The garden is looking a lot fresher since now we have had a couple of weeks of more changeable weather, with cooler temperatures and lots of rain. The ferns either side of the bench were so desiccated by the heat that I cut them back hard sometime in July and now here we are with lots of fresh growth. I don’t know if I show this area much but its at the top of the garden and is shady with a lovely view down the garden. My tender fern collection is nestled here too in the left corner of the gravel. The assorted rocks are some of left overs from digging up the top path – I’m sure I will find something to do with them but at the moment I’m not sure what.
My usual first photo for an EOMV post. The colour is a little washed out due to the low light levels this evening. I’m hoping that next year the rose and clematis, planted under the obelisk, will get their act together and put on a better show.
The chaos of the Big Border which has done relatively well this year in the heat. I replanted the area to the right just before the heat wave so the plants have done well considering.
A view from the top of the garden where the new woodland border is. This shows the old pond and bog garden which I filled in a few years back. I’m impressed with how well the plants in this border have come through the drought and it shows that the pond lining, which I left in with holes punctured, retains water better than I thought. I’m pretty pleased with the path above as a few weeks ago it was impassable due to weeds. Just one of the small things I have achieved in the garden since the heat abated but there is still so much to do.
The final view is of the grass path. The path would benefit from a cut but I have only cut it twice over the summer partly because it just wasn’t growing much and partly to avoid that hideous parched look that some lawns have.
So that’s my back garden at the end of August, and I apologise for the bleached photos, hopefully next month I’ll manage to find time to take them in better light.
How has your garden fared over the summer? Why not join in the End of Month View. All I ask is that you leave a link to your post in the comments below and link to this post in your post.
I generally have little interest in gardening in August, its normally too hot for me and I think I’m just waiting for Autumn to start appearing round the corner, one of my two favourite months. This year I’ve been even worse given the heat wave we have endured since May. However, apart from a bit of regular watering the garden has got on with things itself and to be honest I think the heat has not just stopped plants growing and flowers forming but also slowed down the weeds and the grass.
However, now we have had some good downpours of rain over the past couple of weeks and the temperatures are cooling down my gardening mojo has come out of aestivation. (isn’t that a good word – its equivalent to hibernation but due to heat) and work has started again.
First up was the greenhouse which has unusually been sitting empty for most of the summer. The temperatures, exceeding 50C, have just been too hot even for the succulents. With it more or less empty I decided to take the opportunity to give it a good clean out and despite its age it isn’t looking too bad now. The next job is to put new gravel in the gravel trays and to sort through the array of potted items to decide what is worth saving and what needs to go on the compost heap. I doubt I will be doing much serious seed sowing in the future, aside from ferns and some more unusual experimental seeds. I fail year after year with annuals, especially at the seedling stage and I’m tired of sad and leggy plants so I am ditching this approach. The greenhouse will, I think, be more for hosting my tender, succulent and fern collections through the colder months.
Next on my list to tackle was the old compost area at the top of the garden. I blogged some months back that I had gone to the dark side and now use a council garden waste collection service and I had hoped to clear the old compost space back in May but the heat put paid to that.
As you can see the compost heaps which had been sitting there now for a couple of years were full of reasonable quality compost. My pragmatic approach has been to pull all the compost out and layer it over the surrounding area. The grass here, which you can just see above, is dead, and has never rooted very well since it was laid some years back. I am working on the basis that the layer of compost is so thick that it will smoother the grass into dying. It way work, it may not but I have done something similar before and it was fine. I was quite triumphant as I managed to man-handle most of the pallets at least half way down the garden on my own before my son had to step in and take them the rest of the way and to the dump.
