End of Month View – March 2013

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No real change in the last month in the front garden.  You can see there is still a little snow on the lawn.  The snow fell last weekend but the low temperatures meant that it has just sat there particularly in the shade.  Saying that the general consensus today at the garden club was that where the ground is covered in snow it is doing better than soil exposed to the low temperatures and this is true as when the snow has melted new shoots are appearing quickly.

Anyway, as I said nothing much has happened in the front garden.  I have planted a group of Phlomis russeliana in front of the Birch.  My thinking is that the foliage will be good all year round and the grey green leaves compliment the birch particularly when they are frosted.  The grass has also had a cut so it doesn’t look as shaggy as last month.

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I have spent quite a bit of time pouring over gardening books and in particular an A-Z of shrubs trying to find something for the right hand side at the front; the other side of the Grevillea to the Birch.  I really struggle with this corner.  There is a drain in this area and also water pipes with a meter so I have to leave some access for the poor water man plus I worry about roots wrecking the pipes and me receiving a large bill.  I really wanted to plant a bamboo there but haven’t due to the root systems.  Instead I planted some Miscanthus but they really aren’t doing much and my enthusiasm for grasses is waning a tad.  I need something evergreen, with reasonable size leaves to contrast to the Grevillea.  I had been seriously considering a Viburnum and had found a lovely one with red stems which would pick up on the colour of the Grevillea flowers but it was tricky to source.  Anyway, earlier this week in need of some horticultural retail therapy I visited my local nursery.  They had some nice big Viburnum tinus with good glossy leaves but they were pricey and I wasn’t convinced about the flowers.  Then hidden away in a corner I stumbled upon some interesting evergreen variegated shrubs.  They werent labelled so I had to ask the nursery woman who was incredibly helpful – the benefit of going to a small independent nursery and it turned out they were Prunus lusitanica ‘Variegata’, variegated Portuguese Laurel.  I did flinch at the idea of Portuguese Laurel as people can be rather sniffy about it but we agreed it was the ideal plant.  The red stems will pick up on the Grevillea flowers and the white in the leaves will link to the Birch and it was half the price of the Viburnum.

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Elsewhere in the front garden the tulips are coming up along the drive border.  They are Tulip Ballerina and I am hoping they will establish and come up year after year.  I have also added a number of alliums along this edge.  Luckily the tulip crazed badger hasn’t discovered how to access the front garden yet.  I am trying to use strong planting to define the shape of the lawn and then to have more informal planting behind and for the flowers to be strong colours.  That is the idea in my head anyway.

Hopefully I might get to do some more work in the front garden before the end of next month and there might even be some colour.  I have a Cistus to move there which again will pick up on the colours of the Birch and Grevillea and some plants to remove elsewhere.  Aside from the weather I am also being distracted from working in the front garden because of increasingly growing projects in the back garden.  The steps I have been waiting to go in for about 3 years have been started but I will save that for a belated weekend update in the next post.

End of Month View – January 2013 – The Front Garden

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Well this is a bit of a leap of faith for me as I have a love/hate relationship with my front garden and have perfected the art of passing by it without seeing it for some six years now and I certainly hardly ever show it on the blog. Last year I decided that it was ridiculous that I had such a large front garden and potential for planting which I was ignoring and it was time to get over my phobia.  I am such a private person that I don’t really like gardening in the front garden as I feel self-conscious.

When we moved here some seven or eight years ago the front garden had no hedges but contained a vast Leylandii which was at  least two storeys high and a strange small island bed with a very  sad tiny hydrangea in it.  The conifer came out within weeks of us moving in, bringing lots of light  into the house.  The Silver Birch (Betula jacquemontii) was a present from my sons probably within a year of us moving in and this was followed by a Sorbus, the beech hedge and laurel hedge; planted one Christmas Eve.  The short conifer looking plant to the right of the Birch is a Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’.  I love the Grevillea. It has stood up to two winters of -18C temperature and being smothered in snow and it reminds me of my sister as I bought it from a nursery she had discovered near her and was excited to show me.

