Planning for the future – a design challenge

This is the time of year when we all get out our garden notebooks and start to think about what needs to change in the garden.16_10_26_3589This is the view across our garden and shows the old kitchen garden wall. Actually our garden extends beyond the garden wall although the large sycamore tree is actually in our neighbour’s garden. The other side of the wall includes some utility areas.16_08_08_3140To the right is a fruit cage and then through the gap is the compost area. Directionally, this is looking to the south west.3area-looking-towards-south-westOn the left is a dumping area. Every year we feel we should do something here but what?2-area-looking-north-eastSame area from the other end, looking to the north east.4-the-wallArea viewed from the compost area.  The issues are that on this side of the wall, due to a lower ground level, the wall is very tall, behind me is the compost area which is shaded by the sycamore (mentioned above). The wall is running from the north east to the south west so, combined with the sycamore tree, the area gets limited direct sun although it is not a dense shade. See also the garden map to further understand the layout.

This area is not a prime area within the garden. We wanted a relatively low maintenance solution which takes into account the light issues. Ideally we also wanted an area that feels different from the rest of the garden.5-area-to-have-gravel-and-pavingFirst I have taken a photograph and modified it adding an area which I am planning to be some type of hard landscaping. (It is much easier cleaning up an area on Photoshop!). This will define the lawn and make it symmetrical around the way through the yew hedges.6-mock-upNext I have added some trees. These were provisionally multi-stemmed silver birch. I am yet to do a detailed plan for the hard landscaping but essentially the diagonal lines are to represent courses of bricks (about four courses wide ) that would create five 1m by 1m planting holes for the trees. The planting hole would have a weed membrane and gravel to finish. At this stage I am still thinking about the triangular areas by the wall and by the lawn. These could be gravel which would keep it simple or they could be cobbles which we have elsewhere in the garden and would form some continuity.

The big question is what trees to buy? On this decision there were a few of constraints. The centre of the planting hole is 1.45m from the wall so roots could be an issue, any wind we have comes from the south west and can be cold so despite the wall it is not the warmest of sites and lastly we wanted this to be fairly instant gardening so we were looking to buy trees of at least 1.75m. We are on a sandy loam soil which is free draining.

I have talked to one of the best local tree suppliers. Bluebell Nursery is an award-winning, traditional working nursery, specialising in rare and unusual trees, shrubs, climbers and conifers based in South Derbyshire, England. At this stage they have had the above brief and come up with some suggestions:

  • Amelanchier lamarckii ‘Ballerina’ – small, rounded tree with masses of spring flower and decent autumn colour.
  • Drimys winteri – unusual evergreen tall shrub/small tree with glossy green leaves and white flowers once established. Should enjoy being near a wall.
  • Sorbus ‘Autumn Spire – narrow, upright small tree with excellent autumn colour once established.
  • Eucryphia x intermedia ‘Rostrevor’ – small, upright and fairly narrow evergreen tree with masses of white flowers in late summer/early autumn. Should enjoy the shade and grow well next to a wall.

Another we considered was Styrax japonica but unfortunately, it would not be very tall initially for instant gratification. However, they would come into their own after a few years in which to get established. As for the  multi-stemmed silver birch the advice was that we would definitely risk damage to the wall in time and even if not the case, as the wall is so tall you would be unlikely to have perfectly symmetrical habits forming as they would tend to grow towards the light given the opportunity.

At this stage we favour the Sorbus but the jury is still out.

Any suggestions gratefully welcomed.


The Autumn clean up

This is the week when it really started to feel like winter. Its been damp and dark all week with very little sunshine. It has not been particularly cold, in fact at 14 degrees centigrade it is warm for the time of year. All the herbaceous foliage is dying and continually wet. Cutting it out is one of the least enjoyable jobs in the garden.

_mg_1398However, looking back to June to achieve rose displays like this work is needed now. This is Rosa Alchemist a vigorous climbing rose, perfect for covering a garden wall. It produces old-style rosettes of fully double golden yellow flowers that are flushed with orange and get paler with age. Unfortunately it rarely repeats but the flower scent is heady and intoxicating. _mg_1409Also, as this photo shows, there is a large Buddleja alternifolia next to the rose. The soft mauve flower are a perfect foil to Rosa alchemist. But it flowers on last years wood so ideally needs one third pruned out each year to keep its to size with plenty of new wood and hence flowers. Unfortunately this is one of the jobs that often seems to get overlooked!  Not this year.16_10_17_3567The space by the corner of the wall was where the Buddleja was. It needed a chain saw to cut through the trunk! Short term it also gives us other planting opportunities in the foreground. But the Buddleja will be back with many new shoots from the bottom.16_10_17_3566The Rose has also grown and needs the old wood removing and the new shoots tying in horizontally to maximise the flowers. Several hours later and we have:16_11_02_3617We only do it once a year but it is worth it for the eight weeks of flowers.

