Green table in winter guise
The 'green table', centrepiece of the Orticolario 2013 garden, has been given a winter coat of white and replanted with shade-tolerant perennials for its new indoor location
As promised, the table created for Orticolario will continue its life as a planted, green table. Its new guise has been celebrated by a few parties already, for which it was born.
Actually, the 'green table' is now white, to complement the new palette of plants and bring light to an indoor location. A few changes have been made to the structure, including removing the legs to rest the table on a large central plinth, which also houses the tank for the water rill, providing more seating space and a more streamlined look. Its new home in the showroom of Grenfaim, the artisans who built it, is completely different from its first outdoor location: an indoor unheated environment, with side lighting from huge windows in the afternoon, but mostly dark in winter. The planting has therefore been completely changed to suit the location - a living green table will thrive only if it's treated like a garden, with plants chosen to suit the exposure, conditions, and locations.
As before, I chose drought tolerant perennials and shrubs to cope with the shallow growing medium, and nothing tall enough to block the view of the water rill or across the table - it's nice to see your fellow diners. The low light and unheated conditions demand plants that can grow in deep dry shade outdoors, conditions in which it's hard to get much flower colour, so I've relied on leaf variegation and textural differences to give life and variety to the planting. Seasonal flowers are an added bonus, as proven by the Ceratostigma's bright bue buttons, and we can look forward to the blue periwinkle flowers (Vinca sp.) and the violet spires of Muscari, but the garden is complete even without them.
The gravel mulch which offsets the plants and protects the soil will eventually disappear under plant growth. Vinca and Hedera species are great ground cover and will eventually spread themselves between other plants, and trail down the side in a natural tablecloth.
I was initially skeptical of variegated plants, which can be brash and splotchy, covering nearly the whole leaf (think of the dreadful spotty Aucuba). I am now completely won over by some for their capacities to inject light and colour in shade-loving evergreen ground cover. It's important to see that the variegations of different species are a consistent hue, as plants can have white, cream or yellow variegations - the extremes of white and yellow are garish together - and to consider carefully the shape of the leaf and the overall plant itself. Among my favourites selected here are the Vinca minor argenteovariegata, whose small leaf is barely outlined by cream white, the small leaved Hedera helix variegata, more graceful than other cultivars which are best alone on large walls, and the scene-stealer, Ophiopogun japonicus "White Mist".
It's important to offset variegated plants against plain green cultivars, to benefit both, and never loose sight of the overall picture. Tall thin leaves play against low heart-shaped or round leaves, trailing forms with uprights, palmate leaves hug lance-shaped ones. This table shows how a harmonious picture can be made even in deep shade, without the use of flowers, and steering clear of the extremes of monotony and confusion.
Hedera helix variegata
Liriope muscari "Moneymaker"
Ophiopogon japonicus "White mist"
Vinca minor argenteovariegata