It’s spring again and your garden is ready to bloom

Tulips, fruit trees and a handful of seeds are all nature needs to hold a garden mardi gras.
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For a gorgeous garden that celebrates spring, you don’t need obscure planting or novel colour combinations. “Plant plenty of tulip bulbs the previous autumn, have a fruit tree or two to provide blossom, scatter the seeds of forget-me-nots and let nature do the rest,” says garden designer Claire Mee, who proves her point with a plot in Barnes, Richmond, that looks particularly ravishing in springtime, and was only planted the year before these pictures were taken.
Mee was called in because the owner — a property developer who shares the garden with his wife, their two teenage children and a pair of black Labradors — originally made merry with a mass of porcelain paving stones, running them right around the lawn, imprisoning the narrow borders and planting outsize box cubes in the raised beds. His wife pronounced the garden “soulless”, and Mee was given the heartfelt plea to make the space look beautiful, and fill it with flowers.
“All the paving around the edges of the lawn had cracked, so I matched the porcelain tiles on the terrace floor with pale sawn sandstone that is more hardwearing,” explains Mee. There were two steep steps leading into the garden and she changed these for four shallow ones.

“The entrance to the garden is important: you need to be invited in, and to enjoy the whole space, which is why I made another seating area at the far end, with a simple, light-reflecting floor of Cotswold pea shingle. I do this a lot in London gardens where space is at a premium, because so often the back of the garden is wasted.”
The boundaries of wire fencing were already in place, and are camouflaged with the dainty green leaves of evergreen climber Trachelospermum jasminoides, so that in summer the white starry flowers obscure the foliage and infuse the entire garden with their heady fragrance.
Like many London gardens, the plot is a plain rectangle, so Mee broke up the space by installing two screens of hardwood iroko, planting climbing roses and spring-flowering Clematis alpina as well as wisteria, so that in future years there will be two mauve walls of hanging blooms.
“Staggering the screens so one is farther up the garden than the other makes the space more interesting, and is less obvious than putting them on the same plane,” she says.
Behind the right-hand screen, which is farther up the garden, Mee created an all-white planting patch to lighten the dark area and make it an enticing spot for the evening.
“White rose White Flower Carpet has no scent, but is smothered with blooms for months. There are also white foxgloves, the white tulip Maureen, a white hydrangea and Geranium phaeum Album, which produces its white flowers, even in shade,” adds Mee.
White blossom is supplied by a Malus Red Sentinel, which has masses of rich scarlet fruits in autumn.
Instead of discarding the overbearing large box cubes, Mee divided them into small squares, which she planted randomly around the borders, to give structure all through the year. She also planted a group of box balls in one far corner for an effective green sculpture.
The fresh new foliage of herbs looks wonderful in spring, so Mee used several in the border: golden oregano, purple sage, pink-flowered chives and the fluffy fronds of green fennel that will later form a seductive veil around summer roses.
Nearly 500 tulip bulbs went into the borders, mostly Spring Green, peony-flowered pink Angelique, dark wine Queen of the Night and lily-flowered White Triumphator.
“Just this quartet will flower at different times, providing a succession of flowers for weeks, so are ideal planted together in tubs as well as beds,” says Mee. These follow the petite white Narcissus Thalia — Mee finds big daffodils are too untidy for London gardens — and are succeeded with the showy blooms of several peonies, including creamy-white Duchesse de Nemours and ruffled, powder-pink Sarah Bernhardt.
Ceanothus Concha forms a large pool of intense blue, while perennial wallflower Erysimum Bowles Mauve is compulsory because it throws out flower sprays from March through to November. Stepover apples, espaliered along both main borders, add an extra layer of spring blossom at a lower level.
Finally, Mee brought in four Versailles tubs in dove grey, two of which she planted with white wisteria, to grow against the back of the house; in the other two she housed standard vines, underplanted with herbs that, the family report, yield delicious grapes.
“They’re a wonderful addition to the London garden, and look great even in winter,” says Mee. “In late summer, you can sit surrounded by your own grapevines; what could be nicer?”
  • To commission Claire Mee, visit

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