Karl Jones, Northampton, UK: An urban oasis

Karl Jones is a chartered surveyor who lives in Northamptonshire. He has created an Edwardian townhouse garden, which is 5m x 10m. One side of the garden is sunny, whilst the other is shady, so this gives a lot of scope with the planting. The garden has actually risen (not quite miraculously) from a rubble grave within just a year! The soil has been much improved prior to planting.

Photo 03-07-2016, 16 02 361. Why is it important for you to create a nice garden?

A garden should be a retreat and, because I work from home, it’s especially important to have such a retreat. It’s also a bit of a hobby. I like greenery, and unique and distinctive plants.

2. How many hours a week do you spend working on your garden?

Not very often now it’s established. The amount of care isn’t work or toil, though- it’s all enjoyable. A trim of a box hedge here, gentle tying in of a climber there..

3. How much leisure time do you spend in your garden and what do you do?

The garden is an additional room to the home, so whenever possible we sit in the garden; eating, barbecuing, sunbathing. It’s not an appendage, it’s an integral part of the house. You can see this by how carefully decorated it is, and the comfort levels of our garden furniture.

4. What is your most prized plant and why?

The Paulownia. This is growing as a small specimen tree within the lawn area, and I love it for the architectural foliage, the tree’s whole stature, and it’s ease of esbtalishment.

5. Which plant do you feel gives the best value in your garden?

The Box. It is giving us all year round, structural, green colour. It can take different forms too, and I like working with it. Just be careful not to be complacent, as blight could become a problem. A horticultural expert friend of mine told me to avoid flat surfaces with box topiary, as that can encourage blight more. It’s worth a try!

6. What is/has been your biggest challenge in this garden?

The grass, because the gardener didn’t prepare the best sub soil initially. We have managed to get round this by feeding the grass often, with a high nitrogen feed, and this seems to be making a difference. We also invested in an old style push mower, so we could get some lovely stripes on the lawn!

7. What has been your biggest gardening disaster?

The Tree Fern we planted. Unfortunately I sited it into a sunny position and it just hasn’t enjoyed it’s new home! I also find Tarragon difficult to establish, and my chicken dishes are suffering!

8. What is your favourite gardening shortcut or tip, and who taught you it?

Prepare the soil well, as it will reap dividends in years to come. There is no point putting expensive plants into a sub-standard soil.

9. Which plant do you wish you could grow, but cannot?

I like Roses, but they don’t quite fit into my garden, which is about texture rather than celebrating colour. So, it’s possible to grow them, but it just doesn’t suit my scheme! Although, I did sneak one in!

10. What is your oldest plant, and how old is it?

The garden was started from scratch, so it will be something that has been planted. However, the Box balls are actually more than 20 years old, and have followed me from garden to garden!

11. Where do you find information on which plants to grow and how to care for them?

I speak to close friends, who are gardening experts. I also look online, especially on the RHS website.

12. Do you grow anything to eat, and which have you had the most success with?

We grow a small range of herbs, but that’s all.

13. Do you admire any famous gardeners or gardens?

I am interested in various designers, and I have especially learnt not to be fearful of bold gestures in small garden spaces.

14. What have you learnt from your own garden?

It is expensive! You need to put plants in the right place, the first time! It’s important to understand where the plants will grow best, and adhere to the right soil conditions. Also, don’t over-plant your garden with bamboo!!

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