Naked ladies and bulging waist lines

Staff are looking at ways of shaping up the hedges and keeping the garden in trim this autumn

In the Hilltop Garden the yew hedges (Taxus baccata) that frame the herbaceous border have endured at least fifteen years of trimming. Every year we've cut back all the new growth, each time the job's most likely to have been done by a combination of different horticulturists with a varying styles. This has meant that the contours gradually changed and the parallel lines once cut with a template have skewed and altered.

At RHS Garden Hyde Hall, we're particularly picky. We decide two years ago to realign the shapes to make them symmetrical once more. Reshaping the hedges means pruning hard back into the old wood, so forget hedge cutters, we need loppers and pruning saws to complete the task.

We started with the sides, herbaceous border and renovated hedgesas the width had become too fat, encroaching onto the border plantings. They looked bare for a whole year, almost as if they wouldn't recover. But two years later, no one would even notice!

This year we've completed the hard prune on the front sections, so as we look down the border they're now all inline again. They may look bare, but yew always revives. Once they look better, we'll do the opposite sides. This will mean the hedges will be thinner and shorter. All that'll be left then are the curves on top to correct. Then the hedge will be looking as good as it can be.

Autumn plants

Also looking good opposite the border at the moment is Calamagrostis brachytricha, a very well behaved grass. I love the way it flowers late in summer, and withstands the harsh winter. When other grasses are broken and bent leaving an unsightly mess, it stands upright until it's time to cut it down in spring.

Also I love Amaryllis belladAmaryllis belladonnaonna, naked ladies, now just showing though in the Dry Garden. This is a welcome bulb for late summer. The pink flowers are lovely dotted about, similar to the trumpets of Crinum × powellii nearby, but neater and tidier in habit.

Turf patterns

Our newly laid turf area on the Hilltop Garden lawn has been creating some comment. At the moment it looks darker than the rest and as we work we hear puzzled visitors discussing the reasons for this colour change. They think perhaps it's shadows and they move around in different directions trying to figure it out. But it's actually quite simple, the turf laid is the same as the old stuff but it's been well-watered and fertilised at the turf farm. Over time it will blend in with the pre-existing areas. 

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