This is my new planting area a couple of weeks ago just before we had a day of heavy rain. I have done more work on it along the edges to tidy it up and plant it. A holly hedge has gone in along the fence line using some seedlings gathered from my mother’s garden. Then I have planted the space up with a collection of plants which have been waiting on the patio for a home. The backbone of the planting will be from a camellia, a couple of hydrangeas, a viburnum and possibly a tree peony which is being crowded out elsewhere. I have then added five assorted ferns. I hope to add more from my collection but I am waiting to see how moist the front edge of the area is. I have also this last weekend added loads of narcissus bulbs and some cyclamen hederifolium. I also plan to add snowdrops, some are in pots on the patio and I need to thin them out elsewhere in the garden. I would like to add trilliums and some other woodlanders so the plan is to let the leaves from the willow and prunus remain on the soil and maybe even add other fallen leaves from elsewhere in the garden to try to build up the leaf litter for these plants.
Now I’m moving on to the next projects – a new driveway, moving the fern border on the edge of the patio which has outgrown its spot, and finishing removing the old path along the top of the garden and planting the space is provides.
My hope is to create a more densely planted garden which looks after itself more allowing me more time for my textiles – we shall see if the plan works.
It seems I have a growing collection of Agapanthus in the garden more by luck than design. It probably is because I have a weakness for all bulbs and at this time of year its seems to be either Agapanthus or Crocosmia. Over recent years they have been moved to the big border which is in full sun, slopes and has a large quantity of gravel in, so good drainage.
Most of my Agapanthus are anonymous, but I am pretty sure that the one above is Agapanthus ‘Alan Street’. I need to liberate it a bit as it has been overshadowed by something else and the stems are quite bendy.
I have included one of Echinacea partly because I am pleased that it seems to have established itself now coming back for a number of years but also because I think it is interesting the impact the drought has had on the flower formation. I have a number of plants where the flowers and stems are just short this year presumably because they haven’t had enough moisture.
I also seem to have started to collect Knipofia; I like the contrast their vertical spires bring to other flowers. I used to despise their gaudy flowers and tended towards the more subtle varieties such as Knipofia ‘Toffee Nose’ which has finished flowering this year. But this year I have added a couple of the Knipofia ‘Popsical’ as they are excellent for pick up the orange of the Crocosmia and tying the border together.
Also new to the garden this year are a couple of Agastache. Again the Agastache ‘Apricot Sprite’ helps to pull the border together with the Kniphofia and Crocosmia and the Anemanthele lessioniana.
I’ve also added a couple of Agastache ‘Black Adder’ to provide a contrast to the oranges.
My garden for the last 9 years or so has become my identity to many people particularly as I have been a serial blogger on the subject. Even recently at work people have started to ask about my blog and I’ve heard the expression “Helen writes a gardening blog you know” more and more. Something in me twitched at this. I have always hated being pigeon-holed and railed against it. But I also think I twitched as I felt guilty for not blogging much and because I have hardly been in the garden properly for some 6 weeks or maybe longer – a niggle of guilt has been eating away at me. I’m not so worried about the blog as I know my lack of interest is because with a new demanding job I am too tired to spend more time looking at a PC when I get home. This assumption is backed up by my desire to blog today when I am on leave – I obviously need some sort of vehicle for my mental output.
As for the garden it has troubled me that I can’t get interested in it. I have struggled since the new neighbours cut down their new overgrown garden and left me with little privacy. I have also come to realise that my creative side needs projects to keep it interested and whilst there is plenty of maintenance needed which I enjoy most of the time I really need a project to get me properly engaged. Having dug up the front lawn earlier this year and replanted the space I have been left wondering what to do. I have even spent time looking at new houses but again my heart wasn’t in moving as I do like living here.
Then something changed, it wasn’t a light bulb moment or any sort of revelation and I actually suspect that because I had had a quite week at work allowing me to catch up properly before a week’s leave that my head had cleared and allowed me space to think about the garden. In addition I was home alone last week and found myself wandering around the garden with my morning cuppa which led to pondering.
And you guess right a new project has come about and I am a happy bunny, itching to get going and suddenly enthused to tidy up and regain control of a garden which seems to have embraced its neglect far too quickly for my liking.
