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.
The 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.
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.
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. Where 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.