The new front garden – end of the first year.


The stalwarts amongst my readership will recall that I have had a love/hate relationship with my front garden.  The lawn has changed its shape a number of times over the years but I still didn’t enjoy being out there.  Then back at the start of the year I bit the bullet and decided to get rid of the lawn once and for all and plant up the whole of the front garden.

January 2016

January 2016

This is how the front garden looked at the end of January – all very neat and tidy but dull, uninspiring and as some of my regular readers said just not me. So during the course of the first half of the year the lawn was lifted and removed and a curving path put in from the driveway to the side gate.  The path is more decorative and to give the front garden some structure rather than for a specific purpose but I have seen it used by a visitor which was very gratifying.

July 2016

July 2016

We decided that the path needed a good strong edge as it is the only landscape feature so my eldest kindly put in a  brick edge which I am really pleased with.  In fact if it wasn’t for him doing the edging and my youngest son lifting the lawn I don’t think I would have got very far with the project at all.  In my usual back to front way the path went in after the majority of the plants mainly because I wanted to see where the natural route would fall and also because the plants needed to get in the ground before the summer was over.


The path is finished now and the majority of the planting is done.  I need to tweak the asters around a bit as they went in quite small and I had lost their labels years ago so it was a bit hit and miss how it would turn out.  I have a darker flowered aster – Symphytrochium novea-angliae ‘St Michaels’-  in the back garden which I will divide and add to the new border as I think I need a darker purple to lift the others.


This is the view from the driveway to the front of the house and I love how pretty it looks. These photos were taken at the start of the month and last weekend I lifted all the zinnias.  They will be replaced with tulips and maybe some wallflowers. I have also added some snowdrops and small narcissus along the path edges. Next year I suspect I will also add alliums.

So to conclude I am absolutely delighted that I took the plunge and got rid of the lawn.  I actually enjoy being in the front garden now, I love looking at it in the morning from my bedroom window – it just makes me smile. In addition it is more wildlife friendly than the previous front garden with lots of bees and other pollinators buzzing around the flowers and more birds fidgeting around the border.



Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – October 2016


I’m amazed at how much colour there is in the garden at the moment, especially as there seemed to be very little back in August.  Of course some of the colour is courtesy of the autumn leaves and various berries but there is still a significant floral contribution. This hydrangea is one of those supermarket finds from a year or so ago which to be honest I had forgotten about until I got to the top of the garden today and spotted it.  Such a lovely combination of dark leaves and flower – I think I need to find a better location to show it off better.

Salvia involucrata boutin

Salvia involucrata boutin

Part of the reason I struggle to get to the top of the garden is this Salvia which is going for world domination – its huge.  So much so that I have left it in situ the last few winters with just a mulch to protect it roots.

Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy'

Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’

I actually prefer Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’ as the flowers are more delicate and I like the two-tone effect which brings a special light to the border.

Aster lateriflorus 'Lady in Black'

Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’

Although the majority of the asters have been moved to the front garden there are still a few adding to the colour in the back garden.  I think Lady in Black is my favourite aster, it has wonderful dark stems and whatever the weather it remains upright, just wafting around in the wind.

Symphytrochium novea-angliae 'St Michaels'

Symphytrochium novae-angliae ‘St Michaels’

Symphytrochium novae-angliae ‘St Michaels’ is a good strong purple and I like the larger daisy flowers; I also like it as it is named after a local hospice.  This is also doing well in the RHS trial of Symphytrochium novae-angliae which I am acting as recorder for at the local Old Court Nursery.


I do like Japanese Anemones, this pale pink one is a new addition to the garden and lightens a very green border.

Kirengeshoma palmata

Kirengeshoma palmata

The Japanese Anemone is adjacent to the Kirengeshoma palmata – that pink and yellow combination abhorred by many but to be honest I quite like; well if it’s the right pink and the right yellow.

Colchicum 'Dick Trotter'

Colchicum ‘Dick Trotter’

The second group of Colchicums are flowering.  I bought the corms for these at the Malvern Autumn Show last month.  I do think Colchicums are underrated, yes they have large leaves but they bring so much colour to the garden at this time of year.

