A change of focus for my End of Month View posts this year. The meme is so good at helping me focus on an area of the garden and at least try and move it along, I want to see if it can help me re-balance my attention a little and develop the poor neglected back garden a little. The front garden is never far from my thoughts, not least because I see it every time I walk through the house to the kitchen, or sit at the table having lunch, or seed sorting. There is still a huge amount to do there, but most of it, for next few months at least, is boring rubble and over grown plant shifting, I reckon I will be lucky to do any serious planting out there until the Autumn! I was finding this quite depressing, until I remembered (!) that there is actually more to the back garden than the veg beds, which I will feature separately. So, here is a warts and all tour of my wet and rather bare back garden, with some wishful thinking for how it might change over the coming year…
I’ll start with one of my three stretch goals. The raised area immediately behind the wooden greenhouse.
This area spent most of last year covered in trays of plants, all waiting for a home. Then the temporary wood store TNG constructed at the back of it started to teeter, and emergency action had to be taken. The remaining plants now languish on the patio, and we are ordering a skip to deal with the rubbish – there’s a lot more elsewhere to add to it. I have some temporary plastic greenhouses that I aim to use for plants awaiting new homes once I have finished raising seedlings in the conservatory and moved propagation back to the greenhouse. But the tiled area is actually the last part of the garden to get the sun, in the early evening, and I think it would make a lovely seating area, with pretty things in pots. Hah! Bet you it is still chaos come September…
Moving on round, the second big challenge is what to do with the oil tank compound.
The fence blew down at the beginning of December, and ever since I have been playing around with ideas ranging from “just build a new fence” through to covering over the whole area and adding a green roof! The current plan is to build an open shelved store to replace the fence, high enough to hide the oil tank from most parts of the garden – and grow climbers over, obviously. I’d like to add a mini green roof, to learn, because I would like to add one to the new shed we plan to build at some point with all the spare time and energy we don’t have. I can use the shelves as a temporary wood store until we get rid of the open fire, and also store the ceramic and clay pots there. It will mean moving a couple of the plants I bunged in there to temporarily fill the space left when I hacked back the Olearia macrodonta. This allegedly beautiful plant – the daisy bush – requires sun, and plenty of it. It was planted under a trio of sycamores, and therefore canted out towards the grass in a desperate bid to escape the shade. I cut it hard back and it is now gleefully bushy and vigorous. The white daisy-like flowers are very pretty, until they turn to seed, at which point the whole thing looks a mess and the seedheads jump out at you as you walk by. Impossible to dig it out, it is huge, so it will have to be glysophated to death. But the good thing is that there is plenty of scope in this area for some lovely shrubs and perennials, not to mention bulbs. I am aiming for a white and dusky pink theme, and hopefully blogging about it will stop me just bunging stuff in to fill the space. Although I did intentionally plant the pretty bamboo, a white Rosa rugosa, and a Sarcococca confusa. And the very beautiful geum rivale ‘Leonard’s Variety’ which happily flowered for months on end. I am thinking a white flowered hydrangea, perhaps a Japanese anenome, as I want this are to look good in the evening, but I am also putting a plum tree – or bush, rather – in there so there isn’t really as much room as I often kid myself there is.
Moving further along the back border, which is north facing and has heavier soil than elsewhere in the garden, there is a cordyline, which has to go, a very vigorous Acanthus mollis, my wonderful bay tree and a -currently badly hacked – Griselinia littoralis. In my defense, the Griselinia badly needs pruning, partly to bring in more light and partly to reduce the pressure on the hemmed in pittosporum behind it, but blackbirds nested in it from February last year, so I never managed to attack it. So I opened it out in the hope that it would put the birds off nesting in it so that I could have a proper go at it in Spring, but goodness it looks a mess! Not a huge amount of space here, but once I have deepened the border and edged it definitely scope for some new lovelies. Not sure what yet. Which is exciting. But definitely no bunging.
Further along there is a Drimys lanceolata, also in need of some careful pruning once it has finished flowering. I want to neaten up the overall shape and clear space beneath it to plant some shade lovers, but close inspection of the pretty little buds reveals that some of the leaves are looking rather unhealthy. Something I need to check out, I guess – any ideas?
