October 2, 2007
The road home from North Wales leads us through Welshpool, and often to the hanging gardens of Powys Castle, plunging terraces where the National Trust gardens in its grand manner to wonderful effect.
The other side of Welshpool, and unknown to us until recently, lies The Dingle, almost equally steep but markedly different in concept. The Joseph family started the nursery in the 1960s: the precipitous garden is where Barbara Joseph set out their wares. If the
emblem of Powys Castle is the baroque lead statues on the top terrace, The Dingle’s emblem is the washing-line across the upper lawn. This is domestic gardening you can do at home. I am certain the richness of planting packed around the steep paths has inspired thousands.
The theme on the high south-facing bank is permanent ground cover in high colour and maximum variety. Without level
terraces cultivation is tricky: most of the
plants here will fend for themselves. It is a style of gardening I associate with the southwest, in which evergreens and grasses play a large part, and the evergreens (hebes are important) are often clipped, sometimes draped with clematis.
A colour theme set up by, say, a red
rose is followed by plants of the same
colour in a tight group, then red leaves
followed by grey or gold. It is the way
many of us instinctively garden, applied
with consistent conviction to a whole hillside, and at the bottom to a broad pond. Maples and hydrangeas, dogwoods and bamboos spread over the facing slope: an arboretum on a domestic scale. Whatever the opposite of the grand
manner may be, The Dingle does it. Gardening could hardly be less threatening and more fun.