Dealing with maturity (in garden terms)

First published in the spring issue of “Our Gardens”, the quarterly magazine of the Garden Clubs of Australia

Sculpted kurume azaleas

Sculpted kurume azaleas

In gardening terms, I guess most people would agree we are blessed. Our climate is mild, never very hot and never very cold. We have regular rain all year round, good sunshine hours and the soils are friable and volcanic. Added to that, we are fortunate to be on a family property where the oldest trees were planted by Mark’s great grandfather in 1880. These give a wonderful mature backbone to the garden and how obliging of him to have planted an entire avenue of our majestic native rimu trees.

Notwithstanding the big trees, the majority of our plantings date back to the 1950s and having a mature garden offers its own challenges. Finding space for new plants can be problematic, even though we have reasonable acreage (we open about seven acres to the public). But the biggest challenge of having a mature garden is to stop it all melding together and becoming walls of foliage which choke out the less vigorous plants. Increasingly we find ourselves doing more lifting and limbing, shaping and clipping.

We like to use plants as focal points and features. Our garden is light on ornamentation. You won’t find anything armless, legless or white lighting up a dark corner. We prefer to place garden seats where we will sit on them, rather than using them as focal points. When sculpture is used in gardens, we think it becomes the dominant feature, forcing the garden setting and the plants into the background. We want the plants to be the stars.

There is no shortage of candidates for clipping or shaping but we do not want the Italian formality where almost every plant is manipulated. This is not about topiary so much as it is about finding the natural shapes within the plants and featuring them.

Clipping Mine No Yuki

Clipping Mine No Yuki

Maples can develop a wonderful form over time which just needs cleaning up. Loropetalums also clip and shape well. We keep our small flowered Kurume azaleas limbed up so that it is possible to look through them. The trunks naturally grow white lichen and, in season, the undulating tops of the azaleas form a carpet of colour, while we have species cyclamen planted beneath around the white trunks.

Camellias are wonderful for clipping because their growth rates are not too fast and, if you make a mistake, they will sprout again from bare wood. We have a massive plant of the white sasanqua, “Mine No Yuki”, which looks wonderful with its pristine white blooms until we have a heavy downpour to turn them to brown sludge. These days we regard any flowers as a bonus and the plant justifies its garden space because of its shape. We keep it tightly clipped into layered mounds – generally referred to as cloud pruning in a technique associated with Oriental gardens.

The finished product

The finished product

Fairy Magnolia Blush

Fairy Magnolia Blush

Michelias also lend themselves to shaping and the lollipop Fairy Magnolia Blushes at our entranceway are a more recent addition. A light pruning twice a year with secateurs keeps them to a tidy shape and we have been able to stop them getting too large.

It is all much more fun than weeding and gives us the detail and focal points we want.

Mark and Abbie Jury garden at Tikorangi, The Jury Garden in Taranaki on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Like his father before him, Mark is a plant breeder, probably best known in Australia for his Fairy Magnolia Blush, Camellia Volunteer, Magnolias Black Tulip and Felix Jury and his joint venture plant with his father, Cordyline Red Fountain. Abbie is a garden writer for national and regional publications. Their garden opens for the magnolia display at the start of August and remains open until the end of March.
Website: http://www.jury.co.nz
Facebook: facebook.com/thejurygarden
Twitter: @Tikorangi

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