Years ago, when I was working in a substantial private garden as, believe it or not, ‘the undergardener’, the owners had some borders set in grass as island beds which they used to call ‘The Fruit Beds.’ Anna, who was a student there at the same time as me, innocently asked them why the borders were called this, because there was no fruit in them. They looked quite surprised, as though the answer should have been obvious. They then explained that one was shaped like an apple, one like a pear and the third like a banana! Anna exploded with laughter, as discretely as it was possible to do so. By pretending to do up her shoelace I suspect.  


For ever afterwards when working in that area Anna would say ‘I am just off to give that banana a seeing – to’ and roll her eyes. Or ‘The big banana is getting just a little bit out of control.’

I guess laughter is what makes the world go round!

But the boot is now on the other foot and in a client’s garden I have, as designer, named this The Boomerang Bed:



Because that is how the shape seems to me!

As designer you don’t always get to change things to how you would like them and The Boomerang Bed does represent a bit of a problem.

It had severe weed ‘issues’. This often occurs where there are substantial quantities of rocks and the roots of the perennial weeds love to coil around and beneath them. It is badly overhung with yew trees which exclude light and rain and make this a very dry spot. The garden is also listed and in a conservation and ecologically sensitive area, so any actions we take in the garden need to bear this in mind. And the client’s budget for dealing with this area was not vast. They had spent lots of money elsewhere and if we were honest in this obscure corner of the garden it was time to rein things in a little.

The way that we dealt with all this is:

To sheet the bed in with permeable black plastic for several years. This kills the roots of perennial weed and obviates the use of chemicals. The garden has good populations of grass snakes and newts and it is general policy to keep the use of chemicals to an absolute minimum. The ground is now clean and quantities of quality mulch have been forked in to reinvigorate the tired soil.

The authority doesn’t really want severe work done to the overhanging trees and therefore after sensitive small pruning – really just snipping – that is the best we can do. It really is just a case of living with things as they are and planting accordingly.


Likewise the listing of the garden really means that we cannot and should not want to change the rockwork, no matter how much it fights with how we would do this today. The answer is to plant lushly so that the rocks are a little more cool. And to reinvigorate the borders behind with similar species. So that it all becomes more discretely knitted into the landscape. It will a planting which you can walk through as an entire entity, rather than a funny little bed in the corner of the garden.

The bed is certainly not as narrow as it looks front ways on and will take a substantial number of plants:


The answer to the cheapness of the project is to use in house labour and propagate from plants already existing within this quite large garden. These need to be tough perennials able to cope with the situation.The envisaged selection is from a palette which could include:

 Alchemilla mollis

Ophiopgon jaburan

Epimedium sulphureum

A dwarf green phormium

Fatshedera lizei

Bergenia cordifolia or crassifolia

And an apple green dwarf bamboo.

This is certainly not a glamorous selection to choose from. But if the client is to cut costs, beggars can certainly not be choosers-if they will forgive the expression. There is however plenty of leaf shape and textural variety here. And it is after all not so much what the plants are, as what you do with them!

The exciting thing is that given the ongoing cool and wet weather it certainly feels possible to dig into this project now. Were we already into one of those early dry warm spells we would not even be considering it. Even as it is these plants will need to be watched carefully by the gardener over the ensuing months.

The next step is for the divisions to be dug up. I will then place them and he will plant. Hopefully The Boomerang Bed will return to its former glory.