Planning and building the new garden
We’ve been at our new house for so long now that it’s starting to not feel quite so new. Who am I kidding, it still feels weird to drive up to it every day and I’m not looking forward to the day that it doesn’t! But, after several false starts, the time has finally come to get to grips with the various gardens – because we have a few! Most houses have a front and back garden. If they are lucky then there can also be a side garden. We’ve got all of these plus a side corner bit and don’t even get me started on the fact there is also effectively a lawn slap bang in front of us and thanks to the street being narrow, but people still needing to have stuff delivered, there are now corner borders on the edges of the street – and we’ve ended up with one of these, more on this on another post but those who know me will rightly assume that one morning in October I will be mass planting daffodils and snowdrops in ‘ours’!
Back to our gardens, those that really are part of our property. In September I did attempt a spot of gardening, planting some small shrubs in what I have come to label as the “front border” – okay imagination seems to have deserted me in naming that one! This consisted largely of some Cyclamens and a few past-their-best Osteospermums – which promptly died (expected, they are an annual) and some fading Geraniums (don’t ask me which type as I really don’t know). I had to abandon fairly early in the process as the sound of the neighbourhood pile driver was making me want to pull my own ears off! Honestly, when that thing gets in your head it is the only thing in your head! They looked pretty bad and begged the question from a passer-by “why is he planting dead plants?” There wasn’t much greater success in planting the Daffodil bulbs in the Manor / Ellie border (it’s not a regular naming convention that I’ve deployed!). I had wanted to plant in a naturalistic manner (have them popping out of the grass) but the tiny sods which came up using my foot-powered bulb planter, kept getting stuck, forcing me to shift them by hand. Not a swift process! By the time I had planted EIGHT I was at the “oh forget this for a game of soldiers” stage, and that was the polite version! Since then I have learned that it is meant to do this as the next sod pushing up pushes this one out of the way.
By December I had tidied up my previous dead plant, plantation and put in some others (which apparently I failed to document) along with four of those grapefruit-smelling Cupressus Macrocarpas. These would suffice whilst it was too cold and I had too little time to do anything about it. Then around six weeks ago I decided to take on the mammoth task of the “Shady Border” – this is the seven square-metres border which gets hardly any real sunlight but is the biggest single stretch of ground that we own (on this side of the wall). The builders (landscaping team) had previously decided to plant:
- Mock Roses
- Creeping Buttercups
And on top of this they had laid a decent layer of bark mulch…which swiftly broke down and became fertiliser for this weed array! I for one, question their intentions. Were they motivated by blandness? What a nondescript collection of blah! These had to go, the Hydrangeas were tiny anyway but the Creeping Buttercups and Mock Roses were ubiquitous! Also, they had planted four Pyracantha but two had been starved to death by these other beasts! I rescued the other desperate duo!
Ironically, it has taken a long time to ‘lazy dig‘ the soil. At first when we used to get twenty minutes worth of rain every thirty minutes, the soil was heavy, but soft. Since then the clay that was has now dried out to a near concrete-like consistency, it still weighs a tonne and you wouldn’t want to try planting anything in it without some for of conditioning agent – I’m using store-bought, all-purpose compost. Whilst I was doing this behemoth Chris took over the front border and planted some new Hebes and Heucheras and it all looks rather nice (if not a little twee) now. My long suffering Mint Julep Juniper has found a home in the sun next to our Amelanchier Tree which is something of a reward seeing as Google describes the habit of my Juniper as “gracefully arching branches” in reality they are more akin to ‘crawling desperately’. I had planted a ‘smoke tree’ Cotinus Coggygria in the same border (but about 10′ away) in September but as of yet this is putting on a really poor showing, I wasn’t expecting ‘smoke’ yet but leaves might have been nice, it’s just about budding.
So anyway, I thought it might be nice to introduce the borders visually as well as in text. So without further delay, here goes:
The first border that you encounter when approaching from the west (north west actually) is … the Welcome Border (aha bet you were expecting it to be named Western!). I want this to ultimately set the stall out for what is to come, ‘white, white, white’ – as in the flowers. This decision was the result of having been to Dunham Massey one day in Spring 2019 and witnessed a beautiful white border dominated by Cherry Blossom and Magnolia trees and backed up with various white flowering perennials. Allied to this, Barratts’ homes landscapers saw fit to leave us a wonderful little Hawthorn tree of the white flowering variety (we had a pink one at Red Lane) so this underlines the theme, or at least it will when the flowers all arrive at the same time. That’s all very well for spring but we are going to need some more bloom once the daffs, snowdrops and other earlies have finished their song? That’s going to be a work in progress, no matter how small it looks this is not really a small plot with all of its stretches and foibles. Ideally I would like some foxgloves and Gladioli here – but the former are biennials and the latter a pita because they need staking or else they fall around and self-destruct very quickly.
