Wednesday, 8 July 2009

My gardening style and philosophy (for now at least).

Overtime my garden has evolved with regards to it's scheme and planting . I had a vague idea of what I wanted and what I like but I've never really been the type of gardener to be structured to the point of being clinical with design and planting. I guess that's the difference between a gardener/plantsman and a designer? I enjoy collecting plants and as such the cottage garden style really appealed to me.

I call my gardening style 'Cottage Fusion'. I don't think it's an actual garden style (yet!) but it definitely has potential. I took inspiration from modern day cookery in that when you cook by combining techniques and ingredients from two or more cuisines it is known as fusion cookery. A bit of a strange link really and highly unoriginal I must add. But I've taken it under my wing and I'm running with it!

Washingtonia filifera

I chose the term 'Cottage Fusion' as my garden typically follows the rules of cottage gardening with densely planted mixed borders full of colour, scent and useful plants, whether it be for cut flowers or cookery. The fusion element of the style comes from the unconventional use of typically tender or half hardy exotics that you do not usually see utilised in a cottage garden design. The plants are chosen to compliment one another and not to detract or put focus on the more unusual.

The plants and materials I use are a mixture of traditional and modern. I can get away with growing plants here that are classed as tender in most areas of the country. As I have written in my guest blog with Fine Gardening Magazine I have a relatively mild climate supported by the gulf stream. Everything in my garden over-winter's in the garden, as when it comes to "special" care I'm a bit of a hands off gardener. I am also constrained by space as my garden is rather small and I have no greenhouse in which to protect plants. So they have to earn their keep.

Echeveria glauca

You will be interested to know that the following selection plants are hardy in my garden:

Washingtonia filifera
Phonenix canariensis
Canna 'Tropicana'
Hedychium coccineum 'Tara'
Cana iridiflora
Bletilla striata
Dicksonia antarctica
Cordyline australis
Passiflora caerulea
Echeveria glauca

Usually many of these plants are considered tender or half hardy in many parts of the UK.

I live in a Victorian red brick house and the garden has many traditional elements in keeping with the period when it was built. It's important when designing a garden to maintain such features and be sympathetic to the garden in order to create harmony and continuity. I have reclaimed a red brick wall from a rather large Cotoneaster salicifolius which had engulfed around 2ft of garden along its length. I have incorporated a wrought iron railing,which had been removed by the previous owner, into one of the borders and I have planted through this.
I have also tried to make a feature of the original stone work around the garden by exposing it where possible and allowing it to weather naturally. I feel that cleaning old stone is a bit of a crime as you can't replicate natural ageing. My borders are edged with timber from sustainable sources. This has been arranged in an informal way, in keeping with the cottage garden style, with cut timber on edge and placed at different levels which is demonstrated in the final picture of this entry:

I'm a big believer in sustainable gardening and I water only when it is essential. By this I mean that plants have to be suffering to the point of death before I water. This very rarely happens as Wales is known for it's rainfall which is generally sufficient to keep my plants in top condition; even in the recent heat wave. I compost all garden waste and this is reused as mulch or a constituent in potting medium.

Dicksonia antarctica

Gardener's in the United States and Canada will be happy to know that I'm lawn free and again this helps to improve my gardens sustainable credentials. Feeding plants is also achieved through natural alternatives to chemical applications, such as blood, fish and bone and foliar seaweed feeds.

So, thats my gardening style and philosophy. I'm sure that over time, and in future gardens, this may change but I also feel that my philosophy and my inherent need to buy every plant possible will remain.

I also feel that with climate change and a move to more sustainable gardens 'Cottage Fusion' may prove valuable in years to come.


  1. As a cottage gardener for over 30 years I can understand your idea of fusion, after all we don't have to stick to one period or style for ever. Gardening has never stood still in time any more than a garden does. Gardens evolve and change as things grow and die and family needs change and develop.
    It is so nice to read blogs from younger gardeners each with your own way of doing things.

  2. Cottage fusion... thats interesting. I havent come up with a suitable theme for my garden yet. Primarily veggie plot but punctuated by flowers, and three banana plants at the corner as the figurehead. A tall papaya plant heavy with fruits to encourage the rest to continue blooming and fruiting..

    Love to see hows your cottage fusion blend and fuse in ....
    ~ bangchik

  3. Love the concept of "cottage fusion." I think I practice the same thing myself a bit.

    As ever, I'm jealous of your tender and half hardy plants.

  4. Ryan - I absolutely love your blog, and your term 'cottage fusion'. FINALLY - someone has come up with a term to fit my style of gardening - do you mind if I add it to my 'library'? Genius!

    I'm also surprised to read your plant list as most of them grow here as well, and I'm in California! I had no idea our climates were so similar - normal? or climate change!! Hmmm....

  5. Thanks for all your kind comments!

    I'm really glad you all like my style and philosophy!

    Rebecca you can use my term as long as you let people know where you heard it and direct them here!!


  6. Many of the plants on your list do well in the warmer microclimates of Western Wasington. Inland waters of the Puget Sound moderate winter cold, but summers are relatively cool (and dry) so plants that like heat are usually very slow to mature.

  7. Ryan, love this! I think every plant lover/collector seeks to pull all their lovelies together in a pleasing way. For a designer that is the ultimate challenge: work with what you've got and what you love, and make it beautiful.
    The great thing about 'cottage fusion' is that even though many of us recognize it as 'how we do it' I can guarantee that NONE of these gardens will look alike! By its nature it encourages individuality and originality, two great traits for a designer. Bravo!

  8. Really like what you are doing Ryan. Love the Blog and definitely like your cottage fusion style - also like your approach to over-wintering. 'If it survives, great if not so what' is my interpretation. I apply this to my allotment - had many failures but gardening is like that. Keep up the good work Ryan.

  9. What a wonderful group of plants you can grow! I often have mystery plants, too. Usually I discover by accident what one of them is.

  10. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  11. What a cool phrase! Well, I'm sure your garden is just as cool ;->

  12. Ryan, I love your blogs, they actually make me laugh out loud at some of your sayings. I don't have an allotment but I too have been rather disappointed at the sudden untidy look to some of the plants after all this wind and rain. But your inspirational blogs, advice and determination helps me see the sunnier side of things. Keep up the good work!


Web Analytics