A garden of inspiration

The trouble I find with spending a number of days visiting gardens is the sensory overload.  So many gardens, plants, owners, ideas and experiences and when you then start to try and think about how to distil your experience into a blog post; well sometimes it seems to be a challenge too far.

I have a habit of writing blog posts almost immediately I return from a garden visit but work demands have got in the way and I find myself a week after my return skimming through my photos, only a 1000 in my case, trying to decide what to blog about. What strikes me is the direct correlation between the gardens I enjoyed and the number of photos of them.  In each case these gardens are very much those of enthusiastic plants people.  They are full of texture and form often more from plants than structure and they offer me inspiration on so many levels.

I think Jenny and David Stocker’s garden was the real winner for me.  We visiting on a very wet day, although by the time of our visit the rain was light but poor Jenny had experienced a trying time during the gullywasher earlier in the day.  However, despite the overcast skies the garden sang to me.

Initially, it was the extremely skilled placement of pots and small vignettes that intrigued me.  I can learn so much from these.  My pots end up scattered around the garden, randomly placed, but as you can see from the above a small collection with a mix of leaf shapes, size of pots and a couple of small accessories takes on a whole identity of its own; a small work of art.

The cacti remind us that we are indeed in Texas, and I have included it to humour those of my friends who are convinced I spent the week looking at cacti and tumble weed.  However, as you can see from these photos the garden is far from a barren landscape.  David and Jenny built their home on the side of a hill and enclosed the garden with a wall creating a sense of enclosure and presumably creating a microclimate.  I think I am right in saying that the various spaces between the house and perimeter wall create six different garden spaces each with its own theme. 

I think this is what Jenny calls the English Garden. I loved the exuberance of the flowers in this space.  There is no formal rigid border, instead the plants spill out over the paving creating a very naturalistic space and a space I would love to waste a few hours in, listening to the bird and insects and watching the lizards run along the wall (which we were lucky to do a couple of evenings later).

The first and third photos are of the front planting area which as you can see is full of large succulents.  I am not informed enough to attempt to name any of them but I loved the juxtaposition of the spiky succulents with the surrounding trees which I think are oaks.  I developed a  love of the trees in Austin which seem to have quite broad and open canopies giving much needed shade but also with their small leaves bringing a lovely diffused light to the space beneath. I have been trying to think of a tree I could use to create a similar effect in England.

I think one of the reasons I love this garden is because of the polished combination of very English plants such as the Aquilegias, Geraniums and Poppies with succulents and cacti; I think this one is a Prickly Pear. So often you see plants corralled into a restricted planting scheme – succulents, hardy exotics, herbaceous border – and never the twain shall meet.  Jenny has shown that you can ignore these preconceptions and building on the plant’s cultivation needs and looking carefully at colour, form and texture you an create exciting and intriguing planting.

Although Jenny has been blogging for as long as me, if not longer, I hadn’t come across her blog until this trip but I am now following her assiduously and I feel that I have found a kindred spirit albeit on the other side of the pond.

 

 

 

 

 

End of Month View – April 2018

I’m choosing to resist the temptation to bemoan the weather over the last month and instead celebrate the abundance in my borders.

The tipsy pots are a clear indicator of the absence of the gardener for most of this past month.  Life has been busy with little time to garden but I had a wonderful long weekend last week in Newcastle upon Tyne at the Quilters Guild conference learning lots of new techniques and making new friends.

The weather while I was away was stunning, temperatures up in the 20Cs, which coupled with all the moisture that has accumulated over the past months resulted in a significant growth spurt in the garden during my absence.

The tulips that were only thinking of forming buds are now flowering, and new shoots abound with peonies, geraniums and hosta foliage adding a wonderful freshness and sense of anticipation.

Unusually for me I am really pleased with my garden.  I love the density of the planting which has occurred despite me and due to my lack of gardening last year.  I know full well that if I had seen my border last year looking as per the top photo with the trillium poking its head out among the pulmonaria I would have been busy cutting back the pulmonaria so the trillium was more obvious; this though leaves the plants appearing as isolated islands. Through neglecting the garden and spending less time fussing I have learnt that I love this fuller look.

