Martyn Falconer, the AELTC Head Gardener, knows all about seeds, blossoming talent and rampant climbers. In this series, he nominates his Plant of the Day.
The art of training is a daily occupation for an army of people other than the players on the Aorangi Practice Courts at the All England Club – namely the topiary artistes.
Armed with secateurs and topiary shears, Head Gardener Martyn Falconer oversees the maintenance of form in another key player in the Wimbledon planting scheme: the slow-growing evergreen box plant, or buxus sempervirens.
Topiary is the art of training an evergreen shrub such as box into a precise, stylised form. Regular clipping of the foliage and twigs ensures a clearly defined geometric shape of densem, small leathery leaves, which creates a crisp, clean contrast for the herbaceous perennials and wispier show of colourful annuals.
Visitors to The Championships will see numerous examples of perfectly spherical ball-shaped box plants, either as individual features in a flower beds or features, or in lines such as along the top of the roof of the Broadcast Centre overlooking Court 18.
Different plants offer different characteristics to a planting
You can also admire the neatly trimmed cones used in troughs in front of the Referee’s Office, the Umpires’ HQ, outside the Museum and underneath the main Order of Play board just inside the main gates.
“We use the box to add structure. Different plants offer different characteristics to a planting – structure, height, volume, texture, softness,” Martyn explains.
At one stage it was feared the hardy plant might be withdrawn for health reasons. But unlike poor Rafa Nadal or Victoria Azarenka who are absent through injury, the buxus sempervirens has miraculously reached the Championships without causing concern.
“It’s escaped being knocked out by box blight and the box tree caterpillar [that has been decimating gardens throughout the United Kingdom],” confirms Martyn.
Other plants around the Grounds