Six on Saturday – 13th July 2019 – Boundaries

My six this weekend are all about the boundaries because I am celebrating getting my privacy back.  Long term readers of this blog will know that my old neighbours neglected their garden and it was overgrown with a thick barrier of ash and sycamore trees between our two properties which gave me reasonable privacy.

When the new neighbours moved in 3 years ago they did what any of us would do and cleared the garden.  It was quite alarming for me as I suddenly felt like I was in a goldfish bowl.  All the screening above the fence line was gone.  This might not seem such a big deal but our gardens slope up from our houses and so with all the angles you often feel like you can be seen by your neighbours in your garden and they can see you which I don’t like.

Then to make matters worse because the garden had been neglected for so long the fences hadn’t been cared for and in some places it was only the trees and shrubs that were holding things together.  So over the past two winters the fences have disintegrated or have bits missing and it has looked a real mess.

Not any more, they have had the fences replaced and we now have a lovely 6ft fence which is rather beautiful.  Sadly, for the neighbours, as they are at the end of the road they are responsible for all the fences around their property so this must have cost a lot but I think it is fab.  Suddenly, I have my privacy back and it brought home to me just how much I had missed that privacy.  I think there is actually even more privacy than before as the fence is higher than the old one.

Not only have I got my privacy back but I have gained about a foot along the fence line.  I need to fill in the trench left from where they dug out all the old tree roots etc but once I have done that I can play around and give some of my plants more space.  I had left some Hawthorne seedlings grow up in recent years in anticipation of new owners clearing the garden and now I think I will cut the Hawthorne trees back to create more of a hedge along the fence which will in turn allow my Liquidamber tree to have more light and thrive.

The new fence at the end of the patio.  The fence here was previous held up by a variegated ivy that I planted which was OK.  The bamboos in pots were added when they cut all the trees down as it meant they could see straight from their garden down on to my patio which was horrid.  The new fence is higher and somehow I think has obstructed the view but I think the bamboos may stay.  Now they have a smart backdrop I may think again about what is around them and smarten it up.

As I am fixated with fences at the moment I thought I would include my back fence which you can just about make out through the undergrowth.  The garden slopes up to it and last year I removed the path that used to run along the top of the garden as it was never used and was a waste of growing space.  I am encouraging a wild and hardy exotic look up here. There is a huge thistle which has appeared from somewhere which sort of messes up the look of the planting but I was intrigued to see how big it would grow.  Behind it is a fig tree which I had to prune hard last year as it had a lot of long branches going off at angles and I wanted more height than width.  This year it is smothered in figs.  I need to work out when I am meant to harvest them and what to do with the fruit as I don’t think I’ve eaten fresh figs before.

And finally my side fence which is the same style as the neighbour’s new fence but shorter.  I thought I would include this as my final six as it another boundary photo and includes my marmite rose which I included in a previous post.  I inherited this rose when we moved in about 16 years ago and for years and years it had one or two flowers.  Then my other neighbours also indulged in some heavy handed pruning and cut everything back hard meaning that the rose suddenly benefited from light and more rain and this is the result!

For more Six on Saturday posts visit The Propagator’s blog.

I’m off to Yorkshire later today garden visiting for a week so I hope to have some interesting gardens to share with you soon.

 

Boundaries

It’s all been about the boundaries the last couple of weeks with a new fence along one boundary and tree surgeons sorting out the neglected beech hedge.

I find myself wondering if this is me staking my territory again now that we aren’t moving, bit like a cat. But if I’m honest the fence was on the to do list before we put the house on the market and in fact the old fence was only staying up right as it was tied to the tree.

Who knew it was possible to get so excited by a fence.  I love this fence. It is so solid and robust and I love the colour. It blends in the with garden and isn’t that horrid garish orangey brown you used to get.  If you look in the top photo you can just about see how the angle of the fence as it goes up the garden.  To accommodate the fall of the ground the fence has been made bespoke and has such a better quality to it.  The only mild irritation is the black electric housing which takes the electricity to the workshop.  We have agreed that we will reattach it so it isn’t so obvious.

I’ve taken the opportunity to re-plant the area in the photo above.  This is the first part of the grand plan – well it’s not that grand a plan, just various ideas I have had.  This bit of border has been difficult ever since we moved here.  I have tried various things and the badger has had a good go too. I’ve improved the soil and have moved an Abelia from elsewhere as its such a robust shrub I think it will do well and hopefully thwart the badger.  Like Jekyll I really rate Bergenias as a good foliage and ground cover plants so I have added two to fill this space with wonderful foliage to give interest all year round.  I’ve also added some crocus to the snowdrops that are already in this space somewhere.

In the front garden the tree surgeons have reduced the beech hedge by around two foot in height and trimmed back the sides to improve the whole look of the hedge and make my neighbour’s life easier when they get out of their car. I have been ignoring the hedge and had let it get away from me but now that it has been reduced I think it smartens up the front garden and it should improve the light to that side of the space.

So those are the boundaries sorted – now I have the bit in the middle to do.