I want to sort out the Big Border. It has never been quite right since I created it and I have struggled to work out why it isn’t right and what I should do with it. To give you some background the Big Border was created when I lifted the back lawn. This was partly because a large shed/workshop was going in part of the garden and I needed to re-house the plants, partly because I think lawn is a waste of time in a small garden and partly because the garden slopes so much that cutting the lawn was hard work. This latter reason also explains why I have struggled with how to plant the Big Border that was created. As my fellow sloping gardeners will know, and there are a few of them out there in the blogasphere – check out Rusty Duck, a sloping garden can be a real challenge. No only do you get weary lugging things up and down the garden but you realise that you see the plants differently to in a flat garden. So if your garden slopes up from the house as mine does and you choose to plant tall plants, as I have a habit of doing, you find yourself looking at leggy stems.
I am sure that there are clever garden designers out there who would dismiss my frustrations and in no time at all create something magical with tall plants. However, I am a simple amateur gardener whose plant knowledge has been on a steep learning curve over the last 9 years and whilst I know far more about plants than I did when I planted the border initially some 4 years ago, I am still learning by trial and error – mainly error! In addition my tastes have changed a lot in recent years. This was brought home to me back in June on a garden visiting trip when I found my yearning for something more exciting than roses, alliums and geraniums – I wanted something with movement; something different; something with textures, foliage; something that wasn’t an English Country Garden.
So when I was wandering round the garden last week, cuppa in hand, pondering the Big Border I started to ask myself what I wanted and I went back to beginnings with asking what plants do I like – ferns (no too sunny), bulbs (yes), actually tiny bulbs (more troublesome). I knew I didn’t want a rock garden as I loath them, they are so depressing with all that grey stone but there was a germ of an idea here. How to create a space for my little bulbs and alpines without creating a rockery and how to merge it into a bigger border. I faffed around on the internet, messaged my virtual friend at the Scottish Rock Garden Society who shared some photographic ideas; I pondered and spent time standing and staring at the border. Then the creative juices started to peculate and slowly the ideas started to drip through.
Firstly, the long thin border along the top of the wall (opposite side of the path) which houses my roses, which I adore, would be beefed up with the removal of the disappointing geraniums and the addition of perennial herbs such as sage and lavender giving all year round substance. Then I would accept the fact that there was bright light to the Big Border now and the slope gave good drainage, but in warm dry weather, could cause the plants problems, and I would plant the space with plants that actually enjoy this environment – what a novel idea!
For the astute of you who will have been looking at the photos on this post you will have twigged that they give a clue to the inspiration behind my idea – Beth Chatto’s gravel garden which I visited in June and was the highlight of the trip for me. Now I know that I can’t replicate this as I have considerably more rain that Beth and my soil is clay based so more fertile but I want to use the approach she has taken and select plants that will enjoy the more exposed site and which are crucially not that tall. The focus will be on foliage strong plants to give interest all year so I plan to use bergenias (I have many in the front garden that need a new home), grasses (I fancy another Stipa gigantea), things like agastache, agapanthus, lots of bulbs for throughout the year, agave, etc.
I am excited by the prospect and there is already a programme of clearing and relocation planned which will not only free up the space but will help with producing a screen along the exposed boundary line. Of course being August and warm and dry I will have to wait until the weather cools but in the meantime I am thrilled that I am finally rediscovering the garden.
There is no vase from me today as everything is rather soggy and I have been distracted by a surprise find in the greenhouse this week. Having a tidy up and jiggling things around I discovered that Hippeastrum ‘Ever Green’ had produced a flower bud despite my belief that it was resting.
I can only assume that the cool and moist state of the greenhouse this summer has encouraged it and I suppose it means that it won’t be flowering this Christmas. Never mind I will have to just enjoy the other Hippeastrums I have provided they decide to flower and maybe I might just have to purchase a few more bulbs as a back up.
And here you can see how wonky the stem is due to it striving for light from its place tucked down the side of the staging before its rescue.
