Gardening: Plant power with colour combos

Nursery owner Chris Marchant. Picture: Jonathan Buckley
Nursery owner Chris Marchant. Picture: Jonathan Buckley
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While the health benefits of getting out into the countryside are widely acknowledged, it can also be a perfect way to gain inspiration for planting your garden.

And whether you live on a country estate or in a high-rise with a concrete yard, a few well-chosen plants can go a long way to improving your sense of wellbeing.

This will be a theme of an autumn seminar organised by Scotland’s Gardens in Stirling on Tuesday.

Chris Marchant, who runs a wholesale nursery in Oxfordshire, will talk about the power of creative planting at the event, which also features Elizabeth Banks, former president of the Royal Horticultural Society, and Richard Baines, curator at Logan Botanic Garden.

Marchant and her husband, Toby, grow herbaceous plants at their Orchard Dene nursery to complement the naturalist style of planting – a European movement which takes its inspiration from the natural landscape.

Their work has brought them into contact with top garden designers such as Piet Oudolf, Dan Pearson and Arne Maynard.

“Adding a quantity of plants to an outdoor space changes the whole dynamic and the relationship people have with that space,” she says. “When you step into a big field of ox-eye daisies it takes your breath away. It’s trying to understand the essence of why that makes you feel excited.”

This discipline can be applied to both large country estates or cash-strapped inner city boroughs. “I’m constantly learning from the projects I work on and the people I work with. Even a small amount of money spent on plants can transform a space. It’s about the power of creative planting and the lasting effect of getting it right.”

While Marchant has worked on a wide range of projects alongside the best designers, Elizabeth Banks’ enjoyment of gardening is centred on her own garden in Herefordshire on the Hergest estate. “It is a very large garden and has an amazing collection of trees and shrubs – probably one of the best collections in the country,” she says.

The garden was started by her husband’s grandfather after he bought the estate in 1912. As well as being a banker, William Banks was a traveller and passionate plantsman with many of the trees and shrubs being some of the earliest plantings of these species in Britain.

“When I was a landscape architect I did many restoration projects of historic landscapes and what was so wonderful was to get their shape and scale and whole feel back to being a very beautiful place.”

As former president of the RHS from 2010-13, Banks will also discuss the role of the charity in introducing people to the fun of gardening.

“The RHS has been working with the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society, the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, Scotland’s Gardens and the National Trust for Scotland to encourage gardening in schools and to get people to enjoy gardening,” she says.

Just as plants influence our environment, environmental factors affect what we can grow. While he might not own it, Richard Baines has the luxury of working in Scotand’s most exotic garden. As curator of Logan Botanic Garden in Dumfries and Galloway, he enjoys being able to grow tropical and exotic plants not normally found in Scotland. “We have a wide range of plants from the Southern hemisphere and south west Asia, including Vietnam and Taiwan,” says Baines. “We also have a very large collection from Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.”

In addition, the garden boasts a dozen different species of palm trees which he is looking to increase to about 20. The reason for this success is the garden’s location in the Rhins of Galloway close to the far south-western tip of Scotland, an area warmed by the Gulf Stream to create a perfect micro-climate for tropical plants. “We are very much like an island,” says Baines. “We have got the sea on three sides. In winter it is very mild compared to other parts of Scotland. We also get an awful lot of sunshine and we have a very long growing season. We don’t get a frost after April and our first frost is often in December.”

As one of three regional gardens that form part of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Logan is involved in conservation work and is helping to preserve the North Vietnamese Coffin juniper Xanthocyparis vietnamensis, of which there are only 80 specimens growing wild.

Lady Juliet Edmonstone, who is organising the event, says: “The whole day is bursting with new ideas, things that when you see them you think that is a very good idea. Lots of notes need to be taken.”

• Visit www.scotlandsgardens.org/news/2013-autumn-seminar; for tickets, £45, including coffee and lunch with wine, tel: 01360 770215, email: juliet@edmonstone.com