04 July 2012

The Last of the Garden Clichés

Ahem. A weed is a plant which is in the wrong -- A weed is a plant which no-one has found a use -- Please. Why not sidestep the matter entirely by planting everything in grass, and let the peonies fight it out with the buttercups. It doesn't matter how the latter behave because they look lovely with Welsh poppies, and with ragged robin, and campion. They mingle with the green and provide welcome accents of colour. The green floor is a very forgiving background for any plant and though it might get long and rough you could argue that your peonies have never looked better, putting on a shorter, stouter appearance. The same can be said for achillea and centaurea: they will flop no more. And in grass peonies are not nearly as irritating for the ten months in which they do nothing.

At Cottesbrooke Hall Gardens tall plants are an important part of the whole idea. It is a garden with height. One of these plants which has made itself very at home in the borders is valeriana, recently seen in bud in the gold-winning meadows of SW3 (above, photo by Jim Powell) before blooming slightly further north around the Terrace Border in Northamptonshire. Actually, it pops up everywhere, even amongst the classical statuary in the ultra-formal Forecourt, far away from where it was intended.

This is why it is making a steady march down toward the Wild Garden, with human help, where it can scatter itself amongst the buttercups and devil's bit scabious. It looks good there; it looks good everywhere. But there are so many fascinating plants in the formal gardens that they need more space to perform and I'm not sure whether valerian would be described as fascinating, though certainly useful in bringing the planting up to eye level. The question is, now that valeriana has found a home among the wildflowers, what is it exactly? And do stop going on about weeds!

For more lower-upper class plants see The Observer Organic Allotment Blog.

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