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This was the view of the front garden back in November 2010 when I posted wondering what to do with it.  After much mumbling and staring out of the window I decided that the lawn would remain.  I had considered replacing it with gravel, maybe with grasses through it or just planting up the whole thing but I am more old school that I care to really acknowledge and the traditionalist me felt that some grass was needed. So the lawn was staying but it needed tidying up and formalising.  Back last Spring I started to mark out the new lawn which was to be a rectangle and meant making the borders deeper.  Well with the weather so wet last year I never got as far as lifting the turf nearest the house but this is one of my first jobs as soon as it is dry enough.

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The front garden has been covered in snow most of this month so there was no chance of making progress.  I have tried to emphasis the formality of the lawn by edging it on the long sides with Alchemilla mollis and across the bottom with Deschampsia and this will be repeated in the house end border.  I have also planted lots of Tulipa Ballerina, Alliums and Narcissus.  The  colour theme is going to be strongly red focussed to pick up on the Grevillea flowers but with other rich colours such as deep blues and burgandies.  I have already added Peonies, Salvias and Irises.

You will see in the picture below that the border to the left of the lawn is more of a triangle and I need to really sort this border out this year.  There is a lot of random planting in here on the driveway side and I need to clear it out and pull it together with the extension along the lawn.  I have some Echinops which I might add here.  I  am trying to be bold with the planting, planting with repeats and larger groups to make more of an effect.  I am keeping my plant collection and impulse  buys for the back garden.  I need to remove the three Cornus that are just in front of the Birch as they have been in for at least three years and have just sat there.  I don’t think they get enough moisture as they are in competition with the Birch and Laurel.  I have a large number of Phlomis russelina which need a new home and I am thinking of relocating them to this area as the foliage should provide a good contrast to the Grevillea.  I have also to sort out the right hand side of the Grevillea but I am still pondering on this.

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So that is what my Front Garden looks like at the moment.  I am focussing on it for this year’s End of Month view so I will have to get my act together and finish off last year’s project.

If  you would like to join in this meme you are very welcome.  You can use it however you like – some people show the same view each month, others go on a tour of their garden.  Whatever works for you.  But if you do join in please do leave a link in the comments box so we can all come and have a nose.

Front Garden Project

My front garden has left me feeling dis-satisfied for some years now.  I posted about if back in 2010 when I was trying to decide what to do with the area.  As I said back then when we moved in about 7 years ago the front garden consisted of grass and a ridiculously large conifer which was taller than the house and seemed to swamp most of the front garden.  The conifer went within the first couple of months much to my neighbour’s delight as it blocked out a huge amount of light.  The silver  birch was added, it was a birthday gift from my sons and I really must try to work out how to propagate from it as one day I will want to move and will regret leaving it behind.   The beech hedge went in to hide my neighbours trailer that sat on the driveway full of rubbish for months on end and the laurel hedge was planted one Christmas Eve to give us more privacy from their visitors.  I like my privacy and found it very hard to be so on view.

The plot is quite large for the size of the house and is as larger, if not larger, than many of the back  gardens on our housing estate.  However, as with many people I’m not very good at spending time in the front garden.  I find it hard to be so on view.  Therefore the plan was to go for low maintenance.  I added some shrubs by the birch and a border along the side of the driveway, shaping the lawn into a sort of oval (see below) but it was just wrong.

After staring out of the window for over a year – well not constantly you understand but from time to time – I decided that the lawn was too dominant and that I wanted something more formal.  I knew I didn’t want to have box  hedges etc firstly due to the maintenance and secondly the cost – my budget is non-existent.  I toyed with circles but felt that the sides would result in too mean a border.  I toyed with digging up the whole lawn but that would mean a lot of work in maintenance even if I covered it in gravel and again that would cost a fortune.  I actually quite like lawns in the front garden being an old-fashioned kinda girl so the lawn was to remain and eventually the obvious  thing to do was to go for a rectangle.

