A garden of love
A romantic garden is one that is enchanting; one that captures a dream, a garden of intangible beauty, lingering fragrances and beautiful flowers. A romantic garden can be where a love song whispers in the trees, or where an arbour is hidden amongst fragrant flowers. It may be a tiny, secret hideaway in a town garden where perfumed flowers scent the air, or where moonlight is reflected in the still waters of a pool.
The success of a romantic garden is to plant lavishly, where colours and scents are used joyously; a garden overflowing with frilled irises, delicate poppies, agapanthus underplanted with carpets of daisies, nasturtiums spilling and tumbling onto paths, and arches where roses and clematis spread parasols of colour over fragrant lavenders and lilies.
Colours of romance
What are the colours of romance? In a garden, the colours of romance can be found in petals as delicate as the wings of a butterfly, in sparkling colours of champagne, and in rich jewel shades. Mauve is a colour that may recall misty watercolour memories of a love affair long past, the colour of lavenders, catmint, heliotrope, plectranthus, climbing rose ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, floribunda rose ‘Blue Bayou’ and miniature roses ‘St Katherines’ and ‘Lavender Jade’. Scabious has lavender flowers and takes its country name from the flowers that resemble pincushions.
Celebrate romance in champagne colours of rich cream and apricot, shell pink and peach. A suitable focal point could be a sparkling fountain set among roses, irises, alstroemerias and day lilies in these shades, and edged with Verbena ‘Peaches & Cream’ and Vinca ‘Apricot Delight’, set against a background of apricot leonotis and phygelius, Spiraea ‘Gold Flame’ and Tecoma capensis ‘Lutea’. Flowers that have the richness of rubies are found in velvety snapdragons, satiny dahlias and sultry day lilies. Among the best red roses are ‘Black Madonna’, ‘Crimson Glory’, ‘Prospero’, ‘The Prince’, ‘Tradescant’ and ‘William Shakespeare’. Maroon and bronze foliage plants will add further richness to this colour scheme.
Flowers of romance
No flower is associated more with romance than the rose, whether framing an arch, twining round an obelisk, shading a gazebo, or colouring a border. In the language of flowers, red roses are symbolic of true love, a pink rose means gladness and joy, white stands for innocence and purity, and yellow, friendship. Peach roses mean desire, and a lavender rose tells of love at first sight. Let us not forget the many floral sweethearts of this land, the dainty blue daisies of felicia, the demure pink diascia, the nerine in her frilly pink dress, and the delicate blue heliophila. Dierama has many charming names – grasklokkie, wandflower and fairy’s fishing rod – that describe the dainty lavender-pink bell-shaped flowers on bending, grass-like stems, so suitable for a romantic garden.
Flowers need not be large or showy as seen in the modest violet, a favourite scented flower of cottagers and royals and long associated with love and faithfulness. Another small charmer, the forget-me-not, by its very name, deserves a place in a romantic garden. Part of the charm of this dainty blue flower is its ability to self-seed, appearing in unexpected, usually damp, places. There are many flowers associated with the language of romance, such as love’s lockets (dicentra), lad’s love (artemisia) and love-in-a-mist (nigella), love letters (agapanthus), first love (azalea), also, gardenia (you are lovely), lavender (sweet memories) and primrose (can’t live without you).
Fragrance for your romantic garden
A garden full of sweet fragrances is one that adds another dimension to a garden, recalling memories from the past, and stirring our emotions. Climbing roses that have a rich fragrance include ‘Nahéma’ with soft pink blooms, ‘Gwen Fagan’ with double and quartered flowers of a deeper pink, ‘Egmont Behrens’, a deep velvet red maturing to magenta burgundy, and ‘Buff Beauty’, a hybrid musk bearing trusses of buff-apricot blooms.
Gardenias have scented white flowers, and indigenous buddleja has tiny tubular, highly scented flowers. Agathosma ovata (false buchu) has dark green fragrant leaves and the leaves of Heteropyxis natalensis are lavender scented. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is an evergreen with fragrant, starry-white flowers that can be grown as a climber, ground cover, clipped hedge or standard.
Scented pelargoniums are grown for their leaves that release a lemon, orange, rose, peppermint, nutmeg or balsam scent. Rosemary and lavender release their scent when touched, so are best planted next to a path or near a bench. Santolina and Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ have silver aromatic foliage, and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has lemon-scented leaves. Plants that release their fragrance in the evening include the dainty lilac stock (Matthiola bicornis), tuberose, hosta, nicotiana, lilies, jasmine, honeysuckle and some orchids.
There are decorative accents that can enhance and contribute to a romantic garden. One of the easiest to place is the sundial with a romantic inscription, such as Shakespeare’s ‘Love alters not with time’s brief hours’. A simple latticework trellis can provide a hideaway, or part of the garden can be screened with shrubs, such as Bauhinia galpinii, Burchellia bubalina, camellia, Choisya ternata, Duranta ‘Sheena’s Gold’, Mackaya bella (light shade, frost tender), plumbago, Tecoma capensis and Viburnum tinus.
There is a sense of anticipation and mystery when all is not revealed at once – of a secret world, a private space, a hideaway. A curving path slows down progress and makes the journey more interesting, an invitation to discover what lies around each bend. A path leading to a bench would set the scene for a romantic rendezvous, as would a gazebo set among scented flowers. Gazebos were originally intended to offer a view, but can also become a romantic and secluded retreat. A gazebo can vary from a sturdy thatch, a rustic structure with unpainted timbers, to a wrought iron fantasy with delicate scrolls and flowers and greenery trained over the structure. Gazebos can be built in a pagoda-style with lacquered surfaces and hanging lanterns, or of brick with windows and a door. Select furniture and pillows in plush fabrics and soft colours and you will have a perfect setting for romance.