Helen's Garden Renovation Project

Sunday 16 September 2007

No rain this week either

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 4:53 pm

We have had another week with no rain and I have managed to finish digging the side border at the front. It now looks like this:

Freshly-dug side border

The fence faces southwest, so the part at the front gets loads of sun which gives me a lot of choice as to what I can grow there. As you can see from the photograph, the end of the fence is blocked from sunlight by the house. A climber up the fence may have a chance of some sunlight, but any perennial or shrub I grow on the ground is going to get very little sun or moisture.

Dave, my previously-mentioned very patient boyfriend, took me to Whitewater nursery again to choose some plants for my birthday present. I persuaded the following to come home with me:

Lonicera x Tellmaniana – happy in shade or part-shade, but apparently is not particularly fragrant. This is not a great drawback given that I am planting two fragrant plants along the border.

Jasminum officinale – wants a sunny spot.

Hebe Youngii Carl Flescher – looks quite compact and does purple flowers.

Elaeagnus x ebbingei – more of that later.

Pratia Pedunculata – my pocket-sized Plants for Places book says it can be invasive. It doesn’t mind a bit of shade, so if it gets too invasive I can just move it to somewhere even shadier.

Chaenorrhinum – I’ve never heard of this one before, but it looked pretty, and it likes sunny well-drained soil, so it can go at the sunny end of the strip and see how it likes it.

After several unsuccessful attempts to take cuttings of the elaeagnus from the plant at the edge of an estate I cycle past on my way to work, I gave in and acquired a plant of my own. This is definitely a foolish thing to do as I have no idea where I am going to put it. It isn’t going in my new border because it’s too vigorous and I would have to keep cutting bits off it so I could get past. I am reluctant to put it in the main front garden because it is shade-tolerant, and the front garden gets masses of sun. For now I am just going to put it in a great big pot and enjoy the heavenly scent of its flowers, which are just beginning to appear.

Apart from this, this week I dug up my photinia cutting that I successfully planted about ten years ago. It was possibly my most brutal operation so far, because the poor thing was right against the back fence and I couldn’t easily get at it to dig a reasonable sized hole around it. Also the roots of the silver birch tree in the garden behind kept getting in the way. But in the end I got a good chunk of root with the plant, and I have watered it well, so I shall just hope that my run of luck with digging up mature plants holds.


Saturday 8 September 2007

Maths Problem Number 2

Filed under: Front garden,Maths — Helen @ 1:44 pm

While I was digging the border along the fence at the front of the house, I thought of another maths problem for any gardeners who are not spending absolutely every minute they have making up for a lost summer.

Six gardeners dig a hole 36ft long by 1ft wide and 1ft deep in two hours. How long does it take four gardeners to dig the same hole?


Friday 7 September 2007

It’s good to be back

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 2:41 pm

After the wettest summer in 1800 years, the rain suddenly stopped. In time-honoured fashion, I checked that the floods had receded by first sending out a raven and then a dove, which returned with a bay tree stem in its beak, so I knew it was time to go out and do something about the weeds.

Sadly, very little renovation has taken place this summer. I am hoping we will have a dry September so that I can catch up with the maintenance that needs doing, and then when the garden goes to sleep in October I may have a chance of making some actual progress. In this entry, I am going to report on some of the things I have tried this year.

Firstly, the annual border. To be fair to the poor thing, it didn’t have much of a chance, being situated in quite a shady part of the garden and then being subjected to the least sunny summer for 2100 years. I wouldn’t bother with cornflowers and night-scented stocks again, unless, in the case of the cornflowers, I was making a wild-flower meadow. I might plant poppies in amongst a herbaceous border. The larkspur and the lavatera were lovely, and I would definitely sow them again. But the real winner has to be the alyssum (the white stuff). It was the first to open its flowers, and it has just gone on and on and on. What a hero.

The annual border comes to the end of its run

The honeysuckle is recovering well after the slaughtering I gave it earlier this year.

Honeysuckle growing back after being cut back hard

There was nothing to discover on my Discovery apple tree, but Charles Ross has put in a good effort. The apples look a bit small to me, but perhaps they will grow enough to be worth eating. You might think that the wooden raspberry frame around the tree looks curved because of funny perspective, but it really is that wonky.

Charles Ross Apple Tree

At the front of the garden, the grass that I sowed in April has taken well. I mowed the entire area to the same height about two weeks ago. The new grass has grown several centimetres, while the old grass has done virtually nothing. The moral of this is that if you don’t like mowing the lawn, don’t dig out the rubble under it. However, since I don’t mind mowing the lawn and would rather have healthy grass than sickly stuff and moss, I think I will try to renew another patch of the old lawn in the spring, and keep going until I have done it all.

My efforts to take cuttings of lavender, rosemary, elaeagnus x ebbingei and photinia have been a failure. That is, I am still in with a chance on the lavender and rosemary, as they haven’t all died or gone mouldy yet, but the elaeagnus and photinia are as dead as doornails. I know I tried to take them too early in the year at first, but I have kept trying since then at approximately monthly intervals. I have checked the books, and the only thing I have done wrong is not to use hormone rooting powder, so I could try that another year. I have nowhere to put the elaeagus so I am not sure I really want one – I just wanted to see if I could manage to grow one. Many years ago, I did succeed in taking a photinia cutting, and I am wondering whether it would be worth digging it up now, even though it is quite mature, since I seem to be quite a lot better at digging up plants than taking cuttings of them (see later in this post).

My poor tomato plants all died of blight. I got a few tomatoes from them, but it was another failure caused by the wettest summer for 2300 years. And the fact that I didn’t spray them with copper fungicide like I usually do. Well, it would have all washed off. The corner where they used to live is possibly the part of the garden that looks messiest, but never mind, because that’s where I am going to put the greenhouse.

Messiest corner of the garden

However, the wettest summer for 2400 years has been just heaven for my portable herbaceous border, which looks absolutely fantastic.

Portable Herbaceous Border

The portable herbaceous border could well lose some of its members soon because I have been continuing with my digging of the side border to the front of the house. This is not on the Plan, since it is the front garden rather than the back garden, but I decided that I didn’t need a Plan for it because it is only about 1 foot wide and 33 feet long. I estimated the length by counting the fence panels, of which there are five and a half. One fence panel gets masses of sun, but then the border gets shadier and shadier until it is almost totally dark at the other end. I have a range of plants which could be put along the border, and I have been thinking, while cycling to work, which plants I should put where. Pulmonaria is a good bet for the dark end, and vinca minor would probably also do well, with ajuga reptans in the middle, while I have some geraniums and oriental poppies that might enjoy the sunnier end. I could put a hebe in the sunniest part, and that would look good as long as I remember to keep it trimmed and not just let it get all sprawly like I usually do.

I have been incredibly successful with digging shrubs up. Not one of my transplants has died. I am slightly worried about my Hibiscus Bluebird, which shows some signs of rotting at the base of the stem, but it’s still bravely produced a few flowers. The magnolia that I pruned hard and dug up is sitting proudly in its pot putting on new growth. I have had a near 100% success rate with perennials too. It just shows that if you have a plant you really like that is in the wrong place, it’s worth having a go at digging it up.