I measured it out  and was very pleased with myself  at  checking the diagonals as well as the length and width.  Canes were put in and then I tied some rope around the four canes to help with cutting the turf at this point I realised that  I hadn’t done the rectangle square to the house so the boys started again, there was much muttering about their mad mother,  but  soon the canes were re-positioned and approval given from the upstairs window.

We, well my eldest, lifted the turf back at the end of April and then the rain came and I have struggled to get the opportunity to take the garden forward what with the allotment and work.  When I did get a moment the ground was sodden.  Anyway, finally over the last couple of weeks I have managed to set to on three of the sides.  We haven’t lifted the turf on the edge nearest the house  as we need access to the lawn to cut it.  Eventually there will be a border along the path with a paving slab in the middle to give access to the front garden.  Yesterday, the sun shone and feeling better from my soul-searching previous post I set too.  I still have to clear the area around the birch and also the top right corner but I decided that planting out some of the plants I had waiting on the patio would be more positive plus there is a complicated moving programme where  one plant is dependent on another moving its place that I shan’t bore you with.

The idea is that each of the long side will be planted with Alchemilla mollis to tie the planting together  and the  bottom short edge has a row of Deschampia planted along it.  I am thinking of planting a similar row along the top edge.  The colour theme for the garden will  be reds, blues, purples – a sort of rich tapestry which sounds very grandiose but it’s the only way I can explain the image in my head.  So far I had planted out  red shrubby salvias, nepeta and irises.  I have still to add some peonies and bergenias which are going in near the beech hedge which is very  shady.  I also have some cistus to go  in the deep border at the front but they are quite  large so I need to work myself  up to that.

Finally, I like what  I see when I look out of my bedroom window.  It may be that the laurel hedge goes in the future once the current and soon to be added shrubs fill  out and form a baffle but I haven’t decided  yet.  Oh and I have ordered lots of ballerina tulips  and alliums to add a dash in the spring.  Hopefully by this time next year it will have  really filled out.

End of Month View – Jan 2011

It’s funny how our perception of time passing changes in accordance with what we are doing.  December seemed to be over before it had started despite the tedium of snow and cancelled holiday plans but January seems to have lasted for ever.  I suppose there is a sense of urgency in December with Christmas approaching and certainly a work people are keen to get meetings and decisions made before the break.  January is less purposeful, it reminds me of a Victorian chaperone, quietly waiting in the background.

Anyway, here we are at the end of January and the end of month view of the front garden (this year’s project to ponder) and needless to say nothing has changed in the last couple of months.  Not only that but I have had not grand awakening of what to do with it; unlike the back garden which is in line for some startling revisions. 

I have however realised that the Fatsia I planted last year to fill the top corner is completely the wrong plant for this location.  It gets very hot and sunny here and I have realised that  Fatsias don’t like this environment at all.  I did actually know this but I was so caught up in find a strong plant for this corner that I overlooked the poor Fatsia’s requirements.  Don’t worry it is off to the back garden as part of the new scheme in a location where it will feel a lot happier and I am left back at square 1 trying to think of a shrub that will balance out the Birch in the other corner.  I also have to be mindful of  drains which are in this area so I think a tree is out of the question.  More head scratching.

I have also decided that I want some form of lawn in the front garden for the sake of conformity.  I don’t think a circle would work but I think the borders need to be deeper and that is as far as my ponderings have got.

Who knows next month I may be able to show you a flower in the front garden if the weather improves!.

I’m sorry if this post seems a little rushed but we have no internet or telephone connection at home at the moment as someone tried to steal the telephone cables leading to our estate, apparently the copper wire is valuable.  It seems that we may not have connection until Thursday so I am bashing out this post in my lunch break at work!!

Anyway, please do join in the End of Month view meme – either with some photos of what your garden looks like or maybe focus on one area through the year, its entirely up to you but I find it very helpful to build up a record of the same area over 12 months.  If you do join in please pop  a link to your post in the comments page so we can follow your progress.

