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The garden gone wild

Sublte transitions: Malcolm Griffiths writes that unkempt areas are ideal candidates to create a wild garden that simply by its very name negates the appearance of being ‘messy’, but one of controlled chaos (Photograph submitted)

One normally thinks of the garden as a prim and proper place of organised flower beds and lush green lawns, a utopian place of quiet and solitude. But of course, the garden is in a constant state of movement controlled by Mother nature with the occasional help of the BMW (blower, mower and weed whacker) brigade.

This is most apparent in small gardens as the visual impact is more ‘in your face’; but consider the larger garden that is a mix of uncontrolled chaos with areas of unkempt areas – as per the above picture – that do nothing visually to catch the eye or highlight the area.

Unkempt areas are ideal candidates to create a wild garden that simply by its very name negates the appearance of being ‘messy’, but one of controlled chaos.

There are many candidates that can be used in a wild garden, especially those of an endemic or native species, which include trees, shrubs, ground covers, bulbous and herbaceous plants.

The first step in carrying out such a programme is to assess the area as to its present mix of plants; some may be of value whilst others not so.

Whatever the size of area, create a plan showing, size and location of plants to be retained.

This will identify the foundation plantings and the information required to start a design concept.

In the preparation of the area include the exercise of pruning existing plants to encourage new growth whilst retaining their natural growth habit; checking and treating pest and disease problems will also be advantageous in the future development of healthy growth.

Contingent on the size of land to be used and the knowledge of the existing plantings, combined with the orientation of the site, a list can be created of desirable plants.

Preparation of the land should include removing all undesirable plants including their root systems, however, do not dig too closely to retained plants as root damage could retard future growth.

When selecting the proposed plantings, endeavour to create as much all-year-round interest as possible, from flowering to seeding, fruiting and avian activity.

Contingent on the list of existing plants, consider using as foundation planting, Bermuda Cedar – Juniperus Bermudiana; Bermuda Palmetto – Sabal bermudana; Bermuda Olivewood – Cassine laneana; Bermuda Yellowwood – Zanthoxylum flavum and Southern Hackberry – Celtis laevigata.

For plants with intermediate growth, shrubs to consider include, Baccharis glomeruliflora – Doc-Bush, Callicarpa americana – Turkey Berry, Dodonea viscosa – Jamaica Dogwood; Psychotria ligustrifolia – Wild Coffee; hypericum macrosepalum – St. Andrews Cross; Forestiera segregate – Forestiera; Eugenia axillaris – Stopper; Pluchea symphytifolia – Shrubby Fleabane.

Plants of a ground cover nature include, Turnera ulmifolia – Turnera; Erigeron darrellianus – Darrells fleabane; Poinsettia heterophylla – Josephs Coat; Solidago sempervirens – Golden Rod; Sisyrinchium bermudiana – Bermudiana, and for ferns, Nephrolepis exaltata – Sword fern.

Knowing the potential height and width of each plant type will better assist in the final placement as over-planting will be detrimental to the visual presentation.

List all details of each plant on paper before finalising design. Having such details to hand will enable you to create extended flowering times by overlapping plant types in an orderly distribution.

A weed is a plant growing in the wrong ‘spot’, and many so named weeds can be accommodating in their flowering habit to an area if they do not proliferate to the detriment of the garden in general.

By creating a habitat of flowers, seed and fruits the presence of avian activity will be noticeable and enhance the area in general; if a large enough area, consider introducing garden furniture such as a bird bath, feeding areas, small water feature, statuary and a seating area.

Melding a ‘formal’ garden adjacent to a wild garden should contain the essence of a subtle transition which can be integrated in a natural progression of plantings.

⁕ Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in Britain. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, the Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society

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Published April 01, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated March 31, 2024 at 7:00 pm)

The garden gone wild

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