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This site is protected by my "Tanwen", pronounced "TAHN-wen". From Welsh tan "fire" + gwen "shining, holy".

Tanwen's Garden Design
The Garden Goddess

Key points of the design brief were 'low maintenance' and 'year round interest'. The client had some clear ideas on the plants he liked, and so I was left to concoct a low-maintenance garden that would include something to look at for twelve months of the year. A tall order! Other points to consider were the fact that children would be using the garden on occasion, and that I could have to incorporate a stone monolith water feature… After much thought, inspiration finally struck (and no, it didn't hurt) and the result is a fairly 'clean' design, with a touch of modernity afforded by the inclusion of a lawn path - which form a bird's eye view looks very much like a green man safeguarding the house. This path, meandering as it is, divides the garden into separate areas which are linked by common elements. The water feature nestles in the shade provided by an existing tree, this area of the garden is cool and lush, with a blend of hostas and ferns, under-planted with a selection of bulbs to provide spring colour. This versant tapestry is echoed at the opposite end of the garden, where a mound-forming Acer palmatum ('Crimson Queen') provides a centrepiece of colour, enhanced and emphasised by the surrounding ground-cover plants which are predominantly dark green. The vibrant colours of the Acer are picked up by the Lycoris radiata (Red Spider Lily) which will grow up through the other plants to add a slight seasonal variation in height as well as colour. Two trees, chosen for their bark and foliage, stand either side of a bench in a sea of gravel, the whole of that area being a tranquil rockery. Large rocks are grouped around, with alpines planted both between the stones and directly into the gravel. This area of the garden affords a peaceful place from which to view the rest of the garden. Opposite, along the other border of the garden, are large clumps of bamboo in front of which lies another bench. Again, this area is covered in gravel, providing a cool contrast to the other parts of the garden. The final area in the garden is what's loosely described as 'the herb bed' - although it may become home to other things as time goes by. Being situated directly off the patio, it's an ideal site for growing herbs and vegetables as, whatever the weather, it's just a few steps from the back door. The planting for this bed was left undefined so that the client might personally select herbs which they would be likely to use. There is also ample room to grow vegetables such as shallots, carrots, tomatoes and beans.

Hmm, tough one that. There are so many different elements of the garden, and each has its own reasoning. I suspect a lot of people will ask about the lawn path - it is an unusual feature, but I think it will work very well. The lawn is such an integral part of the archetypal English garden, but they're not low maintenance so I wanted to find some way to include some lawn, but not have it dominate all the time spent out there. Parts of the garden are almost a complete reversal of the norm, with gravel forming the beds, whilst the grass is confined to the path - it makes the garden a little kooky, and very unique. The grass will still have to be cut, but running a mower along the meandering curves should be more of a pleasure than a chore. Other materials which I considered using are artificial turf, and lawn chamomile.

Particular plants:
Why did I choose certain plants for use in this garden? Was the planting a random act or was there method behind the madness?... I have listed below some of the key plants used in the design.

Prunus serrula
(Tibetan Cherry) - It is, without question, the bark of this tree that makes it such a stunning addition to any garden. I wanted to bring some height into the garden, and naturally a tree was the next logical step. Positioned as it is beside one of the benches, this specimen will be an eye-catching element of the garden whatever the season.

Prunus cerasifera 'Nigra' (Purple Plum) - Another tree intended to add height to the garden, but this time it's the foliage rather than the bark which is the focal point. The new growth is bronze, which gradually darkens to (as the name suggests) a deep purple.

Polygonatum x hybridum (Solomon's Seal) - A subtle part of the planting scheme, I chose this plant for two reasons: the foliage, and the flowers. Dotted amongst the ferns and hosts, the upright, arching stems of this plant add variety, whilst the beautiful pendulous flowers, so reminiscent of seals, will add interest in late spring and early summer.

Lycoris radiata (Red Spider Lily) - It's the exotic looking flowers of L. radiata that caused me to choose it. Born on tall, slender stalks, the red flowers will rise above the dark greens of the other planting in this area of the garden and complement the foliage of the Acer.

Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese Spurge) - a basic description of this plant would be 'dark green foliage, small white flowers, infinite spread.' As this is a low maintenance garden, P. terminalis is an ideal choice for ground-cover as it will help to suppress weed growth, as well as provide a dark foil to the brighter colours around it. P. terminalis is also used in Japanese-style gardens, and as Tanwen's Garden has turned out to be a bit of a blend of the East and West, this plant seemed more than apt.

Ophiopogon japonicus (Mondo Grass) - Many people are familiar with this plant's black-leaved relative, O. planiscapus 'Nigrescens', which has been in vogue for a few years now. O. japonicus has the same thing, strap-like foliage, but the leaf colour is a dark green - far more fitting for this garden. This plant was chosen to provide variation in texture within the planting, and should do so nicely beside the Pachysandra terminalis.

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