End of Month View – November 10 – The Front

So it’s the end of November which means that Christmas is just round the corner, or so the shops and media would have us believe.  I have decided to start a new End of Month series focussing for the next year on the front garden.  I have a love/hate relationship with my front garden which is why it rarely appears on my blog so this is a form of aversion therapy and I hope to learn to love my front garden by this time next year!  I thought it would be a good time to reveal it in all its ….um….’wonderousness’ as this is the time of year when gardens often fail to perform and so you can see it warts and all.  They say that if you view a house on a wet and overcast day and love it then it’s the one for you, I would love to have that reaction to my front garden (and to be honest my back garden but that a whole other thing).  So here we go with the first of my therapy sessions.

The view at the top is from my bedroom window and shows the majority of the garden.  When we moved here, six years ago, the half furthest away from the house was dominated by a 30ft conifer and then there was a small island bed with a sickly Hydrangea in it.  There were no boundaries, all open plan.  We widened the driveway  to take two cars, had the conifer removed and turfed over the island bed.  My neighbour’s ex husband had a propensity for leaving a trailer full of rubbish on his driveway which runs adjacent to the front lawn, the trailer never moved, the rubbish just grew so in went the Beech hedge.  He has since left  and the trailer, still with rubbish, is now on their other bit of driveway but I am glad I have put in the Beech hedge as it adds structure particularly at this time of year.  The following year the laurel hedge went in around the front of the garden. I am a private person and I really hated the open plan style to the garden, so 4 Christmas Eves ago in went the hedge,confirming my neighbour’s suspicion of my eccentricity.

There is a fairly deep border at the front of the garden.  My intention is to build up some shrubs to form more of a screen.  I love my Birch which my sons bought me for my birthday about 5 years ago.  Next to it is a Grevillea Canberra which I have written about before.  This plant was a gamble but it has thrived over the three years it has been in, standing up really well to the weeks of snow we have last year though I did do a lot of branch shaking.  This year I have put in a Fatsia in the right hand corner, there was previously a deciduous shrub here, I can’t remember what, but last winter I decided I really needed more evergreen plants to provide winter interest. The small tree in front of the Fatsia is a native Spindle  which was a seedling from my parent’s old home.  As I  have said I am trying to build up winter interest so the rest of the border has Bergenias and Dogwoods in it. They are all quite young at the moment and have only been in since the Spring but hopefully next year they will be making their presence felt more.  I have also included a load of mixed Digitalis to add some early summer interest.

From the house this is the border which runs along the side of the driveway, I wonder if it would benefit from being widened and one of the reason for looking at the front garden this year is to come to decisions for next year on how to improve it.  This border is in full sun but the soil is clay so the lavender hedge that it was originally created to house has been removed as the lavender plants couldn’t cope with the damp cold clay soil in the winter.  There are lots of Alliums in here, some Irises, and other perennials – there also seems to be a bit of a pink/purple theme going on here which wasn’t intended but I might go along with. At the far end is a Mountain Ash tree which I planted again about 3 years ago when it was little more than a 3ft stick.


The back of the corner border by the side gate and is looking really quite pathetic.  This bit of the garden is bordered by my neighbour’s garage wall which dominates things and I have been baffled for a while how to screen it.  This spring I divided a big clumping bamboo I have and a piece of this is now in the border which should help to break up the garage wall.  I also have lots of red flowering Primulas which are very pretty in the spring against a few Heucheras.  Yes I have some Heucheras, they are the only ones I own and like many plants in the front garden they have been dumped there as I don’t know where else to put them which is one of the main problems with the front garden. The Primulas are followed by Euphorbia which has established itself well and is spreading nicely.  However, this area has a red theme which I like but it doesn’t work with the pinky border and I am thinking that really the front garden needs a cohesive appearance.

