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LEADER GARDENING WITH THE GREEN MAN
Staff Reporter / 2011-11-19 19:14:00
Welcome to the gardening column. As autumn digs its heels in and moves us towards winter, its impossible to ignore that although its bright and sunny , the breeze is brisk to say the least. As I'm weeding the mal hierba that sprung up after last week's rains, I can't help but wish for a little wind protection around my flowerbeds. And so, this week's issue is on the subject of:
Boundaries are like the borders round a piece of paper; they mark the outer extent of your property, giving you an enclosed place to escape the outer world. They shelter the garden from wind and weather, their style alters the background to the garden, and they also act as your fortifications, keeping intruders out and pets and children in.
Some of my boundaries are marked simply by rocks and I had to explore the area with the local born-and-bred goat-man to discover just where my “garden” ended and his grazing land started. If you have an area like this – and many of us do – then creating a man-made perimeter can be prohibitively expensive. But boundaries can easily be used to mark sections of a garden (think of the Victorians who used to wall the kitchen garden area) to great effect.
300 hundred years ago the fashion in gardens – or rather in estates – was for the Ha-Ha. Essentially a ditch , the Ha-Ha enabled the gentry to gaze out over the surrounding countryside (most of which was theirs anyway) secure in the knowledge that the cows wouldn’t come blundering into the flowerbeds. Being realistic, though what we want from our boundary is often some protection from the outer world – a feeling of security and privacy. Otherwise why bother at all?
Despite the overwhelming presence of white breeze block walls and chain link fencing, these are not the only options here in Spain. Indeed they possess few advantages compared with the alternatives. After all if you want security what good is a nicely solid and easily climbable 4ft wall? And what shade does a chain link fence provide?
A well built and attractive wall using local natural stone – or even possibly faced with stone – provides a feature in its own right, and is a great backdrop for planting. Whilst expensive to have built, the result is immediate, planting can be done directly in the shade beneath and there is little or no maintenance needed. A breeze block wall can be made more attractive by careful use of colour – white is such a harsh background in bright sunshine. Consider a subtle colour along the length, or highlight areas using a strong colour. “Windows” allowing views outside make interesting breaks too. If your wall is low – say around 3ft, consider erecting a good strong trellis in front and planting climbers along it.
Chain link fencing is an inexpensive option but unless you need to keep a pack of dogs in, it should only be considered for the far most reaches of a large property. Its function is a livestock fence, so unless you really want to identify with livestock, don’t use it! It won’t help your garden thrive at all, as it provides no shade, no protection from wind, and it ain’t pretty to look at. If you’ve got it, at least plant a lot of quick growing climbers.
Post and rail fencing looks good, but wood is expensive here, and it has little shade or wind resistant properties. Grow rambling roses along it though and they’ll soon cover the whole with a mass of flowers and useful thorns.
If you have time to wait and a little bit of water, probably the best boundary is the hedge. A temporary post and wire fence will mark out the property line while plants grow. Hedges are a useful adaptable architectural tool. They’ll provide shade, good wind resistance and most importantly look great. They are simple in form, but being alive, add more variety than any man made features – have you ever seen a wall flower? You can combine a high boundary hedge, made of Italian cypress for example, with lower interior hedges of lavender or santolina to create different “rooms” in a garden and yet the whole will appear connected and not artificial. Other good hedging plants for the area include
• Buxus sempervivens
• Pittosporum tobira
• Rosa rugosa
• Pyracantha – good and thorny!