And this month the garden will all be about the Camassias which are just coming into their own and sadly I will probably miss while I am away at the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling in Austin, Texas.

So that was my garden at the end of April 2018.  I invite you to join in with the End of Month Meme.  You can use it however you like all I ask if that you link to this post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below.

 

What makes a good border?

Double Herbaceous borders, Arley Hall, Cheshire

So what makes a good border these days? A thought that dogged me on my recent visit to gardens predominantly in Cheshire. And what do we mean by border? Is a good border classed as a typical herbaceous border as seen at Arley Hall or has that doyenne of the Victorian grand garden lost its edge and been replaced with more relaxed and mixed planting?

Bluebell Cottage Garden, Cheshire

This border, well large square island bed, at Bluebell Cottage has almost the same range of plants as the famous double borders at Arley Hall and yet for me they have more vibrancy and make my heart sing more. But what is it about the second border that speaks to me – again and again this came up over the trip.  The Arley Hall borders are historic, allegedly the oldest double herbaceous borders in the country but they haven’t stood still in time as new introductions have come along the planting is refreshed. However, unlike the Bluebell Cottage plants the Arley Hall plants are staked within an inch of their lives.  Don’t get me wrong the staking is unobtrusive but it is there and the plants are standing to attention, all neat and tidy.  By contrast Bluebell Cottage has limited staking, if any, in fact the owner, Sue Beesly, advocates moving borders into the centre of the garden as the plant grow more upright away from shading fences, hedges and trees.  Maybe the freer movement of the plants is what appeals?

Abbeywood Estate, Cheshire

The Prairie Borders at Abbeywood Estate from a distance impress on their sheer audacious scale, colour and textures but they are essentially large blocks which can become a little flat when considered for any length of time. Again, many of the same plants are present here as in the top photos.

Abbeywood Estate, Cheshire

Here is a shot of the same borders but closer up and consciously taken to give interest to the picture.  The colours work well and harmonious and there is texture.  This is possibly bringing us nearer to a rationale for my preferences.  I had never considered that I liked harmony in the colours in a garden and have avoided colour themed gardens as too contrived but maybe there is something about colour harmonies that is important to a good border.

Abbeywood Estate, Cheshire

And then there is texture and that often means foliage and I do love good foliage.  The tropical borders at Abbeywood Estate bowled me over so exuberant and masterfully constructed but again there is an element of harmony in the combinations of the colours here.

Trentham Gardens

I had high hopes for the Italianate Garden at Trentham, after all it has been designed by a top designer, but there was no quickening of the heart, no sighs and to be honest few photos taken (always a sign of disengagement).  Maybe it was the sheer scale that put me off but I think the planting is also too contrived for my taste – box hedging and fastigiate yews have never been my thing.

Trentham Gardens, Stoke on Trent

But the wildflower meadow planting was another thing altogether. Whilst there was a feeling that there was just too many white flowers in the planting the overall effect was loose, generous, floriferous and alive with insects.  You felt immersed in a world of flowers.

So it seems that the criteria for my perfect border is colour harmonies, texture, loose planting with minimum staking, and wildlife.

Grafton Cottage

Which brings us to the final garden of our trip, Grafton Cottage.  A tiny country cottage garden whose borders had consumed the instruction manual on planting a border, digested it and then spat it back out reconfigured.  Here we had colour harmony taken to a new level, possibly too far in some cases.  Borders of blues, purples and white; yellows, oranges and red; pinks and purples.  Textures, flower shapes, you name it the borders had it by the bucket load.

Grafton Cottage

It was quite breath-taking and you wondered how so much could be growing in such a small space.  Investigation showed that again staking was at the root of the success of this border.  Geranium flowers were lifted up from their normal sprawling mess and held upright allowing the flowers to be seen but also to take up less space. The same was true of the Dieramas which were held more upright than they would normally grow.  Maybe this was just too much – like a child who has gorged on an illicit box of chocolates I felt like I had experienced a huge sugar rush and then a sense of queasiness.