This whole area looks rather bare at present, although the transplanted bamboo and the newly planted Fatsia will soon give us back some privacy, and a second plum tree is going in at the front. Since I cleared the spotted laurel out of here, and ripped out most of the ivy, foxgloves and forget-me-nots have self seeded around, which is rather nice, and I should be able to add some more nice things here too. It is an area very visible from the house, particularly in winter when the veg beds are mostly empty, so the focus needs to be autumn, winter and spring. Bulbs, hellebores, some ferns, perhaps candelabra primulas since it is damp here.
We’ve reached the shadiest corner in the garden, home to the magnificent tree stump, which is itself home to interesting fungus and no doubt myriad insect life. Ferns are definitely called for, but there is also a rescued pyracantha for privacy and the birds, a Cotoneaster horizontalis for autmn – and the birds, and a hazel, which eventually will hopefully provide me with bean poles. This is underplanted with wild garlic and some daffs, and because of the way the winter sun catches this area, a Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’. I want to add some evergreen ground cover and more bulbs, and definitely hellebores. Perhaps even the hellebore I currently have in the front garden. OK, last push.
The rather grandly named park border (definitely no capitals) is mostly new, and deep, with the lovely inherited acer, a Magnolia stellata, more dogwoods, a hawthorn seedling now being swamped by yet another Acanthus mollis which has leapt in to growth since the conifers were removed, a – still small – mahonia, the beautiful black elder, and currently a rather sad looking Escallonia ‘Donard Seedling’. I think the escallonia is sulking because I moved it and then it got hot and the kitchen was being done and I didn’t water it enough. I feel guilty every time I look at it, and plan to lift it, cut it hard back, and try to nurse it back to health. I will replace it with the plant I originally planned to plant there, the Ceanothus ‘Puget Blue’ I bought to replace the one that hated life in the front garden. Still with me?
I am torn about what to do about climbers on that awful trellis. I certainly want to plant a winter flowering clematis behind the black elder, perhaps teamed with a spring flowering one, but further along the mahonia will eventually hide the entire section of trellis. Perhaps I could use some annual climbers for a few years? It seems a waste to plant something that will eventually be hidden, unless I go for yet another ivy.
This border has a definite yellow theme running through it, or will have once the Edgeworthia chysantha gets settled in enough to flower. I thought it might this year, but no sign of the distinctive downy flower buds, just what I think are leaf buds:
I fell in love with this from a picture on Caro’s blog, but can never remember the name – Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’. I can also never take a photo of it that does it justice, but it flowers on and on, with a lovely fragrance that occasionally even I can smell. I already have native primroses, daffs, Euphorbia robbiae and some heaucheras to echo the colour of the elder, but there is masses of room still, or will be until the shrubs grow larger. The plan is to use annuals to amp up the colour intensity for the summer while I give serious thought to what more permanent planting to add in.
The rest of this border is home to a deradful choking carpet of weed, seedlings from borage and Californian poppy, three currant bushes and a gooseberry. Right at the end is the purple hazel I brought with me, planted with deep blue aquilegia alpina and paler blue campanulas. It is also currently home to a clump of the ubiquitous native crocosmia and a very pretty white aster. The aster would just about be ok, the pale pink comfrey, not so much. I am going to move the aster to the back border and the comfrey to near the hazel, and turn this end of the border, round the rhubarb, into a little hot area, adding some red and orange.
Sorry, that is a really long post even for me, but what I want to do is gradually develop these borders and use Helen’s EOMV meme to keep me honest and stop me just bunging stuff in without sufficient thought. That will just later upset me, as will repeating too much of what I had in the old garden, a temptation because the aspect is identical!
We spend a lot of time out here in the warmer weather, and once we get the patio done (the third Big Job) there will be more space for vibrant colour (and herbs), but in the mean time these borders need to provide us with more colour and interest.
I’ll finish with the few flowers currently blooming or about to bloom, and a nudge to check out the other EOMV posts via Patient Gardener’s blog. Always really intersting to see what other people are working on or just enjoying.