I've had my nose stuck in my favourite gardening book over the last few days - "Succession Planting for Adventurous Gardeners" by Christopher Lloyd (BBC Books, 2005). I'm re-planning my biggest herbaceous border at the moment - too much bare soil, not enough colour after June - and have roped in the late, great Christo to help.
For anyone who doesn't know who Christopher Lloyd is - shame on you, and find some of his books NOW and start reading. He's quite simply the most inspirational gardener of recent years, and he writes beautifully to boot. His knowledge of plants is thorough and colourful: he'll not just tell you how to plant something and where to grow it, but will tell you its funny little quirks and foibles - this tulip has extra fat leaves, so don't plant it too close to its neighbours; that Allium self-seeds itself around with abandon. You don't have to like his trademark bright colour combinations to enjoy his practical advice and suggestions, and to revel in his wonderfully unique style of talking about his garden as if he were sitting in an easy chair right next to you.
This particular book deals with the art of producing a continuous display of colour from early spring to late autumn, and plenty of interest through the winter months too. It uses Christopher Lloyd's wonderful garden at Great Dixter in East Sussex as a kind of laboratory or workshop, with examples from his planting throughout the garden, and tales of his experiences growing these wonderful plants and experimenting with combinations. It really is like learning at the feet of the master.
Here's a quote just to whet your appetite - this from the chapter on self-sowing plants, which Christopher Lloyd allows throughout the garden:
"Gardens that give space to self-appointed volunteers have a comfortable, personal feel. A plant ripens seed after flowering; it falls to the ground, germinates in due course (sometimes after a considerable interval) and produces another generation.
"So far, you have had no control over the situation. This is when many gardeners get frightened, have visions of a garden overrun by thousands of seedlings with nothing much else visible by midsummer. They remove the lot and apply thick mulches to prevent further germination. Control is restored, but what a lot they are missing!"
What a wonderful, refreshing attitude, from a man whose love of and passion for plants shines through on every page. RIP, Christo - we miss you.
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