Cyclamen hederifolium

Cyclamen hederifolium

As well as Colchicums there are Cyclamen hederifoliums flowering around the garden.  I particularly like this group and the way they appear to be lining up behind the leaves.


Another discovery in the depth of the back of the garden – a begonia of some sort bought from a charity plant sale, which seems to be thriving.  I love the way the flowers add pin pricks of colour amongst the foliage.


Finally, high up above the back planting the Abutilon is flowering.  I can’t remember the variety but I do like the way the flowers look like they are made out of silk and velvet.

Thanks to Carol over at May Dream Gardens for hosting the GBBD meme each month.

My Garden This Weekend – 9th October 2016

Amarine belladiva

Amarine belladiva

So its been many weeks, no months, since I wrote a ‘My garden this weekend’ post. I won’t bore you yet again with my emotional struggles with the garden and my lack of enthusiasm.  Suffice to say that this weekend I had to really push myself to get on with some of the tasks that are needed.  The patio is full of purchases from the summer that need planting out or I will be struggling over the winter to protect the plants.  However, of course it’s not that simple.  I bought the plants for a particular project – the Big Border revamp – but I haven’t made as much progress as I had hoped.

I think I may have mentioned before that I want to replant the Big Border to benefit from the soil which drains very well. My plan is to use it for the various bulbs that I have a weakness for.  I think last weekend I reported that I had started to relocate some of the peonies to Hugh’s Border and I have added a couple of Miscanthus to the Big Border which weren’t happy behind the shed.


Bits of it are coming together but the main part of the project is to formalise the lower edge of the Big Border.  The path has for some years been edged with Malvern stone found in the garden or logs from  tree pruning.  I have always gardened on a shoestring and never had funds for major landscaping so the garden has developed through hard work and making do with what was to hand.  When the Big Border went in around 4 years ago I wasn’t sure about the path and waited to see where the natural path appeared.  It’s all been a little Heath Robinson.  Originally the path was finished with woodchips but over the years this has disintegrated and the stone edging isn’t strong enough to clearly define the border from the path.  I need it to look smart and tidy.

The trouble is that I have concluded that I need structure and tidiness in my life or I become stressed.  With less time, energy or enthusiasm for the garden this year it has become untidy and this in turn has made it harder for me to re-engage as I just don’t know where to start.  I feel that if I can get some good structure or bones in place then the messiness won’t be so bad – just like edging the lawn makes a huge difference to a garden without you doing much else.  Thankfully funds are a little more plentiful these days and my long-suffering eldest has ‘volunteered’ to help me with putting in some thick wood edging.  Then, probably in the Spring, we will put some wood edging on the other side of the path but probably something thinner.  I will then cover the path probably with wood chip – the cat doesn’t approve of gravel!

img_6741I have moved all the plants along the path edge and the Malvern stone so my eldest can get on with the improvements.  We now have a large pile of Malvern stone to find something to do with. A suggestion has been made that I could use them to create a home for my hardy succulents, alpines and tiny bulbs.  I am resisting using the word ‘rockery’ as I really dislike rockeries but there is a small gem of an idea mumbling away at the back of my mind.


In my bid to take control of the garden again I have seized the day and removed a couple of large shrubs that I haven’t liked for years.  One went from the border above, as did a large persicaria and some common ferns which swamped the area and used up all the moisture.  The photo doesn’t quite show you how much space there is here but  I am quietly excited as it’s quite a big space and will, after some feeding and soil improvement, provide a home for the remaining peonies that need rehoming.

Hopefully with all our efforts this Autumn the garden will be more manageable next year so I don’t feel I need to spend as much time working in it and I can do some of the other things I want to do without feeling guilty or maybe even just sit and enjoy the garden.

End of Month View – September 2016


Seriously how is it October? I’m sure it’s only midway through September! But at least I have kinda remembered this month to do the End of Month View, albeit a day late.  I forgot all together last month – sorry.

