Early Autumn in the Front Garden

When I posted at the end of September I included a photo of the front garden, which I rarely post pictures of.  One of my readers suggested that I post more often on the front garden as it looks interesting so here you go.  It is timely as the planting in the front garden was designed to peak at this time of year. If you look carefully there is a gravel path in a curve through the garden.  It is rarely used as the only place it actually goes is to the side access to the back garden but it does give me access to the planting. I created the front garden space just over two years ago.  It was previously mainly lawn and unloved.  So the lawn came up and I planted the space mainly with late summer/early autumn perennials which were being rehoused from the back garden. There are several different asters here as well as rudbeckia and sedum – I’m not sure about the yellow rudbeckia and the red mauve sedums together but it’s a passing phase.
The grasses are Calmagrostis ‘Overdam’.  There are is also some Fennel and Euphorbia in the border which give more interest earlier in the year.   The structure is provided a Phormium; two Sorbus – one Sorbus aucuparia  and Sorbus pseudohupehenis ‘Pink Pagoda; a birch; and two Grevilleas – Canberra Gem and Grevillea victoriae.  The space is surrounded by beech and laurel hedges.
So that’s my front garden – hope you enjoyed the whistle top tour  

Pondering on the Front Garden project

I suspect I was unconsciously thinking about taking up the front lawn when I decided to feature the front garden this year as the End of Month view.  It made me smile that I made no reference to lifting the lawn in my post but the view of commentators was unanimous that it should go and I should use the space to embrace my plant obsessions.  It didn’t take many such comments to win me round, I don’t think I actually needed persuading but it is always nice when someone else unwittingly confirms your view – its a vote of confidence and encouragement.

Since then there has been much pondering.  I look at the front garden when I do the weekly pile of ironing (yes I do the ironing weekly, I quite like ironing as it appeals to my neat-nick tendencies).  I also look at it each morning from my bedroom window while I get ready for work.  I have found in recent years that I need to have an image in my mind before I can start to develop part of the garden.  Not in the sense of knowing the structure, paths, borders etc but its more of a sense of the visual impact.  So having pondered a hardy exotic look I strangely found myself seeing the front garden in terms of bright and warm colours – very floriferous.

Driving back from Kate’s last week and pondering her generally late summer interest garden the idea of moving my asters to the front garden started to form.  If you recall the front garden is already home to a number of red shrubby salvias which do well and also crocosmia.  I could see how the asters would benefit from the sunny location and how finally I could create the late summer border I have tried to achieve in the Big Border.  This hasn’t worked as asters are generally tall and no matter how hard I try due to the slope I end up looking at their stems.  If I move the asters and the calmagrostis to the front garden then the image in my head might finally start to work.  I can augment them with more crocosmia and rudbeckias and maybe some echinacea.  I want to add a small tree or tall shrub to add some height and I am currently toying with a adding an eleagnus ‘Quicksilver’ which I have been admiring for some years, although I know it has a tendency to sucker.

But I also need to add some sort of access to this area to make it easier to work and I am currently thinking this will a slab and gravel path leading from near the beginning of the driveway partly into the front garden, with one path splitting off to the house and the other heading towards the large grevillea where there might be a large pot or a pot like water feature.  This will add a focal point and purpose to the paths – I think.

But I don’t want the front garden to only look good in late summer so I need another season of interest and I am thinking that this will come mainly from bulbs with orange and burgundy tulips, alliums and also bearded irises which I hope will benefit from the light levels.

So there seems to be a plan forming but as so often with such things one thing has lead to another and now I am having to re-think the back garden.  Not drasticly but if I move the majority of the asters, some of the grasses and other such plants to the front from the Big Border it will need a new identity.  I want to try and bring some sort of cohesion into the back garden.  My magpie approach to plants has led to a garden which can seem quite fragmented at times.  So I am trying to arrange the plants in such a way that they enhance each other rather than my usual ‘where is there a gap’ approach.  In the back I have been tending more and more towards foliage interest with some floral highlights. I am today, it may change tomorrow, currently toying with using the Big Border for adding to the exotic approach by adding tenders in the summer, after the bulbs have gone over.  I didn’t grow dahlias last year for the first time in years and I missed them so I could use this space for them along with some cannas and gingers and I have wanted an banana for some time but not had the space.

Who knew a simple blog post could lead to so much pondering and potentially upheaval!! I may have to change the focus of the end of month meme this year as I suspect there might not be much to see for a while. I’m now off to ponder dahlias in the Sarah Raven catalogue

End of Month View – August 2015

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Finally I can stop moaning about the lack of rain as the last week has been decidedly wet leaving the garden looking very lush.  I surprised myself at how much things had grown in the last year when I looked back at last year’s August EOMV post.  It just shows you how easy it is to forget what progress has been made and how things have developed and I think it reinforces the benefits of taking regular photographs of the garden, and maybe participating in this meme.

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So to start with the usual path up to the workshop.  I have been on a bit of a grass-fest this last month while I have been on annual leave and you might just spot a Stipa tenuissima  near the foreground.  I want to soften the edges of the steps and given how sunny this part of the garden is with good drainage grasses seem a good partner to the numerous bulbs I have planted here. If you look closely at the far end of the steps you can just spot the cyclamen that have been flowering for the last couple of weeks.

