Foliage Follow-Up – December 2014

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I have found it much easier to come up with shots for the Foliage Follow Up post this month than the Garden Blogger Bloom Day post.  I love foliage and I think it really comes into its own at this time of year. A favourite since childhood is Stachys byzantina, or as we called it when I was little, Lambs Ear.

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Sticking to the grey tones there is Pulmonaria which has been self seeding around the garden for some years.  I’m not that keen on the flowers but the leaves are a lovely foil to spring bulbs and you often get different variation.  I am sure I heard someone say that if you cut the leaves back, as you would a geranium, after flowering you got a better plant so I might give this a go.

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The everyday Digitalis purpurea has also started to self-seed around the garden and I think it has quite a structural presence in the garden.

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I like Bergenias which I know isn’t a view shared by all gardeners.  I think their glossy foliage is excellent at this time of year especially those varieties which colour up for Autumn.  They are one of those plants that just get on with it and then when everything else has given up for the year you notice them.

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One more self-sower is the Arum italicum ‘Marmoratum’.  They do produce flowers but it is the foliage and the seedheads in the Autumn.

For more foliage posts from around the world visit Pam over at Digging

My Garden This Weekend – 7/12/14

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It seems a while since I have done a ‘My Garden this Weekend’ post  partly due to bad weather but also due to other demands on my time.  However, this weekend I had the luxury of a weekend with no plans and despite the weather being changeable with sudden showers I still managed to steal a few hours both days to potter.

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I think my favourite activity in the garden is pottering.  I have tasks that really need doing and also things I would like to do and finding a balance is often a challenge.  However the rain which made some areas of the garden difficult to work in meant my choices were restricted to working in areas close to the house were the ground was firm under foot and so a combination of tasks and plans were achieved.

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Picking up dead leaves and pulling up weeds is so satisfying; from a jumbled mess signs of spring are uncovered and left on show to cheer you through the cold grey days.  I was particularly delighted to see that my one remaining Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) has at least three flower buds emerging. I planted 3 or 4 some years back and I am thrilled that one has established tucked in between a rhododendron and box pyramid. Last year there were two flowers so to see an extra one emerging is very rewarding.

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There are swelling buds on the rhododendrons and one of the camellias.  Strangely the second camellia which is planted alongside only has a couple of buds which look quite under developed.  This will be its second year in this location and it was moved here as it was very weak looking in its original location.  The plant has put on growth so maybe its new location is better but the leaves still look a little chlorotic so I might try giving it a feed in the spring.

Another plant showing yellowing leaves is the Sarcococca.  It seems to dislike being planted by the black bamboo in the front garden and its dark green leaves have become more yellow.  Although it is covered in berries from last year’s flowers there is a lack of new young leaves and not too many obvious flowers.  I wonder if the soil is just to damp for it.  So I have dug it up and potted it up in a large pot with the hope that this be a better environment for it and it will recover.  If it does then it will have a winter home adjacent to the front door so we can benefit from the scent of the flowers.

2014_12060020There is evidence of all sorts of bulbs pushing their leaves up through the ground and in one case, Galanthus ‘Ding  Dong’ is even showing signs of flowering soon.  I frequently come across bulbs, particularly snowdrop, which seem to have pushed themselves up onto the surface of the soil and I have no idea why.  I haven’t dug them up and they haven’t been disturbed by anything else but there they are lying on the edge of the border, ready for me to dutiful replant them – very strange.

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A couple of Hippeastrum bulbs arrived this week; purchased on a whim having read an article in The Garden magazine.  Strangely the information sheet that came with them advised that the bases and roots should be immersed in lukewarm water for a few hours before planting.  I suspect this is to rehydrate the roots but it’s not advice I have come across before.  I dutiful followed the advice and we shall see how they do compared to the very cheap one I bought at the local supermarket that came wrapped in some dry compost.

