Easter at Corner Cottage

The Terrace comes into its own again at this time of year as an outdoor dining and entertaining space. The pots form an ever-changing cast of foliage and flowers. A highlight now is Bellevalia pycnantha a lesser-known spring flowering bulb, related to the grape hyacinth; its dusky purple cones contrasting moodily with the pale yellow of Narcissus W.P. Milner.

Bellevalia pycnantha

Apple blossom on the espaliered trees and the strappy leaves of a Cordyline ‘Pink Passion’ pick out the peachy pink tones of the ‘Menton’ tulips.

Tulipa ‘Menton’
Apple blossom
Tulipa ‘Menton’ glimpsed through Cordyline ‘Pink Passion’

The yellow daisies of Euryops pectinatus provide some custard to these rhubarb hues. This grey-leaved shrubby perennial from South Africa spent the coldest snaps of the winter in the greenhouse but shrugs off light frosts.

Euryops pectinatus

The scarlet bottle brush, Callistemon rugulosus, from south Australia has a similar sensitivity to cold and is just about to burst into bloom.

Callistemon rugulosus

Succulents are invaluable for contributing architectural interest, especially this early in the season. Hardy sempervivums have been joined now by Agave americana ‘Variegata’ and Echeveria ‘Duchess of Nuremburg’ that overwintered under glass.

Mixed sempervivums

Agave americana ‘Variegata’
Echeveria ‘Duchess of Nuremberg’

The ‘floor’ of the terrace is a self-binding gravel or hoggin, a mix of fine gravel and even finer particles that sets softly to form a porous surface. One aspect of this landscaping material is its hospitality towards self-seeding plants. I am always discovering tiny replicas of the surrounding mature plants that can be carefully potted up and grown on and then used to fill a gap or given away. It is part of the philosophy of the whole garden demanding only some mindful observation when weeding. In this way, the more desirable species are saved and many left to grow on where Mother Nature placed them. It affords a relaxed community of plants that doesn’t feel ‘over gardened’ but contains some surprising bedfellows.

Seedlings of forget-me-nots and poppies are spared when weeding

Seedlings of fox and cubs (Pilosella auriantiaca) in the gravel path are welcome
Both Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii andCerinthe major self seed around
More promiscuous self seeders – bronze fennel, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’, and evening primrose, Oenothera stricta ‘Sulphurea’

Talking of horticultural bedfellows, what makes for good companion planting? Colour often plays a part with either contrasting colours from opposite sides of the colour wheel – blue and orange, say, or colour matching. But of equal, if not greater importance, is contrasting textures and shapes. I celebrated the beauty of clipped evergreens in my visit to La Louve in my first blog post. Contrasting silhouettes – upright, rounded and spreading keep things interesting and, homing in on foliage, a strong juxtaposition in textures will enhance the impact of each component.

Colour contrast – Cerinthe major and Aurinia saxatilis
Soft foliage of forget-me-nots and Cerinthe major forms a foil to the harsher Yucca gloriosa
Leathery versus feathery – loquat and giant fennel leaves

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