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Bold and the Beautiful

Bold and the Beautiful


I know Autumn is fast approaching when the leaves start to drift off the trees and perennials are starting to turn delicious shades of gold and orange.  It is at this time every year I always get the urge to start planning for next years flower display in the border. The look of this years design is still fresh in my mind and I always think Autumn is a great time to consider where there were gaps in the border, what worked colour wise and also to dream up something really exciting and different for the next season of blooms. Incidentally, it is also a great time to start planting some beautiful new perennials and even some bulbs as it gives many plants a head start in establishing roots for good growth in the new year.

When we decide to add new flower features to our gardens there are many different reasons to choose a particular flower. We need to look at what colours work you’re your existing schemes, home and style and what textures will work within your setting and existing flowers.  But it’s also a chance to shake things up a little and go for some different, something somewhat unexpected. In a time when many gardens have become subtle echoes of wild naturalistic scenes why not shake things up a bit and go bold?

Planning ahead to next years garden is your chance to break out of your garden mould a little, and why not?

Considering gardens are ever evolving, the idea of adding exciting surprises for the coming season seems like a great way to create interest and excitement.

I often gather inspiration when I visit other plants-people’s gardens and love to take some ideas for new blooms home from their designs to my own space. On a recent visit to the amazing gardens of Annette Coleman in County Sligo, I was blown away by her stunning display of flowers. Annette, who grows flowers primarily for her thriving wildflower business, has created a wonderful garden on the wild Atlantic way which is a tapestry of colour, texture with blooms ranging from the delicate, tiny dots of white and yellow to gigantic blooms in a wide array of colours almost too perfect to be real.

While wandering through the garden I felt inspired to bring some of that wow factor back to my own space and started thinking about some flowers with serious impact.

The most obvious way to create impact is of course the flower bloom itself and often the most impressive are those with large blooms.

My own space has an approach that tries to echo nature in a simple and subtle way and for this reason I often find myself choosing plants with delicate flower heads, which emulate natural meadows and native schemes.

As much as I adore the subtle growth of my favourite ornamental grasses, the delicate nodding heads of Aquilegia and my many flowering herbs- this year I miss the drama of the gigantic flower! Within the garden large blooms play an important role as what I call ‘Diva flowers’, these large showy blooms which demand attention and are serious talking points in the garden. Flowers such as Peonies, Dahlias, Day lilies and Alliums can often have unapologetically large blossoms and can add serious punch to the border, both in colour and texture. The largest of these will definitely not blend into a scheme as a backdrop but rather become the stars of the show.

Sligo Races Ladies Day Photo by Colin Gillen

There are many ways to introduce bold and beautiful blooms in the garden from climbers to Spring bulbs and summer gems. Some of the earliest flowering large blooms are probably the Hyacinth, which though technically these are many smaller blooms on one flower, still have that bold colour impact in the border. The added bonus of course being their unmistakably delicious scent.  Other bulbs which have wonderfully generous sized blooms are many of the double tulips such as Tulipa ‘Angelique’ which are absolutely wonderful additions to the border, creating real impact –especially when planted en masse.

It is also an option to bring some bold impact to vertical spaces such as trellises and walls. Here I would suggest planting a bold and striking Clematis variety such as the Clematis ‘Fireworks’ which has two separate flushes in the seasons, one in May-June and again in September. The striking bi-coloured petals go from deep magenta pink to paler pinky purple at the edges and have some serious wow factor.

Shrubs are another great way to add drama to the border and there is no shrub as impressive as the tree peony- the Paeonia suffruticosa.  There is truly no plant that can compete with the ‘Shimadaijin’ Tree Peony in full bloom. An elegantly shaped shrub, the ‘tree peony’ has lovely serrated foliage which looks beautiful in itself but it is the flowering season that makes this plant so famous. The massive magenta-purple blooms often cover the whole shrub and have a papery delicate texture making for a very striking display.

Last but not least, even trees can bring some drama and boldness to the garden and some of my favourites are the Magnolia trees. There are many varieties out there which have stunning bold blooms such as the magnificent evergreen Magnolia grandiflora, which has fragrant pure white bowl shaped, leathery textured blooms. On the deciduous side we have many options such as the gorgeous Magnolia Susan with its amazing feathery bloom and deep magenta purple colour. Another choice is the brand new, mostly evergreen ‘Fairy magnolia’ tree –Magnolia ‘Fairy Blush’, which was Raised by the New Zealand breeder Mark Jury and has an abundance of gorgeous blush pink flowers which are lightly scented in Spring.

So whether you have a small garden or a large open space, there truly is a showstopper for everyone. Go be bold and beautiful!


Annette’s three favourite giant blooms:

On my recent visit I asked Annette Coleman of Sligo Garden Flowers to give me her favourite bold blooms- here are her top three:

1. Dinner plate Dahlia Café au lait

Annette says: ‘The variety , Cafe au lait is one of my Dahlia favourites. It really fills out a bouquet and makes a big statement, but in a sophisticated way’.

2. Tulipa ‘Angelique’

Annette says: ‘For Spring I love the beautiful double pink Tulip ‘Angelique’,  which most people think is a paeony rose.  It is a late spring tulip but ready well before my paeonies are ready to open.

3. Iris germanica ‘Scented Bubbles’

Annette says: ‘For Summer I love the velvet intensity of the sumptuous  Bearded Iris. There is a very sweet, bubblegum fragrance which is unmistakably my bluey/purple Bearded Iris !’

Did you know?

The largest flower on earth is the flower of the Rafflesia arnoldii which is a species of flowering plant native to the rainforests of Sumatra. This flower is famous for producing the largest single flower in the world with a span of up to 1 meter in diameter and it can weigh up to 11kg! Despite its fascinating appearance and stunning scale, this rare flower has a pungent and highly unpleasant scent similar to decaying flesh, earning it its nickname: the ‘corpse flower’. Best left to the wilds of the tropics!


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