Johannesburg - Romantic gardens are back. This Valentine’s Day, indulge in creating a secret world by planting an intimate space with a range of beautiful and fragrant flowers.
There are many ways to capture a romantic mood in a garden. Choose a Monet-style water lily pond with a curtain of wisteria draped over an arched bridge and where passing clouds and water’s edge plants are reflected in the water. A rustic bench half hidden in a meadow-style garden, a curving path leading to an arbour or summerhouse may appeal to the dreamer.
A charming thatch retreat or a wrought-iron gazebo with delicate scrolls can become a romantic and secluded meeting place. Gazebos can also be built in a pagoda style with red-lacquered surfaces and hanging lanterns, or constructed of brick and enclosed with windows and a door for a rainy day rendezvous. Add furnishings in favourite colours and you have a perfect setting for romance.
A patio or deck becomes a modern romantic setting with metal outdoor tables and chairs of modern design, patio walls and planter boxes painted pewter-grey and metal trellis for privacy.
A restrained plant palette of silver-grey and white or shades of green would continue the no-fuss look. In the coolness of the evening, candles and pots of white moth orchids (phalaenopsis) would set the mood for romance.
Water can be a romantic feature in a garden. It can be as simple as water bubbling from a millstone, spilling from a freestanding or wall fountain, a small reflecting pool, or the murmur of a small stream. A rill would be a pleasing feature in a small garden. A rill is a narrow channel of water that can be recirculated by means of a pump, lead into a pool, or simply be a still body of water.
You might like to plant a secluded shady part of the garden in shades of woodland green. In this gentle garden, include plants that are soft and inviting to the touch. A hedge or latticework screen will provide a private place; a thicket in a secluded part of the garden will offer shelter to you and winged visitors.
A love seat or bench is an important feature in a romantic garden. A statue of Venus, the goddess of love, cherubs on plinths, or a sundial with a romantic inscription such as Shakespeare’s “love alters not with time’s brief hours” are decorative accents that can enhance a romantic garden.
Flowers for a romantic garden
Many flowers have come to symbolise love and romance, by their history, fragrance, flower language or colouring. In the garden, the colours of romance can be spelt out in delicate pastels, in champagne colours of rich cream and apricot, shell pink and peach, or in ruby red and passionate purple.
The success of a romantic garden is to plant lavishly, a garden overflowing with agapanthus and underplanted with carpets of daisies and dianthus; with nasturtiums and sweet alyssum spilling on to paths, and arches where roses and clematis spread parasols of colour over fragrant lavenders and lilies.
Whether grown in the grand solemnity of formal beds, spilling over trellis and arches, or mingling with border companions, no flower is associated more with romance than the rose. Room for just one rose? Grow the climbing Cecile Brunner “Sweetheart Rose”, with sprays of tiny pink, perfectly formed blooms.
Fragrance for your romantic garden
A garden full of sweet fragrances adds another dimension to a romantic garden. Honeysuckle, jasmine and roses spread their scent far and wide; others are fragrant at certain times of the day. Plants that release their fragrance in the evening include the dainty lilac stock (Matthiola bicornis), tuberose, hosta, nicotiana, lily, jasmine, honeysuckle and some orchids.
The violet has an intangible scent in the garden that disappears soon after picking. Rosemary and lavender release their scent when they are touched or brushed against, so are best planted along a path or near a seating area.
Gardenias have scented white flowers, and indigenous buddleja has tiny tubular, highly scented flowers. Agathosma ovata (false buchu) has dark green fragrant leaves and the leaves of Heteropyxis natalensis are lavender-scented. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is an evergreen with fragrant starry-white flowers that can be grown as a climber, groundcover, clipped hedge or standard.
Plant not only with your eyes, but also with your heart and you will have a valentine garden.
* Interested in seeing a host of romantic gardens? Attend the annual Lifestyle Garden Design Show. See mini-gardens designed by the students of the Lifestyle College at the Lifestyle Home Garden, corner Beyers Naudé Drive andYsterhout Avenue, Randpark Ridge, Randburg. Call Pam on 083 279 0760.
GENERAL GARDENING TIPS
* Plant containers with flowers and foliage plants in romantic pink and passionate red at the entrance to your home, down a flight of steps, in wine barrels in a cottage garden, in elegant urns in a courtyard or patio, and in troughs on top of low walls.
* Suitable companion plants for containers include upright lavender, angelonia, pink gaura, and pink patio roses. Choose fillers such as pink diascia, ivy pelargoniums and mini-petunias. Edge with trailing mauve lobelia and alyssum.
* Traditionally, a first sowing of sweet peas is on St Valentine’s Day. Soak seed overnight. Sow seed in an open sunny position in well-trenched soil mixed with compost and superphosphate. Where soil is acid, a sprinkling of lime can be added to the surface soil a fortnight before planting. - Kay Montgomery, Saturday Star