For proper Vases on Monday pop over to Cathy’s where you will find links to lots of seasonal floral delights.
Finally I can stop moaning about the lack of rain as the last week has been decidedly wet leaving the garden looking very lush. I surprised myself at how much things had grown in the last year when I looked back at last year’s August EOMV post. It just shows you how easy it is to forget what progress has been made and how things have developed and I think it reinforces the benefits of taking regular photographs of the garden, and maybe participating in this meme.
So to start with the usual path up to the workshop. I have been on a bit of a grass-fest this last month while I have been on annual leave and you might just spot a Stipa tenuissima near the foreground. I want to soften the edges of the steps and given how sunny this part of the garden is with good drainage grasses seem a good partner to the numerous bulbs I have planted here. If you look closely at the far end of the steps you can just spot the cyclamen that have been flowering for the last couple of weeks.
Turning left from the bottom of the steps we have the lower path which runs almost along the top of the retaining wall. The border to the left is really a rose border, although the flowers haven’t been that great this year, and I have been adding other plants such as sedum and penstemons to bring some late summer colour. To the right is the bottom of the Big Border which slopes down from the grass path. This border’s season of interest is primarily late summer due to the various asters that are planted here. I am still trying to get their arrangement right since they were originally acquired for the back slope before the workshop gobbled it up. I struggle with balancing the tall and shorter varieties in a border where they are seen from both sides and which slopes. I am slowly moving most of the tall asters to the middle of the border and it does seem to be working. I now need to work on planting around the bottom of the border to disguise the legs of the asters.
From the far end of the bottom path you can look back to the workshop through the Calamgrostis ‘Overdam’. The Calamgrostis has been victim to my tweaking, being moved by all of a foot backwards into the border. It was right against the top edge of the border and hemmed in by a tall aster to the point where it didn’t seem to be able to waft in the breeze and what is the point of having grasses if they aren’t allowed to waft. The aster has been relocated, it’s not looking very happy but hopefully the rain will help, but the grass looks so much better now and there is movement and that’s what I want in the garden – a realisation that has crept up on me during my various garden visits this year.
At the end of the bottom path you come to the lower part of the woodland border. Looking back it hasn’t changed much since last year except the plants are larger. For now I think it is working although there is a bare path where the Solomon’s Seal was before I cut it down to counter the invasion of the Solomon Seal Sawfly.
The other end of the woodland border has seen major upheaval a year ago when the acer died. I am beginning to get an idea of how I would like it to look and you might spot a miscanthus in the background along with a carex and hosta still in their pots waiting for planting. This area isn’t as shady as it was due to the removal of the willow canopy and it is interesting to see how the shade lovers have thrived due to the increase in moisture despite the border being sunnier.
From the top of the woodland border you find yourself looking across, again, to the workshop, across what was the Bog Garden. This is now a much drier area due to the holes I over zealously punched in the liner – opps. If you look back at last year’s post you will see how this area has grown up over the last year and last week I moved the Paulwonia tomentosa from the back slope to this border. I felt that the Paulwonia was struggling on the slope which is very free draining and think its height will add interest to its new home.
Finally the grass path which runs along the top of the Big Border and is looking very neat thanks to a quick haircut ready for its photocall. In the foreground you can see the Anemanthele lessoniana that has been added in the last week. There is another to the right of the path and a third at the far end of the border. I hope that the third one will draw the eye and add some cohesion to my eclectic planting. I need to work on the border to the right of the path next year as whilst I am happy with it in spring it falls apart the rest of the year. There are some phloxes here which I have persevered with for a couple of years but I am really tired of now as they aren’t performing and the large white one looks terrible when the flowers fade or get damaged by rain. I seem to be adopting a warm orange, rust and yellow theme here so I think I might try to see where that goes.
If you would like to join in the End of Month meme you are very welcome – the more the merrier. All we ask if that you add a link to this post in your post and that you leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can all find you.
