Introductions: The Front Garden part 2

I only took you half way round the front garden in the earlier post, there is so much going on in it, and as my posts always have a tendency to be lengthy anyway, I took pity on you all! We pick up the tour in the back right corner as you face the house, which is dominated by a pampass grass.

pampass grass corner

Not my favourite area – to complete the 70’s vibe, the pampass grass is accompanied by a pieris, a rhododendron, an azalea and yet another (very pink) hydrangea. It’s all rather dated, very messy, and not terribly healthy.

messy corner

The rhododendron has succumbed to a hefty bout of powdery mildew, and the little evergreen behind it is badly chlorotic. Given how congested these plants are, it might be that just taking out one or two would solve some of this.

There is a huge gap immediately to the right of this area, and a lot of space behind too. This part of the garden backs on to the playing fields, and that part of the playing fields is actually a group of willows and a couple of hawthorn, with lots of cow parsley. I’d quite like this back corner of the front garden (!) to echo this by having a woodland theme, perhaps moving the lacecap hydrangea over, adding my smoke bush, maybe planting some native hedging plants behind. Shoot me now, because I even caught myself thinking that the pieris looked quite pretty when I looked back at the photo I took of that area back in May…

Pampass corner in May

It’s a shame that the bluebells are the invasive Spannish invaders rather than the natives, but that could be solved, once I see what other bulbs pop up here in Spring. What is amusing is how much the soil PH varies within a very small area. It goes from very acidic to neutral within a foot, which makes me thing that the soil has been locally amended to accommodate the acid lovers. Since this isn’t something I will be happy to do, they may not survive, only time will tell.

The one thing I was certain of was that I was going to be digging the pampass grass out. I have seen it used effectively, but only in really big borders where it has space to do it’s thing and is surrounded by plants that complement it. Neither of which apply here, where it also forms a trip hazard as you walk round the house. Then I was disturbed by the sound of lots of wings beating just outside my bedroom window, and opened the curtains to see that the whole plant was being mobbed by sparrows! I counted over 20, fluttering around in silence, chomping away at the seed heads. It was really windy, so this is the best I could do on the photography front:

mobbed by sparrows
sparrow feeding

So the pampass grass stays until the Spring…

The rest of the border that runs along the fence is, quite frankly, a mess. Leaving aside the fence itself, which is a vile colour, it is choked with weeds and full of the stumps of plants that have been chainsawed off.

messy fence border
weed choked fence border

I was excited to see a dark green holly poking up amongst the weeds, until I saw that it is actually a reverted shoot from a virulently yellow variegated form. I am hoping that by cutting off everything apart from the dark green shoots I will get myself a dark green holly for my woodland area!

hacked holly

There are three identical plants with rather pretty contorted stems, that look for all the world like Salix babylonica ‘Tortuosa’, Twisted Willow. It is recommended that you don’t plant even this comparatively small willow close to a house, though I am hoping that, if I prune them/it (not sure I need 3…) hard every Spring it will be OK. Particularly since we already have half a dozen large willows within a meter of the house growing in the park!

Twisted willow

It does leave me with something of a dilemma though. Do I keep all three? If so, they will be seen to best effect if I paint the fence a pale colour, perhaps a cream, so that the stems stand out against it in winter, an effect that will be lost if the fence is also planted with lots of climbers, which is my natural instinct. Another thing to ponder, but in the mean time I can at least do some weeding.

I also need to get to grips with the roses. I am a complete ignoramus when it comes to roses, never having grown them before. There appear to be two ramblers on the fence, one deep pink the other paler, neither apparently strongly scented, which is a shame.

pale pink rambler
deep pink rambler

Both of these roses have clusters of small blooms, and I have seen roses just like it growing in lots of the gardens around here, in much more exposed conditions. I wouldn’t choose to plant them, not least because of the lack of scent, but since they are here, I will live with them for now at least, and take them into account when planning what I do with the rest of the garden. They do give loads of colour, which is great, and both would look lovely against a pale cream fence if that is what I end up doing. I wonder how many coats that dark red will take – maybe I should go for black instead!

Mind you, the darker pink rambler, which is better established (for which read, was not hacked last year), smothers the trellis it is growing on so completely you wouldn’t know what was behind it – at least until winter.

rambler on trellis

There is also a salmon pink shrub rose of some description, again with no discernible scent. Again, it has been cut hard back, and has very few blooms.

salmon pink rose

I will probably end up moving this, but the most pressing issue (other than the weeding) is the large gap in the fence which then gets taken over by trellis.

hole in fence

The path to the Playing Fields runs behind here, so I want both the privacy and the security of sturdy fencing all the way along. Come Autumn, when we can see what we are doing, we will need to extend the fence along the boundary, and then paint it whatever colour I end up choosing.

