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Inspirational Design

River of Geranium Rozanne at The Bloom Hills
A river of Geranium ‘Rozanne’ in the garden of the zu Jeddeloh Nursery in Northern Germany, designed by Adrian Bloom.

“A River Runs Through It”

‘A River Runs Through It’ is the title of a 1992 Robert Redford movie starring Brad Pitt set in Montana. It is an equally appropriate title for the majority of gardens I have designed, or redesigned in recent years. I am still experimenting but creating a river of a specific plant which performs for a long period such as Geranium ‘Rozanne’, Heuchera ‘Prince’, Hakonechloa macra, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ can add a dramatic effect in a large or small garden. The design principals are outlined in articles I have written for Garden Design (U.S.) and The R.H.S. Garden Magazine, and examples can be seen below and on other web pages, and I will add both images and more information in due course.

Following lectures I have given in the U.K. and the U.S.A., the river idea has created the most interest from gardeners and landscapers who are eager to create their own. Give it some thought. Better still why not visit Bressingham to see examples for yourself?

Let’s start with the question; do you need to have training as a garden designer to create dramatic and pleasing plant oriented design? Of course not, although many might choose this option, just as many will get ideas from books on gardens and be inspired to want to create their own design and plant combinations. We hope you will find some of our ideas shown in the images on this website inspirational, and even more so when you visit us at Bressingham Gardens. Here is a beginning…

Arguably the most interesting and enjoyable activities in gardening are designing (not necessarily on paper) and planting a new bed or border. Gardening certainly involves maintenance, but we can all be creative in small or bigger ways when we look at how we can enhance our garden. At Bressingham we have planted and replanted on a grand scale over many years, but many of the ideas and combinations can be adapted for smaller gardens too. In recent years Adrian Bloom in particular has created planting combinations with conifers, shrubs, perennials and grasses in The Winter Garden, The Summer Garden, The Fragrant Garden, Adrian’s Wood and above all Foggy Bottom. Some of those are shown in the images below. Please refer to Blooms Best for further information and Adrian Bloom’s most recent book Blooms Best Perennials and Grasses (etc.)


Foggybottom Inspirational

The All Seasons Bed at Foggy Bottom in September. Both younger and mature specimens of conifers have been interplanted with heathers and ornamental grasses. The most striking grass is the river of Imperata cylindrical Rubra, the Japanese Blood Grass. In the left foreground is Cedrus deodara Feeling Blue.

Brunneramacrophylla Jack Frost

As the garden has matured at Foggy Bottom, conifers, trees and shrubs have been thinned, vistas opened up, and here another “river” in a shady position, of Brunnera macrophylla Jack Frost has been planted. It is seen here in early spring the new shoots of Hosta Krossa Regal showing through the bark mulched surface…

Jack Frost Inspirational

…now in summer the true value of perennials are seen, the finely marked leaves of the Brunnera forming a stream between taller plants, such as the Hosta and evergreen fern, Dryopteris erythrosaura. The view is now from the other end of the planting.

Hakonechloamacra Ophiopogonplaniscapusnigrescens

Minimalist in variety, but this design by Adrian Bloom uses one shrub, Cornus alba Aurea, one conifer, Taxus baccata Robusta, one grass, Hakonechloa macra and one perennial, the everblack Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens to create a scene of year round interest…


…This is on the edge of the Summer and Winter Garden and keeping with geographical terms Adrian has created a “black sea”, with a breaking wave of Hakonechloa. This now in late autumn shows the red stems of the Cornus highlighted by the dark green pillars of Taxus, autumnal tones of the grass…


…if your garden is not likely to be covered in snow all winter, this planting can still add drama to the winter season, here on a frosty morning which sunlight can transform as it touches the stems and foliage.

Hakonechloamacra Alboaurea

A stream or river of Hakonechloa macra Aureola (similar to H.m. Alboaurea) designed by Adrian at the zu Jeddeloh “Blooms” garden in northern Germany. This flows towards and around the base of a Japanese Pine, to the left is one of the best of Heucheras, H. Silver Scrolls, the pink beyond a Japanese Anemone, A.x hybrida Party Dress.

Hosta Berber Insirational

Hostas make great rivers or ponds this at Foggy Bottom has Hosta Shade Fanfare meandering through part of the garden, encircling Hosta Buckshaw Blue beneath a Japanese Maple. Slugs of course have to be discouraged (we use pellets at Bressingham when necessary).

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