Ashley Combe - An example
of how detailed planting design can make a great difference
This follows the progress of
Ashley Combe, a planting scheme described in an article first published in
This article by Hugh
appeared in Devon homes & gardens, October 2002 p81 published by
The "town garden" patio at
Ashley Combe, Tiverton, Devon
The design principles involved in
building a patio in a garden shared by two separate bungalows.
About 50 years ago, two bungalows
were built on the Tiverton outskirts. The main one was Ashley Gables, with a
"granny bungalow", Ashley Combe, accessed via the drive and paths of Ashley
Gables. St Bridget Nurseries was commissioned to design the garden into an outside space which is both beautiful and functional. The design allowed for a passage where the
existing patio is located in the new design. Over the years, extensions were
added to Ashley Gables, but not to Ashley Combe, and at some point Ashley Combe
was given its own access, rendering the old one redundant, and this is where
the patio has been constructed. Both existing owners still wish to share the
gardens, but also to update and adjust, taking into account the differential in
the bungalow-building development.
This has been overcome by the use
of vertical posts 2.13m high, set 3m apart, with thick rope in between,
designed in two circular linking areas, the verticals of the posts balancing
the verticals of the adjacent extended bungalow buildings. In normal walking
and standing posture, vision is diffused above the head, thus the higher
verticals of the extended bungalow tend to disappear above a certain height,
allowing the post verticals and cross ropes to form a balance with the
neighbouring bungalow. When Ashley Combe's new drive was made, access steps off
the drive and up to the bungalow did not exist, so steps 2m wide were centred
off the lawn to the front door adjacent on a higher level to the patio, thus
further separating the patio into a relaxing seating area.
The posts and rope, when planted
with clematis, roses, summer jasmine and honeysuckle, with shrubs underneath,
will balance the verticals of the bungalow walls and soften the patio area, but
will be light enough to allow sun into the patio area, whilst enhancing and
framing the garden views. Scents from the roses and other plants immediately
adjacent enhance the whole area.
When the garden has filled out
with new planting by the patio development and additions throughout the rest of
the garden. The garden will be open to the
public for one day as part of the National Gardens Scheme
on Sunday, 24th April 2005.
just after planting
Plan showing the
location of posts and ropes
Use of ropes to
diffuse distant views
One year on -
softening in action
The garden in June
The garden in May
The English West
The Rose and the Jasmine have been planted together
because of the Rose fungus, Black spot, which can
cause the leaves to drop. The Jasmine lends the rose
its leaves to cloth it for the summer.
Planting with key
colour blocks for structured informality.
The planting composition for the Ashley
Combe Rope Garden is based on a theme created with blocks of silver plants. The
beds are divided into a patchwork of planting blocks, some with a shallow
timber frame to keep the plants in bounds - each one metre square, set
approximately a metre apart and with one variety of plant in each block. These
blocks run the length of the borders, with the blocks either centred or
staggered. The blocks each contain either silver leafed plants or one plant
species, and all the species are repeated throughout the scheme.
The plants between the silver blocks
achieve informality through the use of differing but sympathetic leaf colour,
size and shape. Each block is thus the key for its surrounding
planting. The plant contents of the blocks differ in variety but plant group
size is similar, in groups numbering up to 16 plants. The plant leaf colours
between the blocks vary between shades of gold, purple, silver, grey green,
light green, mid green, and dark green. The immediate leaf shapes and colour
are those plants matched closest to the block plants, for example silver and
gold leaves. Colour matching between the blocks and informal plants
allows the flexibility for the darker greens and contrasting colours to be
placed further away from the silver key blocks on the ground
Above the ground plane, vertical posts
connected with thick rope visually relate to the surrounding trees and
buildings, and provide another level of foliage and flower above the beds. On
this upper plane the dark green leaves of roses and clematis, and grey green
leaves of Jasminum stephanese link together, running over the top of the silver
key blocks and plants below.
In late autumn/fall, the silver blocks
of plants shimmer and resonate with the golden leaves of the surrounding
deciduous tree and shrubs. Interest can be prolonged well into the late autumn
with the secondary large white flowers of Clematis Marie Boisselot
picking up the lightness of the silver leafed plants.
The idea is to create a controlled mix
of formal and informal planting. In this instance the key blocks are silver,
but they could be gold or any other single colour. The block keys
of one colour with intimately related plants can progress and change to other
colour block keys with other related plants as one progresses
through the garden, keeping within an overall composition of differing vertical
planes, for example trees, or as in this garden, wooden posts.
By following the planting plan and
themes, and noting the compositional changes of leaf colour, shape and size,
the client was able to substitute some of her own plants in some places.
Some of the plants used on the
Silver blocks: Stachys
Silver Carpet, Senecio, Sunshine (Brachyglottis
Sunshine), Santolina chamaecyparissus.
Gold leaves between blocks:
Aucuba Gold Strike, Choisya Sundance, Euonymus
Emerald and Gold, Lysimachia nummularia, Spiraea Gold
Grey/Silver leaves between
blocks: Artemisia Lambrook Silver, Iris Frost &
Flame, Iris Party Dress, Iris Berkeley Gold.
Indigofera heterantha, Lavandula Hidcote, Lavandula angustifolia,
Perovskia atriplicifolia Blue Spire.
Light/mid green leaves:
Alchemilla mollis, Cimicifuga americana, Diascia Ruby Field, Hebe
rakaiensis, Hemerocallis in variety, Monarda Cambridge Scarlet,
Sisyrinchium striatum, Scabiosa Clive Greaves.
Climbers: Clematis Duchess
of Edinburgh, Clematis Marie Boissebt, Jasminium stephanense,
Rosa Iceberg Climber.
The client's plants
Silver blocks: Artemisia
Powis Castle, Cotula hispida, Carex Blue Glow,
Santolina chamaecyparissus nana Santolina chamaecyparissus Lambrook
Silver, Santolina pinnata Edward Bowles.
Gold leaves between blocks:
Carex elata Aurea, Caryopteris x Worcester Gold,
Deschampsia Tetra Gold, Hakonechloa macra Aureola,
Dark green and bronze leaves
between blocks: Eupatorium rugosum, Heuchera Palace Purple, and
varieties, Lobelia cardinalis Queen Victoria, Foeniculum vulgare
Purpureum, Sedum Vera Jameson, Uncinia rubra
would make a good block plant.
Detail from the