Six on Saturday – 30th March 2019

Narcissus Thalia

Like the host of this meme I find myself resenting time away from the garden at the moment.  Today I would normally go to an HPS meeting but it was either sit in a village hall discussing plants or actually be outside in the garden getting on with sorting out my garden – I chose the garden.

I prefer to garden early in the day or in the evening when others aren’t around as it allows me to turn off completely, hear the bees humming and the birds singing.  I like to immerse myself in the garden, thinking about what plant might work where, why is this plant not looking so good, how can I improve that border? So I am looking forward to the evenings getting lighter.

With the wonderful forecast this weekend I was out in the garden as soon as I had done the weekly shop. I wanted to take my Six on Saturday photos first thing as the sun was making the garden glow but it turned out that both my camera batteries were dead so unfortunately the photos don’t reflect the beautiful light we had today. The Prunus is groaning with blossom which in turn means the air is positively alive with bees.

After a couple of years of disengagement with the garden my gardening mojo is well and truly back but slightly different.  It has grown up, it is more mature and considered and better informed

My focus today was the very top left hand corner of the garden.  As you can see some of the fencing is missing which is down to my neighbours.  When they moved in they cut down all the trees and shrubs along the boundaries, which I can understand as it was so overgrown, but the trees and shrubs did hold up the fence which was collapsing from years of neglect by the previous owners.  I think they plan to replace the fence soon but in the meantime I feel a little exposed when I am in this part of the garden – my privacy is important to me. I sensed my neighbours were out today so it seemed a good time to tackle this corner.  It fits with my approach to getting a grip of the garden starting at the top and working my way down. This area used to be home to the compost bins which I removed last summer. I have planted it up with a number of shrubs which were either in pots on the patio or had to be moved to give other plants space.

I’m hoping that the range of shrubs: camellia, tree peony, hydrangeas will give round the year interest.  I had added a few ferns and also a helleborus foetidus which was over growing a path.  I also added narcissus and snowdrop bulbs back last autumn which put on a good display up to a week or so ago.  Today, I weeded, pruned, removed some brambles and sycamore seedlings from the very top and added a couple of Acunthus mollis.

Just to the right of the area I worked on today is an area I started work on almost to the day last year.  There used to be a woodchip path along the top of the garden but it led nowhere and I spent more time trying to keep it weeded then anything else.  The wood edging had rotted and to be honest the path was becoming dangerous so last year I removed the wood edging and I have slowly but surely been digging up and removing the rubble that formed the base of the path.  The area of bare soil in the photo above was the very last bit of the path which I finally removed last week.  I can now use this space for some ferns, epimediums and hellebores which need moving. I am trying to create a tapestry of foliage to give interest all year round.

My new approach is beginning to show dividends elsewhere in the garden.  Above is the top of the garden to the right where I removed the path last year.  This area is awash with honesty (Lunaria annua) which seeds itself around the garden.  I used to have a white variegated honesty but seem to have lost it over the past few years so I think I will try to find some more seeds and reintroduce it. I discovered that the Melianthus major above is also flowering like the one next to the shed which is really good.

Finally, I will leave you with the first tulips to open this year in the garden.  They were in a selection pack of tulips and I think they are Tulip ‘Elegant Lady’ – I do like the softness of the colour and think I may try to add some more next year.

I have had a wonderful day today gardening for far more hours than any other day this year and I ache all over which is often a sign of a good day.

For more Six on Saturday posts visit the Propagator’s Blog.

 

End of Month View – November 2016

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

End of Month View June 2016 – Hugh’s Border

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A quick End of Month post from me as to be honest I had lost track of where we are in the month.  The garden is at its most full and even more so given the amount of rain we have had over the last few weeks.  Hugh’s border is looking fuller than ever, and in some places too full.

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The other end of the border which is shadier but not as shady as it used to be due to the neighbours cutting down the trees along the boundary.  This end is the home to some of my earlier fern acquisitions which are now quite substantial, there is also a Paulownia although it is battling with a rogue foxglove growing through the middle of it.  My idea is that the Paulownia will form a leafy canopy over the border but I think that will take a few years.  I spent some time this last weekend digging up Pulmonaria which grew along the edge of the steps and had started to self-seed around.  It was great when the border was so shady but had well outgrown its space so I have replaced it with another fern and some more siberian irises which I hope will bring some new textures to this end of the border.

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The front edge of the border which is a lot better than in previous years but at the moment lacking in colour.  There are some foxgloves, crocosmia and a fuschia about the flower so in a week or so it should colour up.  My approach these days is for the foliage first and then the flowers to add colour highlights during the year.  However, I need to work on how I combine the foliage.  I was very impressed with some of the combinations I saw in the gardens last week so there is food for thought on how to improve the planting.

