Let there be light


As gardeners we need to be continually adapting, whether it is to changing weather patterns, replacing ailing and much loved plants or in my case losing the tree canopy from the woodland end of the garden; to the extent that there is no woodland.

I have been anticipating this change for a number of years now.  Ever since the couple who lived next door split and their children went to University I knew it was only a matter of time before the house was sold and new owners would be tackling the garden.  I don’t think in the 13 odd years we have lived here that my neighbours had ever done any gardening other than cutting the grass, chopping off the odd branch that got in their way and weeding the driveway.  The garden had obviously been much loved by their predecessors and there have always been signs of good plants hidden amongst the undergrowth.  The house was on the market for a year and during this time I have made sure that I planted some shrubs in the woodland border to replace the tree canopy should new owners tidy up on the boundary line.

End of July 2015
End of July 2015

The new owners finally took up ownership about a month ago.  They are a young family full of energy and enthusiasm with two sets of grandparents helping to sort out the property before they move in.  I found myself wondering how the house felt yesterday as over the last few weeks every weekend the air has been filled with the sound of sanders and drills and I think they have painted every room in the house – they say the interior was as neglected as the exterior.  But more fascinating to me has been the gungho attitude to sorting out the garden.  One of the grandfathers (or ‘olds’ as his son refers to them) is a dab hand with a chain saw and strimmer.  On the first weekend they set too in the front and by the end not only did they have a pile of debris some 10 foot tall but you could actually see the far front corner of the house up which was growing a beautiful climbing hydrangea.  They have worked along the furthest boundary, finding a shed on their way and yesterday it was the turn of our shared boundary.

Having been blessed with complete privacy from this side of the garden ever since we moved here it was rather startling to come round the side of the house from planting in the front to see two men clearing the fence line.  They have removed the majority of the trees and intend to remove the sycamore and ash trees as well.  The intention is to only keep a large oak tree, which we didn’t even know existed, and some prunus.  The large sycamore is going as its roots are pushing over the retaining brick wall that holds up the garden – my reaction is ‘hoorah, no more sycamore seedlings!’ They think they have doubled the size of the garden already; certainly they have gained something like 6-7 foot along our fence line and probably 15 along the back fence. You can just about see the difference if you compare the two top pictures and they still have a lot to clear so the sunlight levels should increase further.


The impact on the garden has been quite dramatic with sunlight flooding in to what was the shady part of the garden.  The shade had been so dense in the past that the ‘lawn’ was just moss which is partly why it was dug up.  Being a perennial Pollyanna I am trying to look past the fact that they can see into my garden and vice versa and focus on the fact that the patio is now much sunnier which means that it might be worth getting a couple of nice chairs.  I don’t have to group all my sun loving pots down one end of the patio any more which means I can arrange things better.  It also means that I had to spend some time today moving the shade loving pots to the opposite side of the garden into a smaller area of shade and replacing them with pots of bulbs which should really benefit from the extra light.

It will be interesting to see how the shade loving plants cope and whether the shrubs I have planted will give them enough shade.  There are a couple of self-sown hawthorns in my garden along the fence line which I have deliberately left for some years and they are now higher than the fence so I will allow those to grow up into trees and provide some privacy.  But what I am really interested to see if whether my perennials which have a tendency to lean towards the right of the garden will straighten up if they are getting all round sun-shine. It really is quite fascinating.

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

21 thoughts on “Let there be light”

  1. It must have been a bit frustrating to have endured years of gradually losing light and sunshine without being able to do anything about it. Neighbours can be very indifferent to the effect their big trees have on other people. You obviously just embraced it and planted shade loving plants and are now going to take on the changed situation just as positively. As you so rightly say, gardeners have to be adaptable.

  2. I hope your shade lovers will be happy with more light. I had a similar situation last year when an oak tree two doors away was taken down. Not only more light, but fewer leaves to clear as the prevailing wind meant most of the oak leaves finished up on my plot. So far, all my shade lovers have coped well – I think your fence will keep their roots in the shade which will help.

    1. Hi I have to admit I was cheered at the thought of less leaves too but definitely the reduction in sycamore seedlings which drive me mad year round

  3. I would agree with amateurplantsman. You may remember we removed quite a few trees last year and I was worried about the effect it would have on shade loving plants. I’m happy to report all are thriving, although it hasn’t been the hottest of summers yet has it! Solomons seal and epimediums seem to be doing better than last year if anything and yes everything does stay more upright, without the need to stretch to find the light.
    Your garden without the trees looks bigger too.

  4. I imagine that the full impact of such major work will take some time to materialise Helen. I appreciate your glee at the removal of the sycamore having been cursed with a couple of these trees in close proximity. If we ever move I shall do a thorough sycamore and willow tree survey before even looking at other houses. Hopefully your forward planning in planting shrubs should provide your shade lovers with favourable conditions for them to continue to thrive.

  5. Those deep red lupins in the first picture are absolutely stunning (as is the rest of your garden!) what variety are they?

    1. Hi
      I’m afraid I have no idea, I probably have the label somewhere but am away at the moment. They were just a garden centre purchase but I will try and see if I can find the label for you

  6. Such a dramatic change has to be a shock – but you have a great attitude about it! I can’t wait to see what you make of it!

  7. Wow, the new neighbour’s wholesale clearance of those neglected trees has made a huge difference – for the best, I think. Are you planning to green up the boundary fence that’s now on show?

    1. Hi Kate,
      There are already plants in front of the fence which hopefully now they have more light and less competition for the moisture will come into their own.

  8. I imagine the house and garden are both rather startled, but relieved to feel that they’re loved again.
    It will indeed be fascinating to see how your garden responds to the new situation…

  9. My shade garden lost its two main trees in the winter of 2013. I think I have only moved one or two plants. Hostas, Hellebores, Primroses, Trilliums all are doing fine. I think you may be surprised at how well most things adapt.

    1. Hi Linda
      I am sure you are right, I was reminded today that many plants we refer to as shade lovers are in fact those that will tolerate shade as opposed to needing it

  10. It is such a happy moment to find out your new neighbors are a garden-loving people and enthusiastic for growing and maintaining a beautiful and well-structured garden. The change is amazing and we hope for the best, be sure to update us!

  11. You have a lovely garden. I expect it will enjoy the increased sun, and the decrease in root competition–a lot of the battle for resources happens below ground, and it can outweigh the aboveground sometimes.

  12. My neighbour recently helped me get rid of a “mess” of lilac and ivy along a bit of the wall in my garden. I’m fascinated by the new view over the wall and the space that getting rid of the shrubs has given me (not that I need any more space…) I think if you are a keen gardener, these sorts of changes are really good – they shake you up and generate creativity.

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.