I finished off by tidying the patio borders where again lots of snowdrops are starting to appear.  I tied in the winter jasmine which has been flowering for weeks and cut back the clematis which occupies the same bit of wall.  I have decided that the clematis and jasmine are not a good combination so the clematis will come out in the spring and will be trained up the house wall which I think will be a preferable location and it should flower better.

What could be better to sit down on a Sunday evening having spent some hours outside on a cool bright winter’s day and to look out at a border all neat and tidy and ready for Spring.

 

 

Embracing the slope

2014_05260038Sometimes you happen upon a speaker or hear a talk which causes you to have one of those light bulb moment.  Such an occurrence happened this weekend at the Alpine Garden Society annual conference in Stratford.  The majority of the speakers talked about a particular genus – who knew there were so many species of Meconopsis about particularly parts of the world.  For me the speaker of the conference was Keith Wiley who gardens with his wife at Wildside in Devon.

I have known of Keith for some years now and the whole time my youngest was a student at Plymouth University I tried to visit his garden but its openings never coincided with my visits to the area and sadly it will be closed next year.  I have seen his work at The Garden House and read his book Gardening on the Wild Side.  I knew that he had created vast ravines in his new garden but I had never really understood the reasoning why.

Keith’s talk was about a broader view of the woodland border.  Oh good thought I, lots of nice ferns, epimediums and erythroniums which will make a nice change to all the cushion and scree loving plants in the talks so far.  However, Keith’s talk was more than that, it was about creating an environment to grow ‘woodland’ plants and how you do this when you are presented with a flat field with no trees and you have a love of many woodland plants.  The solution is to create the hills and troughs, banks and ravines that many of us saw him building on The Landscape Man and now it makes sense.  By taking this approach Keith has created borders which face north, south, east and west and by planting trees and shrubs on the tops of the mounds and banks he is creating shade.  As he explained woodland plants don’t need to grow under the tree canopy just in the shade created by the trees and shrubs.

As many know I have a sloping garden.  It probably slopes at 45 degrees.  I am so used to it the slope doesn’t bother me to work on but I do struggle with how the plant it and achieve the best results. I have never yearned for a flat garden but I have to admit having a garden sloping up from the house has, and continues, to challenge me.  Sometimes I almost feel paralysed by the borders and this leaves to dithering and inertia and dis-satisfaction in the result.

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So what has changed? Well Keith talked about mirroring nature in the borders and how he used inspiration from sights he had seen around the world and indeed in others gardens to create vignettes and views.  Admittedly his vignettes are equal to a substantial size of my garden and when I asked him later what he followed the erythroniums with in his magnolia glade he admitted that the interest in the garden moved to another area.  This is a luxury I don’t have, every part of my garden has to work hard to give as much interest as possible but talking with others and looking carefully at Keith’s photos I can see how I can use many of the plants I already have in a better way with the shorter geraniums underplanting the taller and more vase shaped woodlanders such as Maianthemum racemosum. I am also going to think about how I position some of my shrubs in order to create more shaded areas for my favourite woodlanders.

It is interesting as many of Keith’s ideas weren’t particularly revolutionary and I had heard and seen various elements that he was using in various places but somehow it was how he brought it all together, and of course his infectious enthusiasm, that really struck a chord with me.  As he said to me when we discussed his talk this morning – slopes give you so much more scope and interest and why would anyone want a flat garden!

So here I am home ready to plan and scheme over the coming winter and learn to love and embrace my garden taking into account how the slope and positioning of taller plants can provide different environments for my favourite plants.  Roll on the spring.

 

*The photos are of the Big Border back in May which actually looking back isn’t too bad and I need to do more looking back at photographs before I make any rash decisions.

An Unexpected Arts and Crafts Gem – Perrycroft

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It’s funny how you can trek all over the place, even all over the world, and yet it turns out that there is a wonderful gem of a garden right under your nose and you had no idea.

Perrycroft turned out to be such a garden today.  Situated just over the Malvern Hills from me, nestled just below the ridge and with panoramic views of British Camp and out across Herefordshire towards the Black Mountains of Wales, the house and garden were stunning and I wasn’t alone in this opinion.

