Discover articles on garden design, seasonal planting tips for your garden and other news and views from Gillian Goodson Designs.

Head over heels with the countryside

Iris ‘Kent Pride’  – unexpected copper tones  (Gillian Goodson Designs)

Iris ‘Kent Pride’ – unexpected copper tones (Gillian Goodson Designs)

Dorothea Mackellar’s iconic poem My Country shares her love of Australia. Mackellar’s yearning for Australia is one that I can relate to, having lived there for many years. However, I am reminded of the first stanza of her poem, one that is often overlooked:

The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it
My love is otherwise.

Her description of England is rather poignant and although she shuns it, I find it has quite the reverse effect as the simple beauty of nature and the UK countryside is full of life at this time of year and it’s hard not to fall repeatedly head over heels with it.

Starting the month with a Bank Holiday weekend is a tempting excuse to pick
up a treat for the garden. When you see Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’ (8m) in flower you will understand why it is such a showstopper. Its tulip-shaped flowers of deepest red-purple are 15cm across. A hardy tree, flowering from March to early May in cooler areas with the possibility of a second flush in summer.

Picking up similar tones, and a great companion plant, is the heart-shaped dead nettle, Lamium orvala, with pinkish-purple hooded flowers. It is non-invasive and best grown in woodland conditions (growing to 30cm high) ie partial shade to full shade.

The heavenly scented Choisya x dewitteana ‘White Dazzler’ (Mexican orange blossom) is a reliable evergreen shrub of rounded habit (up to 1.5m) with slender dark green leaves and smothered with white flowers from April through to May, with a second flush in late summer through to autumn. Plant it in full sun to partial shade.

Irises are quite versatile in that they can enrich a cottage or contemporary style garden. For something unexpected in colour, flowering from now to June, try Iris ‘Kent Pride’ (golden bearded iris) with rich copper tones and speckled yellow petals for full sun.

The mercury is rising and it won’t be long before we reach for that favourite pair of shorts or summer dress. Turn the volume up and sing – it doesn’t matter whether you hit every note, or know all the words… release the remnants of winter from your bones and lungs and sprinkle a little sunshine and warmth into your life!