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  • Amanda Armstrong

The Secret of The English Garden

I'VE ALWAYS observed that English gardens, which everyone admires, suffer from many of the same problems as our own, as well as ones that we don't. Chlorosis, for example, is rather prevalent on the relatively lighter soils of England, and nothing is more dismal than leaves bleached almost to yellow, which is nearly unheard of on our rich heavy acid soil.

They have one major advantage over us: their winter temperatures are far milder than ours, allowing many of the sensitive plants we think of to thrive there, such as ceanothus, phlomis, fatshederas, pittosporums, and hebes. Not only can they grow many things in London (almost at the North Pole) that we can't, but it's also lot easier for an English gardener to buy plants than it is for us in Washington. Small nurseries are becoming more plentiful and better.

Many of our plants are overpriced since they are grown by excellent nurseries in California, for example, and the transportation expenses are high by the time they are sold at local nurseries. This issue does not exist in England.


A long legacy of good gardening and a fine gardening press are also passed down to the average English gardener. The ordinary Englishman knows a lot more about plants than we do.


When looking at English gardens, it's helpful to mentally deduct the elements that have nothing to do with growing plants but practically everything to do with the overall impression of the garden. When you remove the York stone paving, the old brick or sandstone walls, the tower of the local 14th-century church, and the 200-year-old cedar peeking out from behind the wall, you're left with the plants, which are usually nice but not exceptional in terms of cultivation skill or even selection and grouping.


The quality of expensive things that theoretically have nothing to do with gardening, such as masonry, pavements, expanses of water, and splendid backgrounds in general, is enormously and unfairly (I often think) dependent on the quality of expensive things that theoretically have nothing to do with gardening, such as masonry, pavements, expanses of water, and splendid backgrounds in general, in the English garden, as in every other garden.


If an Englishman is forced, as many are, to create a garden in front of an unsightly cheap house on a location devoid of natural beauty or intrigue, he does what we do, the best he can, but the result is far from the fabled beauty of "English gardens."

Or the easy way, buy a painting from the "Botanical Dreams" collection. No watering, or soil needed!

Botanical Dreams


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