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The house was the first commissioned the renown Arts and Craft’s architect, CFA Vosey received for a house.  Vosey had started his career designing wallpaper and furniture and was very inspired by William Morris, Pugin, the Arts and Crafts Movement, Art Nouveau and railed against the over decorative approach of the Victorians.

“Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences.” (CFA Voysey)

The white walls and green woodwork are peculiar to his designs and I was completely transfixed by it. The green works so well with the lawn and surroundings and really ties the house into its location.

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Adjacent to the house is the formal garden studded with topiary. I really liked the simple alternating approach of the blocks of sedum and grey foliage but more so that you look down into the square which gives you an interesting viewpoint and reminded me of the medieval gardens which had raised walkways around them.

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The topiary continues down into the next part of the formal garden.  You don’t really get a sense of the slope in the photograph above but they are quite steep and it is interesting that the owners haven’t been tempted to put in lots of horizontal terracing to tame the slope – in fact the box squares working down the slope actually emphasis the slope.

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The chickens are demonstrating the steepness of the slope in the shadow of their topiary cushion.  I have said many times before that I am not a huge fan of hedges and garden rooms mainly because I find them claustrophobia but this wasn’t the case at Perrycroft –  there was a luxurious generosity of space in each area.

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A sense of movement is achieved going down the slope with the repetition of key plants and colours as you can see with the asters and I like the way the verbena bonariensis is planted in front of the dark purple berberis hedge.

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There is a wonderful exuberance in the planting which is as generous as the space.  It is clear that a confident hand is behind this garden.  The owner, Gillian Archer, is very much a hands on gardener and is ably assisted by two full-time gardeners hardly surprising when you consider there are 10 acres to tame and manage.

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If ever there was an example of how wonderful a late summer border can look here it is.  The borders positively glowed with colour.

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As I have said there are 10 acres and aside from the formal gardens there is a woodland and also a wilder area with a chain of three ponds working their way down the slope,  a couple of wildflower meadow type areas, an orchard and a vegetable area.

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Throughout the garden are these very high back benches and I wonder if they are based on Voysey designs.  My research tells me that he liked to design the house including the furnishings and I understand that he partly designed some of the garden are Perrycroft.  It seems to me that the benches are reminiscent of his style.

The number of photographs I take of a garden are always a good indicator of whether I am enjoying it, am inspired by it or, as in this case, just bowled over.  When Voysey died in 1941 amongst the various tributes to his contribution to design and architecture was one from Pevsner, a German born art historian who commented:

“…he never regarded himself as the great artist whose genius must be respected and accepted without querying. He built what was to be useful and enjoyable, that was all. Hence the undated perfection of the best of his work. … his [pattern] designs were so perfectly balanced between stylization and love of nature that the best of them have, to my mind, never been surpassed. Voysey believed in a humane, homely, honest life, in simplicity with domestic care and comfort, and in leisure judiciously and pleasurably spent amidst trees and flowers. … the essence of his work and his personality does not belong to our age but to an age gone for ever.”

Perrycroft opens under the National Garden Scheme

End of Month View – August 2014

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I have been off work for just short of two weeks and have completely lost track of time and the date so unfortunately the photos for this post were taken at midday when the sun was shining in my eyes so apologies. August has been very mild this year and wet and has, along with Dad’s illness and death, has meant that the garden has been somewhat overlooked.

I will start with the Big Border which I am really pleased with considering the planting was done this Spring.  Tweaking is required as there are far too many strappy leaves at the sunny end and I want to increase the amount of yellows, oranges and blues as the intention is that this time of year will be the real focus of the border.

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Conversely the Cottage Garden Border is having a real overhaul as it hasn’t been performing as per my imagination.  I now have a scheme for it which should have interest throughout the summer with some late spring interest.  I am currently digging up everything that isn’t in the right place or I have doubts about and then I am going to improve the soil and then plant out all the plants I have collected over the last couple of weeks.

