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Learning Curves

August 6, 2017

A rose that had performed for decades suddenly stopped flowering two years ago. It appeared to be perfectly healthy with masses of strong new stems and an abundance of healthy leaves but no roses. R. ‘Gloire de Dijon’ is a climber with creamy-buff flowers and a spicy fragrance often repeat-flowering and sometimes forming huge hips in Autumn.  I realised that the problem was the walnut and mulberry trees in the garden next door now grown so huge they block out the sun on this border all day. I enjoy these trees and appreciate the atmosphere they bring to my garden especially  the way the light is changed when they are in full leaf. In Autumn the leaves drop and are bagged up to be  saved for twelve months to provide a winter mulch for many of the beds. And as they come into full leaf in Spring it’s a comforting reminder that warmer weather is on the way. So I have needed to re-think this bed, now in almost full shade, and it’s good to see that Japanese  Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ loves the conditions and has self-seeded happily along 3 metres.

Saxifraga x urbium ( London Pride) tolerates full shade and is thriving .

Alchemilla mollis is in full flower and has self-seeded along the front edge so it clearly gets enough light.

This weekend I added five clumps of Helleborus foetidus towards the back of this full shade border extending the large space from removing the rose.  Hellebores do best in part-shade but since the trees are deciduous there should be enough light at the right time to encourage healthy growth. As an evergreen perennial these will add year round interest with their palmately divided leaves surrounding purple-edged, pale green flowers anytime from Winter through till Spring.


The second learning curve was although we’ve had rain on and off for weeks, the large new planters in the back lane were bone dry. Note to self, water twice a week regardless of weather, wind drys the surface out even if combined with a heavy downpour. It has also become apparent that small terracotta pots are not very practical for herbs because these too dry out quickly. I have several and they will be saved for planting crocus in October that can then be brought in for the kitchen table when in flower.

And although a plastic window box is less charming it has proved to be a fantastic way to grow herbs near the kitchen door. It sits on the garden table and can be moved when we eat outside. Chives, Greek basil, flat-leaf parsley and mint have thrived all summer with no sign of slug or snail attack.

Aside from three Kaffir lilies coming into bloom with their gorgeous, intense orangey-red petals, little else is doing much in the sunny border.

But Clematis ‘Rouge Cardinal’ will be planted against the wall behind them.

A trip to a garden centre is required to see what herbaceous plants are looking good at this time of year. I shall then follow Monty’s great tip in last friday’s Gardener’s World where he showed how to divide up and increase plants ready for next year.  The programme also featured Karena Batstone’s wonderful town garden in Bristol which is well worth catching on BBC I player.

This week the cut flowers in a favourite green glass jug are the leaves of R. rubrifolia with the flowers of the un-named hydrangeas.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2017 3:28 pm

    You anemones look lovely and so happy! My A. ‘Honorine Jobert’ are just starting too and they are so useful in dark shady places. I’d be a bit careful about the walnut and its leaves, because they contain an inhibiting chemical called juglones which can be detrimental to other plants growing under/near.

    • August 9, 2017 4:10 pm

      Gosh that’s worth knowing. Do you think the leaves carry that chemical over the year they are decomposing? Thinking about it the mulberry leaves tend to drop into my garden and the walnut leaves pobably fall next door.

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