We are now back at the front of the garden, by the pond. When I first explored this area, just after we moved in, I found myself stumbling all over the place because the ivy covered the ground so thickly you couldn’t see the obstacles. One thing I did spot that intrigued me was this:

outdoor socket

I quickly realised that the ivy-covered slope at the back of the pond must be a cascade – not that you could tell.

Anyone observing my behaviour over the past couple of weeks could be forgiven for thinking I hated ivy. I don’t, I am a big fan, particularly when it gets to the mature stage and flowers profusely. However, even the RHS, in an article explaining that ivy is not, in general, the tree killer most people consider it to be, concedes that in a garden setting “it may require some management”. An hour and two trug loads later, I had “managed” enough ground covering ivy to unveil the cascade and the surrounding walls with planting pockets.

Left hand side of cascade

I also traced the cable to the pump, which I wrestled from the grip of the roots of the rush. Thanks to the very helpful people at Messner, I even have a manual for it, though currently attempting to run it blows the circuit to the downstairs sockets…

Clearing the ivy away revealed lots of lovely large stones too, but my biggest surprise was finding a somewhat teasing figure crouched alongside the cascade.

surprise

I look forward to making her acquaintance!

I am glad to have wrestled the ivy away so that I can see the structure at the front of the garden, but I do find myself torn. I love ponds, but this one is very small, so will need a lot of maintenance to keep clear and healthy. It is currently about half full of leaf debris and duckweed, so if we do decide to keep it we will need to clear it out completely. The pond itself, and the cascade, are showing lots of liner, so there is plenty of work to do there too. And then there are those walls with the little planting pockets in the top.

I am getting a vision in my head of an area of informal planting punctuated by groups of the greenish rock local to the area, framing the view of the sea and the beach behind. Brick walls really don’t go well with that, and narrow planting pockets in the tops of small walls do not fill me with a sense of excitement. Having lots of bricks to make paths in the veg garden, however, that does excite me… The work required to demolish the walls and clean up the bricks, that feels a little daunting.

Sorry, maybe I should have done this in three parts, not just two, but it is going to be a useful record for me to look back on later, and I hope you now have a pretty clear idea of what the front garden looks like, and the challenges and opportunities it presents me with.

front left
pond and cascade
front right
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34 Comments


  1. Janet where to start, how lovely to find possible treasures in your garden, like you I would want the fence all along the path to the playing field, when I saw your pampas grass by the window I thought how lovely to see the birds so close, the birds liking the seeds is one of the things I like about pampas grass, I would never have known what the white plastic box was, I probably would have thought it was rubbish thrown in the garden, looking at the 2 last photos from above, it looks to me like the previous gardener designed the garden in bits rather than as a whole,
    I saw your reply to my comment about shredder etc. good lots of use coming from the cutting back and digging out,
    I think planning this garden is going to be an ongoing and changing process that I hope will give you lots of pleasure, Frances
    Island Threads recently posted roses


    1. Hi Frances, apparently the front section of the garden, with the pond/cascade and walls, was added by a garden designer a few years ago. I think you are right, there is no evidence of a coherent plan, though from what the neighbours say the borders along both the wall and fence were beautifully planted and maintained until the owner became too ill, and then the son came and took a chainsaw to the lot…

      So much to consider – will keep me out of trouble for ages!


  2. Hi Janet,

    How exciting to find treasures! Even if they are ugly brick walls… My parent’s garden was similar when they moved… Only far, far worse. It was so over-grown that they found HIDDEN sheds and greenhouses that they had no idea were there! There was also a hidden well and I have to wonder if anyone fell down it when they ‘discovered’ it :)

    I feel for you re:ugly fence. I have the same, and despise the colour, as well as the shed. Am desperate to get rid of the shed actually, especially as it’s just a home for rats to live under and a dumping ground for so much rubbish; it’s unreal.

    Good luck planning your garden, I know you will have a great time getting your teeth sunk into it. Btw, I still can’t get over your *fetching* circle in the centre of the lawn heehee. All it needs is a ‘lovely’ statue in the middle, possibly of a weeing cherub into a small pond.