Anyway, Hugh’s Border isn’t doing too bad considering the general neglect of the garden for some months now.  Things are getting back on an even keel and changes are afoot.  I’m always happier in the garden when I can relocate plants – poor plants.  Because my new neighbours have cleared the boundary line there is now a wealth of sunlight streaming in from the south which means the lighting in the garden has changed giving me new opportunities.


The shady areas have significantly decreased which is good as it means I have more areas where I can plant more sun-loving plants and most plants that do well in shade don’t mind a bit more sun.  It does mean that the Big Border which was always sunny is now much more sunny and some plants have struggled this year as it is has been too dry for them.  The Big Border has good drainage so I am going to use it for my hardy Mediterranean and Southern Hemisphere plants and bulbs which are one of my plant weaknesses.  I am slowly but surely relocating the more traditional border inhabitants such as the peonies and roses from the Big Border into the surrounding borders where they should benefit from the improved light but with more moisture retentive soil. If you peer closely at the photo above you will see the rusty metal obelisk which was in the Big Border and hosts a rose and clematis.  They have all been moved to Hugh’s Border and had a good dollop of horse manure to get them going.  I like the vertical accent that the obelisk gives this area.


To be quite honest the improved lighting has, I think, made my gardening life easier.  I have really struggled over the years to get good seasonal interest in the shady parts of the garden.  I love foliage but it gets a little dull being the same, more or less, all year.  So for example in Hugh’s Border I will be adding some peonies, some more Japanese Anemones, and probably some Pacific Coast irises, as well as more bulbs for Spring.

I’ve a lot of relocations to do over the coming weeks so I am hoping for some dry weekends as my gardening time is really minimal these days.   And then there is the tidying up and the bulb planting to get on top of ….it is nice to feel enthused again.


Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – September 2016


Grevillea victoriae

Grevillea victoriae

I’ve decided not to focus on the asters this month but to showcase four plants which have just started to flower and whose flowers I am always thrilled to see.  They all need to be sought out in the garden as they can be a little shy.

First up is Grevillea victoriae which has wonderful exotic orange flowers. Similar to Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’ but flowering later.  Last year I thought it hadn’t flowered but discovered all the flowers at the bottom of the shrub.  This year the shrub is a year older and has been moved into a sunnier location and the flowers are beginning to appear higher on the shrub so I am hoping that next year it will look amazing.

Unknown Nerine

Unknown Nerine

I have started to extend the bulb season in my garden with the inclusion of Nerines.  This is the first to flower and is from a hugh pot full of bulbs that I bought for a couple of pounds last year at the local HPS group.  I was really thrilled to see it, and its fellow flowers, as it shows that I have found a good location for it and confirms my plan to plant more Southern Hemisphere bulbs in this particular area.



I am always pleased when the Massonia flowers in the greenhouse.  I had a Massonia pustulata but I think I lost that and as its name indicates the leaves were quite blistered looking so its not that variety, maybe I will find the label one day but either way I am pleased it has flowered again.


I have various Colchicums of differing quality and these are always the first to flower and are slowly but surely beginning to spread.  They are one of those plants whose flowers appear under the foliage of other plants but as you pass something catches you eye and you find yourself on your hands and knees looking to see what the colour is from.

So those are my 4 secret gems for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day – for more GBBD posts visit Carol at May Dream Gardens

Warts and All Tour – 2016


Having neglected the blog and the garden this year I have been beating myself about both.  However, I have a week leave from work and have deliberately made no plans as I am desperate for the time to just be and to do all those menial tasks that need doing from time to time but  if neglected become daunting monsters.  Top of my list is to spend lots of time in the garden.  I haven’t set any specific targets of things to do and I know that it needs more time than I have to get the garden looking tip top by the end of the week but I want to get back in touch with it.  Being perplexed about where to start I had a good walk round this morning and thought it would be good to give you a tour of the garden through my camera lens – I last did one back in 2014 so if you want to see what the changes have, or haven’t been, you can click on this link. You can also access a plan of the garden via the tab at the top of the page.

So we start by entering the back garden via the side path – you can see this is a bit of a wood store, with my bags of compost stored under the wood.  The neighbours house is so close that rain rarely gets through so its great for storing things and also overwintering plants that need a bit of protection.


