Small Triumphs


I think one of the things I love about gardening are the small moments of delight and joy when something has germinated, a planting combination works well, or a gamble pays off.  They are all small triumphs which often only the gardener really appreciates but they come with such a good feel factor that they make a real difference to day to day life.

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Back last November I took a plunge and had the willow that dominated the end of the garden lopped back, I would say pruned but it just wouldn’t give credit to the drastic work that was undertaken.  For a while I wondered if I had done the right thing but gaining so much sky and extended views to the Malverns compensated for the starkness of the tree.  As Spring has progressed we have been peering at the willow to see if there was any sign of life.  I know that it is hard to keep a good willow down but the tree surgery had been so severe I was sceptical that it would re-shoot.  I had even got to the point of deciding that if the tree didn’t re-shoot then it would be fine as I could cut it back further and grow a climber over it and enjoy the view of the neighbour’s trees which had been revealed due to the tree surgery.  Of course as soon as the tree heard me talking to my son about maybe giving up on it it started to produce shoots and over the last couple of weeks there has been a distinct fringe of foliage appearing.


By cutting the willow back the surroundings border have found themselves open to the sky.  I have worried that the woodland shade lovers would suffer but so far they seem to be thriving.  Take for example the Osmunda reglais above.  I have never known it to grow so upright and so tall, I am sure that the warm weather we have had has contributed but I also believe that the plant is benefiting from a more open aspect. It will be interesting to see how they do over the summer.


My focus in the last year has been on gardening better, learning more and caring for my plants better.  The rhododendron at the top of the post is a case in point.  This was bought some years back as a dwarf rhododendron, it has lived in the woodland border for many years, rarely producing any flowers and generally looking sad and unloved. With the departure of the Acer and the clearing of the area around it I moved the rhododendron up to the slope by the base of the Prunus.  It managed to survive the big feet of the tree surgeons and thanks to a good dollop of ericaceous compost it has put on good growth and this year for the first time is covered in flowers. I am really pleased.


Whilst I get pleased when plants work well together or seeds germinate what thrills me most is when a plant reappears that has struggled or in the case of the Arisaema above has suffered from being relocated too many times.  I grew this from seed some years back and this is its third location – I have promised it and its 4 friends they will stay put.  They have suffered from the attention of the badger, or maybe a fox, and I have found the bulbs on the soil in the winter, carefully replanting them.  This year they are looking very strong and healthy and again I think they are benefiting from the removal of the heavy tree canopy. The only downside is that the flower spathe is at the back of the leaf stem so not very obvious but I have been told that you can rotate Arisaema bulbs to bring the flower to the front so I will try to remember to do that once it has finished flowering.


Finally the Eranthis are seeding and hopefully there will be seedlings next year and they will start to spread and I will have another small moment of triumph.


Author: Helen Johnstone

I live in Malvern, Worcestershire and am a very keen gardener. I started the Patient Gardener Blog in January 2008 as a way of recording what was happening in my garden and connecting with other like-minded people. I started a second blog PatientGardener 365 January 2013 in order to try and post a photo a day to capture what is growing in my garden or places I have visited

16 thoughts on “Small Triumphs”

    1. Hi Alison
      To be honest there was part of me who was hoping the willow would go as I don’t want to loose the view of the hills but I will try to keep it in check so hopefully it doesn’t get as out of control as before

  1. Most impressed with your arisaema Helen, especially grown from seed. Just the sort of thing I want to start playing around with now I’ve decided to experiment with growing more this way. It is a real feeling of achievement when something a bit out of the ordinary pokes its head up out of the soil. This morning I have sown my first lot of hepatica seeds. I hope they do as well as yours.
    Will you keep the willow trimmed back now?

    1. Hi Jessica
      Yes I think we will keep an eye on the willow and keep it in check. Thrilled today as my friend who is a sculpture using willow took a load of the logs to use in her work

  2. While it is good fun buying plants for your garden, it is much more rewarding when you have grown something successfully from seed. Many years ago I used a willow branch as a post,’It grew’. I now know I should have removed the bark!

    1. Hi Brian
      I didn’t know that about willow, the logs from the tree are trying to grow, it is amazing how determined it is

    1. Hi Loree
      Me too, they excite me more than planning a new border or visiting a garden, well most gardens

  3. You can always rely on having a conversation about a sickly or slow plant to give it the good kick that it needs, can’t you?
    I can imagine that your garden as a whole will benefit from what you’ve had done to the willow, the woodland plants beneath are certainly not suffering. I am growing Eranthis for the first time this year, I must have a good look and see if there are any seeds.

    1. Hi Angie
      I was so worried about the shady lovers being exposed to the summer sun that it didn’t occur to me that they would benefit from the extra light, so it is a real thrill to see things looking good

  4. What a beautiful garden and lovely plants.. some I’ve never seen before, so thanking you kindly for this post.. Love seeing the beauty of all plants and gardens.. Have a peaceful weekend, and take care, from Laura ~

  5. I remember how relieved I was when our beheaded willow sprung back to life Helen. Mind you I wanted to block out the view! That Osmunda reglais is a fine specimen – what a warm rich colour and a contrast to the shades of green. Oh how exciting to see those seeds on the eranthis. Gardening is full of magical little surprises.

  6. I love your Osmunda regalis, it has certainly confirmed that I want to add one to my back border, but your experience makes me wonder whether I should offer it a little more light than I had been planning on. And you are so right, it is those small triumphs that make gardening a real joy – and in my case, keep me going when confronted with the weeds resulting from my recent neglect.

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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