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The Hardy Exotic Border is slowly filling out and I am pleased with the textures.  It will be interesting to see how it progresses next year and I want to add a mass of bulbs to give it Spring interest but I haven’t decided what.  My first instinct is tulips in reds and other rich colours but I am reluctant to do this as I am sure it will encourage the badger to visit and big up everything in the border.  I recently threw a load of tulip bulbs on the compost heap and surprise surprise the badger visited and trashed the place again.  I don’t want camassias as I have those in the Big Border so maybe a load of daffodils would be a good idea.

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The Not Bog Garden is looking OK but needs some work to give it more structure and definition. I am still pondering this but I feel a shrub is needed in the gap to the left.

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I am really pleased with the original woodland border this year.  I had been frustrated with it as after the spring bulbs and flowers it looked flat and uninteresting.  This spring I added a large persicaria from elsewhere and repositioned a shrub and this height at the back of the border has made a huge difference and added lots of interest.  In fact it has gone a little too far the other way and I need to reposition some of the original plants.

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I am also pleased with succulent border under one of the front windows but I still have to get rid of the dandelions! The sempervivums have really bulked up in the trough and I am now thinking of adding more around it.

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Nipping back round to the patio the Patio Border is entering its late summer period when the Kirengeshoma palmata comes into its own.  I need to reposition the Edgeworthia to the left of the border to balance it out better and add some more bulbs for spring.

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Finally the Staging area is at capacity with pelargoniums and succulents enjoying the last of summer.  I need to do more weeding here and remove the Mind your Business Plant yet again – never by this plant you will regret it!

So there we are at the end of August.  Not as much progress with projects as I had hoped when I wrote this post in July but then life has a habit of throwing curve balls and there isn’t anything that can’t wait.

Everyone is welcome to join in with this meme and I love visiting all your gardens to see what you are up to.  You can use the meme as you want whether its to look at one area over a period of time or just to have a tour of the garden.  All I ask is that you link to this post in yours and put a link to your post in the comment box below so we can all find each other.  Have fun.

Stockton Bury Gardens – August

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Some may recall that earlier this year I set out to visit Stockton Bury Gardens, a garden local to me, on a regular basis.  I have to admit I failed to make a monthly visit for far too many reasons to bore you with and so I missed the high summer months.  However, today in need of an escape and some horticultural therapy I dug out my season ticket and returned.

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As I think I said last week I really struggle with getting the garden to look good at this time of year as my preference is for spring and early summer plants so I am trying to visit a couple of gardens over the next couple of weeks which are open almost all year to see how they address this.

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Interestingly at Stockton Bury the approach seems to be mixed herbaceous borders with some early summer plants and some later flowering plants.  Unlike me the dead flower stems are generally left in place presumably for a big tidy up later in the year or next spring.  I struggle with this approach as my obsessively tidy mind can’t cope with the idea

2014_08240043but I quite liked it at Stockton Bury especially the seed heads of Echinops and Eryngiums.  I have grown Eryngiums in the past but struggled with them falling over in the garden but having seen how wonderful the seed heads are I think I might try again especially as the bright blues will work well with the other colours in the borders.

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I have also decided that I need some pink Japanese Anemones.  I have some of the white ones which seem to move around the garden depending on my mood but the pinks will be wonderful especially against the mauve asters which I already have.

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Lots of crocosmias were in evidence and I have noticed that I seem to be bringing quite a few home.  Today Emily McKenzie slipped into my shopping bag along with a rogue Babylon that had slipped into the pot.  I love the vibrancy of the colours and will be following recent advice I received and plant them in moister locations than I have in the past.

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If you look back at my previous posts you will see how the pillar border has transformed.  I’m quite taken with the Solidago but I think my garden isn’t big enough to accommodate yet another imposing plant.

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Though the shorter varieties in this photo are quite appealing!