As we come round the corner you can see that the foliage obsession hinted at by the pots in the top photo continues along the patio.  It has always been quite shady here due to my neighbours’ trees and the soil is that wonderful moist by free draining – this year I have had blue meconopsis poppies flowering here.  You can also see my dinky greenhouse and evidence of plant buying.


The whole patio with the supervisor about to boss me around.  It needs a weed but isn’t too bad this year.  The patio is quite narrow and we tend to sit on the bench up the garden but there are seats here too which are on my list for a face lift.


We pass the greenhouse which has had a bit of a tidy up but needs some more work on it.  Currently it is home to my pelargonium, tender succulents and begonias – all of them could go outside but I hate an empty greenhouse.


The far end of the patio is very sunny and home to the staging which gets used all year for one thing or another – oh and the bin store which is behind the garage.  I still need to work out what to grow up the fence; whatever it is will have to grow in a pot as the ground is builders rubble here.  To the left you can just see the start of the damp corner where water tends to accumulate when we have a lot of rain before soaking away.  I have planted this corner with damp loving irises and grasses which are thriving.  As you can see I haven’t tidied up and there is a stray teapot on its side – this was put here as it is an old pot which was in the garden full of water and a frog had taken up residence in the heat so we moved it carefully to the shade to protect the frog.


Up the steps, which featured last year on the end of month view meme.  They are looking a little bare at the moment as I have been tidying here but if you look very carefully to the right you can just pick out little pink and white dots which are the flowers of Cyclamen hederifolium – I used this area mainly for spring bulbs.


At the top of the steps if you turn left you have the bottom path which runs almost along the top of the wall.  I need to work on this area and have plans to improve it over the next year.  The soil, despite being clay based, is very free draining due to the slope and there are parts which therefore become quite dry so I want to change the planting to work with this.


As the end of the path you go up a slight rise towards the grass path (which runs across the middle of the garden).  This area has always been very shady and to a degree damp but due to my new neighbours chainsaw activity it is now flooded with light.  This, as I have mentioned before, has really challenged me.  I’m not used to see people in the next garden, I am used to a screen of green and I find it difficult.  However, I like the additional light that is coming in and many plants have benefited from it.  So the plan for here is to relocate some of the taller shrubs to the area in front of the fence, not to create a hedge, but to break up the line of the fence and to give some privacy but keeping the light.


From the shady end of the grass path you look back towards the shed between the Big Border and Hugh’s Border.  Both have done much better this year but still need further work to bring more colour to the left hand side and more cohesion to the right hand side – I have ideas!


We walk back to the shed and turn towards the back of the garden and you have the top bench, also in need of some TLC.  The planting on the slope behind the bench is doing rather well and my eldest and I have been arguing over whether it is doing too well – he has persuaded me to leave it be but to tie up the abutilon better and I think he is right.


Looking from the bench to the left of the garden you can see the compost bins in the back ground.  Some people have suggested that I should disguise them but I see no reason to, I find them quite appealing with their grassy slope in front.  The mess in the foreground is mainly the back of Hugh’s Border where the ferns have suffered from a lack of rain for some time.  To the right is the shadier part of the slope where the ferns are doing very well but the ones planted here don’t need as much moisture.


Up to the compost bins and a look back down the garden at the other end of Hugh’s Border – I think this view is quite pleasing.


Then we have the very top path which leads nowhere but to behind the shed.  This is the worst part of the garden in need of much weeding and for replacement retaining boards and some gravel or woodchip on the path but the plants are thriving so its not all bad.


The final view is from the end of the top path looking down the garden towards the house.  I like this view as my intention has been to create a leafy retreat and I think it is beginning to come together.

So I hope you enjoyed the warts and all tour of the garden – I wonder if there will be much change by this time next week.  In the meantime, as it keeps raining heavily, I will go and consider the curtains that I really should make but keep making excuses about.


Plans are afoot

Beth Chatto's gravel garden

Beth Chatto’s gravel garden

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.

