Six on Saturday – Returning from Sicily

I’ve been away for just over a week touring Sicily.  The weather was very much as we have had in the last few days – low 20s but for Sicily this is much cooler than normal.  However, for me, considering we were sightseeing and walking lots the temperature was just about right and I avoided the days of rain back home that my son reported.  Needless to say all that rain and then sun has encourged the garden to put a spurt on and I don’t think it has ever been so full and lush; so I thought I would show you around my gardening space – well the back garden.

The first thing you need to understand is that I live on the lower slopes of the Malvern Hills and so my garden slopes.  As you come out of the house there is a narrowish patio and my dinky greenhouse and then a flight of stairs to the actual garden.  At the top of the stairs which are in the furthest right hand corner, if you turn left, you will find a bark path which runs between two borders (you can also check out the garden plan on the blog, although it is a little out of date but it should help). So if you look at the plan you will see that the bark path runs between the ‘Cottage/Rose border’ and the ‘Big Border’.

To give you an idea of the angle of my garden the above photo was taken standing on a bench outside my kitchen door. The prostrate rosemary grows over the retaining wall and the bark path (above) runs behind the rosemary.

At the end of the bark path you curve round to the ‘Woodland Border’.  When this border was created the boundary with my neighbours was completely overgrown and full of large trees so my garden was in deep shade at this end.  The new neighbours cleared the boundary about two years ago and light has flooded in.  I found it challenging to start with as I felt I had lost my privacy but the garden has really benefitted and the trees and shrubs I had planted on my side of the boundary in anticpation of such an approach by whoever moved in are now growing well so my privacy is returning. The reduction in shade in this area means I can add more summer flowers to this part of the garden.

The bark path connects up to the grass path and the steps to the top of the garden.  These used to lead, until last summer, to a further path along the very top of the garden.  The top of the slope was always a challenge and so last year I removed the top path and I have planted the whole of the slope more densely with lots of foliage interest throughout the year.

Zooming in a bit to the area behind the bird table.  Until last year my compost bins lived here but I decided that I’m not cut out to make good compost and it was just to much effort so I go rid of the bins and I now use the council green waste collection scheme which works much beter for me.  Plus I now have another area to plant up with shrubs and ferns all of which are benefitting from the remains of the compost that had accumulated here.  This area has, in the last week, taken on a very special significance for me as my beloved cat sadly passed away last week when I was away.  She had suffered something akin to a stroke back at the start of March and initially lost the use of her back legs.  Over the next 6 weeks she got this back but still didn’t seem to have feeling in one paw and then she went downhill.  The vet thinks she may have had another blood clot in her system somewhere and in the end this resulted in her only having 25% use of her lungs. I am so proud of my sons with how they dealt with the situation and that we had had the difficult conversations before I went away and they knew exactly where I wanted her buried.  It is hard at the moment, I keep thinking I hear her or I come across one of her toys, but we rescued her some 8 years ago and she had a wonderful life, ruling the roost, hunting mice and chasing any neighbouring cats off her property.  She will be dearly missed.

Pulling myself back together if you turn 90% from the steps above you have what used to the pond, and then the bog garden and is now a largish shady border.  This is the border which I built a low retaining wall along earlier this year.  On the other side of the border is another bark path which slowly disappears as the year progresses and the plants get bigger.

And from there you can go along the grass path back to the shed and steps.  So thats a sort of tour around the main back garden.

Thanks to The Propogator for hosting this great meme

A bit of wall construction

Whilst I haven’t had much time in the garden over the past few weeks due to the weather and a sick cat that time has been quite productive.  There is of course a lot of tidying up that needs to be done, weeding etc but I needed to have something which would give me more instant gratification so I have decided to tackle a project that’s been on my mind for a while.

The border with the cherry tree slopes quite steeply to the path and I have struggled for years to make this area work.  The plants I want to plant here are generally small alpine type plants which benefit from the drainage and the sunshine but they get lost in the border so I needed some definition something to set them against.  Given that we live on the side of the Malvern hills and dig up Malvern stone (granite) all the time we have a reasonable supply of stone so it seems sensible to use it to create a sort of retaining wall.

