End of Month View – March 2020

It is ages since I posted an End of Month View post.  I have been hosting this meme for something like 10 years and I think that I just ran out of steam. But now I have started to post again I thought I would post an EOMV post and as I haven’t posted much for ages I thought I would give you a tour of the garden – front and back. You can access a plan of the back garden here

So we are starting in the front garden.  I have quite a deep front garden and a couple of years back I decided to get rid of the front lawn as it was just boring. I put a path in purely for decorative purposes and to allow some access for me to manage the plants.  The driveway runs parallel to this area, and the photo is from the top of the driveway.  The planting has filled out a lot over the last few years.  There are a lot of asters and grasses in the area to the left of the path, which is much deeper than the photo implies.  I am now working through removing most of the asters as I want interest throughout the year not just in late summer.  I have this last weekend added the Anemanthele lessoniana to the border, which has been relocated from the back garden.

This is a rather boring photo of the front of the house but I am super pleased with the new path that went in last year.  I’m also really pleased with the narrow border under one of the front windows.  It has been a difficult border for years, due to the builders rubble but the various succulents seem to thrive here; so I’m going to do the same on the other side of the front door.

So we go along the lovely new path and down the side of the house, past my son’s wood store and you come to the back patio and my random pile of pots and compost.  But this photo does show you the difference in the height between the patio and the back garden.

Here is my patio, not the most glamorous of patios but it does the job.  Lots of seedlings in pots to be sorted, the majority of these are peony seedlings from a couple of years ago; turns out I’m quite adept at germinating peonies.

A warts and all view of the other end of the patio.  The area to the left used to be the fern border.  However, the ferns were deteriorating as the rosemary was shading them out.  The ferns were moved about a year ago and I decided to remove the border and continue the paving to make this area bigger and more practical.  However, life got in the way and I haven’t yet completed shifting the soil.

You go up the steps at the end of the patio and you find the bark path to your left.  The border to the left is the rose border.  I have accumulated a number of roses here over the years and the border is backed by 3 step-over apple trees which I have trained from whips.  I started off with just roses and herbs but the other week I have added a few plants from the Big Border (to the right) including some Agapanthus divisions.

The border to the right is the Big Border that is going to be home to my edibles, see last post.

If you continue straight up from the steps you come to the grass path on your left and this goes across the top of the Big Border.  The grass isn’t in very good condition at the moment and is covered in soil from my work clearing the border.  I built the retaining wall to the right of the path this time last year and it has worked well.  It has reduced the slope of the border and the plants seem to just look better.  I also like the structure it gives.

View from the other end of the grass path – not a great photo but it gives a sense of the slope of the garden.

From the grass path you can see the back slope of the garden, which is quite steep.  If you look at the garden plan on the blog you will see that there used to be a path along the top of the slope. I have got rid of this over the last couple of years as it served no purpose.  Instead I have more planting space and I have been moving shrubs in along the top of the slope to create some shrubby cover.

And this is the far top corner, which I call Maisie’s Corner as my beloved cat is buried here.  The compost bins were here until a couple of years ago and we removed them as they were a nightmare to manage.  Instead I have a large shady spot and have moved a number of the ferns from the patio border here, along with some shrubs which had outgrown their homes. We buried Maisie here as it was one of her favourite places and I still find it hard to garden here as I miss her so much.

So there’s my garden warts and all at the end of a reasonably wet March.  Given that we are self-isolating now for a while I hope to be able to get out and start to sort it out more.  However, the reality is that my work is very demanding and I’m finding myself stuck in front of a laptop every day but at least I get to sit in the garden for lunch on a sunny day which is a definite improvement on the normal working week.

 

Update on the Front Garden

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Some readers will recall that back at the start of the year I decided to do away with the front lawn. Since then I have been a busy bee and with the help of my sons the transformation is nearly completed.

The pile of bricks isn’t an art installation but the start of the path that we have been working on this weekend.

