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

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21 Comments Add yours

  1. Gill McGrath says:

    Thank you for the lovely tour. It is a lovely garden! And your photos do a nice job at giving a feel for everything! I lost an acer this year too. It went all mottled then off it went!. Really sad. I don’t know if the ground is diseased, so not sure what to do with the space which looks a bit like the space yours left behind!Thanks again for the tour!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Not sure why my acer died or if ground is diseased. Will add lots of compost etc before replant anything I think.

    2. Gill McGrath says:

      That is about what I planned. Best of luck with yours!

  2. hoehoegrow says:

    Lots of lovely strong planting in evidence! The ferns are looking so well, and I especially love the Japanese Painted Fern, it is so delicate. I also find this a difficult time of year, and get quite despairing when Monty Don says it is the best, most colourful time in his garden. Although mine has spots of colour from dahlias cosmos, roses etc, the whole garden is feeling tired, and past its best. If I am totally honest, I am already thinking about next year, and losing interest in this one. I totally sympathise with your ‘big gaps’ , as I have them after lupins and delphiniums.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi HHG
      Glad its not just me that has mentally moved on to next year!!!

  3. Cathy says:

    I don’t think I have been on a full tour before, Helen – certainly not seen those steps up to the back, or the willow – and it helps see the bigger picture, although I suspect it makes it look rather bigger than it is! I had to laugh at the ‘not very big border’ title as we all have such seemingly appropriate names for parts of our gardens :). Thanks for such a detailed tour and for sharing your thought processes.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Cathy
      I know what you mean about names for borders. I didn’t have them before the blog but it’s the only way of explaining where I mean but it’s a struggle sometimes to come up with an appropriate name.

  4. johnvic8 says:

    A marvelous tour de force. Thanks for sharing…not only borders and their inhabitants but your plans, dreams and hopes.

  5. Helen Johnstone says:

    Hi John
    thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the tour

  6. rusty duck says:

    Your garden works so well on the different levels Helen, and I love the paths winding through it and linking it up. I went to a Yellow Book garden today, which was lovely, but it had plenty of warts. I’ve yet to find a garden that doesn’t, unless it has a huge budget plus an army of volunteers.

  7. djrobinski says:

    I wish my warts were as lovely as yours! Your garden is gorgeous! I hope you can replant the acre area with something else that reminds you of your sister.

  8. Yvonne Ryan says:

    Sounds as tho’ you need to sit on your seat and have a good think – with a glass of NZ Sav Blanc!

  9. Linda says:

    You have a lovely garden! Really interesting with all the different borders and paths! Good luck with your plans for the future.

  10. AnnetteM says:

    It sounds as if you have some real problem areas with all your slopes, but I think it is all looking great. You certainly have lots of interesting foliage, and I really like your fern border. I too have started growing more ferns, though in some case they are just growing themselves! Wonderful plants. Apart from all the tidying at least now the season is slowing down and we can all take stock and decide what we are going to split, move or just remove altogether. I am really looking forward to this winter when I can have a good old rummage through everyones’s blogs to get some new ideas for my garden next year.

  11. bittster says:

    I really don’t see the warts, it looks great and remarkably well tended. I don’t know where you find the time and energy!
    You were considering adding some evergreen shrubs and more big leaves, I think my garden needs some more of that too. I have that collector’s tendency to over plant and end up with too much color. I think a few of the boring lumps of green brought into the beds and away from the edges would help set other things off.
    Have a great week!

  12. Pauline says:

    Your ferns and woodland border look so beautiful to me, lovely contrast of shapes and textures. I too am fed up with the way the garden is looking at the moment. The heat of the summer seems to have drained the energy away and everything is looking tired even with the rain. I think now is the time to make notes so that I can improve it next year.

  13. I don’t see many warts, Helen. Your garden is lovely. You chose beautiful foliage plants — more and more I am looking for foliage rather than flowers. Love the different levels of your garden. I know it must be a pain to work with the steps, but the end result is fabulous. P. x

  14. What about tetrapanax with the bamboo? It would die down in winter, so you wouldn’t have to worry about it getting too big (as with, say, fatsia). I see you have a purple wheelbarrow – a sign of great taste, I always think…

  15. I don’t see any warts, in fact I feel like I am reducing my stress level by just going through your photos…Your garden must seem like an old friend to you.

  16. Beverley Jones says:

    What a lovely garden – mine is about the size of 2 stamps but I like it!

  17. hillwards says:

    A great tour; must be reassuring to assess how well most of the garden is working, and help you formulate new plans for the bits that you don’t enjoy so much. It’s all looking really good.

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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