So what is the answer, what is the perfect border?  Well after a week with 36 obsessive gardeners my conclusion is that it is different for everyone. For some the formality and horticultural prowess of borders such as Arley Hall is something to aspire to;  others prefer the soft relaxed borders of Bluebell Cottage. For me I think it is a bit of all of the above – after all these are photos from the best gardens we saw – they each have something special, something to learn from, to take away and ponder but in the meantime the front border of Grafton Cottage with its mix of happy annual was a delight to my over stimulated mind.

Windy Ridge 

Windy Ridge, Little Wenlock
There is a faint possibility that my gardening mojo may be within faint sight of the horizon, it certainly has been away somewhere for most of this year. However, I am spending a few days with gardening friends visiting gardens largely based in Cheshire, last year we went to Essex and Suffolk, and there is the twinkle of inspiration forming somewhere in my mind.

Our journey north today was broken up by three gardens, all very distinct from each other not only in size but in style and it was the second one, Windy Ridge that I enjoyed most.

As you might suppose from the garden’s name it is located on a ridge and is windy according to the owners. However I think any wind is mitigated by the wealth of trees, hedges and shrubs in and around the garden.

This is a plantsman’s  garden but one that benefits from having at least one of its owners with an eye for colour, texture and form. The owners, Fiona Chancellor and her husband, whose name I strangely didn’t get, have gardened the two thirds of an acre plot for some thirty years. As you can see the quality of then horticulture and maintenance is exemplary but whilst the quality of the lawn may have impressed me it was the planting around the pond and also the gravel border that I really enjoyed.

I love gunneras but have never had a garden big enough to accommodate it. Here at Windy Ridge you push past the gunnera to find your way down a path to the back of the pond. I love planting that grows in volume as the season progresses bringing with it a temporary feeling of mystery and surprise to the garden. In any case I am a bit of a foliage nut so all the ferns, bamboo and oversized gunnera leaves were bound to make me happy.

More sumptuous foliage, there is hardly any colour in this picture except for green and yet it is alive with interest from the tall vertical leaves of the irises to the round shiny discs of the water lilies, one texture building on another giving depth and interest.

I’m not generally a fan of topiary and have a perverse dislike for box purely because it seems to be what everyone grows; the more people rave about something the less likely I am to engage with it. However, I did like the box at Windy Ridge. I liked the way the box ball give structure and rhythm to the planting. Their presence allows the surrounding planting to be freer and almost more informal; I suppose the balls anchor the planting.

So there was lots to learn from Windy Ridge, things to mull over in the future which is a nice feeling.

End of Month View – October 2016

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Well Autumn is truly upon us now.  The Colchicums are flowering, the leaves are falling and the clocks went back an hour last night.  I’ve always enjoyed Autumn, just as I do Spring.  I remember as a child one of the highlights of the season was raking up huge piles of beech leaves and jumping into them. For some reason autumn leaves always seem to be damp these days so not conducive to jumping in.

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Hugh’s Border is slowly losing its foliage and preparing for winter but many of the plants are deciduous so some interest will remain through the winter.  Come early spring the snowdrops will flower and if I remember rightly some narcissus.

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I’m including some photos of the wider view mainly because I have treated myself to a wide-angle lens ahead of my trip to Japan in a week’s time.  We will be doing a lot of travelling to temples, castles and into the wider landscape so I thought a wide-angle lens would be a worthwhile investment – well that’s the excuse I am making to myself! The photos on this post are all with the new lens and it means I can show you the wider garden view so the different bits make more sense and you soon realise just how small the garden is and inevitably how much it slopes.