 

Let there be light

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

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

End of July 2015
End of July 2015

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

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

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

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

My garden this weekend – 21st September 2014

Aster trinervius 'Stardust'
Aster trinervius ‘Stardust’

Unlike some parts of the country we have been lucky to have a couple of days rain towards the end of the week.  It was mostly light persistent rain but there were a few real downpours which have filled up the water butts and everything is looking fresh again.  Given that Saturday was a damp and overcast day I ‘gardened’ under cover repotting all the miniature bulbs which are stored in the greenhouse now.  There are already some signs of narcissus and oxalis appearing which makes me really happy.  The greenhouse is being given over to overwintering my various alpines so won’t have any heating this year; I will be storing the tender plants in the garage which has a good size window with a work-surface under it.

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I am finding that my tastes have been changing over the last year or so and I am becoming more focussed on certain plant groups which should hopefully mean that the garden looks less chaotic in the future! I am pleased with some of the plant combinations I have created this year.  At the moment this combination of crocosmia, witch hazel with its autumn leaves and the asters is making me smile – it is so vibrant.

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Today, due to my general need to sort, tidy and have a more cohesive approach today, with the sun shining, I decided to continue the clearing I started last weekend and tackle my nemesis – the compost heaps. As you can see my compost heaps are a far cry from the organised and tidy heaps we regularly see on Gardeners’ World but I would say to Monty, in my defence, that I am an amateur garden who has a full time demanding job and no time for turning and moving stuff from one heap to another.

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The two heaps nearest to you in the chaotic photo were emptied this spring, truly, but we never got around to emptying the one nearest the fence and I suspect its been a good year or so since we did and even then I don’t think its been emptied properly for years.  I only needed to remove a small amount of the top layer before I came across good quality compost.  Look how wonderfully friable it is – Monty would be impressed, well maybe!

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A couple of hours later and not only had I emptied the bin completely – yes me on my own, both my sons were out – but I had dismantled and removed the bin.  Some of the lower planks had rotted through which is hardly surprising.  The amount of compost was ridiculous.  I shovelled it down to the border below where the Acer was removed the other week and where I want to plant some new shrubs and add hellebores and spring bulbs.  The stones at the front of the area are a loose retaining wall which I need to redo once everything else is sorted.

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The height of the border has significantly increased but it will go down once it has had time to settle and been rained on plus I want to rake it down the border further once some of the perennials have died back. The compost is so thick here that you sink in it as you walk over it – this makes me very happy indeed.  You can also see that I have painted the fence alongside the space for the compost bin. I would have painted more except I could feel my muscles seizing up – I will do the rest as each bit is more accessible.  It all looks very smart but if you look the other way…

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You can see some of the chaos I have created in the process and left for now!  The bin needs rebuilding and will be shorter than before due to the rotten timbers.  I then need to fill it with a pile of stuff you can’t see and also tip the overflow from the other bins into it.  Then in a month or so when I have tidied and cut back more perennials I will empty out the other bins and use the compost to mulch them.

So for the second weekend on the trot I am tired but happy.  I think the weather is starting to turn so I will need to start moving tender plants under cover in the next week or so.  In the meantime I am researching shrubs for the border above and also peonies for somewhere else.

My garden this weekend – 2nd March 2014

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This has been a weekend of extremes of weather.  Today, my birthday, has been a non-event in the garden due to the drizzle and cold wind but this is fine as I wore myself out yesterday in the garden taking advantage of the sunshine.

I love this time of year there is so much promise and every time I am in the garden I do much peering to see what bulbs and perennials are appearing.  To be honest it was a relief to have a nice day to garden as my mental list of plants to move and plans for borders had got to such a length that I was in danger of remembering where the great plant move was to start.  Of course, it goes without saying that I could write it all down in a notebook but I kept telling myself it would be fine, I would remember.

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First up was the left hand front corner of the garden (above) which I can see from the living room windows.  It has been a sad area ever since we have lived here.  Some weeks ago I moved a Spirea Bridal Wreath which was planted right up against the top of the wall.  As you can see moving back some 4ft has opened up this area and I prefer it but what to plant?  I knew I wanted some perennials in here but I wanted them to be something that didn’t need a lot maintenance as to access this corner means walking on the border.  I bought a Euphorbia pasteurii ‘Phrampton  Patty’ last month at my local HPS group and this was earmarked for the corner.

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As you can see it was quickly followed by some additional hellebores, also bought from my local HPS group meeting. To add a bit of summer colour I divided up a clump of Geranium phaeum and scattered it amongst the hellebores.  My thinking is that the purple markings on the leaves will pick up on the hellebore flowers in a year or so when the clumps bulk up and there will be nice deep purple flowers in the summer when the hellebores are resting.  I also relocated a Melianthus major to the border where hopefully it will provide some evergreen interest for most of the year.  As this is a view I have from the house during the grey days of winter and spring I want to add some more spring interest here so I think maybe some crocus, Snow Bunting, or possibily snowdrops but I seem to have quite a few of those now so a change might be good.