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The back of the border from the bench and you can see this is particularly chaotic and probably too full.  I need to do some editing here and make some decisions about what should stay but I enjoy that side of gardening as it stimulates my creative side.

So that’s a whizz around Hugh’s border before I go to work.  All are welcome to join in with the end of month meme I just ask that you put a link to your post in the comments box below and link to this post in your post so we can all track you down.

Let there be light

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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.

End of July 2015
End of July 2015

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.

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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.

Emerging from the Elderberry

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August

I am sure we all have bits of our garden that we really struggle with and to be honest turn a blind eye to.  I also bet that those areas are ones which are possibly in difficult to get to parts of the garden, or have difficult growing conditions.  My challenging spot is the top right hand corner, as you look from the house; it’s the corner behind the workshop.    As you can see from the photo above the corner suffers from the shade cast by my neighbour’s trees mainly the Elder which is right in the corner.  This has two large conifers, probably leylandii behind it which form part of the hedge along my neighbour’s back boundary.

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But having battled with the elder for years I was thrilled the other evening to get a visit from my neighbour asking if I minded them cutting back some of the branches on the maple to the front of the shed.  During the conversation she mentioned that the tree surgeons would be cutting down the elder and the two conifers.  I felt  a little bad later at how enthusiastic my reaction was; maybe saying ‘Oh good, I really struggle with that tree..’ is a little selfish! I was thrilled when I got home on Friday, just before the light faded, to see the transformation.  Not only had the tree surgeons done a very neat job with no debris on my side of the fence but the amount of light that is now flooding in on that side of the garden is amazing.  It isn’t only the light but the fact that the elder, in full leaf, created such a rain shadow at the top of the garden that I have struggled to grow anything.  As you can see there are three bamboos along the back fence.  The one to the left of the picture above is much taller than the others, in fact the third one has hardly put on any growth since it was planted some years ago and I am really hoping that with the increase in light and moisture the plant will start to thrive.  I am now revisit what plants I can use to plant around the bamboos and maybe I can now consider something more exciting than is presently there.

 

Ferny Make-over

Athyrium niponicum
Athyrium niponicum

It’s interesting how your approach to the garden changes when you have time on your side.  I don’t mean a few hours but when you have a couple of weeks with few plans and so you can ponder and potter without clock watching and worrying about everything you want to achieve in an unrealistic time. Yvonne, a regular commentator on this blog, is often nagging me about the need to sit on the bench and rest.  What she doesn’t realise is that I do a lot of sitting on the bench but this leads to pondering and considering and then ideas form which then turn into tasks or projects.

This week I have taken the approach of doing chores first thing, crossing things off a long list, and then going out into the garden and seeing how the mood takes me.  One of the first areas I have tackled is the patio border.  The border is in two parts either side of the greenhouse.  This is the first area I planted when we moved in some 11 years ago and it has benefited over the years from continual adding of compost.  The foundation of the beds is some form of builders sand or grit, I’m not sure what, but either way it drains pretty well.  However, due to the shade of the wall the borders are shady and retain moisture for longer than the rest of the garden giving me that elusive moist but well drained soil that is often mentioned in gardening books.

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As this border is the view from my living room  I have tried to make it have year round interest.  In early spring there are snowdrops and some narcissus but I have been increasing the amount of foliage interest rather than relying on flowers.  There is a loose colour theme of yellow and white which is fulfilled by a yellow Chinatown rose that has just gone over, the Kirengshoma palmata, the white flowers of a siberian iris and the various variegated foliage.

The changes I made this week are minor but have made a huge difference to the impact of the border.  When I was in Ireland the group commented on how the Irish gardeners seemed to always be moving their plants. I kept quiet at this point as I am a terrible mover of plants and to demonstrate this I have to confess to moving the Blechnum chilense above all of a foot to the left. As you can see the Edgeworthia is making a bid to be a tree rather than a shrub and it needed under-planting.  The idea is that the Blechnum will provide interest beneath the canopy of the Edgeworthia. I don’t know why the Edgeworthia is growing like this.  I bought it mail-order and it arrived with a bare stem and 3 buds at the top and has carried on from there.  I don’t think I would have chosen one growing like this if I had been looking in a nursery but it will be interesting to see how it fares.

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I love the Blechnum chilense. I am trying to learn more about my ferns and blechnums are one group that seem fairly easy to pick out as their fronds are quite distinctive.  Once it is established I understand its fronds can grow up to 5ft which will be quite something and no doubt will lead me to having to move some of the smaller surrounding plants.  It is also meant to be evergreen so I should have something lovely to look at all winter.

