Spring is an exciting time at Coombe Gates Lodge, as snowdrops, narcissi and tiny cyclamen begin to emerge for the first time in new beds to the front of the house. By stripping away a jumble of low hedges, shrubs and lawn, we have been able to create a serene stretch of continuous planting to either side of the front door. The new beds are enclosed by a neat, miniature version of the traditional cleft fence.
We have chosen four high-impact trees to partially screen the house, and soon the bare branches of the Magnolia loebneri ‘Merril’ beside the front door will be covered in starry white flowers. Next comes the vivid pink blossom of Prunus serrulata ‘Kanzan’, an ornamental cherry that can also be relied on for brilliant autumn colour. Two Cornus controversa, called wedding-cake trees for their tiered branches, will add a final act to the drama when their horizontal limbs are covered in creamy-white flowers.
Our brief was to create plenty of contrast by mixing pale-flowered with dark-flowered perennials. As winter gives way to spring we create this effect by combining the darkest hellebore, Helleborus x hyb. ‘Queen of the Night’, with snowdrops and then the highly scented white narcissus ‘Obdan’. Later in the year the white flowers of Actaea simplex ‘White Pearl’, Astrantia major ‘Alba’ and Lysimachia clethroides will rise from a tight mat of the chocolate-purple leaves of Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolate Chip’. The duskiest of alliums – Allium atropurpureum – continues the black and white theme in combination with tall, white Allium ‘Mount Everest’.