Drought Tolerant English Inspiration

Pretty blue border at Cambridge University Botanic GardenIn 2014 I visited a number of gardens in England.  It always strikes me that there is a very definite ‘English garden style’, developed over many centuries.  This style has widely recognised planting themes which provide a very clear ‘sense of place’.  In Australia I feel that we are still working on our particular style.  We tried English, but the climate just isn’t conducive.  We tried native, but without the years of experience and plant breeding schemes most just looked tatty and dull.  So we need to find that optimal style, or rather styles, for each state really needs its own unique character, due to the differing climatic conditions.  One size does not fit all in a country as large and diverse as Australia.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden MeadowLooking at gardens across the world helps to inspire new thoughts and ideas.  We want our own style here and yet we can blend ideas from other places.  There are many plants grown in ‘English’ gardens that will thrive in Australia, in part due to the fact that most are not native to England at all.  By developing a palette of plants that thrive in our own micro climate we can then work to create combinations and styles that start to form a sense of place.

Iris and Salvia, Foxgloves and Eryngium at the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens

These photos above were all taken at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden.  Cambridge actually has a very slightly lower rainfall than Canberra, which in turn is the third driest capital here.

Eschscholtzia, Sisyrinchium and grasses at the Cambridge University Botanic GardenAdmittedly, the evaporation rates are much lower in the UK, but it still shows how we can find many synergies. This scene to the left starts to look more like a natural Australian scene – rocks, grasses and drought tolerant annuals. The photo below, with Salvias and roses could easy be from Old Parliament House rose garden!

Roses and Saliva borders at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Before we left Cambridge we popped in to my husband’s old college, Queens’.  The gardener was there, tending to a newly planted area at the entrance.

Queens' College, Cambridge Mathematical Bridge

IMG_1835Mathematical Bridge, above, has been anchored by a beautiful mix of mostly herbaceous perennials with a simple colour theme.  This ties in with a deeper bed across the grass (photo to left), which used to be a much less attractive car park.  Here an extended colour range brings a cheerful welcome at the porter’s lodge.

A view through the arches at Queens' College, Cambridge, with petunias spilling over the window sillsFinally, a wonderful view through the arches into the central Cloister Court. The gardeners’ watering cans are out on the lawn and the view past the petunias overspilling from the window sills is quite delightful!  It’s good to see what can be achieved in a low rainfall area. Let’s take some ideas and develop our own unique permutations.