It so happens that I have designated six areas to my garden to be able to plan the appropriate planting for each section, so it seemed fitting to describe the parts which make the whole in a six on Saturday post. When I moved here two years ago (end March 2016) I had little idea of what was growing in the garden and only vaguely remembered a couple of trees, a pink clematis, some white Dianthus and overgrown raised beds at the back from when we viewed the property the previous June.
Patiently (and not at all like me) I waited a year before doing anything in the garden. A year later (2017) and many monthly photographs and researching on Google, and I had some idea of what was growing here. An awful lot of weeds. But some other interesting, though mainly native plants too. I wrote a post comparing the differences a year made here.
The whole of the back garden is about 20m x 6m so not very big. Within that space is a conservatory which is 3m x 5m and a patio, about 3m x 5m. The rest
is was lawn. A huge flat granite rock lies off centre with a slight dip that I keep filled with water for the birds to drink and bath in. And along with granite standing stones (!) there is a Fatsia Japonica which gives shade to the patio. The lawn itself is mainly full of daisies and dandelions. Not a very interesting space, but I have installed my rotary drier there and it is nice to be able to walk barefoot. At the back are two small trees: Corkscrew hazel and a Kilmarnock willow. Oh, and a Bay tree growing under the Hazel. Just to complicate matters.
Because of the way the property faces (south-west), plus living next door to a working farm, with large barns, I have two distinct borders alongside the edge of this space.
On the left-hand side (from the conservatory) is what I call the ‘Woodland Border‘ because it is shaded by the barn most of the time and all of the winter months. Now it gets the late afternoon sun (from about 5 pm). Near the conservatory are two Goat Willow trees, which I pruned quite severely last winter to allow light into the undergrowth. They are not very pretty, but useful for hanging up the bird feeders. There is also a Chile Lantern tree (Crinodendron hookerianum) which was a bit sickly when we moved here, but by removing many of the lower branches of the Goat Willow, it seems to be much happier. There is a low granite wall all the way to my shed, with various ferns, hardy geraniums, clematis, honeysuckle, yellow loosestrife, pulmonaria and cranesbill. I have been stuffing it full of shade loving plants to try and cover the surface and reduce the weeds. Common hogweed loves to grow wherever it can as does creeping buttercup. Both a devil of a job to get out. I’ll introduce you to the plants in other SoS posts throughout the year.
On the right-hand side is the ‘Sunny Border / Gravel garden’ also with a low granite wall which was mainly full of forget-me-nots, silver-weed, cinquefoil, yarrow and the Dianthus. Given that the soil in this wall is quite sparse and much drier than the opposite border I wanted to cover it in sun-loving Mediterranean plants. Apart from my Campanula, some orange Arctotis and a purple Osteospermum I wasn’t hugely successful. Everything I tried planting seemed to get eaten before it had chance to get established. Even the Osteospermum and Arctotis bit the dust when the ‘beast from the east’ arrived this spring. Because I am more of a plant collector than a garden designer, I wanted more space to grow more plants. The wall wasn’t proving successful so the lawn had to go. Or at least a good half of it. Which led to the birth of my gravel garden in 2017. And a couple of extra raised beds, purely to kill off the grass.
The third area is behind the Hazel and Kilmarnock willow: ‘the raised beds / vegetable garden‘. My son-in-law built me new beds two years ago and together with my daughter removed
all most of the weeds growing there. Paved and slated I looked forward to growing my own at last. Unfortunately not everything went to plan and I soon realised that sowing direct was pointless (other than kale and radishes) and even small plants got eaten and not by me. There is a rhubarb plant (late producing) and some strawberry plants and a thornless blackberry growing on the fence. I have attempted to grow beans and chard and spinach and courgettes. Nada. Zilch. Sweetpeas, yes. Herbs, yes. Forget-me-nots, oh yes! Nasturtiums. Definitely.
At the very rear of the garden is ‘the wild garden‘. A gravelled parking space about 7m on one edge and 10m on the other and 6m across, for three cars, the oil tank and the septic tank, the compost bin and the rubbish bins. The weeds grow so well in this area that I can’t keep up with removing them so it is becoming a bit of a wilderness. Another rather lovely granite wall borders the farm side, with a very old wild clematis growing over it. The rest is full of brambles, nettles, buttercups, cranesbill, grass, and various other inhabitants of the hedgerows. This will be the final area that I tackle, probably with some help. I envisage native fuchsia and shrub roses along the edges with daffodils and common primroses in spring.
The final area in the back garden is ‘the Zen Garden‘, a secluded paved patio area about 3m x 6m again including a granite ledge (there are a lot of granite boulders and rocks in this garden) on which I stand my pots. The Goat willows provide some shade, as does the large Fatsia Japonica which also creates a barrier to the rest of the garden and with a mellow-sounding wind chime hanging from the trees, it is my relaxing spot in the garden. A place to sit and read a book.
To the right-hand side there is a nice spot for a small natural pond, but currently is is full of yellow irises (Iris pseudacorus), a couple of Arum lilies (or at least there was – no sign this year), some wild mint, hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), meadowsweet or mead wort (Filipendula ulmaria) and pink Japanese anemones (Anemone hupehensis) and a small side area which contained an out of control jasmine and a struggling white rose climber, and some Crocosmia. I might get a garden company in to see if they can create me a natural pond here.
The sixth area is at the front of the house which is in a secluded courtyard. North-east-facing it receives no sun whatsoever, but because the house is single-storey at that point it is still fairly light. A granite sill runs the entire length of the house which has several climbers growing on it. A very pale pink rose, Virginia creeper (which was brutally attacked last autumn as it was climbing onto the roof and into the attic) and a Hydrangea petiolaris that so far has not shown much sign of flowering – though this year there are several flower-heads so I am hopeful. My white hydrangea in a container lives there as well as another pot that I brought with me which houses a winter jasmine (didn’t flower at all this winter), a purple clematis and a variety of self-sown plants. In the cracks on the sill are wild violets, some ferns and a ivy-leaved toadflax or wandering sailor (Cymbalaria muralis) which is climbing its way up the wall. I haven’t done anything in this area yet, except to do some occasional weeding. Against the sill is a patch of crocosmia and some larger ferns. My vision here is to use the pots I brought with me and fill them with shade-loving plants such as ferns and fuchsias and heucheras along with some annuals for colour. And completely cover the area. The little storage unit keeps my fire wood dry. And the hosta has been moved to the back so I can keep my eye on it as it becomes a target for the snails!
So there you have it. One small garden, six distinct parts. Hopefully over the course of the year I can introduce you to some of the inhabitants of the garden and what, if anything, changes.
See here for the participant’s guide.