Tips for sprucing up your garden with trees and grasses

Our Estate Manager Kevin Sweet is an expert on all things gardening having spent 40 years working here at Ashdown Park, helping to shape our stunning 186-acre estate.

We spoke to Kevin to find out his top tips for using trees and ornamental grasses to enhance your garden. 

Top Tips for Trees

  • Don’t worry about the weather! The English climate is actually really well-suited to a large number of trees which will grow and flourish perfectly here.
  • Tailor your tree choice to your garden. There is a huge choice of trees available, from evergreens that will keep your garden looking vibrant all year-round to deciduous trees that bring interesting shape, form and leaf colour. In large open spaces our native trees look best, but for patios there are trees that will grow brilliantly in containers. There really is a tree for every garden, whatever the size! 
  • Plant in the autumn. You can start your trees in a container at any time of year but they will stand the best chance of flourishing if you plant in the autumn. The first few years after planting is when most attention should be given to things like watering, staking and weeding.
  • Make trees your starting point. If you’re starting a new garden from scratch, trees should go in first as they add height and form to the garden and then you can plan around them.
  • Choose the right trees for the atmosphere you want to create. A weeping willow will add gentle shade and bring a calming atmosphere to the garden, while trees with bright coloured leaves such as Acers will jazz it up. If it’s privacy you want look at conifers and remember that fruit trees bring the added bonus of their fruit and can be enjoyed by all the family.

Great Ideas for Grasses

  • Use grasses for architectural structure. Ornamental grasses can provide shape and form as well as colour and interest and work well both on their own and used amongst other plants.
  • Go evergreen. Some grasses will die down in the winter months and can look unsightly, so choose those which will retain their form and colour all year round such as Carex lachijoenis evergreen or Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens.
  • Mix up your mixed borders. Ornamental grasses can be a great accompaniment and add height to borders – one of the best plantings I’ve seen is Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ (zebra grass) which grows up to 1.5m planted with Verbena bonariensis.
  • Start small. If you’re new to ornamental grasses or if you have limited space a lot of the small and low growing grasses are ideal for pots and containers. If you have space, plant in groups of three to five grasses of the same variety which will look better.
  • Do your homework. The one thing I would always stress is to check the final height and width of the grasses, as some will take over a border in no time and spread like wildfire.

Happy gardening!