Helen's Garden Renovation Project

Thursday 23 February 2012

If it were done… ’twere well it were done quickly

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 1:05 pm

Having decided on Monday that the buddleia was in the wrong place, I thought I had better move it now rather than later. Ebullient Eagle Radio was forecasting a high of 16C, while Classic FM was more subdued, but still predicting a pleasant 15C. Spring will not be long away now. I decided that the best position was in front of the hedge and behind the apple trees. Although the apple trees will block the light some of the day, the buddleia does have the advantage of being tall, and it’s certainly less hemmed in than it was before. I thought that I might not be able to plant it where I wanted to because of the soakaway, but I dug deep and did not come across the soakaway, so it does not seem to extend that far. Naturally, digging up a newly-planted shrub was not a difficult job.

Buddleia in its new position

Buddleia in its new position

I still have to think about what to do about the path to nowhere. It looks odd to have the path between the two apple trees but not have anything particular at the end of it. I may take away one or two of the paving stones.

Once the buddleia had been relocated, I had another think about the left-hand border. The path of stepping stones does not run exactly parallel to the fence because I need it to diverge off to the left to avoid the pointy corner of the raised pond. The other consideration is that I need to make sure I do not block access to the fence posts because the posts rot and need to be replaced every few years, and my neighbours cannot do this work from their side of the garden because there is a Leylandii hedge in the way. The bay tree is a good choice to put where the buddleia was because it provides a nice green backdrop for the magnolia when viewed from the right, and it can be pruned to any size. I worked out that I could put three plants between the bay tree and the rhododendron, and I marked their positions with potted plants.

Left hand border with stepping stones and potted plants in position

Left hand border with stepping stones and potted plants in position

The problem is still quite simple: how do I reconcile my list of plants I want with the list of the plants that the garden can accommodate?


Monday 20 February 2012


Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 1:17 pm

We had a sharp frost last night (down to below -3C) but it is warming up fast, and we could be in for some spring-like weather by the end of the week.

So I hard-pruned some of my shrubs. I pruned the wisteria back to hardly any buds, like it says on the RHS website. I pruned my rose Mischief, which is a hybrid tea and therefore wants pruning very ruthlessly, apparently. I don’t think I have ever pruned it before, apart from taking off dead bits, so this is a new experience for it. I pruned my three Cornus, but not as hard as I did last year because I thought it might be a bit much for them. I also pruned my spiraea. I had already trimmed it a bit, but the book said that summer-flowering spiraea want to be hacked back to very short stems, so I did that. Then I looked at the bay tree and decided that was a project for another day.

Yesterday I did some armchair gardening. I want a yellow variegated male holly to sit next to my euonymus europaeus Red Cascade and it’s not easy to get male hollies with yellow colouring on their leaves. I want a male one to improve the pollination of my female JC Van der Tol (which is hermaphrodite, but would probably enjoy some male company) and for any other female hollies I may decide to have. Also I think that it will be better as a backdrop and a contrast if it doesn’t have any berries.

So I looked on the RHS Plant Finder, and among other sites, I found this one: Chris Pattison Nursery. They have a few hollies to choose from, and in the description they helpfully say whether it is male or female, thus cutting down the amount of research I have to do to check. But that’s not all. They also have a stunning range of Liquidambars. Now I have wanted a Liquidambar ever since I saw one in Wisley about fifteen years ago, but Yvonne, my garden designer, said I couldn’t have one because it was too large. But there are varieties that only reach 2-3 m high! And if you prune them, you can even keep big varieties small and you still get the incredible colour. See Top 20 or so shrubs for a picture of a 20-year-old Liquidambar that has glorious colour and is still only relatively little.

So… I CAN HAVE A LIQUIDAMBAR! OK, so it may have to go in the front garden rather than the back, and unless I order it in the dormant season, I may have to go to Gloucestershire for it, but I can still have one. Yay!

I have been giving considerable thought to my planting arrangements and still can’t quite work out what to do. I have, however, come to the unfortunate conclusion that I have planted the buddleia in the wrong place. Hemmed in by a giant conifer, the magnolia and the fence, it will not get enough sunlight and it needs to go in a more open position. Instead, I need to plant an evergreen that doesn’t mind a bit of shade, and it’ll probably be Bay Tree Number 2 (the one my parents gave me, which is sitting in a pot). Where I will put the buddleia is an unsolved mystery but it definitely needs to move.


Friday 10 February 2012

Pond microclimate

Filed under: Pond — Helen @ 12:07 pm

We had another fall of snow last night. Again, it wasn’t much – only about 5 cm. Already the snow is melting rapidly in the sunshine.

There is a great contrast between my two ponds in terms of temperature. The raised pond is covered with the full dose of snow and underneath there is thick ice. The shallow pond has no snow on it, and is covered only with a very thin, weak layer of ice through which I can easily push a finger.

Raised pond covered in snow; shallow pond covered in thin ice

Raised pond covered in snow; shallow pond covered in thin ice

I had expected the raised pond to be more prone to getting frozen than the shallow pond, but even so the contrast surprises me. I wonder if the wall of the raised pond is giving some shelter to the shallow pond, thus preventing it from getting too cold. If so, it is good news for the wildlife. If I want to keep fish in the raised pond, I will need to be careful about remembering to break the ice for them. I am hoping that in time the pieris (see snow-covered plant behind the far corner of the raised pond) will grow big enough to give some shelter to one corner, thus impeding the ice formation in that corner.


Monday 6 February 2012

All my fault

Filed under: Pond,Progress — Helen @ 9:57 am

According to my friend John, this is all my fault for saying in my last entry that we hadn’t had any snow yet.

The first snowfall for the new ponds

The first snowfall for the new ponds

Despite the fact that I am re-reading my complete Perry Mason collection during the snug winter evenings, I cannot think of a defence.

The snow fell on Saturday evening, and therefore some of it has now sublimed off into the atmosphere. I think the depth was 5 cm at most, so this is a minor event in comparison with what we have had in the last two winters. However, even before the snow, the temperature has been too low to do any gardening, sinking to -7.3C on Saturday morning. I suppose I could have picked up some more fallen leaves for about ten minutes before my fingers froze solid, or I could have pruned the bay tree, but I decided not to. My wrist is now nearly recovered, but I may still not be able to lift any pots if they are stuck to the ground with ice.

With the Met Office forecasting a month of cold weather and probably some more snow, this month is going to be a month of armchair gardening, as I draw up my shortlist of shrubs and work out where to buy them from. There is a chance that I may be able to partly solve the problem of wanting more shrubs than will fit into the space by putting some of them in pots. I would have to make sure that I only chose very hardy shrubs, because shrubs in pots are much more vulnerable to cold than shrubs in the open ground, but I will have plenty of patio space once I have planted everything that is meant to go into the permanent planting.

The other gardening-related thing I have in mind is to spend a month tweeting about gardening on Twitter and see if I can get the RHS to follow me. The RHS follows all sorts of people, so I think I could be in with a chance.