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I am starting to work along this fence line tidying up and sorting out – it’s an area that’s been neglected for some years.  I was thrilled to discover the Mahonia had started to re-shoot.  I had taken a gamble last April and lopped the shrub to within 10cm of the ground; at the time it had a single stem heading upwards and I wanted a more shrubby plant.  It was a bit of a leap of faith but all my research told me that this was what was needed and it turned out to be correct.

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I also moved some an old cornus into the Camellia border since its previous location was too dry, even with all the rain we have had, and it has sulked for years.  Hopefully it will be happier in the damper environment.  Also relocated were some Siberian irises.  I have some candelabra primulas and meconopsis poppy seedlings I want to plant here although I think I may be optimistic about the space available.

Having wrecked my back again with all the lifting and digging I spent more time picking up sticks and twigs which had blown down in the recent high winds.  A tedious task but it does mean you notice things in the borders and I was pleased to see the Polyanthus Stella Champagne that I reviewed from Plant Me Now back in August were flowering, such a pretty pink (see top photo).

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Finally, and in my usual ambitious and over optimistic way, I decided to start on the fence staining that needs to be done.  Long term readers will know that I have neglected fence care since I have lived here, ten years, and last year I spent many evenings staining the back fence.  It was a lovely dark brown but has already faded so it shows how dry the fence was gobbling up two coats of stain.  My aim this year is to do all the fences at least twice; I said I was ambitious. I do like the dark stain as it really shows the plants up and I feel it brings the boundaries in making the garden feel more enclosed in a strange way.

Needless to say today I ache all over but I am thrilled with how much I achieved especially as the weather is so rubbish today. I shall have to console myself with my new greenhouse shelves that my sons bought me!

My garden this weekend – 26th August

Lemon Cheesecake

It’s been a long bank holiday weekend which theoretically means lots of gardening.  However, as I have intimated nearly every week for the last couple of months I keep feeling tired. (I should add at this point that I have been to the doctors and had various tests and the doctor says I am just working too hard with too much stress). This morning I thought I was coming down with a cold so we cancelled our planned trip to the local flea market and I read in bed – an unheard of luxury for me.  However, the cold symptoms seem to have gone and the general consensus is that I am just plain exhausted and now I don’t have to be anywhere or do anything for the next two weeks my body has said ‘enough – STOP!.  The trouble is that I’m not very good at the whole relaxing thing, it doesn’t come naturally to me.  As children we were always expected to be doing something, achieving something, time was not to be wasted.  I am therefore going to try very hard over the next two weeks to take things slowly – although the effort that will take might counteract the relaxing!!

Yesterday I finished clearing the first part of the Fence Border.  The ground is quite dry here and I definitely need to remove some of the overhanging branches from my neighbour’s Pieris as it isn’t helping at all.  I love the way the dark fence really exaggerates the colour of the rose.  I have no idea which rose this is as it was one of the few plants in the garden when we moved in but I think this is the best it has looked, possibly due to having all the clutter removed from around it. Once my eldest has run the electric cable along the fence to the workshop I can get on with the planting here which will focus on foliage.  I was pleased to have tackled this as its one of those areas of the garden I don’t really like and ignore.

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Another uninspiring photo for the reader but for me it’s another ‘hoorah’ as again this is one of those areas I avoid in the garden.  The border is in the front garden and runs along in front of a beech hedge.  I widened it back in the Spring and it is planted with Alchemilla mollis and a variety of Bergenias.  As anyone who has grown beech will know their roots are quite fibrous and near the surface which makes it hard to really plant near.  I have weeded it and although it looks a little bare, due to the Alchemilla being cut back hard, I am very pleased and  have decided that the best approach for this border will be to let the Alchemilla spread and fill  it out.   It seems to like it here and the lime green flowers really work well with the new beech leaves earlier in the year.  So that’s two neglected areas tidied for now.

Seedlings

Finally to complete this blog post bereft of wonderful flowers but full of dull photographs here is one of some of the seedlings I have pricked out today.  As I said I find it impossible to sit and do nothing so I decided that pricking out and potting up seedlings would be a gentle occupation for an hour or so this afternoon.  I recently confessed to my blogging friend, Karen, that whilst I love sowing seeds I am rubbish at looking after the seedlings and I have realised that I am not really cut out to be a nursery-woman.  Not  only do I have  neglected borders, as above, but I have a cold frame of seedlings climbing out of their pots.  I am very pleased with the progress I have made – potting up lots of alpines, some Geraniums and Meconopsis.  I am determined that by the time I go back to work I will have gone through the cold frames and sorted everything out.

And if you are wondering why there is a photograph of cheesecake at the top of this post it’s because my youngest decided to make one and it was delicious.  It is an old family recipe, well he is the third generation to make  it, and knowing my mother the recipe is probably from the Jimmy Young cookbook!  It is incredibly easy to make  and never fails to please.  And of course in order to enjoy cheesecake you have to sit down with a drink and that is just what I need to do right now.