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Au Naturel

Plants for a natural style of planting, to contrast the urban, built environment. Creating naturalistic plantings of grasses, and ferns, which are allowed to spread, self-seed, and slowly naturalise a particular area.

For successful natural gardening styles:

  • Plant in groups (or “drifts”, as trendy garden designers call them) of similar types – 4 to 7 plants
  • Don’t be too rigid in your design – let nature take it’s time to knit things together
  • Break your garden down to shady, sunny, wet areas etc. and treat them differently.
  • Get out in the woods and countryside for inspiration – fallen logs, ferneries, tumbledown stone walls and grassy meadows all give ideas.

Successful planting will depend on use of a number of grasses, and ferns. A few excellent plants for Au Naturel planting schemes are highlighted below:

Shorter Grasses variety choice depends on colour, season, and scale. se blue-grey Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’, chocolate Carex comans, or brown red Uncinia rubra. For short term Spring colour, try lurid yellow Milium effusum ‘Aureum’.  Winter colour can be provided by Acorus, or gold-banded Carex ‘Evergold’. Smaller grasses predominantly grown for their long season foliage colour.
Taller grasses because of their greater size, they are more impactful. Long season interest can be created by using a mix of different types of Calamagrostis, Molinia or Panicum – all of which burst into life with their flower heads, for which they are mainly grown,. Although there is still foliage interest. For largest grasses, try Stipa gigantea or Molinia ‘Skyracer’, both of which produce flower spikes over 2M tall.
Autumn Grasses for a shorter season, by the various Fountain Grasses (Pennisetums), and Miscanthuscombine height, fluffy flowers, and interest well into Winter.
Restios these natives of the South African Fynbos are thatching reeds, and have a beautiful mix of proud upright stems, and light fluffy foliage. Reaching up to 1.5M
Ferns – creating a fernery was the epitome of Victorian chic. Often featuring stumps, roots, or logs, they re-created shady woodland scenes in a garden environment. There is a vast array of ferns available for every nook and cranny. Small Aspleniums are ideal for wall crevices, and damp, dark spots. Delicate Japanese Painted Ferns (Athyrium) are ideal for shady areas. Dryopteris erythrosora adds in golden orange hues to Spring and Autumn. For height impact over 1.2M, go for Matteucia struthiopteris or the Royal Fern, Osmunda regalis.
Tree Ferns – the king of the ferns, and adds huge impact to annual natural garden. Trunks of  around 1M tall will have a further 1- 1.2M of fronds on top, and they are quite easy to keep.
Gunneras – large leaves, often seen by water, they are great in damp spots, their huge leaves can reach up to 50-60cm across in a  few years and double that when mature. Great contrast of size and texture to ferns.




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