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My eldest has been a star and spent the morning digging a trench for the bricks to lay in and he managed to get the bricks for 25p each which has made a huge difference to the cost and allowed us to be more generous in the number used.  The next step is to cement them in place and then to put gravel down on the path.  I intend to use the same gravel as the driveway so it blends together.

From being embarrassed by my front garden I now love it – as my son says it is now a proper garden rather than a small lawn with some plants around it!

End of Month View – April 2015

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It’s amazing how much growth there has been in the last month.  The temperatures in April have been higher than normal and there has been little, if any, rain.  There is still a risk of frost so I’m not being fooled into putting tender plants out too early.  Whilst everything is looking lush the ground has developed a bit of a dry crust and I worry that if it is dry this early in the year how will the garden cope if we have a dry summer.  Time will tell.

Above is the main woodland border which has exploded since last month.  I am really pleased with it especially as in the past it hasn’t quite lived up to the image in my mind.  It just shows that you need to be patient and wait to give plants a chance to bulk up and establish.  The highlights in the next month will be Solomon Seal (Polygonatum xhybridum) and False Solomon Seal (Maianthemum racemosum) whose scent I love.  A couple of years ago the Solomon Seal was decimated by Solomon Sawfly and I was pleased last year when the plants reappeared and passed through the year trouble-free.  They have started to spread around the border so fingers crossed this year the horrid sawfly caterpillars won’t return.

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The less inspiring end of the woodland border.  This is the area which was previously occupied by the Azalea which died.  I have added a couple of shrubs, some foxgloves, some anemones and I am adding plants as the year progresses to try to create a longer season of interest.

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The border alongside the gravel steps is beginning to fill out.  I have been adding some Dianthus right up against the step edges in the hope that they will eventually spread and soften the side of the steps.  The first group of pots are outside the shed and I think there is scope for something bigger and bolder there although the flat space is quite narrow – something to think about.  I have also started to put out pots of things running down the steps, at the moment they are pots of bulbs going over but in the summer the pelargoniums will live here.

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The view from the bottom path looking back towards the shed.  The camassias are now flowering and I had forgotten how many there are in the Big Border, I suspect they are starting to bulk up.  I particularly like the way they work with the Euphorbia and the Calamagrostis ‘Overdam’. I am pleased with the border so far this year as the asters are filling out and the aquilegias I added for an early summer interest seem to be doing all right.

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Finally the view along the middle path which shows that the grass really needs a cut although the daisies are popular with the bees.  It also demonstrates that we are poor at cutting grass which adds to the argument for removing the front lawn.  The border to the right of the path is much fuller than last year and it feels better this year since I replanted it.

So there is my garden at the end of April.  Any one can join in with the End of Month meme and you can use it as you wish, focussing on one year or giving us a tour – whatever works for you.  Many people have found it helpful as they find it makes them look at their garden more critically.  If you would like to join in all I ask is that you link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below so we can all find you and come for a nose.

My Garden – Mid Year 2013

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I thought as I was at the start of two weeks annual leave with no plans for going away just pottering around that I would start it with giving you a tour of the garden.  I have done this in the past but  not for a while and I enjoyed Loree’s tour of her garden so much I am copying her.

So lets start at the kitchen door – above is the view from my kitchen.  Unusually my greenhouse couldn’t be much nearer to the house if I tried.  This is essentially because my garden slopes and the area outside the house is one of the flatter areas plus it meant it was easy to run electricity to.

From the back door we will turn left and go along the narrow patio and look back

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I like this border as the foliage combinations please me and it has filled out well despite my heavy handed editing last year.  Back along the patio to the other side of the greenhouse.

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The ‘Japanese’ fern border planted up earlier this year.  I think I am pleased with it but I am waiting to see how it develops.  Looking to the end of the patio there is the ‘succulent theatre’

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This works really well for the succulents but I need to do something with the fence.  The ground is hardcore here so everything is in pots.  I have a young clematis growing up the trellis so I think I will have to wait to see how that does.