Moving on in a very slight easterly direction is our biggest border – the Shady Border. This piece of land is baked in sunlight all day long…when the sun rises in the west! To be honest, I could throw some real money and manpower at this area. I wouldn’t say this is a dark zone per se but it seriously lacks sunshine and at best looks grey all day long. Finding nice coloured plants for this is going to be a challenge but one to which I must rise as I really don’t want a seven-metres-long border full of the slug bait which are Hostas, Heucheras and Ferns of all sorts. I’ve already replanted the two rescued Pyracanthas as referred to in the preceding text, plus I had one of my own brought from Leyland Road that used to share a plastic trough with the Mint Julep Juniper, what goes around comes around! I have bought two bargain basement Clematis (one of which is ‘Destiny’) to hopefully climb up the wall behind them and I think this could be a lovely location for my four tiny Acer Palmatums group: Atropurpurea, Butterfly, Orange Dreams and ‘Going Green’ as this is the first year that I have had some survive not only the winter but the summer sun as well! I have a plan to put a path of “Yorkstone” circular cobbles in to break up what will be a densely mulched border and it goes without saying that such a large tract of space is just crying out for an array of Geraniums which will be punctuated by some tiny autumn and spring flowering Cyclamens and any other plants I can get hold of which don’t mind spending their life in gloom! I read that Lily of the Valley will do well here, I may have to buy plants as getting hold of the bulbs / corms / tubers / rhizomes has proved impossible for me this year. Likewise I had managed to get hold of one of what I believe is a Japanese Anemone but this appears to have been munched on already. I don’t what greedy insects we have in our immediate vicinity but they’ve had a go at some primulas and my hellebores too!
Moving ever more east and we’re into the third border that I started off last year. Directly below the kitchen windows you’d be forgiven for thinking that the obvious name for this border would have referred to that room but no, that might imply that I am growing stuff for us too consume and the only thing I’m really feeding albeit unintentionally, is whatever little pest is snacking on my hellebores and primulas. Bulbs will dominate this space as it gets very early morning sun and that’s about it. We had two electricity mains sockets fitted here for external decorations and they are not pretty so I have planted ferns either side of them to (in time) hide the ugly grey / black plastic box. Once the Daffodils here have finally gone off and the leaves had a good chance to feed the bulbs then I will lift and store them somewhere dry (no idea where) so that I can do the whole border again in a more neat but diverse manner. I fancy getting some Erythronium next and maybe even trilliums and a quick google around has revealed Caladium Florida which are fond of shade / partial shade, well I can supply that in spates. For the rest of the year it will have to be a case of admiring the ferns although if I add some grit I maybe able to deter the slug population from feasting on any Hosta I may plant.
Slightly north of this border is an area that as of yet we are not treating as a border…but I want to! The stones here will look just exquisite punctuated by autumn flowering Cyclamen and perhaps (if the budget allows) a few Colchicum of the ‘autumnale’ variety or possibly some of the true autumn Crocuses – the Saffron species – Sativus. Oddly enough this little patch receives sun in the morning until around an hour before noon (on a good day prior to the Spring equinox) so it seems a genuine waste to not plant anything here – even Sedums or Sempervirens may well thrive…I just have to learn to like the things as I am really not a fan of all things alpine, except for the Alpine Laburnum</ Moving on we reach what is unimaginatively referred to as…the Front Border – well there’s a point when you just have to call a spade a spade. As I have mentioned in the opening paragraphs we have four Golden Monterey Cypresses here and to be honest they are surviving as opposed to thriving, I think they need more sun. In addition where they are located is actually really close to the concrete footings for the pavement and road so they are almost self-bonsais such is the restriction on their roots. These may need moving around the corner where the sun beats down for most of the day although that being said I have known this tree to dry up and die quickly from our Leyland Road days and an interfering pseudo gardener!
And so we take a right hand turn here, avoiding the Amelanchier tree with its on-going mission to whip around from side to side so violently that it may one day uproot itself. Turning south and onto the eastern facing “Manner border” – the house directly facing this border looked so very grand as it was being constructed and the paving on the opposite side of the road looked like a very formal path leading directly to its door. It sounded good at the time! Along with many other areas of our little site, this locale was festooned with horrid Coyote Bushes when we first arrived, in fact when we first viewed the house I vowed to rid us of these ugly, ugly plants, now just four remain, their one redeeming feature is that they are easy to dig up – I did a few with just my bare hands. I had planned to grow a range of Dogwoods here but Christine is most definitely not in favour of that, honestly just because I was going to make it a rare two-tone, red-yellow combination! Instead it looks like we will be planting more Monterey Cypresses (tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee) as my secondary plans for grouping various perennials in threes and fives seems to have also hit the skids! It could be worse, she likes Box (Buxus) which I have silently sworn an oath to destroy if they ever make an appearance here! Seriously I will buy in spores of box blight if she ever brings home just one of those characterless plants. In situ at the moment is a rather lazy smoke tree which appears to be the last plant on earth to hit bud burst and some Miscanthus / Carex which we both like but could do with spacing out and multiplying. The last border is not yet a border – this is the boundary between our house and the path belonging to next door – Ellie is her name and will be the name of this border. I plan to just put in a row of mixed dwarf conifers and to let them merge / one dominate!