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Oh and you are probably spotted the large timber scattered around.  These are to replace some of the risers on the steps from the patio and also to provide a more definitive edge to the bottom of the Big Border.  Work has started now that many of the plants are being cut back and there is less chance of damage from large feet.  The aim is to get the new hard landscaping completed over the winter before my spring bulbs start making life more challenging for the landscaper.

Its interesting looking at these photos how much colour there is still in the garden and how much of it comes from foliage as opposed to flowers – reinforcement of my view that if you get the foliage right the flower are just the icing on the cake.

Anyone is welcome to join in with the End of Month meme.  You can use it to follow a specific part of the garden through the year or to give your readers a tour of the whole garden – whatever works for you. I like to follow one area through the year as it helps me to be more critical of the space and make improvements.  All I ask is that you leave a link to your post in the comments box below and link back to this post in yours – that way everyone can connect.

Plans are afoot

Beth Chatto's gravel garden
Beth Chatto’s gravel garden

My garden for the last 9 years or so has become my identity to many people particularly as I have been a serial blogger on the subject.  Even recently at work people have started to ask about my blog and I’ve heard the expression “Helen writes a gardening blog you know” more and more.  Something in me twitched at this.  I have always hated being pigeon-holed and railed against it.  But I also think I twitched as I felt guilty for not blogging much and because I have hardly been in the garden properly for some 6 weeks or maybe longer – a niggle of guilt has been eating away at me. I’m not so worried about the blog as I know my lack of interest is because with a new demanding job I am too tired to spend more time looking at a PC when I get home.  This assumption is backed up by my desire to blog today when I am on leave – I obviously need some sort of vehicle for my mental output.

 

As for the garden it has troubled me that I can’t get interested in it. I have struggled since the new neighbours cut down their new overgrown garden and left me with little privacy. I have also come to realise that my creative side needs projects to keep it interested and whilst there is plenty of maintenance needed which I enjoy most of the time I really need a project to get me properly engaged.  Having dug up the front lawn earlier this year and replanted the space I have been left wondering what to do.  I have even spent time looking at new houses but again my heart wasn’t in moving as I do like living here.

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Then something changed, it wasn’t a light bulb moment or any sort of revelation and I actually suspect that because I had had a quite week at work allowing me to catch up properly before a week’s leave that my head had cleared and allowed me space to think about the garden.  In addition I was home alone last week and found myself wandering around the garden with my morning cuppa  which led to pondering.

And you guess right a new project has come about and I am a happy bunny, itching to get going and suddenly enthused to tidy up and regain control of a garden which seems to have embraced its neglect far too quickly for my liking.

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I want to sort out the Big Border.  It has never been quite right since I created it and I have struggled to work out why it isn’t right and what I should do with it.  To give you some background the Big Border was created when I lifted the back lawn.  This was partly because a large shed/workshop was going in part of the garden and I needed to re-house the plants, partly because I think lawn is a waste of time in a small garden and partly because the garden slopes so much that cutting the lawn was hard work.  This latter reason also explains why I have struggled with how to plant the Big Border that was created.  As my fellow sloping gardeners will know, and there are a few of them out there in the blogasphere – check out Rusty Duck, a sloping garden can be a real challenge.  No only do you get weary lugging things up and down the garden but you realise that you see the plants differently to in a flat garden.  So if your garden slopes up from the house as mine does and you choose to plant tall plants, as I have a habit of doing, you find yourself looking at leggy stems.

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I am sure that there are clever garden designers out there who would dismiss my frustrations and in no time at all create something magical with tall plants.  However, I am a simple amateur gardener whose plant knowledge has been on a steep learning curve over the last 9 years and whilst I know far more about plants than I did when I planted the border initially some 4 years ago, I am still learning by trial and error – mainly error!  In addition my tastes have changed a lot in recent years.  This was brought home to me back in June on a garden visiting trip when I found my yearning for something more exciting than roses, alliums and geraniums – I wanted something with movement; something different; something with textures, foliage; something that wasn’t an English Country Garden.