Turning left we go up the bottom steps that you can see in the Japanese fern border picture above.  At the top of the steps if you turn left again straight away you have the new path (not quite finished) between the Big Border and the Cottage Border.

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I so pleased with the path, it is exactly in the right location and really makes the Big Border work for me.  I am also very pleased with the Big Border which is really looking fab right now and you can see this is where I have been devoting my energies recently.

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We carry along the new path and at the end we come to the original Woodland Border which is looking a little worse for wear partly because of the time of year but also because I was going to put a path through here back in March but then the whole workshop scheme took over.  Now I don’t think I want a path through here so I need to think out the planting and fill in with more substantial plants at the back.

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We shall skip past here quickly and we come to the bottom of the Top Steps.  If we go up these we will see the compost bins to our left and ahead another neglected shade border.

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Terrible I know, I hang my head in shame.  I planted a Rhododendron up here earlier in the year but it has died.  I think it got waterlogged before planting but its dead.  I still want a substantial shrub in here so I may go for another rhododendron or maybe something else, the thinking cap is on ready for Autumn planting.

Turning right at the top of the Top Steps we have a long straight path which takes us along the back of the garden and along the top of the slope.  This is an access path as the slope is so steep.  You can see there is a raised border along the fence line and I have planted 3 large Bamboos in there to screen the fence but more importantly to provide height and mask the house behind.  They are in their third year and just beginning to get going.  The rest of the planting in this stripe is awful and its has been a dumping ground for plants so I want to clear it out and rethink the plant.  I think lots of big foliage plants or shrubs that will provide lots of interest would be good.

2013_08240027 On the other side of the path you look down on what is left of the Daisy Border (photo below is from bottom of border).  This was seriously reduced when the workshop went in and needs sorting out. I had to move lots of plants back in the Spring quickly and I’m not sure what is what now so I am watching and waiting as the Asters start to flower and then I can sort it out.  I had planned on a rockery here but I just don’t think it would fit my garden.

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So we go back along the top path and down the Top Steps and we can either head straight on or we can take a left and go along the hidden path behind the Bog Garden.

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The Bog Garden isn’t been that great this year mainly as we have had little rain.  However, I’m not convinced by it so I am giving it another year and if this time next year it still isn’t looking as I want I might have a re-think.

The secret path brings us out by the workshop and after a step or so we have the grass path on our right which takes us back along the top of the Big Border and to the bottom of the Top Steps.  We won’t go down there as we will be backtracking but here is the view if we had.  The border on the left is the other side of the Bog Garden which is quite dry and I am seriously struggling with.  It is very shady  and I am going to include this as part of the woodland area I think.2013_08240041Right so back to the Workshop.  When you stand outside the Workshop you are on the gravel steps which are an extension of the Bottom Steps from the patio – if you get my meaning!.  The only area left to show you is the fence border along these steps.  This is my current project.  I pulled a Ceanothus out of here some weeks back and have been painting the fence.  I have plans for the planting here which has to take into account the dry shade but I also have a plan for decorating the fence which may or may not work!

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So that’s my garden – don’t get me wrong I’m not dis-satisfied with it but my tastes are changing as is my experience and knowledge and I think this is leading the changes I want to make.  We are back at the steps which take us to the patio where you are welcome to join me for a cuppa and cake.  Oh there is the front garden as well but I am showing that each monthly in the End of Month meme so I won’t bore you with it now.

 

My garden this weekend – 18th August 2013

White Cosmos looking wonderful behind Stipa Gigantica
White Cosmos looking wonderful behind Stipa Gigantica

As I seem to say every weekend at the moment there aren’t enough hours in the day and I don’t seem to be home enough at the moment to feel I am making any progress in the garden.  However, on Sunday I was determined to finish a project and make a substantial step forward.  I have been dithering around from one job to another and it has all been rather unsatisfactory.  My theory is that is I complete a big job I will get a big ‘feel good’ factor and feel more motivated and less up against it.

