Thursday, July 6, 2017

Reader Question: An English Garden


Reader question for the community:
I would love to transform my backyard into an English garden next year, and would like to start planning it now. I live on the coast of southern Maine and my back yard does not get much full sun because of the surrounding trees. I’m hoping that your readers may have experience or input on how I could accomplish my garden goal or something close to it given the New England winters and partial sunlight.  Thank you!

14 comments:

  1. I'm the opposite of a gardener (whatever that term would be) but a good start might be a visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens: http://www.mainegardens.org/

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    1. I second Patsy's recommendation. It's important to consider what grows well in one's climate and growing conditions, and a local garden is an excellent way to learn. I would add a recommendation to have the soil tested and amend it as needed. A good foundation is critical to giving a garden a good start and continued health.

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    2. Ha! I have all brown thumbs.

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  2. With the parameters you mention (part shade to shade, English style, coastal Maine), you might want to visit this blog:

    http://wifemothergardener.blogspot.com/2012/03/shade-path-garden-succession-2011.html

    The beauty of this blog entry is that she demonstrates succession planting for this type of garden with a series of photos, including naming the plants. Another very good list is found here: http://www.englishgardens.com/expert-tips/plants-thrive-in-shade Best wishes....

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  3. We have tried to grow an English style garden here in Texas with moderate success. We are near enough to the coast for precipitation, but in the " dog days" of Summer take a toll. We can grow Ivy fairly well, as well as roses( provided we water the rose bushes)....

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  4. May I suggest you listen to a wonderful little song "English Country Garden" . My favorite version is by the American singer Jimmie Rodgers. Some nice pictures, an occasional Miss Marple and the song give me a perfect English Garden.

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    1. Just listened to/watched "English Country Garden" on YouTube. Thank you! It gives beautiful examples of an English country garden and how dense one is ~ which means it definitely requires constant attention so it won't turn into a jungle, as someone mentioned below.

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  5. We have a garden everyone calls "an English garden." It's a mix of colorful sun and shade plants, placed where suitable. But I think what gives it the "Englishness" is the fact that we have climbing vegetation (jessamine/jasmine, English ivy and climbing roses) on one side covering a fence and across part of a stone wall at the back which provides a cozy feeling and privacy, as well.

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  6. Search Amazon for "seaside gardening". There are at least a dozen books on the subject of seaside garden design.

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  7. As mentioned above, soil and climate conditions are vital to garden success, but if you're looking for English Garden inspiration, some of my favorite British plantswomen and garden designers are Gertrude Jekyll, Rosemary Verey and Penelope Hobhouse who designed a garden for Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Happy planting!

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  8. Roses, peonies, baptisia, hydrangeas, ladies mantle, clematis, daylilies, cranesbill geranium, lily of the valley, iris, astilbe and so much more....in a tightly packed jumble (think in groups of 3 or 5). Start with your back drop of shrubs and build from there. All should grow well in your zone - I say that from past experience of tending a garden like this at 1400 ft. in the mountains of Vermont. We're now in Yarmouth Port, where I am recreating a similar feel with a longer growing season. Your library will have wonderful resources...google and Pinterest have inspiring ideas as well. I look forward to seeing your progress!

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  9. We purchased a "Cotswold Tutor" style house here in Minnesota (very similar climate to Maine) and with it inherited a fairly substantial English/"Country" style garden. Roses, hydrangeas, peonies, and many of the plants itztru mentions above. We moved in during the winter months so it was really something to see everything come up the first spring. It's a really wonderful garden that I wish I could take credit for. One word of warning, however, is that these types of gardens take a significant amount of upkeep and work. Just because it's a perennial garden does not mean its self caring. I budget about 4 hours a week minimum for weeding, pruning, trimming, etc. I enjoy the work and find it meditative, but it's a big time commitment. If you don't keep up with it the garden will literally turn into a jungle! Also, if you can trim up or remove understory plants/trees that surround your garden it will really help you out. It's not just the sunlight you might gain, but also air movement and the lack of root competition for nutrients (roots go out much further than you might think). Anyway, good luck and have fun. - PCC

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  10. There are many good points already mentioned. I would study images of the look you want in order to train your eye and then head to the local nurseries several times this Summer, Fall and and next Spring. Also, take note of when your trees present the most sunshine beneath them. Are they all deciduous trees?
    Shop the areas of the nursery that are covered, because that will indicate the plants that are being protected from afternoon sunshine. This matches the shadiness of your yard. You won't get much bloom from roses or sun loving perennials. Plants placed so that they grow in a reach for the sun exposure they crave aren't usually very pretty.
    The reason you should make many trips to the nursery is that you want to have a succession of bloom and nurseries carry plants in succession as they come into their peak. In fact, if you don't change something about the trees, foliage, may be your most important factor. Keep your plant zone in mind and don't deviate from it. In the future, you may benefit from the fact that plants that have gone out of bloom may be bought on sale. I prefer local nurseries, but find deals on spent perennials at Lowes.
    It is fine with any nurseryman if you put several plants on a cart that you wheel about, just for the purpose of seeing how the foliage and habits look together, but it is a courtesy to return them to the spots you took them from. Most of the time, the plants in your yard will not be blooming, so favor plants with contrasting foliage and textures that look nice together.
    Have fun!

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  11. I was the "reader" and am so appreciative of all your responses. Thank you! Also, I have been to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. There is also an English garden at Pineland Farms that I plan to revisit soon. I've been having a lot of fun learning, and I see this as a years-long project/passion!

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