Planting combinations fit for a Queen

After more than three years of preparation and planting, Penshurst Place in Kent unveiled its redesigned Jubilee Walk in June 2012. George Carter's design combines traditional elements with new ideas, and features some striking planting combinations.

Here, Head Gardener Cory Fernmoor singles out some inspiring combinations and techniques that could be successfully adopted on a smaller scale.

Foliage texture and colour

I love strong contrasts in foliage colour and texture and here the display is well framed inside the clipped Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa' and the edged lawn. Key plants in the blue border include:

  •     Ajuga reptans Black Scallop ('Binblasca')
  •     Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’
  •     Geranium ‘Orion’
  •     Delphinium ‘Magic Fountains Series’

The vertical display of the delphiniums hovers over the lower under planting. All the plants chosen are tough and hardy and easy to maintain. It isn't difficult to keep the vigorous Ajuga in check, and divisions can be potted up for later use in other areas of the garden.

Another example is in the red beds where we have used low growing Thymus Coccineus Group, Sedum 'Ruby Glow' and Fragaria vesca which all give lovely contrasts of leaf and flower colour and texture.

Annuals have a place

Calendula officinalis and Tropaeolum majus add a vibrant and long display of colour. Here they help to frame the herbaceous perennials and are great for carrying over the seasonal transition of plants like Anthemis sancti-johannis and Kniphofia rooperi.

After buying one packet of seed you can get an annual display from your own collected seed or from naturally dropped seed, with a bit of thinning out once they get established the following spring.

Other annuals which help extend the seasonal display are Myosotis sylvatica ‘Ultramarine’ and we are letting biennials like Digitalis purpurea and Aquilegia seed freely too. It helps to learn what the seed looks like when it first germinates so you know what not to weed out! Take a picture when you sow your first batch.

Underplanting summer-flowering bulbs

We have underplanted all of our summer-flowering bulb displays. This not only gives us a good display of interest and colour before and after the bulbs have flowered but it also helps to suppress weeds. In the yellow beds of the walk we have planted Sedum spurium ‘Green Mantle’ under Lilium Citronella Group.

Under orange Lilium henryi we have planted Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ for is interesting autumn colour, and under vivid blue Allium caeruleum we have underplanted with the beautifully delicate Veronica umbrosa ‘Georgia Blue’. These are all plants that the bulbs will easily push through when growing.

  • Penshurst Place and Gardens is an RHS Partner Garden offering free entry to RHS members (main member only) throughout its open period.

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I enjoy a refreshing walk… my membership gives me free family days out as often as I like.

Mrs Giddings, RHS member

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