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Turning left from the bottom of the steps we have the lower path which runs almost along the top of the retaining wall.  The border to the left is really a rose border, although the flowers haven’t been that great this year, and I have been adding other plants such as sedum and penstemons to bring some late summer colour. To the right is the bottom of the Big Border which slopes down from the grass path.  This border’s season of interest is primarily late summer due to the various asters that are planted here.  I am still trying to get their arrangement right since they were originally acquired for the back slope before the workshop gobbled it up.  I struggle with balancing the tall and shorter varieties in a border where they are seen from both sides and which slopes.  I am slowly moving most of the tall asters to the middle of the border and it does seem to be working.  I now need to work on planting around the bottom of the border to disguise the legs of the asters.

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From the far end of the bottom path you can look back to the workshop through the Calamgrostis ‘Overdam’.  The Calamgrostis has been victim to my tweaking, being moved by all of a foot backwards into the border.  It was right against the top edge of the border and hemmed in by a tall aster to the point where it didn’t seem to be able to waft in the breeze and what is the point of having grasses if they aren’t allowed to waft.  The aster has been relocated, it’s not looking very happy but hopefully the rain will help, but the grass looks so much better now and there is movement and that’s what I want in the garden – a realisation that has crept up on me during my various garden visits this year.

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At the end of the bottom path you come to the lower part of the woodland border.  Looking back it hasn’t changed much since last year except the plants are larger.  For now I think it is working although there is a bare path where the Solomon’s Seal was before I cut it down to counter the invasion of the Solomon Seal Sawfly.

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The other end of the woodland border has seen major upheaval a year ago when the acer died.  I am beginning to get an idea of how I would like it to look and you might spot a miscanthus in the background along with a carex and hosta still in their pots waiting for planting.  This area isn’t as shady as it was due to the removal of the willow canopy and it is interesting to see how the shade lovers have thrived due to the increase in moisture despite the border being sunnier.

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From the top of the woodland border you find yourself looking across, again, to the workshop, across what was the Bog Garden.  This is now a much drier area due to the holes I over zealously punched in the liner – opps.  If you look back at last year’s post you will see how this area has grown up over the last year and last week I moved the Paulwonia tomentosa from the back slope to this border.  I felt that the Paulwonia was struggling on the slope which is very free draining and  think its height will add interest to its new home.

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Finally the grass path which runs along the top of the Big Border and is looking very neat thanks to a quick haircut ready for its photocall. In the foreground you can see the Anemanthele lessoniana that has been added in the last week.  There is another to the right of the path and a third at the far end of the border.  I hope that the third one will draw the eye and add some cohesion to my eclectic planting.  I need to work on the border to the right of the path next year as whilst I am happy with it in spring it falls apart the rest of the year.  There are some phloxes here which I have persevered with for a couple of years but I am really tired of now as they aren’t performing and the large white one looks terrible when the flowers fade or get damaged by rain.  I seem to be adopting a warm orange, rust and yellow theme here so I think I might try to see where that goes.

If you would like to join in the End of Month meme you are very welcome – the more the merrier.  All we ask if that you add a link to this post in your post and that you leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can all find you.

 

Stockton Bury Gardens – August

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Some may recall that earlier this year I set out to visit Stockton Bury Gardens, a garden local to me, on a regular basis.  I have to admit I failed to make a monthly visit for far too many reasons to bore you with and so I missed the high summer months.  However, today in need of an escape and some horticultural therapy I dug out my season ticket and returned.

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As I think I said last week I really struggle with getting the garden to look good at this time of year as my preference is for spring and early summer plants so I am trying to visit a couple of gardens over the next couple of weeks which are open almost all year to see how they address this.

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Interestingly at Stockton Bury the approach seems to be mixed herbaceous borders with some early summer plants and some later flowering plants.  Unlike me the dead flower stems are generally left in place presumably for a big tidy up later in the year or next spring.  I struggle with this approach as my obsessively tidy mind can’t cope with the idea

2014_08240043but I quite liked it at Stockton Bury especially the seed heads of Echinops and Eryngiums.  I have grown Eryngiums in the past but struggled with them falling over in the garden but having seen how wonderful the seed heads are I think I might try again especially as the bright blues will work well with the other colours in the borders.

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I have also decided that I need some pink Japanese Anemones.  I have some of the white ones which seem to move around the garden depending on my mood but the pinks will be wonderful especially against the mauve asters which I already have.

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Lots of crocosmias were in evidence and I have noticed that I seem to be bringing quite a few home.  Today Emily McKenzie slipped into my shopping bag along with a rogue Babylon that had slipped into the pot.  I love the vibrancy of the colours and will be following recent advice I received and plant them in moister locations than I have in the past.

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If you look back at my previous posts you will see how the pillar border has transformed.  I’m quite taken with the Solidago but I think my garden isn’t big enough to accommodate yet another imposing plant.

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Though the shorter varieties in this photo are quite appealing!

Stockton Bury Gardens might not be cutting edge in its design and some may not like the planting but the reason I love it is because it is a personal garden and loved and cared for by skilled plantsmen with a pedigree of plantsmanship.  I can relate to this garden as it is like my garden but on a huge scale.  Every time I visit I learn something, I see a combination I like, a new plant, or a plant used in a way I hadn’t thought of.  Every time I visit I chat to the owners and learn something from them.  They are generous with their time and knowledge and yes every time I visit I come home with plants.  Today I also came home with some seed pods which I had been given permission to pick.

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I hope to squeeze in another visit before they close next month.