I initially started this post by saying that as I have been away most of November very little has happened to Hugh’s Border, the focus of this year’s End of Month View. How very presumptuous of me! Of course things have happened as Nature has no interest in whether or not I am present to witness the seasonal changes, nor does she really need me to assist her.
If I am honest this time of year is very helpful in re-engaging my interest as I do enjoy tidying in the garden and I spent a happy couple of hours after taking these photos dead-heading, weeding and clearing up. It is so satisfying to see a tidy border especially when you compare it to a shambolic one next door.
Whilst Hugh’s Border has sat there minding its own business slowly fading into it’s winter slumbers there have been changes elsewhere. I have a need to improve the structure of the garden which has been a little Heath Robinson in the past. I doubt very much that any self-respecting landscaper would think the updates are much of an improvement on Heath Robinson but we take what we can get and the thick board edges to the Big Border are already changing the feel of the space. Previously the edging was made up of a collection of Malvern stone but it was uneven and not clearly defined. The intention is to repeat the edging on the other side of the path, but using narrower wood so the edging sort of steps down. I am toying with what to finish the path with. It was originally wood chip which has a habit of breaking down and needing regularly updating; the other problem with wood chip is that at this time of year you end of up with brown borders and a brown path and it is all a little uninspiring. Therefore I am thinking of finishing the path with gravel – despite the cat’s protests – as this would give a visual break to the border and will also link to the gravel steps that the path runs off. We are also replacing the risers on the gravel steps as some of them are showing their age.
There has been another key change in the garden which will have a significant impact and that is the removal of the majority of the trees from my neighbour’s garden. Whilst I was away the tree surgeons have removed the large sycamore tree which was planted on our boundary near the house, as well as some ash seedlings. They have also removed most of the trees along the far boundary so now on a good day we can see a wider view of the hills. The light is positively flooding in, even on a grey autumnal day, so it will be fascinating to see how things hold up in the height of summer. Having spent some 10 years battling with shade it is quite strange to consider the option of more flowers and I have already found myself mentally changing the focus of what was the woodland border to something more floral.
However, whilst I am happy to embrace the challenge of new lighting to the garden I do miss the height that the trees bought. Having received a photo from my son, during my travels, of the new garden view I spent some time day dreaming about potential trees that could be added to the garden. I carried out a lot of research whilst on trains and buses, considered the various acers and sorbus in the Japanese gardens and then bought a Liquidamber on impulse from the local plant nursery this week. It’s already been planted with the expectation that the dark leaves will provide a good contrast to the green of the Euphorbia.
I could also bore you with my mini-rockery that I constructed last week but there really is nothing much to see at the moment but hopefully in the spring there will be something worth sharing.
Given the above I am hopefully that 2017 will bring more time and enthusiasm for the garden and that the quality of the posts on this blog will improve accordingly.
Seriously how is it October? I’m sure it’s only midway through September! But at least I have kinda remembered this month to do the End of Month View, albeit a day late. I forgot all together last month – sorry.
Anyway, Hugh’s Border isn’t doing too bad considering the general neglect of the garden for some months now. Things are getting back on an even keel and changes are afoot. I’m always happier in the garden when I can relocate plants – poor plants. Because my new neighbours have cleared the boundary line there is now a wealth of sunlight streaming in from the south which means the lighting in the garden has changed giving me new opportunities.
The shady areas have significantly decreased which is good as it means I have more areas where I can plant more sun-loving plants and most plants that do well in shade don’t mind a bit more sun. It does mean that the Big Border which was always sunny is now much more sunny and some plants have struggled this year as it is has been too dry for them. The Big Border has good drainage so I am going to use it for my hardy Mediterranean and Southern Hemisphere plants and bulbs which are one of my plant weaknesses. I am slowly but surely relocating the more traditional border inhabitants such as the peonies and roses from the Big Border into the surrounding borders where they should benefit from the improved light but with more moisture retentive soil. If you peer closely at the photo above you will see the rusty metal obelisk which was in the Big Border and hosts a rose and clematis. They have all been moved to Hugh’s Border and had a good dollop of horse manure to get them going. I like the vertical accent that the obelisk gives this area.
To be quite honest the improved lighting has, I think, made my gardening life easier. I have really struggled over the years to get good seasonal interest in the shady parts of the garden. I love foliage but it gets a little dull being the same, more or less, all year. So for example in Hugh’s Border I will be adding some peonies, some more Japanese Anemones, and probably some Pacific Coast irises, as well as more bulbs for Spring.
I’ve a lot of relocations to do over the coming weeks so I am hoping for some dry weekends as my gardening time is really minimal these days. And then there is the tidying up and the bulb planting to get on top of ….it is nice to feel enthused again.
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.
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.
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.