Local Magazines

Ask Alfie: How to maximise play space in your back garden

Ask How to maximise play space in your back garden

How to maximise play space in your back garden

How to maximise play space in your back garden

Q. To maximise play space in our garden we have a typical rectangular lawn with narrow borders. What upright growing plants can we put in? Some of our current plants are impractical as they need constant clipping back.

A. It’s good to hear that you do want a backdrop of vegetation – many people choose wall to wall grass for ball games etc, which does not make for an attractive garden. You also raise the important point that plants do need to be carefully considered in this situation. You need upright growth habits, but also toughness to withstand the impact of deflections and rebounds.

As a general rule the tougher and easier the plant, the more common it is likely to be, so there won’t be many rare collector’s items among the suggestions.

Some of the better behaved climbers will cover your fences and take up little space. Trachelospermum jasminoides is a star performer in this respect. It doesn’t normally rampage and usually gives a really good evergreen foliage cover. (Bonus – fragrant white flowers!) Hydrangea petiolaris, the climbing hydrangea is another fine looking climber which is easy enough to control. You can plant this on the shadier side of the garden and it will oblige with pleasing foliage and white flowers. Winter jasmine – Jasminum nudiflorum is a tough cookie which will require only occasional tying in. It produces yellow flowers sometimes in November, and sometimes later in the winter.

Next Shrubs. Euonymus japonica is a very manageable upright growing evergreen bush which has varieties with striking variegated foliage. Try “BravoorPresident Gauthier”. You can clip these whenever you like without spoiling them. Euonymus japonicas Green Spire is smaller but unashamedly upright growing, and is also interesting in shape despite being plain green. Kerria japonica is in the cheap and cheerful category of shrubs, but it throws up vertical shoots and despite a tendency to sucker will stay put in your narrow border while giving a good backdrop. If you are prepared to have some prickles in your border there is a group of Berberis which are very vertical in habit and have strong purple foliage. These include Berberis thunbergia Helmond Pillar.

And then there are bamboos. In many ways these are ideal because of their entirely upright growth habit, but do research the type of root they produce as the wrong choice can result in a nightmare of invasiveness. You want clumping not running. This is a topic in itself, but you should be OK with Fargesia murielae and Phyllostachys nigra. Use root barrier to reduce risk.

And finally herbaceous perennials??? Yes, you can even get away with a few flowering herbaceous plants if you are prepared for them to take some knocks. The ones to use therefore need to be quick to establish and have good powers of recovery from damage. Asters certainly fit the bill and strong modern varieties are available in both loud and soft blues, purples and pinks. For yellow use Solidago varieties (Golden Rod) and for red try Centranthus ruber (Valerian) which seeds itself around freely without ever becoming a nuisance. Both tough as old boots, and able to withstand young boots!!

About Alfie Bines (24 Articles)
I have been tending the gardens of North London for longer than I care to remember accumulating a huge amount of horticultural knowledge along the way.