The blogging world is a funny old place. You find yourself accepting invitations from people you have never met either to meet up with them at events or visit their gardens. My mother often raises an eyebrow at this since of course back in the day you, especially a single lady like myself, would never accept an invitation from a stranger. However, whilst sometimes I set off to these meet ups with trepidation I am always pleased that I do as I have met some great people and been lucky to visit some wonderful gardens.
This Thursday was no exception. I had excepted an invitation from Kate to visit her garden in the Wye Valley. Kate had picked up on my curiosity about grasses and my tentative steps to start introducing them into my garden and had invited me to visit her and her husband’s garden which has a strong focus on grasses. The journey to the Kate’s was interesting. You follow the road from Monmouth to Chepstow along the River Wye; it is a beautiful piece of road with pretty villages and views of the river and the steep hills behind. If you know anything about the Picturesque art movement or the work of Gilpin then you will know that the area around Tintern Abbey and the Wye River featured heavily in paintings of this style. Back to my journey, just before Tintern you cross the river and take a road heading up the hill. The road quickly becomes narrow and step and I crawled along from house to house, taking a wrong turn only to be put right by a helpful postman. Finally I found Barn House and as soon as I looked over the gate I knew I was in the right place.
Kate is an expert on grasses, although she is quite self-deprecating, she rattles off the names of the various grasses and she can tell you how they grow in sun, shade, good soil, bad soil, when to cut them back, by how much, which ones are from where etc. Not only is she very knowledgeable she is passionate about her grasses too, she really loves them. Many of the grasses are planted in large groups; she has some miscanthus which she has used as a hedge in front of the mixed boundary hedge and there are other large groups of single cultivars as you work you way down the terraces to the house.
At this point I have to apologise for not taking any wider shots of the garden to show you it in its glory but I was so busy talking to Kate that I forgot and the only ones I took are close ups taken while we were chatting. I have also forgotten most of the plant names although Kate did give me a list along with a map so I will be able to sit down and work some of them out. However, I do know that the grass in the photo above is Anemanthele lessoniana as I have recently planted some in my garden and I was excited to see what they will look like when they mature. If you would like to see wide shots of the garden visit Kate’s website where she tells you the history of the garden
Seeing all these different types of grasses together really helped me identify the types I liked. Molinias are definitely ones I am keen on as I like the way their flower spikes waft well above the leaves and shimmer in the sun. I have Molinia caerulea ‘Skyracer’ and I would like to add some to the front garden as I think they would work well in front of the laurel hedge, wafting above it.
Kate also has a very impressive display of bamboo, which are just huge and some of the stems are almost at the size where you could imagine them being used as scaffolding poles as they do in their native Asia. I really liked the effect of the stems being cleared of the lower twigs and branches and I think I will have a go at doing the same with my bamboos. Kate’s are under-planted with crocosmia and where there was a long stand of the bamboo, blocking the view of a neighbour, the crocosmia was very effective bring a warm glow to the base of the plants.
Whilst I really liked the movement and effect of the big plantings of grasses I also appreciated the more delicate combinations which were generally around the end and back of the house. Here Kate has some of her special grasses and you will also find more exotic plants which are used in pots in combination with the grasses. I like the way the grasses above have been used as a ‘skirt’ round the Acer, so much so that I have planted the Pennisetum villosum that Kate gave me at the base of the Mountain Ash in the front garden – it’s a start but there are germs of ideas forming based on what I saw and learnt during my visit. But I think the best piece of advice Kate gave me when I was trying to write down some plant names before I left was not to worry about specific varieties but if I saw a nice looking plant to buy it and give it a go – how very sensible and just the advice you need when you are dipping your toe into a new area of horticulture.
Thank you Kate for a lovely afternoon – if you would like to visit Kate’s garden the details are on her website.
This week’s vase is a simple one of Agapanthus ardernei hybrids.