Stockton Bury Gardens might not be cutting edge in its design and some may not like the planting but the reason I love it is because it is a personal garden and loved and cared for by skilled plantsmen with a pedigree of plantsmanship.  I can relate to this garden as it is like my garden but on a huge scale.  Every time I visit I learn something, I see a combination I like, a new plant, or a plant used in a way I hadn’t thought of.  Every time I visit I chat to the owners and learn something from them.  They are generous with their time and knowledge and yes every time I visit I come home with plants.  Today I also came home with some seed pods which I had been given permission to pick.

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I hope to squeeze in another visit before they close next month.

My Garden this Weekend 17/8/14 – A Warts & All Tour

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I have weeded, dead-headed, cut back and generally given the garden a good sort out this weekend and during the evenings last week.  It was long overdue and the chaos that has been irritating me for weeks, if not months, is as a result of holidays, other commitments and weather either heavy rain or a heatwave.  I garden to relax, to de-stress and the lack of time I have had outside has taken a toil on me, the garden and the blog.  Anyway, as its all tidy, in fact over tidy, I thought I would take you on a warts and all tour.  I did a tour around this time last year and looking back I can see I have done some of the things I said but not others – some areas have improved and others not.

2014_08170020 We will start the tour by entering the back garden via the side path and you will see the ridiculous amount of seed trays and pots of seedlings I have.  I have been saying to online friends recently that I need to stop buying seeds.  ‘No’ they say, there is always room for seeds but to be honest I seem to have lost the fascination with growing things from seed.  I am sure it will come back at some point but I feel a real need to regroup at the moment.

Going round the corner we are on the patio with is long and thin and runs along the back of the house.  There are borders either side of the greenhouse between the patio and wall.  These were the first places planted up and have had a few changes over the eleven years we have been there but I am pretty happy with them now.

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I am especially pleased with the fern border as I love the textures here and most of the ferns are evergreen so it even looks Ok in the winter.

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At the end of the patio we find the steps up to the back garden and just to the right is the staging which appears every month in the End of Month View.  The steps are quite narrow 2014_08170030and are the only access to the back garden so everything – plants, compost etc have to be dragged up here by hand; wheelbarrows are useless.

The gravel steps, at the top of the steep steps,  which were finished last year have been a boon. When we moved in this was all grass, in fact the garden was mainly grass, and there was a path of large paving slabs which sloped with the angle of the garden and were really slippery.

If you stand at the top of the steep steps before the gravel steps and turn left you have the newish path that runs between the ‘Cottage Border’ and the ‘Big Border.  This was put in as an access path but I use it more than any other path in the garden and its the cat’s favourite place to sunbath.

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The Cottage Border has been the focus of much irritation over the last few months.  You may recall that it has been home to a collection of delphiniums which looked wonderful.  However, they only flowered for a couple of weeks and the foliage and size of the plants were smothering everything around them and then when the stems were cut down large holes in the border appeared.  I made the decision to take them out as they were boring me!  Today they were lifted and the border tidied and sorted.  I have a collection of plants waiting to go in which should add texture and foliage interest and compliment the roses.

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Big gaps in the borders have appeared which made me smile as I have been saying for a while I don’t have any more room.  However, I want to think through my options carefully.  I have had a range of plants in this area and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t do messy or the billowing prairie/grass look – I am too much of a neat nick. The plants I love are ferns, roses, irises, epimediums, peonies and bulbs such as narcissus and crocus and I think I need to focus on these more.

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As the path curves up to the right you come to the original woodland border.  This is the first year I have been pleased with it – I am such a tough critic.  I have been mentally stuck with having small short woodland plants in this area which are great in the spring but dull the rest of the year.  This spring I moved things around and added some large plants

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including melianthus, some asters, persicaria and euphorbia.  They have given the border substance (although the persicaria really needs reducing before it engulfs its neighbours).  This is the sort of planting I enjoy and am trying to replicate elsewhere in the garden. The

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path brings you to an area of sadness.  Here was an Acer that my sons and late sister bought for me some years back.  It has looked stunning for years but for some reason that I cannot fathom it died this winter.  This weekend we pulled it out and it has left a large gap in the border.  You can see how dry the soil is and this is due to the neighbour’s trees whose roots fill this area.  Interestingly though the fatsia planted two years ago just the left of the photo is going great guns.  Turning our back to this area we have the grass path in front of us which runs along the other side of the Big Border to the first path.  On the left of the path is the front of the Not Very Bog Border and this is another area I struggle with.

