It has been so busy – a photography exhibition in Suffolk and another in Brittany, followed by the ongoing project in Brittany, photographing the Parish Closes – that I haven’t paid enough attention to the City Garden. I did some work in March, which was good, but more remains to be done if I want to sit back and enjoy it in the evenings – it would be good to have warm evenings in which to enjoy the garden too!
Where has the time gone? It is nearly the start of the 7th month of the year and more than time to look at the garden again and review progress. This is a very difficult garden, with several patches of completely different ‘climates’ and with the overall problem of SNAILS & SLUGS! Oh, and there are the squirrels, cats, and foxes as well. I am trying to make a varied garden which is snail-resistant, but which is also relatively easy to maintain as I am the sole gardener. And I am trying not to spend a fortune on plants – the price of plants, particularly perennials and shrubs, seems to have soared, or am I being unrealistic?
At the end of May there was a lot of pink: the cistus draped over the wall was pink all through June, but needs to be cut back – this may mean its demise, but it is too woody so I will take cuttings and see what happens. And the pink geraniums were wonderful! I think they are a variety of macrorrhizum, but it hasn’t been identified. They don’t repeat – just the one glorious burst of pink. And underneath the Knautia Macedonica is finally happy with the dry heat at the base of the wall. All that gaudy pink has been replaced by the Hydrangea grown in a tub.
In the brick wall border the veronicastrum is falling over and the Japanese Anemones are reaching upwards. The grasses are starting to flower, the Philadelphus thrived after its early spring transplant, and various geraniums have been a joy. The Libertia and Euphorbias are going to ‘work’, I think, and I have found the snails don’t eat Tellima Grandiflora. Neither do the snails eat Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia Vulgaris) and I may have to add more next year.
The Fence border, with its mix of hot, dry sunshine, and dry shade is not quite right yet. I don’t think the Viburnum Plicatum is going to flourish – we had to move it twice while redoing the garden – and so with a heavy heart it is going to be replaced. Seeing how well ‘Annabelle’ is doing near the Bay Tree I am considering hydrangeas.
And then there is the fernery…
I have been digging, tidying, mulching and feeding since I returned from South Africa at the beginning of the month and the garden in London is finally ready for the summer. There are still some spaces left to fill but the cuttings for these spaces still have some growing to do before they can be moved again. This is the difficult garden. I have a damp and shady bed along a flint wall; a bed along a brick wall which is hot and dry at one end, dampish and shadyish in the middle, and shady and dry at the other end; a bed along the fence which is hot and dry at both ends and semi-shaded under a tree in the middle; another hot, dry corner; and pots in the ‘Fernery’ which has not quite settled. And to cap it all I have SNAILS!
The flint wall bed is looking good apart from one very small corner under the birch tree – here the soil is shallow, dry, and ‘rooty’, but I will find something which enjoys a challenge! I could perhaps plant more Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ or Aquilegias, which are both doing well, or Bergenias, Aquilegias, and Japanese Anemones are all flourishing and ferns are starting to grow in spaces in the wall and amongst the plants. And next to that the patio bed is settling down nicely – the Amelanchier is flowering and the persicaria, pulmonaria, and aquilegias are filling out well.
The brick wall bed has been reviewed, tidied, and some parts have been rearranged. Deschampsia, Japanese Anemones, and Dogwoods are doing well at the hot end, where the Veronicastrum is coming up and thickening nicely. The Himalayan Clematis is also doing well, but I need to find a way of shoring it up/containing the growth. I have moved a Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ to this end as it was groping for the light and plan to contain it with pruning. This side should work well in a month’s time and during the summer. I have left the grasses on the sunnier side and balanced with ‘spiky’ libertia and ferns on the shadier side. Under and inbetween planting is with geraniums, saxifrage, and ajuga, amongst other things.
Along the fence I have spread the grasses – Miscanthus ‘Kleine Silberspinne’ and Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ – and surrounded them with Sedums and Nepeta. This should look less crowded than last year, and there may be space to tuck in some Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ which I have been dividing in Suffolk. I have added Carex Testacea and Othiopogon and the Pennisutum ‘Hamelm’ and Anamanthele are clumping up well. Inbetween I have Geranium Macrorrhizum ‘Spessart’ and Geranium Phaeum ‘Samobor’, dark-leaved sedums, and a shortish Veronicastrum which I have moved from behind the dogwoods. It looks ‘right’ and I am hopeful of a good show this summer.
And that leaves the pots in the ‘fernery’. The Hakonechloa are just starting and I anticipate this pot looking abundantly gold in a few months’ time – but there is still work to be done beyond this little fringe of gold.
OK, that’s it – I have had enough of fighting the snails and slugs in the London garden and I cannot bear to put down chemicals and pick up the bodies afterwards. So I am going to find plants which they do not eat and only use those plants.
I saw the wonderful springtime show in The Frustrated Gardener’s coastal garden and felt inspired by the stunning display of colour and the lush growth. I would like something like that, I thought, and went outside to inspect ‘The Fernery’ whereupon inspiration turned to despair. How on earth am I going to turn this ghastly mess of assorted ugly pots into a calm haven? I daren’t show you the rest of the area!
A few days of hard work and ‘The Fernery’ is tidy, and bare, a display of ugly pots. However, I have planted deep blue trailing lobelia, red trailing geraniums, and lime-green ‘creeping Jenny’ at the sides of the pots and so I am hoping for a cloud of colour. And in the pots there are grasses (Hakonechloa and Molinia Caerulea), red geraniums, Hebe (why not?), cistus cuttings from last year, and herbs.
And the ferns? They are hiding in the depths of more seemingly empty pots! Please, please grow!
I have a large laurel tree in one corner of the garden – it was meant to be a laurel bush, providing bay leaves for cooking, but I forgot to prune it… The 30-years tree was uncovered last year when the garden was restructured and it is the area in the tree’s shade which is giving me problems. It is light, not dark, and there is an hour of sunshine in the late afternoon, but that is all. I don’t want to leave it completely unplanted so I need to find plants which will flourish in these conditions.
I am going to try these plants:
Acanthus Mollis – I have cuttings from the garden in Suffolk so would like to use ‘free’ plants first. The problem will be the snails – will the plants establish before they are eaten to pieces.
Cornus ‘Flaviramea’ – an unwanted bush travelled down from the Suffolk garden.
Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ – I have two bushes which I hope will establish. They grew quite well in the first year, supported by a metal hoop, and the buds are swelling nicely at the moment.
And underneath and roundabout I am going for plants which are reliable:
Saxifrage ‘London Pride’, Bergenia ‘Abendglut’, Euphorbia ‘Amgdaloides’, and I am thinking about Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’.
I would love to tuck in some Iris Foetidissima somewhere, and what about Myrrhis Odorata – Sweet Cicely
What do you think? Will it work?
You may be interested in
The Greener Dream – super blogsite with lots of information & source of photo of ‘London Pride’
I wrote earlier about the Patio Bed and how the planting wasn’t quite right.
I am finding the Patio Bed another difficult area – semi-shaded, good soil but chalky a few feet down. I was not happy with the positioning of plants last year and so I have made some changes this year, the second year.
After several wonderful weeks in South Africa (more posts to come on the Botanical Gardens in SA!) I am back in London and tackling the garden which was newly planted this time last year. I left it alone to grow during 2015 and let it die down naturally over the winter – well, that is what I told myself. Never again! I resolve to tidy up in the autumn this year.