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So when I was wandering round the garden last week, cuppa in hand, pondering the Big Border I started to ask myself what I wanted and I went back to beginnings with asking what plants do I like – ferns (no too sunny), bulbs (yes), actually tiny bulbs (more troublesome).  I knew I didn’t want a rock garden as I loath them, they are so depressing with all that grey stone but there was a germ of an idea here.  How to create a space for my little bulbs and alpines without creating a rockery and how to merge it into a bigger border.  I faffed around on the internet, messaged my virtual friend at the Scottish Rock Garden Society who shared some photographic ideas; I pondered and spent time standing and staring at the border.  Then the creative juices started to peculate and slowly the ideas started to drip through.

Firstly, the long thin border along the top of the wall (opposite side of the path) which houses my roses, which I adore, would be beefed up with the removal of the disappointing geraniums and the addition of perennial herbs such as sage and lavender giving all year round substance.  Then I would accept the fact that there was bright light to the Big Border now and the slope gave good drainage, but in warm dry weather, could cause the plants problems, and I would plant the space with plants that actually enjoy this environment – what a novel idea!

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For the astute of you who will have been looking at the photos on this post you will have twigged that they give a clue to the inspiration behind my idea – Beth Chatto’s gravel garden which I visited in June and was the highlight of the trip for me.  Now I know that I can’t replicate this as I have considerably more rain that Beth and my soil is clay based so more fertile but I want to use the approach she has taken and select plants that will enjoy the more exposed site and which are crucially not that tall.  The focus will be on foliage strong plants to give interest all year so I plan to use bergenias (I have many in the front garden that need a new home), grasses (I fancy another Stipa gigantea), things like agastache, agapanthus, lots of bulbs for throughout the year, agave, etc.

My disappointing border
My disappointing border

I am excited by the prospect and there is already a programme of clearing and relocation planned which will not only free up the space but will help with producing a screen along the exposed boundary line.  Of course being August and warm and dry I will have to wait until the weather cools but in the meantime I am thrilled that I am finally rediscovering the garden.

 

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!

Notes from the Garden – 13th March 2016

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Finally a glorious spring weekend which has seen me bumbling around the garden just like the big lumbering bumble bees that have been visiting the hellebores and primulas.  My head has been spinning with ideas and plans over the last few weeks so it was a real relief to start putting some of them into action.  I have one of those long mental lists with one thing dependent on another and I am sure I will forget the sequence so I must write it all down when I write up my garden journal later.

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My first task was to round up the various coloured primulas from around the garden.  I love coloured primulas.  I know a lot of people can be quite snobby about them but I think they have a lovely old fashioned charm to them.  I had been using them along the paths but they were dotted around, one here and one there, and really made no impact whatsoever.  So I collected all the pink ones up and have planted them in the shade of an Abelia by some deep pink/mauve hellabores.  The hellebores leaves will eventually cover this area so will mask the primulas’ leaves when they are looking tatty during the summer.  I see this view from my living room window and I am amazed how much just planting a handful of same  primulas has lifted this area with the pink of the hellebores intensified.  I have done the same with the purples which are planted with the Crocus ‘Pickwick’ and the yellow/orange primulas which are under the Hammelias.

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Next on the list was the Big Border.  I have decided to move the asters and some of the grasses to the new borders in the front garden – yet to be dug.  I want to use this space for sweet peas and dahlias this year so I wanted to clear everything that needed moving so I could see the space left and to start thinking about the layout and how I can fit in the plants I want to include.  The asters have been divided and potted up and are now cluttering up the patio so hopefully they will start to irritate me which will push me onwards with the front garden.  The bright fresh green leaves you can see are Camassias which should look great in about a month.  I like the little Narciussus Tete a Tete as well and I think I will add to these for next year.  I am also thinking that I might risk tulips again and hope the badger doesn’t appear and dig them all up.  I would love to fill the gaps between the plants in this border with bright tulips in the Venetian colours I love at the moment.

