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5 Ways to Add Height to Your Garden


By Cathi



In much the same way as a single note does not make a beautiful piece of music, nor a single word does not make a book – a single level of planting does not make an eye-catching garden. All these need different notes, different words, different layers, to draw us into and around them; to spark interest and wonder at their creativity.


Not only do gardens need layers of colour, stratums of foliage and seasonal overlay – they also need different levels to draw the eye up and down in a horticultural ‘symphony’ of planting. If your garden lacks a little when it comes to height, here are our 5 suggestions of how to reach for the sky (both metaphorically and physically) with your garden design.



Trees are one of the first things which will, over time, add extra dimension to your garden. There is joy in watching trees grow and they mark significant occasions in your life to boot – plant a tree to commemorate a loved one, mark a new addition to the family, or even celebrate a national event. As any arborist will tell you, these magnificent plants come in all different shapes and sizes, so a little bit of research will pay dividends.

There are some questions to ask yourself first. Such as, whether you want your tree to provide screening and, if so, do you want this screening to last all year? How tall does your tree need to grow in order to achieve this goal? Remember, as a tree grows it also grows out to create areas of shade in your garden (dependent on aspect), therefore bear in mind its mature shape and then choose a columnar, or pleached variety, if spread may cause an issue. Think also of how such a large plant will impact upon your boundaries and neighbours, as they are legally permitted to remove any overhanging branches and encroaching roots which may impact upon the aesthetic balance of the tree.


Other things to consider are - do you want a fruit bearing tree? For yourself, for the wildlife or for both? Do you want to provide interest in a particular season - blossom in spring can come from both ornamental cherry trees and from fruiting trees? The fruiting variety will give sustenance to your family and to visiting wildlife. A native hazel tree produces pretty catkins before its leaf in the spring and summer, only then will it provide nuts in autumn. Paulownia tomentosa, commonly known as the Foxglove Tree, produces foxglove like, heavily scented flowers in early spring and is a rare sight in UK gardens. Maple trees give special autumn interest with their fantastic colours – a species such as Liquidambar styraciflua is exceptional for autumn colour. If you live in milder parts of the UK, you can even grow some of the more exotic or Mediterranean trees such as Loquat and Peach.


Finally, single stemmed, standard trees not only provide height to your planting – they add focal points, or accents, to areas of your garden. Many can be grown in containers which can be moved to suit your needs and if you are feeling, adventurous – perhaps try topiary to develop this further?



Not all of us are lucky enough to have space to plant trees and often need to think vertically without horizontal spread. We may need some height against the house or want to screen an unsightly area by raising the line of sight as a method of deflection. This is where climbers come to the fore. Use pergolas, trellis, or any kind of framework for this huge range of plants to commandeer as support. There are climbers with beautiful foliage such as Schizophragma hydrangeoides Moonlight - which will give an autumnal display as well as providing summer interest - plus happily grows in a shady spot. We have all types of Clematis for winter, spring, and late summer interest – Clematis cirrhosa Freckles is one of our favourites for its creamy white flowers,speckled with deep red. Holboellia Traversii is a more exotic and unusual climber – with scented blooms in two different colours, followed by intriguing, sausage-shaped fruits in autumn!


Ensure chosen climbers have a sturdy structure, or frame, on which to climb, and they will provide height and interest for years to come. If you have an old tree which no longer has foliage, a climbing rose or honeysuckle, will utilize this as support and add visual interest. You can even make your own structures from branches and wire – or go the extra mile and make obelisks for climbing plants to add a more formal touch to your garden.



Shrubs can provide height at the back of borders, as well as a means of creating interesting frames to gateways, doors, and other access points. They are adaptable and most are easily pruned to keep their shape whilst being allowed to grow upwards to the desired height. Evergreen varieties such as yew offer a traditional appeal and decorative red berries, whilst a variegated holly shrub will give all year-round foliage interest and act as a deterrent when planted at your boundary. The Chilean Crinodendron grows to 4.5m in height and acts as either a shrub or small tree. Grown against a house or wall this looks fabulous, with the unusual, lantern shaped flowers blooming in late spring and the deep green, small lanceolate leaves which are held all year round.


When using shrubs for height and screening, they add an all year round display to the back of borders and accentuate earlier or later flowers - as well as providing seasonal interest of their own. For example, Philadelphus, or Mock Orange, will provide double or single, scented flowers in late spring to early summer. After which the vibrant green leaves create a colourful backdrop to summer annuals and perennials as they come through later in the season. A buddleja will put on rapid growth each year once it is established and will add vibrant colour alongside providing a feast for bees and butterflies. Buddleja only need a light trim in autumn to remove spent flowers and should be cut back hard in spring to promote new, bushier (and taller) growth each year.


There are a huge range of shrubs available, and we are sure to have one which meets your requirements for height, spread and seasonal interest, as well as colour and form.


Raised beds

Raised beds are ideal when you need to raise plants off the ground and give height for practical purposes as well as aesthetic ones. If gardening at ground level can be problematic due to the quality of your soil or physical constraints, then the ideal solution is to ‘raise it up a notch or two’. Beds can be created with materials such as wooden sleepers, gabions or even brick walls – whichever suits your style and needs. The soil can then be augmented to provide the growing medium you need, raise the height of lower growing plants, and provide a site for trailing plants such as Aubretia, Fuchsia and Vinca to spill over the edges, giving an additional dimension to your raised beds.


This style of planting is most often used for vegetable and fruit growing and is highly effective, so there is sense in introducing this in the decorative areas of your garden. You can utilise raised beds in front of existing fences or boundary walls, where the backdrop can be incorporated into the planting beds by adding trellis for climbers, cordons, or espaliers, then you make the best of every bit of planting space.


Living Walls


Living Walls are a relatively new addition to planting styles and make an excellent choice for those of us with a smaller, courtyard garden, or a shady area, which needs additional interest. Sometimes referred to as ‘green walls’ they transform a tired looking vertical space – no matter what aspect. Specialist planting pockets can be used to cover a wall, or you can use hanging pots and containers for a quirky, random effect. Just ensure they are kept well-watered as smaller areas of soil can dry out far quicker than large areas and they do not always benefit from rainfall. You may find an irrigation hose is the second thing you invest in once you have your planting pockets and before you begin choosing plants.


The best living walls pay attention to the texture, shape, form and colour of foliage as much as the flowers to provide year-round interest. Plants should be relatively compact – less than 50cm in height and spread, or they should be happy with regular pruning to keep them to size. Plants can be annuals for interchangeable colour, perennials for continual interest or even a mixture of the two. Perhaps, add some herbs or vegetables for eating as well as for decorative effect?


If your chosen wall (or fence) only receives sun for part of the day, then select plants which are suitable for this aspect. If you have a troublesome area where the sun does not reach, then shade loving ferns like Athyrium Red Beauty with additions such as Heuchera Little Cutie Coco can be used as a mainstay and floral interest from viola and campanula. Sedum and Ajuga also thrive in vertical environment and produce floral, as well as foliage, interest.


In the UK garden spaces are gradually becoming smaller as the population expands and land is needed for housing. We know you still love your outside spaces – be it a balcony, terrace, postage-stamp sized plot, or a large, spacious multi-purpose area. Concentrating our time and efforts on what is directly beneath our feet is a common occurrence. However, adding height to your outdoor space makes your garden appear larger, borrows and blends boundaries, acts as screening to unattractive immoveable features and aids aid privacy. So, look up – seek the sky and imagine all the amazing plants you can fit in the spaces between…

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