The Times, May 2011

English gardens.

24 August 2011

Marcus Barnett who has designed the Times garden at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show, answers a few readers queries.


Q: I have has enough of the vicious rose on the side of my house, and it has to go. Can you please recommend a thornless variety?

A: 'Zephirine Drouhin' has cerise pink, loosely double flowers; it is a famously fragrant climber that can be grown as a shrub with some support (9ft x 6ft).  'Kathleen Harrop', a sport from the latter; is thornless and also weather tolerant. It flowers are shell pink, semi-double and fragrant (10ft x 6ft). 'Iceberg' is a mildly fragrant rose that grows to 12ft. It has double white flowers and light-green leaves, and needs full sun and well drained soil. It is easy to grow and has few thorns.

Grasses and lawns

Q: Can you recommend a variety of Miscanthus grass that does not get too tall? They are so beautiful in autumn when the seed heads go fluffy.

A: Miscanthus sinensis, 'Yakushima Dwarf', grows to only 50-100cm. Some will grow to double that.


Q: I have seen a rowan tree with pink berries and would like to buy one.Do you know which variety it might be?

A: The rowan tree with pink berries is probably Vilmorin's rowan tree, Sorbus vilmorinii. It has a gentle, spreading habit, perfect for small gardens.

Garden design

Q: I want to put a bark path around the sycamore tree at the bottom of my garden. What is the best way of containing it at the edges?

A: One of the simplest ways is with timber edging that is held in place be timber stakes. The stakes should be fixed to the rails below the edge of the rail on the path side so that they can be covered by the bark. More robust purpose-built edging materials can be used, such as plastic or metal. These are generally more expensive, but they will last longer. Your choice should also be dictated by the look that you are trying to achieve - wooden edging will blend in better to a more natural look, whereas steel edging will give you a more contemporary look.