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The other job crossed off the list was the replacement of the shambolic bamboo supports for the step over apples with a more organised pots and wire system.  I painted the posts the same colour as the highlight on the shed to give a more cohesive look and my eldest son wired them up.  It was amazing how much difference it has made, without the bamboo canes with the branches tied to them you can actually see the structure of the step-overs.  Whilst we haven’t had a lot of apples off the trees I am hugely proud of the apple step-overs as I know little about pruning fruit trees and started with 3 apple whips and some limited instructions from the nursery.

The sweet peas sown last week are starting to germinate in the garden and today I sowed a batch of Cerinthe retorta which I prefer to Cerinthe major. Cannas and Agapanthus are also showing signs of life in the greenhouse and the Dahlias have been potted up with hugh expectations.

Wherever my gardening mojo has been lurking for the last few years it seems it has decided to come home – thank  goodness.

An exotic approach to the front garden from Rob Stacewicz

During my ponderings on the front garden I ended up having one of those late night online conversations with my friend, Rob Stacewicz (Twitter@robstacewicz)  which has led to Rob kindly writing a post for me on his suggestions for my front garden. Rob is as usual underplaying his horticultural credentials and the breadth of his knowledge.  He has a particular interest in the more exotic side of the plant world and has encouraged my growing interest in hardy exotics 

Geum Princess Juliana
Geum Princess Juliana
“With thanks to Helen for allowing me to make a few plant suggestions on this blog.

By way of introduction, I have worked in horticulture for many years, following my degree in the subject. I am a passionate plantsman and gardener at home, and have accompanied Helen to various gardens and nurseries on a number of occasions. One time in particular stands out. Having stopped for lunch at a country pub, we watched in amazement as a biker removed his leathers to reveal a full morris dancer outfit!

So to the front garden, and a few hardy exotic choices. I think the aim will be to create a grouping of shrubs which provide some structure and year-round interest, to be underplanted with a selection of bulbs and perennials.

Schefflera rhododendrifolia
Schefflera rhododendrifolia

Number one on the hit list, Schefflera rhododendrifolia. I have grown this for 10 years or so, and have never had any trouble with it over winter. I believe it will take a considerable amount of shade, and I know it grows well on clay, being tolerant of a wide range of soil types. The leaves are grey green I love the new indumentum-covered growth in spring, like little pale hands reaching skyward. Plants will grow very large over time, but can be pruned to reduce height, and thinned to keep the canopy light.

A new plant which every garden should have, is the delicate Mahonia eurybracteata, marketed as ‘Soft Caress’. The leaves are particularly fine, and resemble a dwarf parlour palm, to my eyes at least. Unlike most Mahonia, and as the name may suggest, there are no spiny leaves to contend with.

Magnolia grandiflora 'Kay Parris'
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Kay Parris’

I would not be without Magnolia grandiflora ‘Goliath’, another cultivar to watch out for is ‘Kay Parris’. This would probably require a slightly drier spot in Helen’s front garden plot, but worth the risk. Evergreen, glossy above and rust coloured underside to each leaf makes this evergreen Magnolia a class act. Lemony-scented blooms in summer are a bonus.

For sharp contrast, I enjoy growing a variety of palms here in London. For the palm novice, there is one type which outshines them all. Trachycarpus wagnerianus is a stubby-leaved version of Trachycarpus fortunei (Chusan or Windmill Palm), which is the hardiest species in the UK climate. Trachycarpus wagnerianus has a lot of character, and provides real presence in a small space. The leaves remind me of crinkle-cut crisps somehow.

There is the evergreen framework, which will provide interest throughout the year. For colour, and in keeping with the red/orange theme, I would suggest also growing evergreen Nandina domestica ‘Firepower’. A dwarf version of Nandina domestica, ‘Firepower’ will grow to just over a metre (roughly) at maturity.

Link the colours of the Nandina through to Crocosmia, Geum, existing Grevillea and Libertia. Red and orange compliment green very well, so it should all sit well together. Tulips in spring, and Dahlias in the sunny areas will ensure a zap of colour through the seasons. Nasturtiums are great for late summer colour, and really easy just to poke the seeds into the front of a border. Hedychium ‘Assam Orange’ and Cautleya spicata are both super hardy gingers and will flower in semi shade.

