maximising space

Gardening every inch

I rarely meet a gardener who is happy with the space they’ve got. We all long for just one more border; a couple of extra plants. Few go to the lengths of Sue Beck whose Cotswold garden is a lesson in maximising space.

maximising space
Borders are packed

It’s clear from the outset that this is the garden of a plant fanatic. The front path runs through tightly packed borders while overhead, arches are smothered in roses and clematis. The house can barely be seen behind leaves and flowers.

The front plot is almost triangular but its shape and size are disguised by the planting. Visitors are greeted by the dainty pink blooms and lovely scent of Rosa ‘Sophie’s Perpetual’. Purple clematis ‘Arabella’ and the pale pink rose ‘Applejack’ are entwined on an obelisk and staging is used for pots of hostas. It is just a taste of what is to come.

maximising space
The only grass is in narrow paths

Behind the house, the grass has gradually been reduced to a couple of narrow paths as borders have edged ever outwards. Come summer, these are filled with a mass of colour: the spikey foliage and purple blooms of acanthus, soft pink mallow, golden inula, feathery thalictrum; the list goes on and on.

In July, Sue’s collection of hemerocallis, or day lilies, takes centre stage. There are around 400 – she’s lost track of the exact number – and they range through every colour. ‘Bird Bath’ is a dusty pink, ‘Moon Witch’ pale yellow, ‘Kansas Kitten’ deep purple.

maximising space
Hemerocallis ‘Fooled Me’

More entertaining are the names: ‘Knickers in a Twist’ and ‘Life on Mars’ being just two of the memorable. Many are grown in the borders but still more in pots balance on low walls or line paths.

It’s not just hemerocallis that Sue, a member of the British Hosta and Hemerocallis Society, collects. The garden is also home to around 60 roses and the same number of clematis.

“I’ve no idea how many I’ve got now,” she admits.

maximising space
Roses span every path

Most of these are found on arches that span every path through the garden. There’s the beautiful Rosa ‘Malvern Hills’, with soft yellow double flowers, ‘Westerland’ with a more coppery tone and ‘Open Arms’, which has pale pink, single blooms.

‘Bonica’, another pale pink is teamed with purple Clematis ‘Durandi’, while the yellow R. ‘Alister Stella Gray’ is grown with inky purple C. ‘Rasputin’.

maximising space
Obelisks support more climbers in the borders

Elsewhere, C. ‘Dutch Sky’ has pale blue flowers with a slightly darker central stripe, ‘Margot Koster’ is deep pink and ‘Arabella’ has dainty blue-mauve flowers.

In addition to the arches, obelisks punctuate the borders and rarely have just the one plant scrambling over them.

maximising space
Hemerocallis ‘Moon Witch’

In recent years, Sue has discovered a new passion: grasses. Already she is gaining quite a collection and they are a graceful counterpoint to the strong hemerocallis foliage.

A particular favourite is Stipa ‘Goldilocks’, a more compact form of the giant oat with narrow leaves and golden flower heads.

maximising space
Allium angulosum

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Schottland’ are both used for their arching habit while the white-edged foliage of Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’ makes a good year-round ground cover and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Dixieland’ is, declares Sue, quite “handsome”.

Lurking among grasses and the leaves of giant rheum and Arundo donax, the giant reed, is a metal giraffe, adding an exotic touch to this garden on the outskirts of Cirencester.

maximising space
An unusual resident for the Cotswolds

Meanwhile, a new summerhouse is gradually being submerged by planting; it had to be brought in via a neighbour’s garden as there was no way through the borders.

Despite barely an inch of bare soil visible, Sue is confident there is still room to add to her plants.

maximising space
There’s an almost jungly feel to the garden

“There’s always space where I can put some more in.”

With her skill at maximising space, I’m sure she will succeed.

25 Bowling Green Road, Cirencester, is open for the National Gardens Scheme on Sunday July 10 from 2-5, and Monday 11 and Monday 18 July from 11-4. Admission is £3.

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  1. That’s what I call a garden, where plants control, instead of being controlled. It’s full of life and joy, and you cerainly don’t have to worry about weeds. I’m keeping it for inspiration.

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