Is it worth removing these flowers?

by AnneWareham on May 23, 2013

Post image for Is it worth removing these flowers?

Just how important is detail in the garden – or, at what point does it begin to matter??

The planting in the front garden at Veddw at this time of year has quite bold patches of telling foliage and flower. The effect is kind of clean.. But then the variegated ground elder flowers. And to my eye the frothy flower, – see it there at the back left of the picture below, shown up by the darker hornbeam tunnel behind it? –  ruins the look of the front garden. It looks great elsewhere  where froth is what is needed. I noticed Charles taking this photograph of it last night  (see above, unless you are  reading this as an email, in which case that picture will have vanished. Thanks Wordpres…) and inwardly cringed. (never mind that horrible, soon to be replaced bird bath..) What look like dead sticks are the purple shrub which is soon to leaf up and add more zing to this scene..

See the contrast: (this is last year, before the box balls were removed – but you can see the spoilers…)

Front garden, Veddw copyright Charles Hawes

Now there’s also that pink…

And then, that thalictrum is – awful? It’s the pink thing on the left. It’s seen in bud below..

Front garden Veddw copyright Anne Wareham

About to ruin the scene?

I don’t think it works with the wonderful orange of the euphorbia.  OR – the way they scream at each other does work???? There’s quite a bit of it  and I’ve never quite made up my mind.  But no-one has ever commented…..So – is it me being over fussy to concern myself? Should I bother to remove it or continue to puzzle about it?

Worse – we usually have a view down the drive at this time of year of this orange and purple combination backed by a pink Clematis montana growing all over the garage roof. Ouch! Which do I remove? You guessed – I haven’t..and no-one has ever complained..

But it is just these clumsy juxtapositions that destroy the look of a garden. And on the other hand, it is the joy of great combinations which lifts the heart and makes it all worthwhile. So it is an important, inescapable and relentless issue…


Thank you for all the comments and thoughts. The ground elder flowers (which are only, I notice on the unvariegated sort) are now gone. The thalictrum flowers will be next. Promise.

Whoops! They can hear us. I didn’t even touch this and look –


The Droop..


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John May 23, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I seem to remember a certain revered writer in, I think, the Spectator referring to the general reluctance to criticise (incidentally the links your own writing in that publication seem broken as is the one on your NGS not-opening page).

And, of course, anyone visiting your garden will no doubt be aware of your desire to push the boundaries; to challenge. So what you see as an aberration may, to others, seem an example of your rebellious nature. Probably by the time the visiting season picks up, the montana has stopped flowering so we would only see green (and possibly the roof of the garage being dislodged by it).

At the end of the day, it’s YOUR garden. If I say “I would …. in my garden” and you do that, then I’m seeing a bit of me and not a bit of you. So please don’t try to pass the buck. It’s your decision.

Now if it were me, I’d remove the ground elder (or introduce a lot more of it) but leave the thalictrum there just because …

AnneWareham May 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I apologise about th e link not working – the articles have vanished behind a paywall. I will re-introduce them as soon as possible. Meanwhile you can find the Spectator NGS piece within this post.

I can see that this looks like a ‘who for’ issue. But I’m more interested in where anyone else draws their lines and why, even if they don’t open to the public.

I think we have plenty of the ground elder by the way – but it’s less visible later in the year when all the plants amongst it have grown up..

So, anyway, you have responded to my query, even if your reason is ‘just because’!


Loes Reeve May 23, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I quite like the orange and pink..but then I let a dandelion stand next to an Eucomis something. They have now both disappeared under an upcoming ” Campanulla Loddon Anna” I thought they looked a bit like a joke. But my garden is not open to visitors..
Greetings Loes reeve

AnneWareham May 23, 2013 at 10:32 pm

We count as well as visitors. And in our peculiarities and preoccupations lies the integrity (or not) of the garden..

Loes Reeve May 23, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Oh and talking about ground elder, I once read an article in a `Dutch news paper, called “eat your enemies ” So I made soup out of ground elder and nettles, oh and wild garlic, quite delicious.

AnneWareham May 23, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Hope we never come to depend on them though….

Paul Steer May 23, 2013 at 8:35 pm

It is strange that we live with colour combinations, shapes and juxtapositions happily for maybe years, and then we begin to form a sense that it no longer works, maybe we are influenced by others opinions and fashions or just our inner sense of order or balance changes. I know that my attitudes to planting and shape making have changed since visiting more gardens, in fact I am much more relaxed about making changes. For me it is about allowing time to do its strange work. I agree with John, it is your garden and will be whatever you decide. Stuff the rest of us !

AnneWareham May 23, 2013 at 10:34 pm

But I’m glad to hear from you and consider your thoughts too.

Penny Burnfield May 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm

If they bother you cut them off and see if it’s an improvement. You’ve not much to loose – they’ll be back next year anyway!

AnneWareham May 24, 2013 at 10:10 pm

That’s what I have done in the past – and why they are still around to bother me! Safe.

Vanessa Gardner Nagel May 24, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I have to say, Anne, that I am profusely empathetic with your concerns as I always seem to have similar ones. I think you need to pay attention to your gut reaction and be a fearless editor (which I have no doubt you are). Having learned years ago that blue-family pinks should not accompany yellow-family oranges (color theory says that is a psychedelic combo) I veer away from those combinations. Apparently it creates psychological discomfort for the viewer.

AnneWareham May 24, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I can believe that – though if they are strong enough in their colour range doesn’t that over ride that effect? I’ve always thought it was because the lilacy colour of the thalictrum was rather too pale. It isn’t quite out yet though this year, so I’ll report back when I’ve checked. (can’t trust photos, can you?)

