This little bed is about 8ft wide and 5ft deep. It sits below a window next to my desk at the front of our house. It is nestled between the porch (to the right) and the neighbours house (to the left), making it pretty shady, although it receives afternoon sun for an hour or so in the afternoon.
Despite being small and snug it provides plenty of texture and interest throughout the year. Most of the plants are evergreen or semi-evergreen (ferns), with the exception of the tree peony which is deciduous.
The clipped box hedging is kept to about 1ft (30cm) high and wide, providing an architectural frame that links this bed to the house. The Christmas box has been in this bed the longest, and now needs hard pruning every year to keep it in bounds, but its fragrance in the winter right next to the front door is very welcome.
In the opposite corner the Skimmia is slow growing, but will eventually balance the Christmas box nicely.
The tree peony is only three years old, and will gradually grow up higher and higher above the surrounding plants, creating the main a feature shrub in this bed. As they grow tree peonies tend to form bare lower upright stems which I hope will look striking and allow the shorter plants beneath to be easily seen.
The ferns, foxgloves and wood spurge create interesting architectural shapes between the structural shrubs.
The flowers here are all muted – yellow greens (from the wood spurge) and white. The simple palette works well against the evergreen foliage and painted white walls.
Through the year
The evergreen structure remains strong, but the Christmas Box is the star. It’s subtle spidery flowers and shiny berries are easy to miss, but the scent floats on the air, catching the nose whenever you pass.
These photos, taken in April, show the new growth and subtle flowers of the Spurge, Vinca, Skimmia and Peony.
The wood spurge is actually a problem. It’s a rampant spreader, invading the bed by sneaky underground stolons and popping up all over the place. Pretty silly for a bed like this, but I have a soft spot for it with it’s shiny whorls of foliage and fresh lime green flowers that last for ages… So I’ll try and live with it by pulling up three quarters of it after if finishes flowering. If that doesn’t work then it will have to go.
[WATCH THIS SPACE… more to come as the year progresses!]