Walk and Weep

I was in England and Wales for a few weeks this summer and – no surprise here – spent much of my free time checking out their beautiful gardens.


Of course, flowers are found in every nook and cranny in the U.K. so I never had to walk far. Hanging baskets, window boxes and small clusters of pots grace even the smallest of spaces:


Lichfield Pots


Welsh Window


Hanging Basket St. Davids


And when you get into British parks and large country estates, the garden displays are just breathtaking:


Purple Green Border Regent's Park


Eucomis Regents Park


My reaction to this floral extravaganza is usually mixed. On the one hand, there’s inspiration everywhere. On the other, there’s the sinking realization that it’s just impossible to replicate those gorgeous English gardens back home. Our summers are too hot, our winters are too cold, our sun is too strong and our storms are too fierce. Even when we can use the same plants, by August, our specimens are looking pretty tired.


Designers are taught that creativity often increases in proportion to a space’s constraints. The more challenges a site presents, the more creativity will be needed to successfully address them. That’s the theory, at least.


But wouldn’t it be great to paint with the broad palette of plants that can thrive in a more forgiving climate? A climate that enabled you to pick plants primarily based on color and texture and form without thinking too hard about whether they’ll fry in the sun or be killed by a deep freeze?  Imagine:  dark purple Heuchera and golden Hakonechloa in a full sun border.  Salvia and Violthat bloom all season long.  Canna and Dahlia that winter over in the ground, not in my basement.


That’s why I stroll through a beautiful English garden with a hanky in hand. Walk a few steps, take a picture and shed a few tears for what isn’t meant to be. Walk a few steps, take a picture and shed a few tears. Repeat until you leave the garden.


The good news when I returned home was that it had rained, hard, multiple times. The bad news was that everything was on the verge of veering out of control. Thanks to a very warm year and bountiful rain, quite a few of my plants are now towering over my head – and the weeds are close behind.


I guess it’s a good thing that the naturalistic trend in garden design is still going strong. If you’re looking for tall, wild and woolly, my neck of the woods can definitely deliver.




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