    Are you planning on getting rid of the lawn?
    Liz recently posted Safari Sunday – Butterflies


    1. They are ugly walls, aren’t they – but a well?! Not something you want to discover accidentally…

      I sympathise with the shed, I have inherited a rather large one, well fitted out with hooks etc, but we think we are going to turn it into the beach hut (aka storage for beach and boat paraphenalia) so I get a new one, which I can paint whatever colour I like.

      The grass will be going, and I know you are just jealous of the circle bed, I am not fooled… There was a cherub holding something or other, not in the circle but at the entrance to the garden. It – and all the furniture in the house – was given to charity. I’ll have to make do with my little stone figure lurking by the cascade!!


  3. How busy are you going to be Janet. I will enjoy seeing all that you get up to. Take it easy though.
    Alistair recently posted Crambe Cordifolia


    1. Hi Alistair, yes, no danger of boredom! I only do a little each day (weather allowing), and spend a large portion of the time sat in a chair, pondering. The neighbours must think me very odd!


  4. Ah pampas grass. I agree it can look good – there’s an excellent planting of it at the Botanic Gardens in Durham but one clump in the garden does look dodgy. The rate those sparrows are going at it they’ll have it stripped before winter. I was looking through some books last night and discovered a great section in an Alan Titchmarsh book (his complete book of gardening) on coastal gardens. Not sure whether you’ve got it but I could always photocopy the pages and send them to you if you wanted. I wonder what else you might come across – loving the little stone statue.
    wellywoman recently posted Cocktails or Compost?


    1. Oooh, yes please! I’ll email you my email address (!). The sparrows had better hurry up, I am itching to get that pampas out…


      1. By which I meant, clearly, postal address, though I guess if you scan to doc you could email to me. Hey, it’s early – for me!


    1. Hi Donna, I will certainly never be at a loss for something to do in this garden! I am really enjoying the challenge of taking on a new space, working out what to keep, what to get rid of, how to enhance the good. It will be an exciting journey!


  5. I’m not sure which is more work – creating a garden from scratch or editing one you’ve purchased! Once you’ve taken out everything you don’t like and given the rest of the plants some breathing room, it will be fun to fill in the gaps. It will be fun to see how many bulbs pop up this spring. :)
    Casa Mariposa recently posted You


    1. Hi, I am enjoying the very different challenge of inheriting a garden, I’m not sure what is harder to be honest. I have been lucky with some of the plants I have inherited, unlucky with plants and structures elsewhere. I’m certainly not going to be bored!


  6. What a lot you have got to do, I think it is far easier to start from scratch than re-do an old garden. It certainly wants simplifying, but do take it in easy stages, don’t want to hear of you stuck in bed with a bad back! I would be tempted to make it into a gravel garden like Beth Chatto’s, with the plants swaying in the breeze from the sea and bees and butterflies everywhere!!
    Pauline recently posted Our visitors have arrived!


    1. Hi Pauline, funnily enough, Beth Chatto’s gravel garden is one of the sources of inspiration that has ideas floating through my head right now. I certainly want lots of plants that will dance in the wind, and lots to interest wildlife. And hey, at least I will have no problems finding brown material to put on the compost heap!! Thank goodness for garden shredders…


  7. It’s a lovely size and such a shame that the birds will lose their seed supply but I must admit I’d have the pampas grass out – it is a bit of a deadly plant too. I have to admit though to having a couple of pieris – maybe I can claim to be retro!
    Sue recently posted Salad Days


    1. Hi Sue, each to their own, nothing wrong with liking pieris, it just doesn’t do anything for me! I will make sure I plant other things that the birds will enjoy, though I am glad to have seen them feeding on the dancing stems at least once.


  8. You do have some interesting opportunities and challenges Janet. I think I would take out everything you hate or think is wrong where it is; then you’ll see what you have to start with and can begin to design around this framework, being ready to edit some more as you go along. Don’t feel bad about removing things, most of the plants you’ve mentioned have a finite life; I’d only be concerned about removing large established trees and even then it would depend what they were. I seriously wouldn’t contemplate painting the fence cream. It will take dozens of coats to get the effect you want and anyway a really dark fence will disappear behind the planting obscuring your boundary and therefore making that wonderful view of the sea more part of your garden. Christina
    Christina recently posted GBFD – Hotter Still!


