Christine's garden Design Gardening Courses Miscellaneous

My Gardening Course – this weeks lecture and assignment

In the continuing story of the Garden Design Course I’ve been doing through My Garden School, last week (which I told you about here) we learnt about Colour and Design Principles and this week was all about The Role of Plants in the Planting Scheme. I’m learning a lot. But I have to say that I am  surprised by how much I actually already know. After the first weeks lecture I felt very out of my depth, but these last two weeks lectures and assignments have been very rewarding and actually lots of fun to do.

This week we learnt about structural planting, ornamental planting, focal-point planting, ground cover and functional planting. The assignment we were given was broken up into 4 separate parts as follows:

1. You are planting up an urban courtyard and need to select five trees for a long season of interest. Name and describe one tree that will provide each of the following.a. Spring blossom b. Coloured foliage c. Autumn fruit or berries d. Autumn coloured foliage e. Beautiful coloured bark.
2. In a garden the structural planting provides the framework or backbone for the more ornamental planting. Describe the visual and horticultural characteristics of shrubs that are used as structural planting.
3. Name at least six shrubs that can be used as structural planting in a garden.
4. You are selecting ornamental shrubs for a mixed border. Name and describe one shrub that you might choose for each of the following. a. Coloured winter stems b. Winter flowers c. Summer flowers d. Coloured foliage e. Autumn fruits or berries.

Below are screen captures of my illustrated answers to questions 1 and 4. The other two were written answers (not illustrated) so I haven’t included them.

I was a bit stumped on one of the questions – “You are selecting ornamental shrubs for a mixed border. Name and describe one shrub that you might choose for each of the following – Coloured winter stems”. For the life of me I couldn’t think of one. I like Pittosporum nigrescens for its light foliage that plays up so well on the dark branches, but its more of a tree, not really a shrub, and I didn’t think dark branches alone were such a big draw. I finally did lots of googling and came up with Red Twig Dogwood, but to be honest I don’t even know if they are available here – I have never consciously noticed them at a nursery. Does anyone have any suggestions? What would you use specifically for its coloureds stems?

Course Assignment

Next week is “Seasonal Colour & Excitement”. I’m looking forward to getting my notes and the video lecture.

I’m really enjoying this and am seriously considering signing up to do a second course with them. I just can’t decide which one to do. My current choices are:
Gardening with Climbers & Clematis or Flower Photography.

Which one would you choose?

By Christine

Dominated by large trees on a medium sized property, my garden is very shaded. With no “full sun” areas I have to plant shade and partial shade loving plants. I love shrubs and flowers including camellias and azaleas but Roses and Irises are my favourite and getting these to thrive is a challenge …

20 replies on “My Gardening Course – this weeks lecture and assignment”

Cornus alba Elegantissima (red stems) and Kesselringii (black stems) are both fabulous for winter, shrub, stems. Note that both are also runners (root wise) so consider this when planting. Salix alba var. ‘Britzensis’ has glorious thin orange/red stems. All need coppicing in early spring as winter colour comes from this years growth.
Two fabulous (UK) gardens for winter inspiration are Cambridge Botanic Gardens ( and Anglesey Abbey (v . Sporting a host of ideas for winter colour and blossom Lonicera purpursii ‘Winter Beauty’, Sarcoccoca confusa, Viburnum bodnantnese ‘Dawn’) and spring blossom, stem interest (e.g. Acer griseum or davdii).
I studied with the My Garden School team in RL 2009/2010, fantastic courses!
Good luck

An update – I got feedback from the tutor. A very long feedback, but was finished off with “Well done – a really good assignment”. I’m so thrilled! Its been a really worthwhile excercise!

Is this course based in the northern hemisphere? Bark for winter interest? We have aloes!

Jack in Haenertsberg’s Sequioa Gardens has magnificent autumn colour. I’d pick his brains before you actually buy plants for your garden. But you get better autumn colour in the Joburg direction, where it gets colder.

We have an inherited Japanese quince, has just a few flowers now, and it still has leaves. Usually it is magnificent in July, bare branches and flamboyant coral flowers. Quite unique!