The construction started off fairly well but dry stone walling is an art form that I have little practice off and it seems to me that its very much a matter of luck as to whether you can find stones that fit together or not. You need fairly flat stones at the bottom to rest the next layers on but many of the stones we have are anything but flat so there is a lot of fiddling around and carrying stones back and forth trying to make it work. Also there are only so many of the larger stones and I am finding that the stones are getting smaller and when I stand back and look from a distance the wall seems to go lower.  I think there are some more stones further up the garden which I might be able to use but it is what it is and it has allowed me to reduce the slope and the plants have a nice foil to grow against.

I’m hoping to use some of the gaps between stones for succulents and maybe lewisias or auriculas.

All told though I am pleased with the change and hopefully there will be enough stone to get to the far end of the border but if not I will have to come up with some sort of artistic way to make a shorter wall look intentional!

Developing the woodland borders

It’s funny how things turn out. I set out this weekend with the aim of spreading the four bags of wood chips that have been sitting in the garden for the last two months.  Whilst, this was actually quite quick to do with the smaller border in the front garden getting a thick mulch and the bottom path getting a top-dressing, I found myself drifting into doing more.  I think this is the first weekend for some months when my gardening hasn’t been all about completing time sensitive tasks but more about just being outside in the fresh air.Instead of tidying around the house and lower garden, as has been mine habit for some time, I decided to tackle one of the more neglected parts of the garden – the old bog garden which is now a woodland border and in need of a good tidy up.  The planting here is predominately ferns including a beautiful Regal Fern (Osmunda regalis) just going over, a host of Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) which fill much of the border when in leaf and a self-sown Harts tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium).  They have been doing so well I have decided to make ferns the real focus of this border and so out came a scruffy Lysimachia which is showing potential to take over the border. I have replaced it with a large Japanese Fern Holly (Cyrtomium falcatum) which has been sitting in a pot all summer waiting for a new home.  It’s funny that I have been wondering where to place the fern for most of the year and its new position is just so right that I’m surprised it wasn’ t obvious to me sooner.

What you can’t really see is that the border is full of snowdrops just pushing their way through the soil, much earlier than I would have expected.  They are more advanced that Galanthus ‘Ding Dong’ which is normally one of the first to flower at Christmas, as the name suggests.

It isn’t only the snowdrops that seem to be ahead of the game.  I also discovered this hellebore full of flower bud; and the camellia also has plump buds when it isn’t due to flower until next Spring.  I guess the plants are a little confused by the cold snap we had followed by mild weather.  It will be interesting to see how it plays out this Winter and Spring.

All in all I found myself pottering away outside for around four hours over the weekend.  I feel like I have almost found my old myself and my enthusiasm for the garden is sneaking back.  Plants and plans are beginning to creep back into my late night musings which makes a nice change to stressing about work issues. I suspect I should have pushed myself outside more some time ago.

But for now I am in need of another batch of wood chip to top dress the border and top path.

Introducing Hugh

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I would like to introduce you to Hugh, a new addition to the garden.  Hugh was created by my friend Vik Westaway who is a sculptress specialising in willow.  In particular she creates amazing willow people which you can place in your garden but I prefer her animals and I fell in love with the owl some time ago.   So I was thrilled that as a thank you for the huge pile of willow logs I gave her, Vik gave me Hugh who is sitting on one of the logs. I am really pleased that some of the willow tree will have a second lease of life as bits of art work.  The other half is being used by my eldest son to train his scouts how to use knifes, axes and saws so the pile of logs has been put to good use.

You can see some of Vik’s work on her website. She has been particularly busy over the last 6 months since she was featured in Period Living Magazine. She is so busy in fact, producing sculptures for Chelsea and other exhibitions, that you have to book her two months in advance for a meal out!!! One of the exhibitions will be at the local Old Court Nursery, known for its asters, so if you are in the Malvern area in August or September why not pop in and see both the asters and sculpture.

