Garden Tour: Salvage and Foliage Bring Beauty to a Shady Spot
Pre-loved pots, antiques, recycled plants and a considered mix of textures and colours make this a characterful garden
The homeowner liked Jilayne’s planting style and wanted to work with a designer. “She liked the combination of white and purple and had an idea of what she wanted, but not how to achieve it – her plant knowledge wasn’t that strong,” Jilayne says. “She wanted something bespoke and individual that reflected her character and her house, which is gorgeous.”
The project was also sustainable. “Nothing went to landfill,” she says.
Who lives here? Photographic artist Jo de Banzie and her husband; their grown-up children have left home
Location Muswell Hill, north London
Property A Victorian terraced house
Garden dimensions Roughy 7m x 15m
Designer Jilayne Rickards of Jilayne Rickards Contemporary Garden Design
Project year 2018
Photos by Jo de Banzie
“Small gardens are really difficult to do,” Jilayne says. “Every plant counts and has to have more than one season of interest to earn its place.”
To further narrow the options, the planting conditions in this enclosed space were a little tricksy. “There’s quite heavy clay soil, common in London gardens,” Jilayne says. “And although clay is nutrient-dense, in the sun it will dry out and crack, while in the winter it will become boggy and claggy, so you have to choose plants that can cope with it in both seasons.” The large apple tree also creates some dry shade.
Jilayne’s planting plan was designed around these conditions and also to provide year-round interest. With few flowers, because of the shade, the focus was on interesting foliage.
The centre of the garden was filled with gravel before Jilayne started work on the project, and the decking at the back was already in situ. At the bottom of the apple tree there was low-growing Pleioblastus bamboo and at the top, a treehouse, the base of which she repurposed into a planting platform for pots.
A dense screen of Phyllostachys nigra (black-stemmed bamboo) was also already present on the left, and hides an out-of-sight shed (Jilayne planted a partner for it elsewhere in the garden, shown below).
In the top right corner she added an Acer, one of many purple features in the planting. She put two more of these in the garden. “I used three to form a triangle and to create balance and connection,” she explains. “There’s repeat planting throughout the garden, which unifies the whole and adds a sort of rhythm.”
This photo illustrates Jilayne’s successional planting scheme. The fluffy white flowers are Astilbe; the white spires in bud in the foreground are Aconite, which flowers in the late summer/early autumn. “This photo was taken mid to late summer and the Aconite comes out later in the year, flowering until early autumn,” she says.
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Behind it she planted Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’. “This has a lovely creamy white margin [on the leaves] and helps to light up a dark corner no end,” she says. “In the winter, you get nice red stems.”
The tip of some lime green Alchemilla mollis is just visible at the bottom. “It loves the shade and its beautiful scalloped leaves also brighten up dark corners.”
Spent purple alliums remain pretty in the foreground. “When the canopy on the apple tree isn’t there, you have an array of bulbs that will do well; they’ll get enough sun to produce flowers,” Jilayne says.
Beneath the alliums is a mix of two varieties of Geranium phaeum – white and purple – and Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’.
Even the plants were chosen for longevity. “We don’t generally use annuals unless they’re self-seeders in the kind of garden where they can self-seed where they please,” she says.
Here, near the house where there’s more sun, there’s lavender and a weathered old planter that houses a Saxifraga surrounded by decorative stones. “The stones help to suppress weeds and also act as a mulch,” Jilayne says. “They also link the planters with the gravel, helping to unify the garden.”
In front of it, the colour theme continues in the form of Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ and the delicate Gillenia trifoliata.
“It was a bit of a hefty lump and Jo wondered if we should take it out, but I suggested we could clip it and cut off the lower branches,” Jilayne says. “It’s a nicer thing to do than just ripping something out. I like to work with what we’ve got wherever possible.”
Do you have a shady spot in your garden? Has Jilayne’s planting given you any ideas? Let us know in the Comments.