"We visit Adrian Walsh at home in his Belfast garden, and discover the spontaneous and natural gardening style that helped him to win the BBC Gardener of the Year accolade.."
Article reproduced from Gardener's World February 2002 edition
Winner Adrian Walsh is not a gardener who likes to go mad with a pair of secateurs, or someone who maintains his patch with impulsive actions. His method of gardening is anything but frenetic. In fact, his garden was left to its own devices for the first year of ownership.
moved to his south Belfast home eight years ago, and his 12m (39ft) square
garden, which has just helped him win the coveted title of BBC Gardener
of the Year 2001, looks nothing like it did then. "There wasn't much
here when I arrived, just a lawn, a few roses and three fruit trees but,
rather than just rip it all up, I decided to wait a year and see if anything
else grew. The grass and the weeds did well, but that was about. it,"
The borders are waist
deep with flowers and foliage, the roses and lawn have vanished and all
that remains of the old garden is a stately pear tree. This now provides
shade for a seating area surrounded by majestic shuttlecock ferns, Matteuccia
struthiopteris, which is linked to another patio near the house by a gently
curving path of plain, reclaimed concrete paving slabs. "It's become
plants versus the hard landscaping," says Adrian, and it's a contest
the plants seem to be winning.
The theme of colour contrast continues with valuable evergreen screening provided by the combination of a deep green, glossy-leaved cherry laurel, Prunus laurocerasus, and the tiny golden-leaved, shrubby honeysuckle, Lonicera Nitida 'Baggesen's Gold'. "The evergreens are good in winter, especially with the dead stems and seed-heads of the perennials left to die back naturally," says Adrian.
Despite letting plants
take the upper hand in his garden, Adrian is not a slave to maintenance.
"In the spring I spend about half a day a week working in the garden,
and during the summer perhaps only half an hour. I like to let things
get overgrown, but I also like to be there ready, in case something gets
out of hand," he says.
time he does give to the garden is spent looking after the grasses and
perennials that grow around, through, over and under the shrubs. "You
don't need rolling acres to achieve a prairie style," he adds. The
grasses give important. vertical impact to the garden. The flowers of
the giant feather grass, Stipa gigantea, sway in the lightest of
breezes, while the bronze flowers of its smaller cousin, Stipa tenuissima,
scramble over Geranium procurrens, giving a strong textural feel.
This constant change becomes evident when Adrian is asked about his favourite plants. "Oh gosh!" he exclaims. "Every day there's something that looks great. Geranium maderense is doing really well at the minute. People say it's not hardy, but I've got about 20 of them in pots. They like the microclimate of this garden." At other times of the year different plants feature at the top of his list. "In winter, the scent of Daphne laureola is fantastic," he enthuses. This dwarf evergreen bears clusters of yellow-green flowers beneath strong leathery foliage in late winter, when most gardens look bare. He continues, "I've got several Buxus sempervirens, the common evergreen box, in pots. I really like their formality against the rest of the garden in winter, especially when the frost settles on them."
It is apparent that, in spite of Adrian's claim to the contrary, his "planned-unplanned" garden is actually very well planned indeed. "It's not difficult though," he says. "If you just plant what you like and you plant closely, using species that spread randomly and do their own thing, then you can just sit back and let it happen."
For Adrian, gardening
is never a chore. "Having a garden is similar to a partnership that
you're wedded into. It's about the sheer possibilities
of what you can do together," he says.
Copyright A Walsh 2002-2007