The Big Border beginning to come into its own
The Big Border beginning to come into its own

I mentioned a few weeks back that I had decided to put a path through the Big Border for practical reasons.  The stumbling block has been edging the path and although my sons took down some branches from the prunus and willow to help with this, much more was needed plus the branches were a little skinny.

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I had a terrible nights sleep late last week thanks to a badger trying to rearrange the garden fence in the early hours followed by the cat deciding that we might as well get up as we were awake.  Anyway, aside from exhaustion, it meant that I did a lot of thinking during the early hours and one of the ideas I came up with was to use the Malvern stone that we have a large pile of to edge the path.  The stone had originally been part of a retaining wall holding up the back slope but had been taken down when my eldest was digging out the space for the workshop.  I did say a month or so ago that I was going to put a rockery on the slope so that I could indulge in my interest for alpines, and use up the rock.  However, this plan wouldn’t come together in my head and I decided that it would just look odd in the middle of the garden so the daisy border, albeit, shorter, will remain.

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So today I set too and finished moving the plants that were in the path’s route.  Some went to the great compost heap in the sky, some were potted up until I decide where their new home will be and some – roses, geraniums, aquilegia and delphiniums were re-organised in the new ‘Surgary Border’.  It was surprisingly humid which made the work hot and sticky but I was determined.  In the afternoon it was time to lug the stone across the garden and edge the path.  I suspect my Dad is expecting some form of dry stone wall, after all that is what he would do.  However, there isn’t that much stone and I wanted to keep the edging narrow as the path is narrow, just wide enough for someone to walk down.  This is essentially to be an access path and the idea is that the plants will spill over the edges and you will have to push through them.

Galtonia - such an elegant plant
Galtonia – such an elegant plant

It did occur to me whilst I was pushing earth into the gaps behind the stones that the stone edging was essentially a long thin rock garden.  Here in full sun with excellent drainage was the perfect opportunity to plant the more robust alpines – result!

I am thrilled with the result.  It needs finishing with wood chip but I need one of my son’s to help with carrying the bags up the garden.  The path has open up the garden and means that I can really access all part of the borders.  It also means that I can now see the faces of the dahlia flowers which had perversely chosen to turn their backs on the top path.

The garden isn’t looking too bad if you avert your eyes from the weedy patio and borders and some of the scrubby areas which I need to re-organise.  There are some that comment on how much I move my plants around, this isn’t really the case as I ponder moving plants but they don’t always get transplanted.  I have questioned my approach recently wondering if I was doing it all wrong- I do take comments to heart – but today  reading Christopher Lloyd’s Foliage Plants my anxiety was lifted when I read:

“Because you are inexperienced, your mistakes will be numerous, but experienced gardeners do and indeed should make many mistakes also.  They should always be living on the frontiers of their experience; always  be experimenting and trying out something new.  It’s only those who are afraid of having to admit to mistakes who are frightened of making them.”

That’s good enough for me!

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My garden this weekend – 4th August 2013

2013_08040091logo I don’t feel as though  I have spent much time in the garden this weekend.  Partly, as you can see it has been raining and when I say raining I mean a lot of rain.  Which is excellent as the ground has been so dry for so long.2013_08040084logo

The dahlias are really coming into their own and I am so pleased with the choices I made this year from Sarah Raven.  I would tell you which is which but that means scrambling around amongst soggy leaves.  However I can tell you they are either from the Butterfly Collection or Essential Dark Collection.

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I adore these colours and I have noticed recently that I seem to be buying more and more plants in them.   Today, I went to visit Meadow Farm Nursery which I will write about another time but the owners are heavily into Echinacea breeding so needless to say I came back with 4 beautiful pinky plants.