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I am pleased with the Big Border – I need to add some shorter plants along the edges to hide the legs of the asters etc and I need to sort out the far end as there are too many strappy leaves here so its all a little samey.  I have some ideas I just need to implement them.

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This is the most, probably, troublesome area.  The ground gets quite dry here and I have been trying to find a character for it for years.  In fact I said the same a year ago when I did the tour of the garden.  There are some rusty foxgloves which do well here and also ferns but then, as you will see, I have lots of ferns elsewhere.  I am toying with removing the Spirea to the right of the variegated Cornus and replacing it with a Cotinus.  I think this might give the foxgloves a good backdrop and I have some Crocosmia and Geums that I was thinking of putting in here which would also look good with a purple background.

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At the end of the grass path if you turn left up the gravel steps you head to the new seating area which I love.  However, there is this corner which perplexes me.  It the other end of the border in the photo above – in fact the whole border challenges me.  There are phloxs in here which have looked wonderful albeit bitty and also Lobelia tupa.  I am thinking of moving the lobelia to the Big Border and also maybe the Phloxes and starting again but with what?

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The new seating area is in front of the Hardy Exotic Border and I though I would pull the seat out so you can see how it is coming along and so I can weed.  Again I am pleased with the textures here and its all foliage based.  I could move the Lobelia tupa here but I’m not sure there is room.   Turning around we have the Not Very Bog Border which is alright but looking back to last year’s post there was more interest with the bronze foliage of the Ligularia.  However, I am going to leave it to establish and fill out and see how things go.

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If I moved the Cotinus to this border it will also provide a backdrop to this area which might be good.

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There is a secret path which runs between the Not Very Bog Border and the Slope.  I have been planting my growing collection of epimediums and ferns around this area but there is room for more. We go to the end of the path and there are some slabs steps which go up and to the right and lead to a path along the top of the slope.  You can see a small border at the base of the tree and I need to sort this out as it has suffered neglect.  There is space in here for a shrub at the back and I have a number of ideas which I will investigate.

2014_08170051The long narrow border along the fence has been a struggle over the years.  I planted some bamboo in here four years ago to act as a screen to the neighbour’s house behind and they are now finally establishing and filling out.  I want to add some more big foliage in here but again need to decide what.

As you can see the path needs sorting.  It was covered in wood chip which the birds and badger loved and in the winter it was like a mine field to walk along because of the holes dug in it.  I want to replace the bark with gravel and hopefully I will find the time and energy to do this soon.

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All my tidying up has added to the compost heap which was out of control before I started.  You can just see the bamboo to the left of the heaps which I thinned today.  This is just to the right of where the Acer has been taken out and acts as a screen to the bins when it isn’t collapsing everywhere.  I am thinking of taking the bamboo out and possibly moving it somewhere in front of the back fence and replacing it with an ever green shrub.  The biggest problem I have now which only came to light yesterday is that the top branch of the willow has snapped and it has partially fallen.

2014_08170053I need to get a tree surgeon to sort it out and also to look at the whole tree which is far to big for its location.  I’m not sure how the surgery will affect the light in this area so I will probably have to wait and see before I make any significant changes to the planting.

I am currently reading Margery Fish as I like her attitude and she liked the plants I do.  I think I might try and fit in a trip to East Lambrook in the coming weeks to see what it looks like at this time of year as this is when I struggle most as my favourite plants have all finished.  I have a couple of weeks leave coming up so I hope to do some planting and planning then.

Anyway, that’s my garden warts and all