How to Transform an Unused Space into a Flowering Garden: The skeleton

The Skeleton

Step 2: Time for the first plants to go in the ground. It’s always good to have an evergreen skeleton for every planting scheme, so that when the herbaceous plants die back, there is still structure throughout the winter months.

With urban gardens, there may be restrictions. I have one with mine. I can not restrict the light to my downstairs neighbour, which means that all my new planting must be fairly low. I’ve chosen Box balls, Buxus sempervirens in two sizes and planted them in two groups of three. With my transplanted Eleagnus, I’ve created a triangle of evergreens. Grouping plants in threes is a plant design golden rule. The rule of three or the rule of thirds. I like to group in fives as well, so three large plants, underplanted with five smaller. Very pleasing on the eye.

In the dark part of the garden I’ve planted evergreen shade tolerant Euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae and in the centre, where it gets some sun, blue grass, Festuca glauca, looking like giant hairy creatures from a bad 1950’s Sci Fi film. I’m expecting them to crawl out of the front gate any day.


I’m itching for more height, a planting scheme needs layers to work successfully. I’m going to see if I can get away with some tubs. If my neighbour complains, I’ll move them but fingers crossed.

These are two rhubarb forcers turned upside down. They’re about 60cms tall and I’ve planted them with a white flowering Hebe ‘Celina’ which has a low, spreading growth habit and flowers in April and May. Around these, I’ve planted Alchemilla mollis, common name Lady’s mantle.

A plant fact for you: Alchemilla mollis got it’s latin name from Alchemists back in the day, because of its ability to hold dew drops in its leaves. The Alchemists thought dew was the purest form of water and grew the plant so that they could ‘harvest’ the dew every morning.


In the front are three clumps of spring flowering Frittilaria meleagris, common name, Snake’s Head Fritillary. They are one of the few flowers in nature with a square, checkerboard pattern on the petals. Quite beautiful, no wonder Charles Rennie Macintosh was so obsessed with them. I’ll post a pic when they come into flower. Can’t wait!

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