The “new ruralism” is not just about mirroring the countryside in the city and suburbs; it is also about how we perceive and how we use plants within our gardens. It is about allowing plants to dominate garden design — the opposite of minimalism and the idea of creating outdoor rooms.
William Robinson was a Victorian garden designer who first initiated a crusade against the use of stilted carpet bedding. He was also instrumental in introducing the use of hardy perennials as well as the belief that any plant, wild or exotic, could have a place in gardens.
Using a higher ratio of planting to hardscape encourages a wider variety of wildlife into the garden, helps prevent water runoff and flooding, achieves year-round flower and foliage interest (in the same way that the countryside changes with the season), and lowers maintenance requirements — the need for weed control is almost nonexistent in nature.
It is not a new idea, though, as both the leading Victorian gardeners, Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson, used grasses to great effect in their innovative mixed plantings. Jekyll was very keen on using Miscanthus and frequently used Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ in her mixed borders.
The plants used are standard species and are common in many gardens, yet here they have been used in a way to mirror nature. None of the ground is left bare; the variety of plants have found their own spaces, as they do naturally in the countryside.