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Establishing Successful Borders

May 19, 2018

Gardening can be both a satisfying challenge and a dreadful chore. And whilst it’s not possible to plant a garden that looks good for every month of the year much of the joy comes in analysing what will give pleasure for parts of the year and then helping it come to fruition. With this in mind last Autumn I re-jigged several of the side beds by editing out plants that were failing to thrive realising several species simply needed more light. The neighbouring trees had grown taller over the years and reduced sunlight by a couple of hours and plants had got leggy.  But in the beds shown below ferns and Euphorbia robbiae and Geranium macrorhizum ‘Bevans Variety’ were thriving in almost total shade so these plants were increased to give ground cover. Providing early summer interest, and with tall hydrangeas at the back for colour in late-summer, this bed more or less looks after itself.

Then another bed in relatively good sunlight had become overgrown and required a very serious re-think. The soil needed to be improved so the plants were lifted out and placed in a bucket of water whilst the ground was cleared.  A Hydrangea petiolaris lined the wall behind it and was kept as a back drop whilst the bed was forked free of weeds and bags of soil improver were emptied over the surface. The plan was to reuse as much of the existing planting as possible so the  Japanese anemones, that had spread by extending their roots, were forked up and the root cut through. This gave two new clumps for each end of the bed. Self-seeded hellebores were rescued from around the garden – many were found poking out from the base of the box hedges.  Saxifraga ‘London Pride’ was divided into enough plants to edge the front of the bed at both ends. Several small plants of Tellima grandiflora and Achemilla mollis had spread into cracks in the paving and these were eased out, soaked and replanted.  In early Spring it looked very pretty with flowering hellebores and now it is quietly green but ready to go for Summer flowers. Clumps of Geranium psilostemon will bloom in June, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ in July and the Japanese anemones will come in late Summer.

In an inspired Gardener’s World recently Carol Klein showed viewers how to take back control of borders in much the same way. She stressed that garden maintenance is essential and showed how with regular editing there is huge satisfaction from the effort plus the anticipation of good things to come. I would add that in glorious weather take the opportunity to sit in the garden to gain different views then make copious notes on what to do in Autumn.

The bed above is the next one in need of my attention with the wall especially crying out for more orderly and interesting climbers. It’s a project for later in the year but the four shrub roses bursting with  buds will carry it for this summer. The middle storey is provided by healthy herbaceous plants but they compete with a lot of invasive stuff that needs to come out. Lamium, wild strawberries, borage, and the weed that looks like a geum but sadly isn’t, have taken over. All will be sorted at a quiet time in the future but the yellow flowers of the Welsh poppy next to Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ works well. These  will be increased in various parts of the garden and the allium bulbs are on the list for buying in Autumn.

In other areas I’m pleased with the Rosa Banksiae Lutea which is being encouraged off the arbour to adorn the two balconies. It’s the result of pushing two stems into the ground below ( about three years ago in Autumn) and both stems have taken off.

The plan was to reduce this rose growing a bit too vigorously over the arbour and to replace it with an Akebia quinata vine which is now in its second year and is a quarter of the way across the structure (see below). It’s lighter than the rose and will provide the same amount of shade without the need for endless pruning.

The Euphorbia mellifera hit by frost eight weeks ago and looking beyond hope has recovered and is filling the garden with the scent of honey…

The kind man (without a prompt) has improved my 15-year-old Felcos.  I asked him for tips to pass on and he said to undo the screws and place them on paper in the pattern they came out in. He then cleaned the blades and sharpened the top one on a kitchen steel, reassembled it all adding some grease. He praised the brilliant engineering and said that they hardly needed sharpening and I can now vouch they are working like a dream.

After a week away when the first heat wave hit the south-west the only watering on the allotment was in the pop up greenhouse. So it was a relief to find that the courgettes and squash, whilst no bigger, were at the very least still alive. The same with rows of leek seedlings that were planted when the size of grass stems but were alive and healthy. But generally seeds are incredibly slow to germinate so the heated propagator is on again for French beans, salad leaves and more sweet peas. And cropping is limited to rhubarb, flat-leaf parsley and Winter Density lettuce . But I was pleased to spot these honesty Lunaria annua seeds to collect to sow later.

A vase of aquilegias and Allium ‘Purple Sensation’  is brightening the hall table.



4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2018 7:59 am

    Good advice, especially about how light changing with tree growth. I am noticing a difference here now that the two walnut trees have become quite substantial trees. I think that many of us draw back from pulling out plants that aren’t succeeding but it is well worth the effort.

  2. May 31, 2018 11:36 am

    I love that there is this constant evolution. It makes us appreciate the now, as it will never look like this again.

    • May 31, 2018 1:02 pm

      Hi Ali
      Yes I too value the now in the garden and I enjoy the changes every season. It wouldn’t be half as enjoyable if it remained as it was on day of planting.

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