Why not join in with the monthly end of month meme – I have found it very helpful in making me look critical at bits of the garden but others like to just use it as a record of how the garden changes through the year.  If you do decide to join in post the link to your post in the comment box.


I’m not panicing honest!!!!

When I did my end of  month view a  couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had a few projects lined up for the coming year which I would keep a diary of during the year.  However, there have been exciting goings on since then as VP and I have been hatching plans for the http://malvernmeet.blogspot.com/ event.  I think initially we both thought that we would be meeting up with a handful of UK bloggers that we already knew and who normally go to the Malvern show.  Not so, the event has taken on a life of its own as you will see if you visit the blog VP  has  set up for the event.  Not only do we have UK bloggers coming but also Yolanda for the Netherlands and today Frances and Gail have confirmed that they will be popping over the pond from the US to join in the fun.  We had anticipated that some people may stay overnight and we might decide to have a meal out on one of the evenings but with the amazing amount of interest we have had we are now in the situation where we have  between 10-20 attending the  evening event on both Friday and  Saturday.  Now Malvern is  a small provincial town and  so there aren’t many eating establishments that can cope with these sorts of numbers.  In a moment of complete madness I merrily said to VP, “Well if it comes to  it everyone can come round to mine for a party”.  Oh dear.  On current numbers I have around 14 confirmed as coming to my house on the Friday evening and about 10 additional possibles!!!!!

Consequently, I have now become completely panic-stricken.  Not about all these people in my house (luckily I had a new kitchen and bathroom installed last year), nor about feeding them all (whilst we haven’t a great choice of restaurants in Malvern we do have a lot of  take aways).  No I am panic-stricken about my garden.  There will be a bunch of very discerning gardeners visiting.  I won’t be able to hide the areas that don’t appear on the blog from them.  Some of them will be garden designers by profession – I haven’t got a clue about design and it  shows.  Argh!!!  So my couple of projects have become more pressing and on  top of them I have to address the front garden once and for all. 

I  am one of those people who doesn’t enjoy gardening in my front garden.  Since I moved here I have planted a Laurel and  Beech hedge to get some privacy and also  some  trees but apart from them there is a lack of cohesion, design or anything else desirable.  I tend to  park  the car and go straight in the  front door without a second look at the garden but this will be the first impression my gardening gurus will have.  So I have been looking out of the upstairs window to try to  decide  what  to do.  I think the shape of the lawn (see above) is  OK – I just need to sort out the planting.  According to the countdown on Meet@Malvern I have 88 days to sort things – better get going.

Up front

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In my last post – End of Month view – I omitted to include my front garden. 

Dawn of Littlefingers asked if I had  a big tidy up before I took the photos. I presume that she thought the garden looked quite tidy – but then there weren’t any close up so she wouldn’t have been able to see any of the weeds!! Dawn’s comment did make me face up to the fact that I hadn’t included my front garden as I wasn’t very proud of it and it really needed some work.  So today I set too. 

When we moved in 5 years ago our front garden was basically a ridiculously large conifer and grass.  The conifer quickly went as it was blocking out light.  I have put in two hedges – one along the side (beech) and one round the front (laurel).  This is because I am basically quite a private person and find it difficult sometimes to work in the front garden as I feel I’m being watched.  I know I’m not and that my neighbours have much better things to do with their time but that doesn’t change how I feel! 

The front garden is beginning to improve now.  The hedges are beginning to get going although the beech one did struggle for the first two years.  I have also planted three trees – a Silver Birch, a Rowan and a Spindle Tree and these are doing very well. 

I cant say the same for the Lavender hedge that was meant to edge the driveway.  I have a weakness for French Lavender even though I have clay soil which gets water logged.  Needless to say I lost two this winter – right bang smack in the middle of the hedge. I thought about replacing them but have come to the conclusion that the same thing would only happen again when we have another bad winter plus the others are looking a little ropey so may give up in the near future.

So now I have tidied the front garden and weeded out most of the couch grass and wild strawberries I feel I can take a photo and put it up on my blog for all to see.