I had a lie in last Sunday morning, an unusual event recently but well overdue. The only problem is that it meant my mind was wandering around (I had been woken by my mad cat demanding to be let out at 6am so was wide awake!). I started thinking about Bog Garden which really isn’t very boggy and is one of those parts of the garden that I walk past averting my eyes.
The bog garden was originally created to solve the problem of the pond which itself was created in the large hole left by a very large inherited conifer. The pond was alright to start with but people always under-estimate how much work is involved in maintaining a pond and I do believe that in order to have a good and healthy wildlife pond you need one of a good size not the small one I had. So the pond was filled in, with the liner punctured first to improve drainage. The idea was that this would provide the ideal conditions for my Ligularia and other plants which had been around the pond.
It turns out that this was not the case. I suspect I was over enthusiastic in puncturing the liner since the bog garden has never been that boggy. The Ligularia in particularly looks great in spring until the slugs attack but it soon declines and is obviously suffering from a lack of moisture, this was even the case last year when it was very wet. I have decided to take the approach I took with the Cottage border and to remove everything apart from the shrubs. Some plants I will discard, such as the Ligularia and Rodgersia, and other I will pot up until I can decide where they will go.
I need to have a more cohesive approach to the border and this, as well as the lack of moisture, has caused a real headache. I have until now treated the border as two separate borders, an approach that was destined to fail. On the far side is the bog garden and on the side nearest the house is a drier area with a large Prunus incisa ‘kojo-no-mai’. I have some Phlox and Monarda in this area but they look a little lost so they will be lifted and probably incorporated into the Big Border. The whole border is very shady with only the far corner nearest the shed in any sort of sun. So I have decided that this is going to become an extension of the ‘woodland/shade border’. I think the planting will be predominantly ferns, hostas, primulas and maybe meconopsis if I can get them established but I need to do some research to find the right varieties for the deeper shade and for the drier areas.
Then there is the slope behind this bed. It is quite a small slope behind the bed but gets higher the nearer the shed you go. At the shed end I have my asters which need sorting out. They were bunched up here when the shed project started but now I can see which one is what I can reorganise for a better effect. The lower bit of the slope is much shadier and I want to clear this and use it for more of my woodland bulbs and smaller plants. As this is one of my areas of growing interest making extra space for these plants is a real boon and makes me very happy.
It has taken me a while but I have finally realised that I can’t have everything and anything that I take a fancy to. Not only do I not have the space but also I don’t have the right conditions for everything. Therefore, I am focussing on my real passions and not whims and amazingly, instead of feeling like I am being denied something, I feel liberated and able to really focus on my burgeoning passions. And I love a project to get my teeth into!
My poor garden has been suffering from neglect and a lack of enthusiasm from its owner. I was unwell at the beginning of September – a mixture of stress and exhaustion and then two weeks ago my mother had a stroke. It was one of those awful things when the phone wakes you from a deep sleep and you enter that strangely timeless world that is the hospital A&E department at night-time. I am pleased to say though that she was home within the week and although she is having to learn to speak properly again and has a weakness in her right hand she is in high spirits and very determined to overcome things. Last weekend, the first one she was home, I was so shattered after numerous visits to the hospital, as well as a stressful week at work and worrying about my Dad who himself isn’t well that the most I managed was to weed the driveway. I nearly posted a picture of the weed-free gravel which would have been very sad but I was so pleased to have done something which left an obvious change to the appearance of the garden after weeks of little activity!
This weekend I have trekked to Plymouth to take my youngest back to University. This involves a 3 hour drive each way and an overnight stay in a hotel. I don’t sleep well away from home so tiredness continues! Anyway, I was determined that I needed to make myself re-engage with the garden as I have boxes of bulbs arriving and this really isn’t the time to pull the curtains and avoid the garden completely. I have been waiting for some months for the weather to cool down and for some rain to make the ground more workable that there is now a ridiculously long list of plant moves that are needed. I suspect the period of inactivity in the garden didn’t help with my enthusiasm as I am someone who needs routine and if I stop doing something then I struggle to start again.
So today I started to tackle the very top border. I needed to clear this area in order to relocate a Euphorbia which needed to be moved from the new Cottage Border before I can plant bulbs in it. I have been struggling for some years now with the top border. It runs along the very top of the slope in front of the fence and about 3 years ago I planted some bamboo in it to provide a light screen and to mask the house behind. Back in spring I planted Pyracantha along the fence and painted the fence dark brown which shows off the plants better. I have decided that this border will have a foliage focus, this is an approach I mentioned a few weeks ago where I am planning to try to create interesting foliage borders along the boundaries and then focus the very floral planting in the middle of the garden. I dislike this border so much I rarely go up there so it makes sense to plant things which are robust and bulky with good foliage.
The bearded irises that were in the top border have been relocated to the front garden. I have rejigged the border along the side of the driveway and increased the amount of irises in it. I am trying to reduce the range of plants in borders and planting more of the varieties I choose so there is a more cohesive effect rather than my usual dotty approach. The top border was cleared aside from the bamboo, a hydrangea, a syringa (I think) and the fence planting. I have now added the Euphorbia, Aralia Cordata ‘Sun King’ and Sorbaria Sem (both bought from my HPS group a couple of weeks ago and featured on the Foliage Follow-up post on the 16th), a Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Boulevard’, a couple of large-leaved geranium seedlings and also Impatiens omeiana. I think I still need some smaller ground cover plants at the back of the border but I am planning to top-dress with wood bark which I think will help.
I am really pleased with the result. I was surprised yesterday when I was reading Carol Klein’s Favourite Plants that I had the majority of the plants mentioned in the book. I found myself wondering why my garden doesn’t look as amazing as Carol’s. Aside from the fact that I have a demanding full-time non-gardening job I think this has shown me that I have the material to hand to create a wonderful garden but I need to combine the plants better and work harder on day-to-day maintenance; I am finding the combining of plants fascinating at the moment.