I have two wonderful clumps of agapanthus, this one and a very dark blue one and they are situated in ideal conditions soil-wise. However, it seems the sunlight that reaches them, although appearing full on to me, isn’t to the agapanthus’ liking so they have been growing horizontally presumably looking for better light. I have given up trying to straighten them and made plans to reduce the neighbouring tree instead. As they are growing so horizontally it has been difficult to admire the flower-heads and with the torrential rain we have had over the last two days I decided to cut them all and bring them inside so I could enjoy them as they go over.
I rather like these white flowers, they make a nice change to the blues that seem to be more popular. I am also wondering if having the blue and white clumps together isn’t a little passée so I might think about moving one of the clumps a little further away.
As for the vase I seem to remember buying it for my mother from Woolworths for a small sum of money many many years ago when I was probably around 8 or 9. I must have reacquired it from her at some point possibly when I got my first home and was in need of a vase. The vase works well with the glass dish from my viewpoint on the sofa but in the photograph it does seem to clash a little – oh well I think it looks good.
For more weekly vases pop over to Cathy’s and have a ramble around while you are there.
It’s interesting how your approach to the garden changes when you have time on your side. I don’t mean a few hours but when you have a couple of weeks with few plans and so you can ponder and potter without clock watching and worrying about everything you want to achieve in an unrealistic time. Yvonne, a regular commentator on this blog, is often nagging me about the need to sit on the bench and rest. What she doesn’t realise is that I do a lot of sitting on the bench but this leads to pondering and considering and then ideas form which then turn into tasks or projects.
This week I have taken the approach of doing chores first thing, crossing things off a long list, and then going out into the garden and seeing how the mood takes me. One of the first areas I have tackled is the patio border. The border is in two parts either side of the greenhouse. This is the first area I planted when we moved in some 11 years ago and it has benefited over the years from continual adding of compost. The foundation of the beds is some form of builders sand or grit, I’m not sure what, but either way it drains pretty well. However, due to the shade of the wall the borders are shady and retain moisture for longer than the rest of the garden giving me that elusive moist but well drained soil that is often mentioned in gardening books.
As this border is the view from my living room I have tried to make it have year round interest. In early spring there are snowdrops and some narcissus but I have been increasing the amount of foliage interest rather than relying on flowers. There is a loose colour theme of yellow and white which is fulfilled by a yellow Chinatown rose that has just gone over, the Kirengshoma palmata, the white flowers of a siberian iris and the various variegated foliage.
The changes I made this week are minor but have made a huge difference to the impact of the border. When I was in Ireland the group commented on how the Irish gardeners seemed to always be moving their plants. I kept quiet at this point as I am a terrible mover of plants and to demonstrate this I have to confess to moving the Blechnum chilense above all of a foot to the left. As you can see the Edgeworthia is making a bid to be a tree rather than a shrub and it needed under-planting. The idea is that the Blechnum will provide interest beneath the canopy of the Edgeworthia. I don’t know why the Edgeworthia is growing like this. I bought it mail-order and it arrived with a bare stem and 3 buds at the top and has carried on from there. I don’t think I would have chosen one growing like this if I had been looking in a nursery but it will be interesting to see how it fares.
I love the Blechnum chilense. I am trying to learn more about my ferns and blechnums are one group that seem fairly easy to pick out as their fronds are quite distinctive. Once it is established I understand its fronds can grow up to 5ft which will be quite something and no doubt will lead me to having to move some of the smaller surrounding plants. It is also meant to be evergreen so I should have something lovely to look at all winter.
The Kirengshoma palmata is becoming very large now and I think that I might have to pluck up the courage and divide it next year before it completely outgrows its space. It is a wonderful plant which really should be grown more. They suffer a little from slug damage when young but once they are established the slugs don’t seem to bother so much with them. As I have said before the flower buds always remind me of butter curls. The plant dies back in the winter and I am left with the rose and an acanthus which are somewhere underneath it and the winter jasmine on the back wall. As I sit here pondering, looking out of the window, I think some yellow and white crocus might do well in here for early spring interest – now where is that bulb catalogue!