My Garden This Weekend – 26th April 2015

 Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Valentine'
Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Valentine’

Today the forecasters predicted low temperatures of around 10C and wind and maybe rain.  Now I would certainly have welcomed the rain since it hasn’t really rained all month and whilst the established plants are fine those I have been planting out over the last month are struggling.  However, the reality of the weather is that we have had an amazingly beautiful spring day with temperatures reaching around 18C this afternoon.  We had rain overnight, not enough to make much difference to the water butts but at least it was some.  I was meant to take my mother out to buy a lilac for her garden as a birthday present but she was so convinced by the weather forecast that we went and bought it during the week meaning that today I was free to play in the garden.

2015_04250061The focus of my efforts today was to address all the seedlings that have been germinating and need pricking out.  I am very good when it comes to sowing seeds but the looking after them once they have germinated, certainly beyond the initial pricking out, leaves something to be desired. I am trying very hard to do better. It is that time of year when space is at a premium and I am conscious that in a week or so I will be sowing the tender annuals such as zinnias.  Both the cold frames are full on the top shelves although the bottom halves are empty since this is very shady and not ideal for seedlings but good for storing tall plants over winter.  Anyway, as ever it started out with some organised pricking out and then the greenhouse got yet another reshuffle.  The temporary shelf was replaced with a wider one – its amazing what wood you have to hand when your son is a cabinet maker.  Whilst this was a distraction I finally took cuttings of the aeoniums and malmaison carnations which I have been meaning to do for weeks. I am really hoping that with a little care I can get the carnations to flower this year. I have started to pull some of the larger plants out during the day to start hardening them off so hopefully it won’t be too long before the space issue is no more.

2015_04250050

The border along the patio which I really sorted back in March is looking so much better now. By removing all the bluebells the lily of the valley has re-emerged and its fresh leaves look very pretty.  Sadly there aren’t that many flowers and I wonder if this is because the plants have been swamped for years; time will tell.  The four meconopsis poppies are still in existence and have grown slightly, hopefully if we have the rain they forecast later this week they will put some real growth on.  2015_04250021

But the thing that has been occupying most of my thinking is the front garden.  I was going to say I have a love/hate relationship with it but that would be far to generous – I hate it.  I always have and it has defied all my attempts to engage with it and make it something I am proud of.  Maybe that is a little harsh since obviously it’s not the garden’s fault that I don’t like it but I do despair particularly with the area at the very front by the birch.  I have added loads of organic matter and mulched it over the years but as soon as we have some dry weather the clay in it turns to rock and it is pointless trying to weed or plant or anything.  I have blamed some of my apathy on not enjoying working in the front garden as it’s not very private but both the laurel (not my best idea) and beech hedges I have planted have grown and provide a degree of privacy. I squared off the lawn a few years back to provide some formality and have tried an approach of planting an edge of alchemilla mollis, bergenia and as you can see ballerina tulips but whilst I love the tulips I think this style/approach isn’t me. When I was weeding here earlier in the week I found myself telling myself off.  The front garden is the size of many a small garden and here I am ignoring it whilst I am desperate for more space for the plants I love in the back garden.   It dawned on me that part of the problem is that my favourite plants are woodland plants and I enjoy planting shady borders. Whereas the front garden is anything but shady and I need to embrace a new range of plants and a new approach to make the most of this space.  2015_04250020Where to start? It occurred to me that I needed to consider plants that could cope with baking in the clay in the summer so I started to re-read Beth Chatto’s The Dry Garden which was quite inspiring.  The thought process lead to the notion that really I should just dig up the lawn and be done with it.  Lawn is far to grand a term as it is mostly moss which goes dry and yellow in the summer. I think I find the strong shape of the lawn quite limiting for some reason, I much prefer the more relaxed approach I have in the back garden.  I also looked at the recent book on A Year in the Life of Beth Chatto’s Garden which is very photogenic but lead me to conclude that a dry garden wouldn’t necessarily work given the wet clay in winter and to be honest I struggled to see me working with this style of planting.  Then by chance yesterday, I won Dream Plants for the Natural Garden in the raffle at the local HPS meeting and this coincided with a thought that maybe I could finally get grasses to work in the garden.  So the current thinking is to go for a naturalistic approach.  I want to add a small tree and I can visualise some Stipa gigantea catching the morning sun, then….. well that as far as I have got.  My block at the moment is that there is no reason for anyone to go in the front garden.  The front door is roughly in line with the side border where the tulips are so anyone coming to the house walks up the driveway and to the door.  I have toyed with putting some sort of path through the garden but again it would be too contrived and no one would use it.  I think there needs to be some sort of path or clearing if only to assist me with working in the space but I just can’t visualise it yet.