With a walled garden there are lots more climbing roses to tame so we are going to be busy. However, this week has been sorting out the dahlias which are being lifted now the frost has taken their tops off.

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
20 456 21

Jack Frost comes but life goes on

16_11_08_3639This week the frost has really come. We have dug up some of the dahlias and stored them upside down so that any water in their storks can drain out. After a couple of weeks we will put them into pots with new potting compost and store them in the green house. Around February a watering will start them off again.16_11_08_3640The garden benches are getting their winter coats on. In the background the Melianthus major is just about coping with the frost. We will pack some mulch around the base of the plant to protect it from the cold and do not cut it down until the spring. In the past they have always survived the winter when managed that way. 16_11_07_3634The fig (Ficus ‘Brown Turkey’) certainly did not like the frost and badly needs a prune.16_11_07_363716_09_29_3529The greenhouse has had its annual clean out removing all the tomato, cucumber and aubergine plants etc. and washing the windows and staging etc. We always take cutting of our Osteospermums as they do not always survive the winter. They have been potted up together with a few saliva cuttings.

The pots on the right are Anemone Nemerosa RobinsonianaEranthis Hyemalis and Anemone Blanda White Splendour. I have found I get more success this way, planting directly in the garden seems to just feed the mice and even in the greenhouse there is a mouse trap just in case.

And the Virginia Creeper certainly did not like the frost.


This week


Four weeks ago

16_11_11_3644More progress has been made on the pond as I did get the marginals replanted. The irises are relatively small as I had replaced some flag irises last year which did not work well with the overall look and feel of this area. The marginals are now Iris laevigata, Iris laevigata Snowdrift, Iris laevigata Wychwood Surprise and Equisetum hyemale.

Despite the frost the roses continue to flower.  Do they not realise it is the middle of November!

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
19 436 21

At last, progress on the pond!

DSC01280A previous blog described the problems we have been having with one of our ponds that had developed a leak. This was back in August and ever since then we have been trying to get it fixed.16_08_10_3163Having removed the liner the base of the pond was dug out further ready for a concrete base. 16_10_09_3558The next stage was to get the sides and base to dry out ready for fiber-glassing.  This meant we have had to put plastic sheeting over the pond.

If you look at the above pictures you can see that we have taken the opportunity of this disruption to revive the bed beyond the pond. The very large rose in the centre of that bed is Rosa omeiensis  pteracantha. This wild rose has very wide, decorative, reddish prickles that sit on a long base on the young shoots. It is therefore also known as barbed wire rose. The flowers are typical “wild rose” type and always flower early in spring.rosa-omeiensisThe rose does get huge and we decided to cut it down to the ground and let it shoot up again. Within a couple of weeks it was vigorously shooting.16_08_09_3161Meanwhile the water lily plants from the pond have been sitting on some spare ground.16_10_09_3559New planting cages were obtained together with aquatic compost to plant up the water lilies. We then just waited wand waited for the fiber-glassing company to arrive. Then at last they came last Saturday and what a change they made.16_11_02_3620Fiber-glassing is an excellent way to water proof a pond. There is no untidy liner to worry and leaks (if they occur) can easily be repaired.16_11_02_3619

Connections for the pump and electrics can also be done through the side of the pond which gives a much more tidy solution compared with a liner.16_11_03_3623The pump has been connected up and will supply a water feature which empties into the rill. The various terracotta chimney pots are just to provide some shelter for any fish and the stack of blocks in the corner is a shelf for marginal plants. 16_11_05_3626And then at last the pond was filled!16_11_05_3631The water lilies were planted up in the new plant cages16_11_05_3630and placed in the pond. There are basically to varieties, a red and a white one. They are both quite vigorous and are suitable for a pond of this size. So we now need to sort out the marginals and also finalise the water feature to restore the pond to it former glory:2010_20100621_434

This week we have also had the first frosts of winter. Looking again at the dahlias,

see what the frost has done. However, I will not feel so bad about digging them up now!

Gardening Hours
This week Total since June 19th Average per week
17 417 21