A matrix is  ” A situation or surrounding substance within which something else originates, develops, or is contained”. That’s one, above.

Now I know that the usual way of planting in the uk is to buy a plant, wander round with it in its pot, looking for a space where you can squeeze it in. Or garden designers and sophisticated types debate whether to plant in drifts, or clumps or multiples of uneven numbers..

Crescent border Veddw copyright Charles Hawes

Alchemilla mollis as matrix

But often  I have done something else. I either plant something vigorous, the kind of thing that garden writer describe as dangerous, or a ‘thug’. Or perhaps, I let the ground elder flourish – maybe  the variegated kind, because it works best for this system. Or – in the case above, I have Alchemilla mollis filling a whole border with some inserts. Those inserts have mostly been replaced now by blue geraniums.

2012-07-21 19.37.23 Crescent border alchemilla, campanula and geranium

Geranium in the Alchemilla matrix with great addition of Campanula lactiflora

Then I plant robust, vigorous plants into this weed or thug plant, after it has had a good chance to spread and establish. And then I call the weed or thug a ‘matrix.’ It makes all the difference, to have a name and a theory.  I have now become theoretical. Impressed? Hope so.

The result is that other weeds have a hard time and we have a solid, attractive background for the planting. Creates a kind of unity. I have also used the original grassland at Veddw in the same way, instead of digging it all up and destroying the history and the eco system. Plant into it, let things fight it out.

Wild Garden, late summer, Veddw, copyright Charles Hawes

Crocosmia flourishing in old grassland with the grassland ‘weeds’.

At Chelsea I noticed that other people were doing something similar. See (apologies for poor picture) –

Chelsea 2013 using matrix Tony Smith wheelbarrow garden copyright Anne Wareham

Use of a matrix – Tony Smith’s wheelbarrow garden, Chelsea 2013

There are plants, and wheelbarrows, growing out of a ground cover of some kind. This also draws attention to another aspect of this planting method – it lends itself to using and creating pattern. Not fashionable but has the great characteristic of helping to create order and please the eye.

It also offers the possibility of showing off the form of a plant (think of the grace of a tulip) – something we never usually get to appreciate.

I know that everyone but me is supposed to have a small garden and no room really for anything, but if there should chance to be someone out there struggling with a huge space which they are trying to turn into a garden, it’s a good tip.

I ought to give it a name and write a book about it. Do a Chelsea garden. Or something like that..

Anne Wareham

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