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Dig deep and reach for the sky; JANET WHEATCROFT has some tips on the height of good taste in the garden.


I RECKON that there are generally two types of gardeners around.

The first only thinks about what happens at soil level. The second is a picture- maker, whose garden is a stage, with the plants as scenery, props and actors.

The former is often a better technical plantsman, but the latter creates more enticing gardens.

Of course, the ideal is a combination of the two. Grow the very best possible plants, but get tuned into the big picture. All very well in theory, but making it work is another matter.

There's one trick that even top-class gardeners miss. They forget that visually, the sky is just as much a part of the garden as hedges, lawns and fences. And it doesn't cost a penny.

It doesn't matter how small our gardens are, or whether they are overlooked or surrounded by the greyness of city life. The sky can always provide an extra dimension. And the smaller and boxier the plot is, the more important the sky becomes.

If the eye can be carried upwards and outwards, we're far more likely to create that fantasy world that makes a good garden. That means that vertical planting is just what happens at knee-height.

Many folk feel, quite rightly, that a tiny plot's the wrong place for a tree.

We've all raised an eyebrow at misguided gardeners who have planted something that will grow 20 metres tall (and broad) just in front of the lounge window. And who wants to sacrifice a sunny plot to the shade and greedy root- system of a flowering cherry?

Introducing height and structure to a pocket handkerchief-sized plot takes care and planning. But it can make all the difference to your garden's atmosphere. If a strong silhouette is needed, an evergreen is a good choice.

An upright Irish Yew or the grey-green column of an Irish Juniper is an excellent solution. Both are fairly slow-growing, yet have personality and presence from an early age. Both will grow as tall as you like whilst remaining supermodel slim.

If you find them too sombre, lighten them up with a striking seasonal climber, such as The Scottish Flame Flower, Tropaeoleum speciosum, with glorious red flowers.

But if you fancy gazing into the sky through a tracery of branches, slow- growers such as acers, magnolias or the fabulous south American flowering eucryphias are all desirable beauties.

It'll be years, though, before you can lie in their shade and are definitely not for the impatient.

If you can't wait think instead about a fast-growing tree, such as the easy Eucalyptus gunnii.

It's a dull tree if you just let it grow. But take the pruning saw to it every spring and it's a different matter. The young foliage is rounded and a startling silver blue.

EACH year, it puts on enough growth to make a small airy tree, beautiful against the sky. Grow it in a tub if you have a balcony or patio.

The same vertical effects work with plants growing in containers and scrambling over tripods.

They're very easy to make for anyone with basic DIY skills, or buy them ready- made. Some of the nicest are made of willow, or this year's trend, rusty metal.

Alternatively, simplest of all, just make a pyramid of long garden canes pushed firmly into the soil and tie them firmly at the top.

A small clematis like claret red `Niobe', or a tender climbing nasturtium, Tropaeoleum tuberosum `Ken Aslet' look good. I can't resist sweet peas and Maurandia, a climber that looks like pink snap- dragons.

As soon as you get some height into your garden, you'll notice the difference. Suddenly, it will have a new and attractive dimension.
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Title Annotation:Living
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 10, 2002
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