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Garden Guru: Architectural Plants

Does your garden lack structure? Winter is a good time to take a good hard look at its ‘bones’ and plan improvements which, come the leafy spring, will just go unnoticed. In some cases a sculptural object can be j ...

Does your garden lack structure? Winter is a good time to take a good hard look at its ‘bones’ and plan improvements which, come the leafy spring, will just go unnoticed. In some cases a sculptural object can be just the job to give a focal point to an unresolved area but it’s also worth looking at plants which do the same job.

plants
In the jargon of horticulture, these are known as ‘architectural plants’. Not because they belong in buildings but because the plants themselves have their own ‘architecture’ – strong, sometimes spectacular, shapes which bring a distinctive year round presence to a garden.
top
Traditional topiary in box or yew is pretty unbeatable. You don’t have to go mad and have a whole chattering group like in the image above – one can be quite enough to do the job.
niwaki
You may not have heard of Niwaki – the Japanese art of topiarised small trees but you will have seen them around. Their usp is balance of form without the European taste for symmetry. I suspect the one above is Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly).
miscanthus
Grasses have found favour as pretty eye-catching plants in the last few years. Of course that’s nothing new in principle – just think of the 70s craze for Pampas but there are several useful choices now. I like Miscanthus sinensis (the one shown above is called Flamingo – ‘cos it’s pink of course).
bamboo-phyllostachys-nigra-oriental-black-bamboo
And bamboo, which is also a grass has also become popular – especially a few star turns like this phyllostachys nigra with its ebony stems.
dicksonia-antarctica-tree-ferns
Dicksonia antarctica better known as tree ferns are a new must-have  – they are pretty though and good in shade which is useful.
cypus
Talking of architectural trees a tried and tested favourite is Italian cypress , while multi stemmed anything are also really attractive.
silver
Silver birch is a popular choice. Palms, yuccas and other exotica have their place while even some evergreen perennials are considered architectural like acanthus.
aca
Which is fair enough as they inspired many an architectural feature – I mean real buildings.
There are plenty to choose from so have fun and play the field.
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