Your garden is a place where you can express your inner artist, even if you don’t recognise the business end of a paintbrush. Nothing is wrong, within certain limitations; tasteless perhaps. Should you esteem concrete casts of favourite body parts and you can find a willing model, then go for it. In this instance, I would recommend a dense evergreen hedge to accord with the height of your neighbour’s top-most window. I’m still hoping that you can find room to shoehorn in a few shrubs, perhaps a small patch put aside for hardy perennials.
Inula hookeri (yellow oxeye)
Visit other people’s gardens for inspiration and if you see an idea that you like then nick it wholesale, or add your own twist. I fell for a hot box on a television program about Kew. Theirs was made from woven hazel withes cut from trees coppiced on their vast estate. Lacking such amenities, I made mine from two rectangular lattices, cut in half and nailed together at the corners to form a square. I filled the box with weeds and soft prunings, then topped it off with rotted compost. I planted the sides with Nasturtiums and the top with courgettes. It looks unusual and attractive and we have to eat a lot of zucchini. If I don’t pay attention, I end up having to research recipes for marrows. I loved the notion of wall training a redcurrant and having a suitable space on the back of the conservatory, read up on how to do it. I wired the wall, tied in the bamboo supports and purchased a sturdy plant. The rest, as they say, is history.
Alliums, Hemerocallis, Heuchera & Digitalis
The design for the arches, uprights and fence for the raspberries came from the originals here when we bought the house. Previously made of wood and crumbling from rot, we couldn’t think of a better arrangement than to reproduce the elegant pattern in galvanised steel, with uprights of tanalised timber, which should last a while. I’ve seen troughs full of Sempervivums (houseleek) made from old china sinks and tin baths, given stern drainage. Architectural salvage yards are a happy hunting ground for containers and may stir you to new schemes. I enjoyed an old fashioned mangle used as a frame for sweet peas, which looked fetching and at home in a shabby chic plan. Overall themes work well in a small garden; I aim for a burgundy and lime green colour palette but I can’t be without white, red, yellow… you get my point.
The red bed
Cast a casual eye over the plots along your road. This will show you what will grow in your area but beware of hardcore cases who shovel homemade compost on their soil. Some of these will have a contract with stables nearby, for as much horse poop as they can handle. The added richness enables the proud owners to gather delicate examples requiring especially nutritious conditions but you can tell, should the wind shift in your direction. If you see a plant that blows your skirt up, then ask. Few gardeners will take the huff if you stop and admire their efforts, dropping in a request for the name of a particular specimen. Should the sun shine off a larger than life reproduction of their naked torso, maybe better to keep walking.