My garden this weekend – 22nd September

Actea rubra
Actea rubra

My poor garden has been suffering from neglect and a lack of enthusiasm from its owner.  I was unwell at the beginning of September – a mixture of stress and exhaustion and then two weeks ago my mother had a stroke.  It was one of those awful things when the phone wakes you from a deep sleep and you enter that strangely timeless world that is the hospital A&E department at night-time.  I am pleased to say though that she was home within the week and although she is having to learn to speak properly again and has a weakness in her right hand she is in high spirits and very determined to overcome things.  Last weekend, the first one she was home, I was so shattered after numerous visits to the hospital, as well as a stressful week at work and worrying about my Dad who himself isn’t well that the most I managed was to weed the driveway.  I nearly posted a picture of the weed-free gravel which would have been very sad but I was so pleased to have done something which left an obvious change to the appearance of the garden after weeks of little activity!

Bulbs have started to arrive
Bulbs have started to arrive

This weekend I have trekked to Plymouth to take my youngest back to University.  This involves a 3 hour drive each way and an overnight stay in a hotel.  I don’t sleep well away from home so tiredness continues!  Anyway, I was determined that I needed to make myself re-engage with the garden as I have boxes of bulbs arriving and this really isn’t the time to pull the curtains and avoid the garden completely.  I have been waiting for some months for the weather to cool down and for some rain to make the ground more workable that there is now a ridiculously long list of plant moves that are needed.  I suspect the period of inactivity in the garden didn’t help with my enthusiasm as I am someone who needs routine and if I stop doing something then I struggle to start again.

So today I started to tackle the very top border. I needed to clear this area in order to relocate a Euphorbia which needed to be moved from the new Cottage Border before I can plant bulbs in it.  I have been struggling for some years now with the top border.  It runs along the very top of the slope in front of the fence and about 3 years ago I planted some bamboo in it to provide a light screen and to mask the house behind.  Back in spring I planted Pyracantha along the fence and painted the fence dark brown which shows off the plants better.  I have decided that this border will have a foliage focus, this is an approach I mentioned a few weeks ago where I am planning to try to create interesting foliage borders along the boundaries and then focus the very floral planting in the middle of the garden.  I dislike this border so much I rarely go up there so it makes sense to plant things which are robust and bulky with good foliage.

The re-planted driveway border
The re-planted driveway border

The bearded irises that were in the top border have been relocated to the front garden.  I have rejigged the border along the side of the driveway and increased the amount of irises in it.  I am trying to reduce the range of plants in borders and planting more of the varieties I choose so there is a more cohesive effect rather than my usual dotty approach.  The top border was cleared aside from the bamboo, a hydrangea, a syringa (I think) and the fence planting.  I have now added the Euphorbia, Aralia Cordata ‘Sun King’ and Sorbaria Sem (both bought from my HPS group a couple of weeks ago and featured on the Foliage Follow-up post on the 16th), a Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’, a couple of large-leaved geranium seedlings and also Impatiens omeiana.  I think I still need some smaller ground cover plants at the back of the border but I am planning to top-dress with wood bark which I think will help.

The replanted top border
The replanted top border

I am really pleased with the result.  I was surprised yesterday when I was reading Carol Klein’s Favourite Plants that I had the majority of the plants mentioned in the book.  I found myself wondering why my garden doesn’t look as amazing as Carol’s.  Aside from the fact that I have a demanding full-time non-gardening job I think this has shown me that I have the material to hand to create a wonderful garden but I need to combine the plants better and work harder on day-to-day maintenance;  I am finding the combining of plants fascinating at the moment.

 

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19 Comments Add yours

  1. sueturner31 says:

    Keep at your garden it is the best stress buster I know…

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Sue
      I agree I nearly didn’t bother but after a couple of hours I felt so much better

    2. sueturner31 says:

      I also have been ill…it was 4 years ago now but still have breathing problems …BUT I will not be defeated …it has taken me all this while with still loads to do to get the garden back to rights…I do have an incentive most years as we open our garden for Cancer Research (not what I had )…but it it still dam hard work…I very nearly gave up but comments from visitors always boost me…Take care and always think positive.

  2. Alison says:

    I do find it hard to muster up enthusiasm this time of year, when everything is starting to wind down, and starting to look not its best. But then it is the best time to plant and move stuff, so gotta get my rear in gear on those few days we have here that aren’t rainy.

  3. Diana Studer says:

    we had a sunny day, and I spent most of it in the garden. It helps to be able to see, that bit, is now sorted. Next.

  4. Anna says:

    Glad to read that you spent some time in the garden today Helen as just being outside is such a great tonic in difficult times. Hopefully you will sleep better tonight. Take care.ses

  5. Sorry to hear about your mother! It must have been a very worrying time for you. I hope she’s doing better now. I’ve found from past experience that gardening is a great way to relieve stress and I’ve often taken out my frustrations on a weed or two. It’s very calming.

  6. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Life for us older people can be unpredictable and unfortunately I am at the stage where I ‘don’t know whats around the corner’ and ‘every day is a bonus day’!!! Hard for families to realize their parents are getting older! Tell her patients need patience! xx Getting back to plants – yet two more rampant weeds here – bamboo (the non clumping kind) a nightmare and pyracanthe another rampant one up north. It does have a nice big leaf BUT very invasive and roots go for miles! Gardening helps with stress but not to the point when too tired and sore back. Time then to sit and admire with a glass of NZ white wine!

  7. I have had weeks where the highlight was getting the weed population down in the driveway so it made me laugh to hear you say that; your mom, your dad, the children, it all gets better. You have to keep in mind that your record of getting through it all still stands at 100%, a pretty enviable record in any endeavor.

  8. Great post! Glad to see you have bulbs to plant… Your beds are and will be awesome.

  9. Pauline says:

    I hope your Mum soon makes a full recovery, at times like this, a garden has to take a back seat. You are still full of plans, which is good, but pace yourself, don’t try to do it all at once!

  10. Glad to hear your mother’s on the mend; I hope she recovers fully and speedily. Do take good care of yourself; as you well know, caring for others is an exhausting endeavor and good self-care is essential to being able to carry on. I hope the garden and the arriving bulbs give you something enjoyable to tackle (if you feel pressure mounting to get them all sited perfectly, relax with a glass of wine and plant up some layered containers, and give yourself a year to think it over!).

  11. You can’t get much better advice than the above. Glad to hear your mother’s home and improving. Sounds as if determination runs in your family.

  12. Ricki Grady says:

    I hope sharing your ups and downs has helped to even out the rough spots. Lots of good wishes coming your way from the blogosphere, and it looks like your garden is doing its job: keeping you sane and centered.

  13. Cathy says:

    I trust that sharing your angst has helped spread the load. You know, and everyone has reminded you, that even a little time working in the garden will help de-stress and take your mind off other concerns – but you still have to take that step to go out and get stuck in, which can be hard. The fence border will be filling out nicely before next summer and you have made great inroads there. I never look forward to planting my bulbs, so if you are the same either get them done and out of the way or do the easier jobs while it is still a bit of a struggle to get outside and make a start. Take care, of yourself and all your family.

  14. Hi Helen, sorry your feeling under the weather, and I hope your mum makes a speedy recovery. You’ll get your Gardening mojo back soon enough, you take care,

  15. bittster says:

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery for your mother. I wish I could accomplish half of what you’ve been getting done!

  16. The top border looks splendid. Sending my best, along with a few extra prayers, for your family.

  17. annannstar says:

    there’s masses of support out here for you .. take it gently, I say, the plants will wait. Anyone else planted bulbs in December/January? Great for a late display!

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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