Gardening: Clash conscious

A-Z OF REALLY SMALL GARDENS: Use colour and layers for more impact. This week's extract from Jill Billington's `Really Small Gardens' shows you how



Colour is exciting, refreshing and emotive; it affects mood, and can effectively warm a place up or cool it down. The light in the garden will influence your selection of colours to a degree. Notice how pale colours are luminous in shadow but bleach out in brilliant sunlight.

If you are passionate about strong colours, you need not rule out the hot reds, oranges and yellows in a small space but it is a good idea to make one colour dominant, rather than letting them all fight it out. If scarlet is the strongest colour, choose ochre-yellow or pale cream with it rather than the pure primary "golden" yellow. In a red and blue scheme, if crimson-red is the leader, then any blues should be either deepened and purplish or paler and subservient. Strong yellows can be stunning with pale blues or intensified by association with deep purples. In the picture, the colour of the cobalt blue aconites is intensified at dusk, making the evening primrose (Oenothera fruticosa `Fyrver-keri') an almost electric yellow.

Cooler pastels are wonderfully responsive to low light, gleaming in the evening when working owners are most likely to enjoy them. White is the coolest colour of all, which can be set with silver foliage, which has a restful feel.

Green, which most refreshes the spirit, is the mainstay of compact gardens, where its tranquil qualities are best appreciated. In small, shady places, fresh green ferns grown with green-flowered hellebores and epimediums will provide a refreshing scene in spring and early summer.


If the space is shallow, it is logical to plant in tiers, so that taller ones at the back of the border do not conceal smaller ones in front. Layering can be a useful design principle in an intimate space, with trees or large shrubs as the top storey, medium-sized shrubs and herbaceous perennials as the middle one and creeping or ground cover plants as the carpeting layer. Wall shrubs create the backcloth which, if plain, will be a foil for the action or, if textured and colourful, become part of the drama.

If the boundary faces full sun, espaliered or radially fanned fruit trees would make an elegant backdrop, or you can seek out manageable climbers. The mid- dle tier can be created with tall artemisias, irises and leucanthemum, enlivened with spikes of veronicastrum and, at their foot, small Heuchera `Red Spangles' or H `Snow Storm' with alpine geraniums such as G cinereum var. subcaulescens. Low planting can include the versatile Alchemilla mollis and the mounding mass made by Anthemis punctata subsp. cupaniana. Truly ground-hugging plants include many small-leaved cotoneasters, like C dammeri, and some almost-flat conifers like Juniperus communis `Repanda'.

Bulbs are invaluable, providing interest at several heights. Medium-height tulips are rhythmical in formal situations and there are some striking forms, such as the dark maroon `Queen of Night'. And alliums have great class without taking up much space.


A-Z of Really Small Gardens is taken from Jill Billington's RHS Really Small Gardens, published by Quadrille, available from bookshops. To order your copy for the special price of pounds 20 (a saving of pounds 5), including p&p in the U, call the credit card hotline on 01256 302 699 quoting ref GLR 991

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?