Anyway I am delighted with Hugh who is residing in the old Bog Garden.  We thought he looked good peering out of the ferns and other foliage.  And why Hugh I hear you ask? Well if you say ‘hugh, hugh’ it sounds like an owl…trust me!!

 

My Garden This Weekend – 12/4/15

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I’m sure you won’t mind me saying that I am rather pleased with my garden at the moment.  It makes me smile so much especially when the sun shines, as it has been all week, and the small spring flowers glow.

I have been taking advantage of the longer days and have managed to work outside for an hour at least three evenings during the week and I am hoping to make this a habit for the rest of the year while the days are long enough.  It is a wonderful way to unwind after a trying day at work.  Although having spent some hours this last week digging up sycamore seedlings I could feel irritation creeping back from time to time so I had to restrict myself to sycamore weeding for just 30 minutes at a time.  I have never known a year like it, they are everywhere.

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The grass path has had its first cut of the year and I have decided to retain it if for no other reason than the cat objects to the gravel paths!  I am pleased with the border above – still in need of a name, maybe the Cherry border?  It has perplexed me for years ever since it was first created. Earlier this spring I really cleared it out and planted some hellebores, a peony and some other perennials.  Various daffodils which were already in the border have been flowering and a host of aquilegia are now putting in an appearance.

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The back of the border leads round to the former Bog Garden, again in need of a new name – I’m thinking Camellia border.  This has also been a little perplexing for a few years.  There are a number of ferns in this border including some Onoclea sensiblis which I hadn’t realised when I bought them a few years back need moist conditions, so I have really mulched the border to try to retain the moisture.  One evening this week I added a Cardiocrinum giganteum, Mertensia virginica, Dentaria pinataand a whole host of snowdrops lifted and divided from the other side of the path.  I know some people argue against planting snowdrops in the green but for me I needed to do it now as they are swamping some of the epimediums and other spring plants. The larger log to the left of the photo is the cat’s scratching post. The other

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The other end of the border. I am hoping that next spring, and even more so the following spring, the border will be a sea of white in early spring. It will be interesting to see how it all fills out over the coming year and to think about ways of improving it more.

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I spent several hours in the border above where the worst case of sycamore seedlings has been, the neighbours have a large sycamore just the other side of the fence so I blame them.  I first created this border probably 3 or 4 years ago and this spring is the first one when the plants have started to fill out and bulk up. What you can’t see if that there are fat noses of Solomons Seal coming up all over the border but still no sign of the large hosta I am waiting to relocate. My only disappointment is that hardly any of the small narcissus I planted 3 years ago have flowered this year.  There is meant to see a sea of yellow here and there is nothing.  I don’t know why.  The clumps aren’t congested at all so I don’t understand why the narcissus are blind.

I feel that the garden is beginning to have a more cohesive appearance.  I just need to continue this through the rest of the year.

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Today I have wrecked destruction on the patio border.  It looks awful at the moment but hopefully the image in my mind will come together as the year progresses.  I removed a small euonymous from here as well as some Japanese Anemones which have been moved up to the back of the woodland border.  I have also dug up quite a number of bluebells which I have to say have gone on the compost heap.  Outrageous I know but planting bluebells in a border is madness, they are such thugs once they get going and the leaves soon swamp out other plants.  In this border there is a whole host of lily of the valley and last year I struggled to spot any.  I relocated some of the bluebells last year to the top of the garden where they will cause less problems so I don’t have a problem ditching the rest.  I also lifted and divided the clumps of snowdrops here spreading them along the border rather than all clustered at one end.  Others were relocated in the woodland border along the top of the wall to try to increase the spread for next year.  The reason behind the destruction is because I had a number of plants that needed the wonderful conditions in this border – the elusive moist but well-drained soil; it is also quite shady.  So I have planted Blechnum chilense, Peltoboykinia waranabei (a home-grown seedling), Anemonopsis macrophylla seedlings and most scarily four Meconopsis ‘Hensol Violet’ seedlings which I grew last year and have nursed over winter – I so hope they flower, I will be delirious if they do.