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The Big Border has seriously filled out the last couple of weeks which is amazing considering that it was only created in April/May and the plants were put in randomly due to the workshop development.  The border is  going to be unpicked in the Autumn when the annuals and dahlias are over.   I have been struggling, even before the border went in, on how to plant it and also the best way to access it.  It became obvious fairly quickly that a path of some sort was needed to get into the border rather than my heavy feet squishing unsuspecting plants.2013_08040089logo Saturday, saw a big step forward and the path started to go in.  It is going to be a simple wood bark path just wide enough for someone to walk down.  As you can see it is edged with branches as I really wanted an informal look and the intention is that the plants will grow over the edge and disguise it a little.  However, with the best laid plans it turned out that I did not have enough branches to act as edging. The answer was to mention this to my son who reminded me that we had identified some branches that needed to come down off the Willow and Prunus but we hadn’t got round to doing it.  Within 2 hours the boys had been up the trees and branches were forthcoming along with a lot of twiggy leafy stuff which I now need to sort out.

The only problem is that I cannot complete the path as there is a whole load of annual planting in the way and it would be such a pity to be digging it up just as it is coming into its own.  There has also been much debate about the exit point.  Plan A has been deemed unsuitable as it isn’t where you would want to come out and is rather steep.  Plan B has also been ruled out by the youngest son as although it is eminently sensible and practicable it is dull and straight and provides no interest or mystery – he really has been to too many gardens with me!  So Plan C it is but this involved shifting the Stipa gigantea about 3 ft so the path will be completed in a few months.  In the meantime whilst it is giving me excellent access to the border and helping me visualise how to plant it, I am reminded of those films where the car chase ends abruptly on a section of the freeway which has just stopped being made.

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A sense of journey

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I have the luxury of being able to visit the Garden House in Devon twice a year at the moment.  My youngest son is at University in Plymouth and the garden is no more than 30 minutes up the road from his student house on the edge of Dartmoor.  We have taken to visiting when I pick him up or take him back.  So far we have visited in April and September and it is interesting to see a garden change through the year.  There has also been a change of Head Gardener and it was obvious from our visit this week, our third, that some changes were occurring, more in technique than anything grand but it did feel a little different.

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The weather was strange; pleasant and warm in the sheltered areas but when you were a little exposed there was a fierce windy whipping through the garden.  It made visiting the Acer glade quite interesting with ducking required to avoid branches whipping around.

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When we have visited before the wild flower meadow (top) and (above) were either well over or hadn’t really made a start.  We were both struck with how wonderful the garden looked so virdant and fresh and everything blooming away.  We were told on arrival that it was a little behind so we got to see lots of Azaleas and Rhododendrons which would normally have been over.

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What struck me when I reviewed my photographs were how many I had taken of paths through the planting.  I have noticed that many of my garden visit photographs have this theme.  I really like the sense of journey and rhythm paths create especially when they lead round a corner creating mystery and interest.

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I suspect this is what has been deep in my sub-conscious when I have been messing around with my garden and deciding what to do about the lawn.  It is always why I am probably so pleased with the way the paths are working in the back garden, they have turn and I am hoping that as the planting grows up over the next few years that they will have a sense of mystery.

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It isn’t just the casual meandering paths I like.  I also like the scale and formality of the wide grass path between the borders below.  In case you are wondering why the back wall seems to have two completely different kinds of stone this is because  the original wall was blown over last year.  When we visited in April I think there was a forlorn pile of stone with a notice explaining and lots of hazard tape around it.  The arch leads to the new arboretum which was planted up last year and I think will be wonderful in a few years when the trees have grown.

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I wonder how my visit this September will compare to last September.  It will be interesting to see if the plants catch up from the slow start.  But then who knows what the weather will bring between now and then.

