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Words: Ciar Byrne


ildness is something we are all seeking in these over-complicated times and this is certainly the case when it comes to our gardens. There are many benefits to letting our gardens grow a little...‘wildish’, not least the fact that it takes the pressure off us gardeners. It is good for wildlife, leaving more places for minibeasts to thrive, while allowing native flowers to flourish is good for biodiversity and encourages bees. In the late Christopher Lloyd’s garden at Great Dixter, head gardener Fergus Garrett is an enthusiast for allowing flowers to self-sow, although he stresses that this can actually be a very labour-intensive form of gardening, as you have to remove some of the self-sown seedlings, while leaving others to grow. In my own garden I am not quite so rigorous. Ox-eye daisies, bronze fennel and hardy geraniums have all merrily self-sown, along with copious sunflower seedlings from last year’s crop, nasturtiums and fleshy green Arum italicum. Red and white valerian grow particularly well on the chalky soil in these parts and provide flowers throughout the summer and well into the autumn, although I think they are rather ugly when they go to seed and so cut them back as soon as they are over. It can be difficult in wildish gardens to identify 50 | TOWNANDCOUNTYMAG.CO.UK

and eliminate weeds. A weed is just a plant in the wrong place, the saying goes. To my mind there is one weed which is taking over not just my own garden, but also many of the green spaces around town. Its name is Penta glottis sempervirens or green alkanet and it has small brilliant blue flowers and bristly leaves and loves alkaline soil and damp shady places. I have been going to war with it, no mean feat as it has thick, deep taproots. The best way to control it is to dig down to remove these and to hoe off seedlings as they appear. One of the most famous wild gardens in literature is Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. ‘It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they were matted together.’ I am a total sucker for roses and follow the school of thought of Christopher Lloyd, who believed they should be grown in between other plants. I particularly love the romantic names chosen by rose growers. My own collection includes an artistic yellow Vanessa Bell, a rich orange Lady of Shallot, a blush pink Emily Brontë and a warm apricot Lady Hillingdon climber. By our front door I grow the deep red Tess of the d’Urberville’s and I was delighted when rose grower David Austin named two new roses this year after Thomas Hardy characters I studied at school – Eustacia Vye and Gabriel Oak.

Images: Ciar Byrne


Profile for Town and County Media

Town and County Magazine Issue 6