Vanessa Gardner Nagel May 24, 2013 at 10:50 pm

In response to your comment about pale lilac, Anne, I can tell you about a trick in the trade of interior designers (having been one for over 20 years) who specialize in gambling casinos with hotels. While you are scratching your head wondering what that has to do with a garden, let me tell you. These designers will use a beige color-tinted blue-with a beige color that is tinted yellow in a hotel room very subtly. Psychologically, visitors are uncomfortable but don’t know why. So they leave the room, which is the whole idea. I know that it’s been the rage to combine orange and magenta. It’s very startling when each from an opposing color background. So if that’s the reaction you want you can do it intentionally. If not, make sure that your colors are either from the yellow family or the blue family.

AnneWareham May 24, 2013 at 11:08 pm

That’s interesting. Umm..people will leave? Does it have the same effect in a different context and with all that green and purple, I wonder? There’s a lot to learn here. Still, think the thalictrum is too pale to work that way.

Vanessa Gardner Nagel May 24, 2013 at 11:25 pm

I think you are probably safe. I will say that at the Chihuly Garden in Seattle last week, I saw pale pink roses combined with red-orange geums and glass sculpture. I thought it was brilliant!

Gillian Bond May 24, 2013 at 5:40 pm

hello Anne
I’ve even gone as far as removing the yellow flowers from Seneccio ‘Sunshine’ as I grew it only for its grey leaves. So I would take out the white frothy flowers from your sculptured purple, green and orange array!

AnneWareham May 24, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I think this is necessary, actually – because the effect look weedy amongst the strong forms and colours. Whereas elsewhere in the garden it looks pretty. So, you are right.

Pam Ruch May 24, 2013 at 11:58 pm

I once planted magenta impatiens near red-orange Campsis and it drove me crazy all season … a lesson learned. So I feel your pain. (No one else said a word, by the way, and I truly think it is because they trust us, foolishly, to know what we are doing)
About the froth, though, it seems like removing it would be an easy fix, and would improve your state of mind, so I say do it! The clematis montana … another matter entirely. There is a hierarchy in gardens, and a mature, spring-resplendent Clematis montana trumps most anything. But here you have a thought-out plan of orange and purple, spoiled. You’re on your own. I feel your pain.

AnneWareham May 25, 2013 at 8:39 am

Yes. All that – you are right. Time to chop. Clematis can stay especially since most people don’t come down the drive looking, they arrive a different way..And every time I do see it and mind I think I am a dreadful pedant.

Elizabeth Buckley May 25, 2013 at 8:36 am

Hi Anne,

For what my two-penneth is worth, I agree about removing the frothy (wrong look for such a bold scheme). I adore the lime green and orange.. yum! The pink doesn’t work with the yellow at all. It’s not so bad with the orange but to really work needs to be a much stronger clashing pink. I think it’s really worth going for the latter as seen in this pic:
But obviously not the roses haha!
Are you feeling fearless?
L xx

AnneWareham May 25, 2013 at 8:42 am

No, NOT the roses! Doesn’t the green and purpley brown foliage in the garden make a difference?? Clicking that link was a shock – especially since then the whole of this page disappeared! Yep, time for a chop. Thanks for all that everyone – great!! XXXXX

Charles May 25, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I think you are right to remove the froth in the Front Garden. What about the flowering stem of the Rhubard next door!?

AnneWareham May 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm

O. Is that a problem? I’ll have a look…. Xxx

James Golden May 25, 2013 at 8:56 pm

For me, the pink thalictrum is a spoiler. I very much like the oranges with the greens and the purpulish shrubs, not because the give me anything like a feeling of comfort, but because they give me a feeling of discomfort–in a way that makes me want to think about why I feel this way. It’s an unusual combination that stimulates thought. It pulls me into the photo and makes me linger.

Color is so subjective I don’t really thing it’s possible to give advice. In midsummer I have a large area of bright pink Filipendula rubra ‘Venusta’, a sickening color, but I grit my teeth and in a week it’s fading to a pleasant copper color.

AnneWareham May 25, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Thalictrum and ground elder flower will all go.

Interesting that you raise the question of comfort – I think that’s not what I’m after half as much as excitement. But different parts of the garden offer different things, some of which are no doubt much more comfortable.

That time thing is, of course, the endless challenge. And sometimes, as you suggest, we just have to hang on a little, waiting for it to come good. Always hard to explain to the visitors…

Susan September 12, 2013 at 11:19 am

Love the orange and the electric blue, and I rather like the box balls, pity they’ve gone, but I agree that the froth doesn’t play nicely. It would be gorgeous in another setting, I love my Ravenswing even though it’s an utter thug and wheedles its way into every picture. The pink and orange look fabulous in the roses pic, very 60s, but I think that they work because they’re mixed up, whereas the thalictrum is popping up at one end and looks like an oddment. Maybe weaving the pink through the orange would create a wonderful swirling clash.

AnneWareham September 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Must try Ravenswing again – love a thug. And am interested in the idea of letting the thalictrum seed through the whole bed …watch this space. Xx

AnneWareham May 25, 2013 at 8:37 am

Blimey. That sounds unlikely!

Vanessa Gardner Nagel May 27, 2013 at 9:23 pm

I realize that saying “red-orange with pale pink” is one thing, seeing it is quite another. The pale pink was a warm shade of pink (on the yellow side), therefore it worked as a split-complementary color scheme with the green foliage.