    1. Hi Christina, I fear you may be right about the fence. I think I am fortunate in that I have learnt to be quite brutal when things don’t work in the garden, or I just don’t like them any more. I have also learnt that moving plants around really is OK if you are careful and do it at the right time of year. So, no guilt, though I will at least try to find new homes for some of the plants with neighbours. The challenge at the moment is pacing myself energy-wise and keeping up with the shredding!


  9. Gosh, lots to think about there. The brick wall is rather strange and out of sorts isn’t it. The pond dilemma is hard too, I’d love to have a pond, but wouldn’t give over any of our current garden to one, it’s all quite spoken for!
    Painting the fence will look so much better. I’ve always quite fancied woodwork painted in a pale sagey green, but I suspect that’s when I imagine I’m living in a great rambling country estate, cream would probably be far more suitable – although living by the coast aren’t you supposed to paint everything sugar-pink or blue? ;)
    Really looking forward to watching your space develop.
    S
    hillwards recently posted Jamming


    1. Oooh, sugar pink, now why didn’t I think of that… I know what you mean about sage green, I have had similar pangs, but so far always ended up with dark brown! I have begun wondering whether the pond could be a sort of homage to the rock pools, but I fear I could descend into cliche. Particularly with that pink fence…


  10. hello Janet,
    Not sure if you received my previous email which answered the question regarding two plants you asked your readers to name: the white is Lychnis coronaria ‘alba’ and the shrub is Escallonia rubra. Hope that helps. By the way, I have read that Pampas grass is used by some members of the community to denote that it is the home of ‘swingers’!!


    1. Hi Miriam, yes, I replied to your email… Definitely getting rid of the pampas…


  11. Oh Janet, be careful when removing the pampas grass, that stuff is so sharp!! I don’t envy you tackling a very mature garden and trying to figure out what to keep and what to remove. I will say if you remove any of the Twisted Willows, in my mind you should take out two…so you either have 3 or 1, but not 2. I am not a fan of two’s.
    Janet, The Queen of recently posted Wildflowers In the Landscape


    1. Hi Janet, I will be wearing my thickest gloves when I tackle the pampas, and long sleeves! I totally agree about 1 or 3. I just need to find out more about growing these willows close to a house.


  12. Oh, how wonderful to inherit those beautiful Roses, even if they will be somewhat challenging. The salmon-colored one is my favorite! There’s certainly a lot of potential in that garden. This will be fun to follow your progress!
    PlantPostings recently posted Who wants to go to Italy?


    1. Yes, I just have to wade in there and tame them… And give them better companions. Just a shame none of them are fragrant.


  13. I’ve really enjoyed going on a tour of your new garden in this and your previous post, it must be so exciting getting a new well established garden, exploring the terrain, seeing what plants you have and making new plans. Who knows what treasures will appear in spring too? Looking forward to following your progress in making your mark on this garden.
    annie_h recently posted Post Olympic blues


    1. Hi Annie, I’m glad you have been enjoying the posts. I, too, am excited to see what pops up in the Spring, and to see what the various plants I am already aware of do in terms of autumn colour, fruit, blossom etc. So much to keep me busy, I will never be bored.


  14. Well the good things are the lovely shapes to the beds and the hardscape you may be able to use other places…and of course paint will help the fence…and I love that surprise under the ivy…..the big grass does look out of place and the shrubs are a mis-match…but I love the possibilities Janet. Of course the bed with the pond will be wonderful…I would possibly enlarge that pond since you have such a large area, but that is quite a project. But I think you have a wonderful plan that I was envisioning as you were talking…it is going to be gorgeous especially with that wonderful local stone…
    Donna@GardensEyeView recently posted Urban and Suburban Meadows


    1. Hi Donna, yes, there is bags of potential in the front garden, both because of the growing conditions and because of that wonderful view. I am going to look in to the cost of extending the pond, and am wondering about disguising the brick walls around it with some of the stone from the circle bed. I go to bed with my head swirling with ideas. I love this stage.


  15. I do enjoy your lengthy posts Janet, so bring them on :) And how nice it is to find treasures! So looking forward to seeing the progress of your garden in the coming months and years!
    Mark and Gaz recently posted Competition – Yeo Valley Goodies


    1. I think it is safe to assume that I am too old to learn brevity now!!


  16. You’ve certainly got a long term project on your hands Janet but one that I’m sure that you are relishing.The mention of pampas grass brings back nasty memories of childhood accidents – falling into it headlong more than once :(
    Anna recently posted End Of Month View ~ August 2012

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