Kirengshoma palmata
Kirengshoma palmata

The Kirengshoma palmata is becoming very large now and I think that I might have to pluck up the courage and divide it next year before it completely outgrows its space.  It is a wonderful plant which really should be grown more.  They suffer a little from slug damage when young but once they are established the slugs don’t seem to bother so much with them.  As I have said before the flower buds always remind me of butter curls. The plant dies back in the winter and I am left with the rose and an acanthus which are somewhere underneath it and the winter jasmine on the back wall.  As I sit here pondering, looking out of the window, I think some yellow and white crocus might do well in here for early spring interest – now where is that bulb catalogue!

 

 

End of Month View – March 2015

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Well March has been a blustery month from start to finish and last night was the worst for some time.  Whilst the temperatures haven’t been particularly low for the time of year I think we have been lacking in sunshine and many of the plants are behind last year.  As I am on annual leave this week I was thrilled yesterday that the forecast was wrong and we had a lovely sunny day, the calm before the storm.  I spent most of the time weeding and sorting the border on the right of the picture.  I really need to come up with a name for it.  It generally gets called the border formerly known as the Bog Garden but that makes it sound like an egomaniac pop star.  It might get changed to the cherry border or the sorbus border as these are the two main plants in it.

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The cherry is Prunus kojo-no-mai which is a real gem and constantly earns its place in the garden with wonderful wonky branches in the winter, spring blossom and good autumn foliage.  I have added some Iris sibirica to the border which I grew from seed so I am hoping that these will establish.  I had planned to paint/stain the shed this week but I am still dithering about the colour.  My sons won’t engage in the conversation any more as they are bored with it.  When it was first put in two years ago I had just come back from San Francisco where I saw lots of bright and strong colours on the wood facias of houses.  I had thought for the last two years while the green wood dried out that I would stain it virtually black with orange accents.  Then recently it changed to sage green accents to tie in with the back door.  But the more I look at it from the house the more worried I become that as it is of a significant size in the garden that if I paint it very dark it will leap out more and push forward into the view rather than recede which is what I want.  I like the way the door has mellowed to an almost silver colour.  I have toyed with leaving it but it does need some treatment to protect the wood.  The current thinking is a pale sage green for the body of the shed with cream or very pale green accents. Or maybe I should try to find a very pale wood stain. Even I am sick of the subject.

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I spent a ridiculous amount of time yesterday pulling up sycamore seedlings.  I have never known a spring like it.  We always have a few from sycamore in next door’s garden but this year it is like a plague, they are everywhere.  Anyway, the one good thing is that while you are focussing on pulling up the pesky seedlings you spot all sorts of plants beginning to emerge – Dicentra, hostas, epimedium flowers, fern fronds and other woodland treats.

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I think in the next month the Woodland Border will really fill out with plants and colour.  I am waiting to see what appears where as I have lost my bearings along with the dead Acer.  I have decided that I will add lots of early spring bulbs and hellebores to this area as it just so bare.  I need to divide a load of snowdrops so those can go in here and I will have to mark out spots for hellebores before everything disappears underground at the end of the year so I know where to plant them next February/March.  I know I could plant some now but I have already invested in a number of new hellebores this year so it will wait a year.

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The other end of the woodland border looking a little fuller but it needs a quick weed as the dreaded sycamore seedlings are popping up left, right and centre.  I am on hosta watch as I have a large hosta in here somewhere which I want to move but I need it to put its head above the ground first.

So that is my garden at the end of March 2015 showing lots of promise and if I am honest I am rather pleased with it as I think it is looking the best it has ever looked in March.

Everyone is welcome to join in with the End of Month View and you can use it how you wish.  You can show the same area month on month or give a tour or show us the areas that you are most pleased with.  All I ask is that you include a link to this post in your post and leave a link to your post in the comment box below.

 

Embracing the slope

2014_05260038Sometimes you happen upon a speaker or hear a talk which causes you to have one of those light bulb moment.  Such an occurrence happened this weekend at the Alpine Garden Society annual conference in Stratford.  The majority of the speakers talked about a particular genus – who knew there were so many species of Meconopsis about particularly parts of the world.  For me the speaker of the conference was Keith Wiley who gardens with his wife at Wildside in Devon.

I have known of Keith for some years now and the whole time my youngest was a student at Plymouth University I tried to visit his garden but its openings never coincided with my visits to the area and sadly it will be closed next year.  I have seen his work at The Garden House and read his book Gardening on the Wild Side.  I knew that he had created vast ravines in his new garden but I had never really understood the reasoning why.

