So, that was January then. Wet and windy, and half obliterated by a rather interesting virus in my case. Not a lot of gardening. Or blogging. I have started catching up with all you lovely people, and I had a lovely time getting excited about dahlias the other day. My gardening mojo is definitely stirring. And I am determined to make sure I do more gardening this year. I need it. It gets my creative juices flowing, calms me down and centers me, makes me live in the now (when I am not dreaming of future borders or plant growth). I’ve come to believe it is essential for my overall mental health, not to mention the fact that it does wonderful things for my physical health too. Apart from my back…
So here I am, publicising my intention to garden more, in the hope that in the sharing I create some positive pressure to get out there and have something to post about more regularly! Besides, however needful it was to concentrate on setting up the new business last year, I hated watching the weeds thrive. So my goal is to see significant progress in my – currently rather shamefully neglected – front garden.
From upstairs, you can see that it is a long triangular space, facing north, but the majority of it is in full sun for most of the day, most of the year. You can see that one of the things I did manage to do last year (with the help of TNG) was to mark out the curving paths and enlarge the beds to match. The plan is to get rid of all the grass, and put down gravel on weed suppressing membrane. I am still playing around with edging materials, but the basic shapes will remain. I still have to mark out the borders and pathways at the very front.
The right hand side borders the little road that leads round our small estate, but it continues in to a track at the far end that takes you up to the heart of the village, which is a favourite route for dog walkers. We get quite a lot of passers by, and I planted my trio of birches, a sorbus, and several large shrubs (well, shrubs with the potential to become large) to help provide us with some privacy. Otherwise people tend to gawp in to our lounge window!
The area around the trees is populated by late summer perennials and grasses, so at this time of year it is the domain of forget-me-nots, and increasingly, bulbs.
The mix of snowdrops, cyclamen and ophiophogon around the sorbus is still very new, but it is making me smile.
The Iris reticulata ‘Gordon’ were planted shamefully late, in mid December, but are flowering away creating a delightful splash of colour next to the drive. I have editing to do in this patch, but no major work, I need to let it settle in before I do much more.
The main section of the wall border is in need of a lot of TLC. I need to improve the soil. It is very free draining, and I keep losing salvias, so I want to use plenty of compost on it in the hope that it gives the whole area a boost. I have spent the past few years trying out various plants and combinations, and have decided to really simplify it. There will be loose river of Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ backed by Verbena bonariensis and punctuated with echinops and sea holly. I am going to move the lovely but far too short Helictotrichon sempervirens elsewhere, and probably add more Calamagrostis brachytricha, although it can be rather untidy. I am going to simplify the front of the border too, and edge the whole length with Lamb’s Ears, just punctuated with a few geraniums here and there to break it up a little.
My two favourite plants in this border are the Teucrium fruticans that Christina put me on to and the rosemary-like Olearia virgata. I am planning on taking lots of cuttings of both. I want to use the teucrium along the wall from the one established shrub I have at the moment all the way to the front end. I find the light and airy habit of the Olearia delightful, and am severely tempted to make yet another change to my hedge planning along the wall closer to the house, as I think I might prefer the waftiness of the Olearia to the solid dark green of the myrtle. Poor myrtle, its not even been there a year yet…
The central bed has been enlarged, and needs some severe editing, but will remain predominantly yellow with plenty of grasses for movement. I wonder if the witch hazel will flower. There are buds, but it has usually flowered and finished by now.
The house end of the fence border has been much better since I changed things around last autumn. It might even need a different name, problem corner might (fingers crossed) be a thing of the past. I am really glad I chose to move the little ‘Midwinter Fire’ from the back garden, as it catches the shaft of sun (assuming there is any sun) in mid afternoon and lights up the whole area. The snowdrops are really starting to fill out under ‘Kojo-No-Mai’, and the Euphrobia wulfenii has been flowering since before Christmas. Poor thing, it must be exhausted.
(How come I didn’t notice the plastic bottle when I was out there in the daylight?!)
The newly enlarged area will need some new plants – I plan to add some geums and perennial wallflowers for now – but overall the fence border is what is preventing the front garden from being a total eyesore. The real challenge – apart from digging up all that grass – lies at the very front.
Its a mess. A formless mess. The grass keeps returning within days of clearing it, including in the area that used to be a pond, and that I want to turn in to a little seating area. I have made a small start, trying out some new-to-me plants in the shape of Sisyrinchium striatum, which does really well in my neighbour’s garden, and a sea holly whose label I have lost. These are planted with Pheasants Tail grass, euphorbia myrsinites (though I think I would prefer to swap these for euphorbia rigida and that old stalwart, Stipa tenuissima.
The rest though. Well, the rest requires major work! And a little more fence.
So there you have it. My front garden at the beginning of 2016. Hopefully, by this time next year, it will look different. And better.