My Garden This Weekend – 1st April 2013

The sight that greeted me when I returned home on Saturday
The sight that greeted me when I returned home on Saturday

As I mentioned in my post last weekend I have had the last week off work but the weather has not been at all kind to me.  However, saying that it has been nice to relax and spend time with my youngest son, who is home from University.  The snow that fell a week ago on Saturday has finally gone and if you look carefully there are all sorts of plants putting their heads above the ground including peonies, Solomons seal, meconopsis poppy and geraniums.  I am hoping that we don’t have any more real drops in temperature which will affect these new shoots.   The Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ is just beginning to open its flowers and should look wonderful by the end of this week.

I have rearranged the greenhouse twice in a bid to try to make some more space for seed trays as well as for the trays of seedlings which I will hopefully have in a few weeks.  I just need some warmer weather so I can move things on from the cold frame which will make room for plants to be moved out of the greenhouse. There are a few things beginning to germinate but mainly alpines in the cold frame: Primula wilsonii anisodora and Delphinium requienii as well as some Dahlia x Twynings Eight seeds which Karen gave me last year.

At the end of Sunday after my efforts
At the end of Sunday after my efforts

The only real work that has happened in the garden is down to my sons.  While I was at the monthly meeting of the local Hardy Plant Society on Saturday they started on extending the steps up the garden.  I have been waiting to do this for probably 3 years and am absolutely thrilled with the result.  When I got home the first 3 risers had gone in and the steps levelled.  On Sunday I collected stone from around the garden – we are always digging up lumps of Malvern stone – and edged the steps.  My father is excellent at constructing dry stone walls and makes it look easy; it isn’t and I was only trying to get two layers.  But it will do for now and I know that later in the year my supply of stone will increase due to the next major project. I then put down some path membrane which we had bought back from the allotment when I gave it up last year and topped dressed the steps with left over gravel from when we put in the bike store.  Sadly, and inevitably, we didn’t have enough gravel so another four bags were bought today and the job finished while I was at my local AGS group’s show (more  of that later in the week).  I am amazed at the visual difference the steps make, they tie the garden together better and finally I can stop sliding over backwards on the mud. Oh and the third compost bin was also put up as we had no where for the lifted ‘turf’ to go.

The view when I got home today
The view when I got home today

The big project is that I have agreed to my eldest son having a workshop in the garden for his woodwork.  He currently works in the garage but it is far from ideal – being dark and full of garden tools etc.  We looked at converting the garage into a workshop by removing the front door and bricking it up with a window but building regulations are demanding and we would have to dig foundations, add insulation etc.  Plus cost aside I still need to store the gardening stuff and it would  also restrict access to the garden and back of the house.  I did consult a builder I know and am waiting on a quote but something didn’t sit right in my mind so I suggested to my son he might like a shed instead, with power and insulation.  Surprisingly, he was more thrilled with this idea than the garage conversion – there must be something deep in the psyche of men that they get excited about  sheds!!  We have worked out that the best size will be 8′ x 8′ and he has found some with a high roofs which is important as he is 6′ 5″ but we also have to make sure the roof is low enough not to need planning permission!!

I have agreed that he can have the area to the right of the top of the path as this is one of the few flat areas in the garden and an area I tend to ignore as I can’t decide on an identity for it.  We will need to cut back into the slope so the shed is set right back and not quite so dominant.  The result of this is I have many plants to re-home and that is on top of the moves I have been trying to do over winter and the new border I want to create which I have plants ready for.  I have concluded the only way to cope is to pot the plants up and then to rethink where they are going.  Luckily my son is happy to wait for a bit and is going to help me create the new  border but I now have lots and lots to do so I really need the weather to warm up a little.

The local AGS group's show
The local AGS group’s show

I know I will lose some gardening space but I am digging up the back lawn which will give me more room, plus I will have more space in the garage for overwintering plants which will free up space in the greenhouse and most importantly I really want to support my son who I think has a bit of a talent for  wood-turning. I also think the workshop will help the garden overall since I think in some strange way it will add structure and the paths will make more sense.

I have decided the only way forward is to get a thick dull novel which will help me sleep at night!