Keith’s talk was about a broader view of the woodland border.  Oh good thought I, lots of nice ferns, epimediums and erythroniums which will make a nice change to all the cushion and scree loving plants in the talks so far.  However, Keith’s talk was more than that, it was about creating an environment to grow ‘woodland’ plants and how you do this when you are presented with a flat field with no trees and you have a love of many woodland plants.  The solution is to create the hills and troughs, banks and ravines that many of us saw him building on The Landscape Man and now it makes sense.  By taking this approach Keith has created borders which face north, south, east and west and by planting trees and shrubs on the tops of the mounds and banks he is creating shade.  As he explained woodland plants don’t need to grow under the tree canopy just in the shade created by the trees and shrubs.

As many know I have a sloping garden.  It probably slopes at 45 degrees.  I am so used to it the slope doesn’t bother me to work on but I do struggle with how the plant it and achieve the best results. I have never yearned for a flat garden but I have to admit having a garden sloping up from the house has, and continues, to challenge me.  Sometimes I almost feel paralysed by the borders and this leaves to dithering and inertia and dis-satisfaction in the result.

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So what has changed? Well Keith talked about mirroring nature in the borders and how he used inspiration from sights he had seen around the world and indeed in others gardens to create vignettes and views.  Admittedly his vignettes are equal to a substantial size of my garden and when I asked him later what he followed the erythroniums with in his magnolia glade he admitted that the interest in the garden moved to another area.  This is a luxury I don’t have, every part of my garden has to work hard to give as much interest as possible but talking with others and looking carefully at Keith’s photos I can see how I can use many of the plants I already have in a better way with the shorter geraniums underplanting the taller and more vase shaped woodlanders such as Maianthemum racemosum. I am also going to think about how I position some of my shrubs in order to create more shaded areas for my favourite woodlanders.

It is interesting as many of Keith’s ideas weren’t particularly revolutionary and I had heard and seen various elements that he was using in various places but somehow it was how he brought it all together, and of course his infectious enthusiasm, that really struck a chord with me.  As he said to me when we discussed his talk this morning – slopes give you so much more scope and interest and why would anyone want a flat garden!

So here I am home ready to plan and scheme over the coming winter and learn to love and embrace my garden taking into account how the slope and positioning of taller plants can provide different environments for my favourite plants.  Roll on the spring.

 

*The photos are of the Big Border back in May which actually looking back isn’t too bad and I need to do more looking back at photographs before I make any rash decisions.

Japanese Fern Border

Athyrium 'Burgundy Lace'
Athyrium ‘Burgundy Lace’

I mentioned in my last post that I had created a new border – the Japanese fern border.

My patio is quite shady on the garden size and is edged with a long narrow border which is backed by a 4ft wall which holds up the rest of the garden.  The border is divided in two by the greenhouse.  The longer section is my spring border which was featured in last year’s  End of Month View.  I haven’t really mentioned the shorter border as I have been unhappy with it.  The short section is also overshadowed by a prostrate rosemary which is growing on top of the wall and this makes the border quite shady.

The soil in the border is excellent due to 9 years of me adding compost, wood chip and other stuff.  It is also very free draining but doesn’t dry out quickly which actually means that I have some of that elusive moist free draining soil that all the plant books talk about.

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Anyway, back last January I visited Ashwood Nurseries and was lucky enough to have a tour of John Massey’s garden.  There was a small fern border by his front door which looked great despite it being January and this planted a seed of an idea.  Then I was chatting with Victoria about ferns and she suggested I plant them in the short border.  It is after all just the right conditions.  I already have many ferns in the garden which I wanted to add to and I decided I needed a focus for the ferns in the new border.  A bit of research lead me to decide that it should be planted with Japanese ferns.  I already had a Japanese Holly Fern in the border so this made sense.  Also my favourite ferns – Athyriums or Painted ferns  – are Japanese so it was a no brainer.

Buying plants for this border has led to some interesting and amusing conversations with nurseryman at Malvern Spring show and Spetchley plant fair.  Asking for recommendations of Japanese ferns was a good opening of a conversation and that I find is often the hardest bit when talking to nurseryman.  Once you show more interest than where do I plant this you can have some fabulous conversations as they know you are really interested.

Polystochum Tsus-simense
Polystochum Tsus-simense

Anyway, I have now added Cyrtomium fortunei, Polystichum Tsus-simense, Polystichum polyblepharum and Athryium Burgandy Lace to the border.  Also in the border are some perennials which I haven’t decided whether to relocate yet including: Disporopsis undulata, Impatiens omeiana and Cautelya spicata ‘Arun Flame’.  I think they will add a nice contrast to the ferns but we will see.  I might do a bit of research to see where they originate from to see if they nicely fit my theme but I know that the Cautelya is from Nepal so this is already going off target!

Interestingly my youngest doesn’t like this border as he says it is dull and lacking height and variety.  I am wondering if he is right.  Whilst there are differences in the textures and colours of the foliage the structure of the plants is still the same so there is possibly not enough variety but we shall see how it pans out.