 

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I leave you with a shot of the wonderful blue sky we had on Saturday with the flower on the large Prunus against it.  Given the winds we have had today I am surprised that so much of the blossom is still in place and the air is positively humming with pollinators on the blossom and other spring delights.

 

End of Month View – February 2015

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February seems to be ending on some sunny days which make a welcome relief after the recent grey and cold.  It was a delight today to potter in the garden without having to wear a coat.  As you can see from the state of the grass path it has been very wet here and the path is looking muddy.  It does take a lot of wear and I keep wondering about replacing it with a gravel path, a bark one doesn’t appeal.  However, my cat loves the grass – she sunbathes here and if often seen leaping around on it chasing some leaf or twig.  She doesn’t really like my gravel paths choosing instead to creep along the stone edges so I think it will remain but I may lift it and level it.

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The border alongside the steps has seen the most work this last month and although it looks rather bare there are lots of plants emerging.  I have also been adding some geraniums and boykinia along the stone edge to try to soften it.  I love the watsonia leaves with the sun shining through them at the bottom of the obelisk it is such a useful plant and really should be grown more.

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There is still little to see in the woodland border although I have spotted some narcissus coming through and hopefully the epimediums will start to flower soon. Once plants start to emerge I want to work on improving this area.  It needs more cohesion and really being a woodland border it should have lots of hellebores, erythroniums and spring bulbs right now – something I will need to address.

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The other end of the woodland border looking very bare and dull also.  More work to do but also so much potential for plant buying!  I have been doing some on-line shopping so hopefully these purchases will have an impact this time next year.  I should add some snowdrops and eranthis here too or maybe some crocus and some ferns and possibly digitalis but I would also like some late summer/autumn interest.

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Another view across the grass path and there has been a change since last month as I have moved a Cotinus into the foreground.  I wonder how useful this view is as the grass path seems to be featuring too much.  Maybe I will find a spot to take a better shoot of the old bog border from for next month.

So there we are at the end of February.  It is looking generally tidy, there are splashes of colour from hellebores and bulbs and so much beginning to emerge through the soil.  I have started to implement some of my planting plans and have other ideas up my sleeve including painting the shed and hopefully over the next couple of months with lighter evenings and possibly more favourable weather I might be able to really make some progress.

Anyone is welcome to join in with the End of Month meme and you can use it as you wish.  We post on the last day of the month, or thereabouts, and some of us show the same shots of the garden every month, whilst others give a more general tour.  All I ask is that you leave a link to your post in the comment box below and link to this post in your blog post – that way we can all find each other and come for a visit.

 

 

My Garden This Weekend – 22/2/15

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Any time in the garden is precious at this time of year and if the sun shines albeit weakly it is even more special. Yesterday afternoon was such a time with a low sun appearing fleetingly behind the scudding clouds. Today, by contrast, was a day to watch and look as the rain lashed against the windows and the few remaining dead leaves galloped across the patio.

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It is also a time of year that rewards you for looking.  If you take time and look carefully you can see buds forming on the branches and the elegant detail of the bulb flowers such as the veining on these unknown crocus flowers.

But I have to be honest to say that whilst I do take time looking  I am so pleased to be able to spend some time outside that I tend to have my head down working hard.  I have spent the week hoping for gardening time, devising a list of things I would like to achieve, pondering planting ideas and generally dreaming of getting my hands into the soil which makes me feel grounded (no pun intended) and rooted in my space.

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The objective this weekend was to plant out the remaining two peonies which had been potted up temporarily since their arrival and also to plant out the new hellebores instead of them languishing on the patio with the risk of being frozen in their pots.  The focus of my attention was the corner of the former Bog Garden nearest the workshop – which I have decided to remain the Rowan Border because there is a Rowan (Sorbus vilmorinii) in it!  I have struggled with a focus for this area ever since it was created.  The Rowan tree has almost been an obstacle ever since I planted it or no obvious reason at all.  But having read in several places recently about lifting the canopy of shrubs and trees to provide planting spaces under I realised that I was letting the tree canopy block my ideas. Strange I know and I wonder if it has something to do with the garden sloping upwards as I often seem to be looking at the bottom or top of plants rather than the view you would have in a flat garden.  The Peony ‘Bowls of Beauty’ is to be a key plant in the border although I appreciate it might not flower this year and has been planted so it will eventually hide the base of the tree.  The colours of the flowers should reflect and continue the blossom of the Prunus kojo-no-mai.  I am trying to build up layers of planting using the idea of creating triangles with the Sorbus and Prunus as two of the high points of triangles – we will see if it works.

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I haven’t thought of planting borders with a particular colour palette before, focussing more on a season or a style so this is a new approach for me and hopefully will make more sense. I don’t want a restricted plant palette as I am far too eclectic in my taste nor, as I have discovered, will a particular style i.e. exotic, work for me. So the peony and prunus are being supplemented with hellebores, acquilegia, primroses and violas all in soft pastel colours but hopefully with some stronger highlights.  The trouble is I can’t remember what colour the acquilegia flowers are so I will have to do some editing as they appear.  I also know there is an orange Lathyrus and a yellow day lily in the border some where and I suspect these will have to be relocated.  If so they will go to the Big Border which has citrus colours in it as well as purples and blues.  I have also tried to think about textures and foliage as these will be there for longer than the flowers.  It’s a start and will be added to as the plants develop and it becomes obvious what needs to be done.  All has been top-dressed with some green waste from the council and although it looks a bit bare above, from the bench you get the first view which is really enjoyable on an early Spring day as you hug a cup of tea.

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Whilst I was pleased with the planting I managed yesterday I was also really chuffed with the purchase of the Primula above.  It cost me £4 for a 1 litre pot from Waitrose but I knew from looking at the shades of the flowers that there was more than one plant in the pot and yes when I turned it out there were 3 good size plants.  These have been planted in the border I was working on last week so they can be enjoyed from the gravel steps.  The plan is to really plant up along the steps, something I have neglected to do until now.  I want to create a really flowery effect so will be adding some of the more robust alpines I have languishing in pots and hope they seize the challenge and start to soften the hard landscaping.

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Having done so well yesterday it would have been greedy to expect a second gardening day and Mother Nature has certainly shown who is in charge today.  I did manage to sow a couple of packets of annuals though which are now sitting on a windowsill with the hope of getting some good strong plants for the summer.

Next weekend I have my local HPS meeting and a birthday nursery visit but until then I will content myself with revisiting my all time favourite gardening book – The Layered Garden and pondering.

 

 

End of Month View – September 2014

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September has been a very dry month and has ended with exceptionally warm temperature. a real Indian summer.  Although the garden is dry at first glance luckily because we have had the odd day of rain and there is frequently a heavy dew in the morning the plants are looking quite good.

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Starting with the smallest area of this monthly post – the hardy succulent trough has really filled out.  When I planted it up at the beginning of the year it looked so empty but now it seems I under estimated how much and how quickly the plants would grow and no doubt I will have to edit it in the not too distant future.

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The staging area got a bit of a tidy up.  I mentioned a few weeks back that I was planting up my various perennial alpines into bigger pots and you can see the results here.  You can also see the huge flower on the Aeonium tabuliforme which is quite wonderful; sadly the plant will die when the flower finishes.

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The Patio Border is looking a lot better since I moved the Edgeworthia along from the end on the right – it seems more balanced out.  The Kirengeshoma palamata is now beginning to go over but it has looked wonderful for about a month now.  The border will now start to fade but come Spring it should have lots of spring bulbs appearing.

2014_09280018The Rose Border (formerly the Cottage Garden Border!) is settling in with its new planting.  The Japanese Anemones have continued to flower since I planted them a few weeks back and some of the roses have buds appearing so I may get a second flush of flowers.  I am pleased with how it is looking but it will now be a case of seeing how it comes through the winter and how the plants fill out. One day I will work out how to photograph the border to show it at its best.

On the other side of the path is the Big Border which I have added a number of asters too over the last month.  I haven’t felt the border was right yet and I have decided that the two shrubs in it are just too large for the space and are dominating the planting.  When I visited Old Court Nursery a few

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weeks back I was very taken with the borders and they didn’t have any shrubs in.  I have been following a principle of having a range of plants e.g. shrubs, perennials, bulbs in a border to add interest but I think that this border can do well without the shrubs.  There is plenty of interest elsewhere in the garden in the spring and winter that the border doesn’t need to be interesting all the time. I want to improve my original plan to have the focus of the border on asters with some other late summer perennials.  The asters are a little thin at the moment so making much of an impact but I think given another season they should start to look very good.

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The new seating area and Hardy Exotic Border is great and has exceeded my expectations particularly as they were only created earlier this year.  It will be interesting to see how the plants in the border come through the winter and how much they fill out given another year’s growth.

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The original Woodland Border is looking a little faded now with plants beginning to fade for Autumn.  However it looks so much better than last year and I am glad I added plants at the back to add height.  I still need to edit the front and middle of the border now I know what is where so plants have the best chance to show of but this will be a job to do over the next month or so and in early spring.

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Finally the enigma which is the former Bog Garden and which continues to perplex me.  There is something not right with the border and I can’t work out what to do to make it zing.  I am sure the penny will drop in the near future but it definitely needs something added or removed – it’s just been dull this year.

So that is my garden at the end of September and with Autumn upon us I am hoping to undertake a number of small projects over the next couple of months to get the garden ready for next year. I find writing this monthly post very helpful as it makes me look critically at the garden and analyse why different areas please or irritate me.

If you would like to join in with the monthly meme you are very welcome to do so.  You can use it however you want there are no rules – you can show us around your garden, feature a particular area whatever you fancy.  All I ask is that you include a link to this post in your post and you put a link to your post in the comment box below so I can find you.

 

End of Month View – August 2014

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I have been off work for just short of two weeks and have completely lost track of time and the date so unfortunately the photos for this post were taken at midday when the sun was shining in my eyes so apologies. August has been very mild this year and wet and has, along with Dad’s illness and death, has meant that the garden has been somewhat overlooked.

I will start with the Big Border which I am really pleased with considering the planting was done this Spring.  Tweaking is required as there are far too many strappy leaves at the sunny end and I want to increase the amount of yellows, oranges and blues as the intention is that this time of year will be the real focus of the border.

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Conversely the Cottage Garden Border is having a real overhaul as it hasn’t been performing as per my imagination.  I now have a scheme for it which should have interest throughout the summer with some late spring interest.  I am currently digging up everything that isn’t in the right place or I have doubts about and then I am going to improve the soil and then plant out all the plants I have collected over the last couple of weeks.

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The Hardy Exotic Border is slowly filling out and I am pleased with the textures.  It will be interesting to see how it progresses next year and I want to add a mass of bulbs to give it Spring interest but I haven’t decided what.  My first instinct is tulips in reds and other rich colours but I am reluctant to do this as I am sure it will encourage the badger to visit and big up everything in the border.  I recently threw a load of tulip bulbs on the compost heap and surprise surprise the badger visited and trashed the place again.  I don’t want camassias as I have those in the Big Border so maybe a load of daffodils would be a good idea.

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The Not Bog Garden is looking OK but needs some work to give it more structure and definition. I am still pondering this but I feel a shrub is needed in the gap to the left.

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I am really pleased with the original woodland border this year.  I had been frustrated with it as after the spring bulbs and flowers it looked flat and uninteresting.  This spring I added a large persicaria from elsewhere and repositioned a shrub and this height at the back of the border has made a huge difference and added lots of interest.  In fact it has gone a little too far the other way and I need to reposition some of the original plants.

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I am also pleased with succulent border under one of the front windows but I still have to get rid of the dandelions! The sempervivums have really bulked up in the trough and I am now thinking of adding more around it.

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Nipping back round to the patio the Patio Border is entering its late summer period when the Kirengeshoma palmata comes into its own.  I need to reposition the Edgeworthia to the left of the border to balance it out better and add some more bulbs for spring.

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Finally the Staging area is at capacity with pelargoniums and succulents enjoying the last of summer.  I need to do more weeding here and remove the Mind your Business Plant yet again – never by this plant you will regret it!

So there we are at the end of August.  Not as much progress with projects as I had hoped when I wrote this post in July but then life has a habit of throwing curve balls and there isn’t anything that can’t wait.

Everyone is welcome to join in with this meme and I love visiting all your gardens to see what you are up to.  You can use the meme as you want whether its to look at one area over a period of time or just to have a tour of the garden.  All I ask is that you link to this post in yours and put a link to your post in the comment box below so we can all find each other.  Have fun.

My Garden this Weekend 17/8/14 – A Warts & All Tour

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I have weeded, dead-headed, cut back and generally given the garden a good sort out this weekend and during the evenings last week.  It was long overdue and the chaos that has been irritating me for weeks, if not months, is as a result of holidays, other commitments and weather either heavy rain or a heatwave.  I garden to relax, to de-stress and the lack of time I have had outside has taken a toil on me, the garden and the blog.  Anyway, as its all tidy, in fact over tidy, I thought I would take you on a warts and all tour.  I did a tour around this time last year and looking back I can see I have done some of the things I said but not others – some areas have improved and others not.

2014_08170020 We will start the tour by entering the back garden via the side path and you will see the ridiculous amount of seed trays and pots of seedlings I have.  I have been saying to online friends recently that I need to stop buying seeds.  ‘No’ they say, there is always room for seeds but to be honest I seem to have lost the fascination with growing things from seed.  I am sure it will come back at some point but I feel a real need to regroup at the moment.

Going round the corner we are on the patio with is long and thin and runs along the back of the house.  There are borders either side of the greenhouse between the patio and wall.  These were the first places planted up and have had a few changes over the eleven years we have been there but I am pretty happy with them now.

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I am especially pleased with the fern border as I love the textures here and most of the ferns are evergreen so it even looks Ok in the winter.

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At the end of the patio we find the steps up to the back garden and just to the right is the staging which appears every month in the End of Month View.  The steps are quite narrow 2014_08170030and are the only access to the back garden so everything – plants, compost etc have to be dragged up here by hand; wheelbarrows are useless.

The gravel steps, at the top of the steep steps,  which were finished last year have been a boon. When we moved in this was all grass, in fact the garden was mainly grass, and there was a path of large paving slabs which sloped with the angle of the garden and were really slippery.

If you stand at the top of the steep steps before the gravel steps and turn left you have the newish path that runs between the ‘Cottage Border’ and the ‘Big Border.  This was put in as an access path but I use it more than any other path in the garden and its the cat’s favourite place to sunbath.

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The Cottage Border has been the focus of much irritation over the last few months.  You may recall that it has been home to a collection of delphiniums which looked wonderful.  However, they only flowered for a couple of weeks and the foliage and size of the plants were smothering everything around them and then when the stems were cut down large holes in the border appeared.  I made the decision to take them out as they were boring me!  Today they were lifted and the border tidied and sorted.  I have a collection of plants waiting to go in which should add texture and foliage interest and compliment the roses.

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Big gaps in the borders have appeared which made me smile as I have been saying for a while I don’t have any more room.  However, I want to think through my options carefully.  I have had a range of plants in this area and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t do messy or the billowing prairie/grass look – I am too much of a neat nick. The plants I love are ferns, roses, irises, epimediums, peonies and bulbs such as narcissus and crocus and I think I need to focus on these more.

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As the path curves up to the right you come to the original woodland border.  This is the first year I have been pleased with it – I am such a tough critic.  I have been mentally stuck with having small short woodland plants in this area which are great in the spring but dull the rest of the year.  This spring I moved things around and added some large plants

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including melianthus, some asters, persicaria and euphorbia.  They have given the border substance (although the persicaria really needs reducing before it engulfs its neighbours).  This is the sort of planting I enjoy and am trying to replicate elsewhere in the garden. The

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path brings you to an area of sadness.  Here was an Acer that my sons and late sister bought for me some years back.  It has looked stunning for years but for some reason that I cannot fathom it died this winter.  This weekend we pulled it out and it has left a large gap in the border.  You can see how dry the soil is and this is due to the neighbour’s trees whose roots fill this area.  Interestingly though the fatsia planted two years ago just the left of the photo is going great guns.  Turning our back to this area we have the grass path in front of us which runs along the other side of the Big Border to the first path.  On the left of the path is the front of the Not Very Bog Border and this is another area I struggle with.

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I am pleased with the Big Border – I need to add some shorter plants along the edges to hide the legs of the asters etc and I need to sort out the far end as there are too many strappy leaves here so its all a little samey.  I have some ideas I just need to implement them.

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This is the most, probably, troublesome area.  The ground gets quite dry here and I have been trying to find a character for it for years.  In fact I said the same a year ago when I did the tour of the garden.  There are some rusty foxgloves which do well here and also ferns but then, as you will see, I have lots of ferns elsewhere.  I am toying with removing the Spirea to the right of the variegated Cornus and replacing it with a Cotinus.  I think this might give the foxgloves a good backdrop and I have some Crocosmia and Geums that I was thinking of putting in here which would also look good with a purple background.

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At the end of the grass path if you turn left up the gravel steps you head to the new seating area which I love.  However, there is this corner which perplexes me.  It the other end of the border in the photo above – in fact the whole border challenges me.  There are phloxs in here which have looked wonderful albeit bitty and also Lobelia tupa.  I am thinking of moving the lobelia to the Big Border and also maybe the Phloxes and starting again but with what?

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The new seating area is in front of the Hardy Exotic Border and I though I would pull the seat out so you can see how it is coming along and so I can weed.  Again I am pleased with the textures here and its all foliage based.  I could move the Lobelia tupa here but I’m not sure there is room.   Turning around we have the Not Very Bog Border which is alright but looking back to last year’s post there was more interest with the bronze foliage of the Ligularia.  However, I am going to leave it to establish and fill out and see how things go.

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If I moved the Cotinus to this border it will also provide a backdrop to this area which might be good.

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There is a secret path which runs between the Not Very Bog Border and the Slope.  I have been planting my growing collection of epimediums and ferns around this area but there is room for more. We go to the end of the path and there are some slabs steps which go up and to the right and lead to a path along the top of the slope.  You can see a small border at the base of the tree and I need to sort this out as it has suffered neglect.  There is space in here for a shrub at the back and I have a number of ideas which I will investigate.

2014_08170051The long narrow border along the fence has been a struggle over the years.  I planted some bamboo in here four years ago to act as a screen to the neighbour’s house behind and they are now finally establishing and filling out.  I want to add some more big foliage in here but again need to decide what.

As you can see the path needs sorting.  It was covered in wood chip which the birds and badger loved and in the winter it was like a mine field to walk along because of the holes dug in it.  I want to replace the bark with gravel and hopefully I will find the time and energy to do this soon.

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All my tidying up has added to the compost heap which was out of control before I started.  You can just see the bamboo to the left of the heaps which I thinned today.  This is just to the right of where the Acer has been taken out and acts as a screen to the bins when it isn’t collapsing everywhere.  I am thinking of taking the bamboo out and possibly moving it somewhere in front of the back fence and replacing it with an ever green shrub.  The biggest problem I have now which only came to light yesterday is that the top branch of the willow has snapped and it has partially fallen.

2014_08170053I need to get a tree surgeon to sort it out and also to look at the whole tree which is far to big for its location.  I’m not sure how the surgery will affect the light in this area so I will probably have to wait and see before I make any significant changes to the planting.

I am currently reading Margery Fish as I like her attitude and she liked the plants I do.  I think I might try and fit in a trip to East Lambrook in the coming weeks to see what it looks like at this time of year as this is when I struggle most as my favourite plants have all finished.  I have a couple of weeks leave coming up so I hope to do some planting and planning then.

Anyway, that’s my garden warts and all