Hi Diana – The course is run from the UK but they expect me to do it according to what we have available here. You are right, I never thought of looking at what Jack grows – his gardens are – in a word – magnificent! Thanks for reminding me.

I am not very fond of Aloes – don’t know why, they don’t really appeal to me. I appreciate them in other gardens but I don’t thinbk they would work in mine. The Japanese quince is too lovely! You are lucky to have one, it must bring you lots of joy 🙂

Hi Chris, looks like you are truly into the design course – good choice!! I have to agree with our friends and say the photography course 🙂
This will be something you will do on a daily basis and a great way to start to think like a photographer. It will be fun!!
I can’t wait to start my course.

You’re going to love it!

Yep, all signed up for the photography course. I’ll do the creeper one afterwards if I still have steam (and $ 🙂 )

Red Osier dog woods grow native here. I have a Cornus Cardinal in my garden. Willow shrub varieties have yellow stems that also look pretty against the snow. One of my favorite barks is that of the river birch. I would choose photography provided I could purchase a new and improved camera, though I love clematis and climbers. Your classes sound like great fun. I would take them all.

Photography as well. Even that class will teach some design principles. There is also a yellow twigged dogwood. I would have to say some Lagerstroemia have somewhat colored bark/twigs, acer palmatum sango kaku, some roses, and Continus?.

Christine, Here is what I have in my garden, and I recommend them :

Spring blossom and Beautiful coloured bark – cherry blossom

Winter flowers – winter jasmine (bright yellow), japanese flowering quince (salmon pink)
Coloured foliage – choisya (lime/yellow leaves all year)
Autumn fruits or berries – skimmia (has berries almost all year round)

Hi bag – I love Cherry Blossom – I have one in my garden – I think its probably my favourite of all my trees! I googled ‘japanese flowering quince’ – that is a beauty, as is choisya. Both are now on my “wish list”. If I wasa being graded on my assignments I would be asking you for advice before I submitted them – all your choices are gorgeous! Thanks for helping me to think “outside the box”. 🙂

Interesting post! The colored winter stems might have been the one question I wouldn’t struggle with, but I have a number of Cornus sericea planted here along the inside of the deer fence, as it’s native here. Nice blooms, attractive foliage with fall color, but lovely red stems in winter (if you prune it every couple of years as the old twigs tend to be less vibrant). Does get a bit big and leggy though if not pruned!

Hi Clare – I googled your suggestions and have to say I really like the Cornus sericea. I’m going to have to look outr for this at our Nurseries here as they are very attractive.

They all sound like so much fun. Both are interesting but I guess if you start off with photography first, then we may be able to enjoy your climbers and clematis shots better. 🙂

hehe, you are right One! I will do the photography one first. That should improve the quality of what I post on my blog – and hopefully be more pleasing to all my lovely gardening blog friends 🙂

Christine, Happy you enjoyed my daffodil photos. Your classes sound interesting. I am one always looking to learn more on gardening or really anything, sort of the “eternal” student. I do enjoy looking at your garden blog and experience since it is like the opposite of my seasons here. That is why I chose to follow it. Summer coming on here and Winter there. (Don’t mean to rub it in!) For me Winter is when I get caught up on everything I left undone for the warm summer season. (Maybe just a little rubbing it in!)
Will check in soon. Jack

Hi Jack – I love your daffs! I hope mine look as great as yours when they flower in Spring – can’t wait 🙂
I glanced over my next weeks lecture and I have seen that they cover bulbs as one of the chapters. I’m looking forward to seeing how a professional suggests I should use them in the garden. Will be interesting to see how right or wrong I am.

What an interesting class! I would have chosen red twig dogwood as well. I have it in several areas of the garden, and I really like it. I am glad you are sharing your class info…I look forward to more.

Hi Michelle – I really like the look of the Red Twig Dogwood – I was very taken with it when I found it online. If I can ever see it here in South Africa it will be finding its way into my garden 🙂

I would choose the photography. I want to get better in that area. I can see why you are having fun. The design classes were always my favorite.

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