Rosemoor. 02.09.12.

The Royal Horticultural Societies garden at Rosemoor has matured in recent years and the different phases of development have integrated together almost seamlessly.
The new developments on the south side of the road have remained true to the intention of the original design with a few modifications to meet the emerging practical realities of the site. A brand new education centre at one end of the formal gardens has fitted in almost invisibly.

The long herbaceous border runs through the middle of the formal gardens built below the visitor centre and the axis directs the visitor out into the wider garden. It stands beside the Square Garden, which is planted with hot red and gold colours, so there is an emphasis here on paler colours but it isn't carried to extremes. I have become old enough to find too much contrast rather wearing.

The border is punctuated by clipped yew obelisks that march in pairs along the axis. They divide the border into sections that keep changes in colour theme from jarring. They add a strong element of formality and keep the plants from degenerating into a shapeless mass. The border uses a lot of very tall plants, and there is always going to be a danger that they will flop about (the cleverest staking in the world will not prevent a bit of sagging later in the season). These strong clipped shapes act like the ribs of a giant corset, gently holding the potential flabbiness in shape.

Veronicastrum virginicum var incarnatum makes a good show against the clipped evergreen hedge later in the season. It has strong stems and stands up well. The flower heads have an architectural shape of their own which is emphasised by the pale colour.

Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Blue spire' grows surprisingly well for a cool wet garden. It doesn't have the ghostly pale stems and leaves that it would in a garden in the eastern counties but it fits in here. It works well in the context, paler leaves and stems would provide too much contrast and make the plant stand out too far from its companions.

Phlox paniculata 'Hesperis' is another perfect choice for the border. A brighter cultivar would not have fitted in as well. This one has smaller flowers than many, but they are arranged in strong structural heads where many of the larger flowered forms become shapeless blobs. It was impressively scented on a dull day. It is a cultivar that has become very popular in the larger gardens in recent years.

If there is one feature I think unnecessary it is this clipped box circle. It stands at the intersection of the long border and the main axis leading from the visitor centre. I can understand that the intention was to connect the two features and act as a conceptual centre for the formal garden, but it has become an obstacle. The long border is effectively cut into two sections by it and in the process the magnificent view along the full length is lost. I think it probably wasn't significant in the early years of the garden when the surrounding plants were all quite small and the garden had a wide open feel, but things have changed. The planting is now established and has closed the site in completely and some of the magnificence of the vistas has been lost. If it was down to me, I would have a gardener out there with a spade this afernoon removing it and restoring a stunning view along the border (and I would be quite ruthless at the end as well and remove the pointless shrubby growth blocking the view into the rest of the garden)!

I recognise that it works as a feature in the main vista from the visitor centre, so I accept this is a matter of the balance of advantage. In my opinion a simple circle of gravel would achieve the same result, humanising this axis and keeping it from looking like a shooting range, without disrupting the potential of the long herbaceous border.

If you have any comments you can e-mail us: