A room with a view
Windows create a picture frame of the garden from wherever viewed from the house.
There is a great propensity in Bermuda to plant around the walls of the house – this may or may not look attractive when driving in, contingent on the design format. Good architecture should be complemented with a good landscape but not to the point of smothering the façade.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which is a good reason to view the garden from within as well as from outside. Instead of planting a hedge to screen the property, consider creating a plant border with a mix of plants which offer a privacy screen of colour, flower, fragrance and visual interest.
Such areas have the freedom to accommodate larger shrubs and medium-sized trees to create a kaleidoscope of colour, shapes and flower all around the house – be it upstairs or on the ground floor. Such areas can accommodate growth without too many restrictions of walls and blocking views from windows as is the case of planting close to and around the house.
The selection of plants is enlarged for these areas which includes height and width, which is itself a good enough reason to consider the benefits. Windows can be framed with low growing plants beneath them and taller types at the sides. Finish the picture off with a carpet of ground cover plants to control weed growth.
To make a bold statement, consider creating a 360-degree visual impact from every room in the house, this offers the opportunity to create areas for sun and shade as well as utilising space for plants that produces colourful foliage, contrasting foliage, flowers of many shapes and colours, seed and fruit – a veritable botanical garden!
Location and size of garden will be a major factor in plant choice however, with careful selection and creative design the visual impact would be worth the effort. Use hardy plants that are in an open, exposed location which will offer protection to other areas of the garden whilst retaining an evergreen format in that area of planting.
To start the process, create a spreadsheet of plants you like that would fit the needs of the property, under the headings of trees, shrubs, ground covers, vines, cacti, succulents, bulbous and herbaceous. Make notes on each plant’s characters such as height, width, colour and flowering time, deciduous or evergreen, seed or fruit bearing; this will help you create a palette of diversity and interest throughout the year.
When making the selection, consider plant type in tandem with its container size when purchased as this will be the foundation on which the garden develops. Trees are best planted in a ten-gallon container; select plants that have a straight trunk and minimal growth on the lower part of the trunk.
Larger shrubs make a statement when started in four-gallon containers. When selecting them, look for all-round uniformity of growth. Also check for any problems with pests and diseases and make sure that the root ball is not pot-bound.
Use the information garnered from your spreadsheets to lay out the design on a site plan to one-eighth of an inch scale. This will allow space between plants that will create maturity at a natural rate of growth. For example, if potential plant neighbours have an average width of 5ft each and grow to 30 inches wide they will touch. Therefore, they are best planted at six-foot centres to allow light and air flow around foliage.
To obtain the greatest impact, plants which will be taller in time should be planted at the back of the bed, with medium material next and smaller plants including ground covers planted to the front of the bed. With this cascading effect from the house, you increase the visual impact of the landscape, thus highlighting the best features of each plant type.
With a well thought out plan, the interest level of an all-year round activity will be achieved, with seeds and fruit often covering the non-flowering periods.
Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society