What to plant to create a bold, romantic scheme in a classic British garden

Andrew Cannell, Head Gardener at American Museum and Gardens in Bath, shares his recommendations for Bold Romantic plant combinations for a British garden.

The 5 May 2021 issue of Country Life takes an extended look at the delightful gardens of the American Museum, which is situated in Claverton Manor, to the east of the city just beyond the university campus.

Here, Andrew picks out a series of plants ideal for those wishing to follow the ‘Bold Romantic’ gardening vision made popular by Wolfgang Oehme and James Van Sweden (the ‘OvS style’), whose ideas inspired much of what is in place at the museum’s gardens. And if you want to take a closer look before taking the plunge, the American Museum & Gardens at Claverton Manor in Somerset are open now — see details and times via www.americanmuseum.org.

Euphorbia seguieriana subsp. niciciana  Hylotelelphium ‘Matrona’

‘The Euphorbia’s long lasting finely textured yellow-green flowers are excellent for edging a border and, in OvS style, contrast sharply with the sturdy plum foliage and pink flowers of the sedum.’

Euphorbia seguieriana subsp. niciciana Hylotelelphium ‘Matrona’. ©Eva Nemeth


Macleaya cordata var. cordata, Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’, Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’

‘The dark red persicaria bridges the gap both in tone and height between the two classic OvS plants: the towering  macleaya with large deeply lobed leaves and creamy white tassels and the sedum which forms a hummocky architectural block at the corner of the bed.’

Macleaya cordata var. cordata, Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’, Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’. ©Eva Nemeth


Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’, Verbena bonariensis

‘The mustard yellow flowers of Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’ last for months and are an important OvS statement plant suited to dry conditions.  Contrast is played out through colour and through the solid horizontals of the achillea with the airy verticals of the verbena.’

Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’, Verbena bonariensis. ©Eva Nemeth


Rosa ‘Knock Out’, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’

‘An American-bred champion rose, ‘Knock Out is robust, disease free and in constant flower: the perfect OvS plant.  Particularly good in soft autumn light with the dew-catching feathery plumes of the Pennisetum.’

Rosa ‘Knock Out’, Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’. ©Eva Nemeth


Miscanthus x giganteus ‘Aksel Olsen, Lysimachia clethroides

‘This huge upright grass, up to eight feet, acts as a screen and frames views back towards the manor.  The arching leaves rustle like thin sheets of aluminium in the wind – combined with a lower tier of Lysimachia clethroides this is a low-maintenance, weed suppressing combination.’

Miscanthus x giganteus ‘Aksel Olsen, Lysimachia clethroides. ©Eva Nemeth


Anemone x hybrida ‘Robustissima’, Nepeta racemosa ‘Walkers Low’

‘This quick-growing catmint outmuscles most partners but once established ‘Robustissima’ with its single white flowers and a distinctive pink stripe behind holds its own, hovering above the catmint in late summer and sparkling when backlit by early morning light.’

Anemone x hybrida ‘Robustissima’, Nepeta racemosa ‘Walkers Low’. ©Eva Nemeth


Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, Rudbeckia fulgida var sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, Verbena bonariensis, Allium ‘Summer Drummer’

‘Huge golden blocks of Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ are a classic OvS plant and were a favourite of Wolfgang Oehme. This is a strong composition of contrasting shapes and colours arranged in bold layers which work particularly well on a large scale.’

Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, Rudbeckia fulgida var sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, Verbena bonariensis, Allium ‘Summer Drummer’. ©Eva Nemeth