My disappointing border

My disappointing border

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.


End of Month View – July 2016

IMG_6076Opps sneaking in a day late with the post which is disgraceful as I host the meme but there you go.  Life moves on, you find yourself blogging less and less and losing track of the days and the pattern of posting and the next thing you know you are late like the proverbial White Rabbit.


Anyway, what is there to say about Hugh’s Border except it is very full and interestingly and is probably faring better than most of the garden given the dry conditions we have had recently.  The only real casualty are the Sensitive Ferns (Onoclea sensibilis) which are looking a little frazzled.  They need moisture even when they are in the shade despite what the reference books say.  I have some in a very damp corner of the garden which look wonderful but the ones in Hugh’s Border despite it not having as good drainage as the rest of the garden give in at this time of year every year and every year I think I really must pull them out.  But I forget and then in the spring the new fronds with their red stems appear showing that they are spreading around and I relent.  “No more” I cry – well mutter.  I am determined not to be hoodwinked into a reprieve and I intend to drastically cull the Sensitive Fern and replace it with some ferns that are  a little more robust and not so touchy about things.


As for the front of the border the phlox are looking and smelling wonderful and I find myself thinking that as they seem to like these conditions then maybe I should add to them but I need to be very particular about the colour as I don’t want a garish pink and I think the colour palette for phlox is quite limited.  Anyway, a bit of research is needed.

There isn’t much else to say about the border as its one of those areas that just gets on with it and finally has filled out enough to have a bit of interest happening whatever the time of year.

As ever any one can join in the end of month meme just decide on what part of your garden you want to feature or maybe give us a tour of the whole garden.  The instructions are on the tab at the top of the blog.  I look forward to seeing your links in the comment box below and having a mooch over to see what is happening at yours particularly as it is now raining here.


Update on the Front Garden


Some readers will recall that back at the start of the year I decided to do away with the front lawn. Since then I have been a busy bee and with the help of my sons the transformation is nearly completed.

The pile of bricks isn’t an art installation but the start of the path that we have been working on this weekend.


My eldest has been a star and spent the morning digging a trench for the bricks to lay in and he managed to get the bricks for 25p each which has made a huge difference to the cost and allowed us to be more generous in the number used.  The next step is to cement them in place and then to put gravel down on the path.  I intend to use the same gravel as the driveway so it blends together.

From being embarrassed by my front garden I now love it – as my son says it is now a proper garden rather than a small lawn with some plants around it!

End of Month View June 2016 – Hugh’s Border


A quick End of Month post from me as to be honest I had lost track of where we are in the month.  The garden is at its most full and even more so given the amount of rain we have had over the last few weeks.  Hugh’s border is looking fuller than ever, and in some places too full.


The other end of the border which is shadier but not as shady as it used to be due to the neighbours cutting down the trees along the boundary.  This end is the home to some of my earlier fern acquisitions which are now quite substantial, there is also a Paulownia although it is battling with a rogue foxglove growing through the middle of it.  My idea is that the Paulownia will form a leafy canopy over the border but I think that will take a few years.  I spent some time this last weekend digging up Pulmonaria which grew along the edge of the steps and had started to self-seed around.  It was great when the border was so shady but had well outgrown its space so I have replaced it with another fern and some more siberian irises which I hope will bring some new textures to this end of the border.


The front edge of the border which is a lot better than in previous years but at the moment lacking in colour.  There are some foxgloves, crocosmia and a fuschia about the flower so in a week or so it should colour up.  My approach these days is for the foliage first and then the flowers to add colour highlights during the year.  However, I need to work on how I combine the foliage.  I was very impressed with some of the combinations I saw in the gardens last week so there is food for thought on how to improve the planting.


The back of the border from the bench and you can see this is particularly chaotic and probably too full.  I need to do some editing here and make some decisions about what should stay but I enjoy that side of gardening as it stimulates my creative side.

So that’s a whizz around Hugh’s border before I go to work.  All are welcome to join in with the end of month meme I just ask that you put a link to your post in the comments box below and link to this post in your post so we can all track you down.