I don’t plan to do anything drastic until late summer/autumn so lots of time to think and plan and draw up lists of plants.

 

Advertisements

20 Comments Add yours

  1. Your back yard looks GREAT. Just remember what it looked like in the beginning…

  2. Yvone Ryan says:

    Hi Helen – You are being very mean to your front garden – it’s looking good! I personally don’t like those hedges that hold their leaves – very Belgium. Also we have so many evergreen natives here that prefer them or ones that colour up and lose leaves then lovley fresh green leaves in spring. Or camillias. I am having success with my bags off coffee grounds and grass clippings on my concrete clay! If you have a friendly expresso cafe on your route ask to pick it up. We are mad expresso coffee drinkers here so plenty! Big northerly gales today and rain but not cold. Palm trees very noisy bashing around. Yvonne

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Yvonne
      The coffee grounds and grass clippings is interesting, I will check it out. Thank you

  3. Brian Skeys says:

    I would remove the Lawn Helen, and plant some more trees, the shade would come eventually. The beauty of gardening is we would all do something different and individual. It will be interesting to see what you decide.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Brian
      Definately going to add a tree but I think I should restrict it to one more as I worry the house will become too dark. The lawn will be going come the autumn, thank you for your encouragement

  4. Alison says:

    It took me a while to redo the front garden but it was one of my better decisions, so go for it, sounds like a great project.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Thanks Alison
      I am sure it is the right decision I just have to work it through in my head.

  5. Andrea Gilroy says:

    Hello Helen. I’m a regular reader of your blog and I really enjoy it; your trials and tribulations both reassure and encourage me as a fellow passionate gardener who also never quite gets the garden as I want it. I’ve never commented before but I was struck by your dissatisfaction with your front garden, particularly your comment about people viewing it from the side, ie from driveway that runs along the tulip side of the garden, and your photograph which seems to show the view from the front of the house. Is that correct? If so, howabout you change where you view the garden from (sorry, appalling grammar); ie design it to be viewed primarily from the driveway as people walk to your front door. Presumably you need a view from your front window too but perhaps if you shift to a view from the side it might help? And I agree with Brian, definitely get rid of the lawn.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Andrea
      Welcome to the blog, I’m glad you like it. Your comment about the view point is interesting and I think that is maybe what I have been trying to grasp. You are right that the photos are from the view of the front window but I could take the viewpoint as the driveway which might present a different viewpoint and give a different dynamic. Thank you

  6. I think it looks good but that doesn’t matter if it is not what you really want. I agree with Brian: plant trees if you want a woodland garden. Think about one kind of tree to make a grove, perhaps all white birches. A woodsy grove and no grass would let you make a path through it to the front door or a seating area. I am so impressed you used the new name for bleeding heart. I just can’t seem to remember it; still stuck back with Dicentra!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      hi Linda
      I thought I had better put the right name for Dicentra as if I didn’t someone would point out my mistake. I am thinking of adding one more tree, I don’t want to make the house too dark.

  7. I agree you will never feel a rectangular lawn is pleasing. Consider conjoined circles of different sizes, one of lawn and a second of some type of hardscape material. Position the circles where they least disrupt your planting plans.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      hi Marian
      I had an oval lawn before the rectangular one. My mind is set on removing the lawn and now thinking about how to plant it up.

  8. Isn’t planning half the fun of gardening, though?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Rachel
      Absolutely, so many ideas flitting through my head at the moment, and then there is the plant buying 🙂

  9. I like your Beech hedge but agree, get rid of the lawn. Given that you are on clay, i suggest that you do not attempt this until the late Autumn. As to plants, I do not know if you saw Gardeners World but they did an article about Magnolias which like clay soils. Stipa gigantea is a stunner and without a lawn you will have room for more than one!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Dorris
      Interesting idea re magnolia, I’ll have a think thanks. Stipa is top of the list and definitely more than one

  10. Visiting other gardens is a great way to get ideas and inspiration. The National Garden Scheme (the Yellow Book gardens) have a few thousand up and down the country over the course of a year, and local charities often have their own schemes. Here in Berkshire, both the British Red Cross and Thames valley Air Ambulance have Open Garden schemes.
    If you are looking for a small tree with an open canopy, take a look at amelanchier. White flowers and coppery leaves in spring, berries that birds absolutely go crazy for, and autumn leaf colour.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi AP
      I have an Amelanchier and they are a lovely tree but I think I fancy something different

  11. Always a wonderful post for your readers. Thanks again for the hard work it takes to create something worthwhile. Your garden has taken you all the way to North Carolina where I am standing by my garden gate. Cheers!

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.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s