I have, quite unwittingly, become fashionable. Not me personally, but my style of gardening, which is part of the new trend known as vertical.
If you can’t move out, go up. So many of us are urban dwellers or live in flats and houses with tiny gardens, a balcony, a roof terrace or, simply, window boxes. I happen to be the owner of all four as I live in a tall, narrow seaside house with a courtyard garden at its feet, a covered balcony above and two roof terraces above that.
All of them are filling up fast with plants. What? You want to sit down? Don’t be silly. At this time of year, I become so green-fevered that the nice folks down at the plant nursery almost offer me a cup of tea when I walk through the door. I have single-handedly decimated their stock of terracotta pots.
On the middle terrace, a huge pot of geraniums came through the winter unscathed while, just six feet away, on the facing wall, they were utterly destroyed
Having only lived in the house for a year, I am new to this game but am learning fast from my mistakes. What has been most educational about gardening in tiers (I used to own a fairly big London garden) is the way the climate changes on each floor, and even on the same floor.
On the middle terrace, a huge pot of geraniums came through the winter unscathed while, just six feet away, on the facing wall, they were utterly destroyed. One standard olive tree is beaming with health while the other looks decidedly dejected.
So that was lesson number one. Study your micro-climate and be prepared. Come winter, the olives will be wrapped in fine horticultural fleece, like ushers at Miss Havisham’s wedding.
The top terrace looks directly out to sea, under scorching sun and at the mercy of salt-laden winds. Wind might be too kind a word; gales, more like. Last year, the agapanthus (I have ten, and counting, in various shades of blue from indigo to Cambridge) did brilliantly. They don’t mind a bit of drought and their strap-like leaves and long-stemmed flowers bend happily in the wind.
As I can’t abide empty ground, in any garden, and one variety of plant seems a lonely solution, I am experimenting with grasses, which flutter prettily among the agapanthus.
Take care, though, to check their natural habitat. Some grasses don’t enjoy full sun but, happily, my favourites, Calamagrostis x actiflora (Overdam and Karl Foerster) do, and they don’t mind a dry soil, so do well in pots. Overdam is particularly beautiful, with its green and white striped leaves, tinged with violet, and tall feathery plumes of flowers also tinged with violet. It will complement the blues of the agapanthus well.
Then, of course, a sunny terrace must have lavender, so I have added ten pots of Mustead, which produces dense spikes of fragrant bluish-purple flowers and fits obligingly into the colour scheme.
Next, to tackle the deep, damp shade in the courtyard garden, but that’s another story.
Further reading My new garden: end-of-term report