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