absence. Things are never quite the same, whatever the season, and now, in the beginnings of spring, there is much to enjoy. Here in our elevated moorland garden, tulip, muscari and narcissi bulbs are poking through; anemone, crocus and iris reticulata are flowering; catkins are drooping from the hazel and everywhere buds are fattening – some already beginning to show a glimmer of the colour that lies ahead.

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Spring launches us into the season of growth and over the coming months its energy will change the shapes, colours and textures of all the spaces. One of the things I get real delight and inspiration from is experiencing how this unfolding works against the structural framework of a garden. It’s happening everywhere but one particular focus for us is our little potager, now just beginning its fourth year. Here, the evergreen box, yew and Ilex crenata hedging will become the backdrop against which the bulbs and annuals we grow there flower and the spring and summer vegetables ripen. The area is enclosed by a beech hedge to provide shelter from the powerful winds we experience; its russet winter leaves will soon be pushed off as this year’s foliage emerges in an explosion of zinging green.

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Emerging tulips are fosteriana ‘Exotic Emperor’, an early variety that we’re growing for the first time.  The potager is a wonderful space for experimentation: we grow lots of flowers for cutting, trying different species and varieties each year.

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Banks of the Seine 

We’ve just returned from a week in Paris, a charismatic city that’s an old chestnut of a joy in Spring. It’s such a vibrant place that this most spirited of seasons is perfect for a taste of all it has to offer. Who could resist the pleasures of a stroll along the tree-lined banks of the Seine, a meander through the Tuileries, or a snatched hour in the sun on one of the many chairs in the Jardin du Luxembourg? As much as anywhere I can think of, the parks and squares of Paris are wonderful examples of creating beauty and elegance from a strong framework of structural planting.

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Jardin des Tuileries

There, of course, it’s all done to perfection, and on a truly grand scale, fitting to a gracefully romantic capital city: enclosures and avenues of pleached lime and horse chestnut, blocks and parterres of exquisitely cut box and yew hedging and topiary, cascading and sculpted ivy, and (this being Paris) standard lemon and orange trees in vast Versailles planters. All the flowering colour – and there is much of it – happens against this backdrop. It’s very seductive and inspiring. Incredibly precise and mostly geometric in layout, these green public spaces have a wonderfully calm and unhurried atmosphere, a welcome counter-balance to the constant activity of the streets.

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 Place des Vosges

It’s a refreshing joy to dip into a different world and to come away with something of the experience taking root inside you. And after it all, nothing feels as good as returning to the wild beauty of Northumberland with its big, open skies, curlews calling and spring hovering over the moor; and our little garden, a dot in the landscape of something much, much bigger.

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