I will be interested to see how the garden progresses, Good Luck Helen!”

Thank you Rob for your interesting suggestions which I will throw into the mixing pot to see what comes out the other end and I think its time we went on another of those plant buying trips.

End of Month View 2016 – The Shameful Front Garden!

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It’s the end of January and so time for a new view for the End of Month View meme.  In a bid to make myself really focus on the front garden I have decided to air my dirty linen in public so to speak and have this as the focus for the meme this year.  Any one who has read this blog for some years will recall that the front garden was the focus of the EOMV meme in 2013 and you can see a round up of that year’s posts on the subject here.

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The two photos above should give you an idea of the layout of the front garden and yes the lawn, if we are audacious enough to call it a lawn, is looking awful.  It needs a good cut as the grass doesn’t seem to have stopped growing but the garden nearest the house can be in shade nearly all day meaning that it doesn’t dry out very well. In fact the whole lawn is full of moss which is a good indicator of how damp it can for most of the year.  We also think there is a spring which runs along under the beech hedge, although I suspect it is one of those springs which appears when there are high water tables. I think the above photo distorts the perspective and it seems that the border to the left of the lawn is quite wide whilst the border at the end of the lawn is quite narrow – in fact it is the opposite way round.

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This photo gives you a better indicator of how narrow the driveway border is and also demonstrates how unhealthy the lawn is.  This border has a bit of an orange theme going on with the libertias, a number of different crocosmia, geums (although more red than orange), tulip ballerina  and a Grevillia vicotriae which has orange flowers. There is an edging on the driveway side of oregano, a very yellow leaved one, and on the lawn side Alchemilla mollis. When I squared the lawn off, it was formerly oval, I went through a period of being obsessed with accentuating the shape of the lawn with edging of one plant.  I tried an approach of having a reduced plant pallet and going for impact but it just jarred with me.  I started breaking this repetitive planting up with the addition of a couple of stipa tennuissima and also the libertia but it needs something else so I shall be watching this year to try to decide what that elusive something might be – possibly some bigger foliage.

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Some might recall that I had a row of Deschampsia along the end of the lawn but if you read the post from the end of 2013, you will see that, I concluded that this was creating a screen like a barrier at the end of the lawn.  I have spent the last two years continuing to struggle with the front garden.  However back in the summer Kate from The Barn Garden visited and pointed out the obvious to me that I should really take the same approach with the front garden as I have with the rest of the garden and indulge my love of foliage and architectural plants.  It is so obvious it is ridiculous.  So I have re-jigged the planting back late in the summer adding various plants that were lurking in pots on the patio or needed moving from elsewhere.  In went a melianthus major, a phormium, euphoribia rigida and some bearded irises.  The various bergenias which had replaced the Deschampsia in a near row along the front were re-arranged into clumps.  As shrubby salvias seem to do well in this locations as does the cistus I also added a rosemary and sage.  I am really pleased with this new approach, it feels right, so this year I will be watching to see how it progresses and whether anything needs to be added.

Finally if you look at the top photos you will see there is a border running along the beech hedge and next door’s garage wall.  This is quite a narrow border and has another row of alchemilla mollis – when these flower on both sides of the lawn it looks great but far too regimented for me.  I have also added some aquilegia seedlings which had been hanging around on the patio for far too long.  However, I think this border could really benefit from the addition of some ferns to add some contrast and height.  That would of course give me another excuse to buy more ferns – not that I am obsessed with them at all!

So this is the view I shall be boring you with at the end of each month for the next year. Any one can join in with the meme and you can use it as you wish.  Some like to give a tour of their garden, some like to focus on one particular area – what ever works for you.  All I ask is that you add a link to your post in the comment box on my post and that you link in your post to this blog – that way we can all connect with each other and pop by for a visit.