22 Jan 2022: Glade you could make it

The glade, 14 May 2021

A slight departure from my usual Six-on-Saturday format this week, as I didn’t manage to find time to take photos, and I wanted to concentrate on that niggling, troublesome part of my garden, the scene of past and present plant deaths and several re-workings: the glade. Those of you who were reading last week will know that I have finally started work on the bark-chip path that is going to be part of the exciting new landscaping of this tiny but interesting little corner. Before we go any further though, a quick recap of the conditions and challenges here:

  • A south-westerly aspect, sunny on summer afternoons but with the complication of the overhanging branches of next door’s Lime and European Oak trees, forming a dense canopy by mid-summer.
  • Sheltered by the old brick walls on two sides, making a corner that is great for climbers but it can get very dry. Moisture is also sucked out by the roots of those mature trees.
  • The soil is a workable clay, and the large amount of leaf fall means that the soil structure and drainage is OK. Plenty of worms but also bits of brick and rubble that I hit occasionally when digging a hole for a plant.
  • The suckers of two Trumpet vines planted by the previous owner that resist all attempts at annihilation.

Well, us gardeners like a challenge, don’t we?

Just for context, here’s what this area looked like in July 2017, the summer we moved to this house. It somehow looks smaller even though there’s less in it, don’t you think?

And this is how it looked when we first came to view the house the previous winter:

A snowy slope but no glade!

I started by widening the narrow beds by the walls, then added the arch to bring some height and interest, and to grow climbers up, and added a lot more climbers to the walls (Clematis alpina, Lonicera pericylmenum ‘Belgica; and a rambling rose, ‘Alberic Barbier’. Oh yes, also Clematis armandii ‘Apple blossom’. I really packed them in! Since then turf has been removed gradually, and the plants have taken over.

The glade on 14 May 2021, seen from above

You can see that I laid out the bones of the path last year, though it’s going to continue in a loop round. You can also see which plants are doing well: the ostrich ferns are totally at home here, the really tough and vigorous Geranium x oxonianum ‘Wargrave Pink’ which flowers in June, the spring-flowering Geranium macrorrhizum and the Spanish bluebells (sharp intake of breath from some of my readers!) are unfazed.

Spanish bluebells in flower on 29 April 2021, with Geranium macrorrhizum and ferns behind.

Sadly one of the recent deaths here was a handsome clump of Helleborus argutifolius, the Corsican hellebore, that succumbed to a virus (probably the scary-sounding Black Death!). A young purple-leaved Japanese maple in a pot was also unhappy here and got leaf scorch – I’ve moved it to another part of the garden.

However, there is a new contender to take the place of the dearly departed. A choice I might regret, but it’s handsome, don’t you think?

The glade in January 2022, work in progress with Euphorbia in the bottom right corner

I don’t mean Mousty the cat, so nicely modelling the path for us. It’s the clump of Euphorbia amygdaliodes var. robbiae sitting in completely the wrong place (in the path of…the path) but now moved to take the spot occupied previously by the large hellebore (be gone with you, Black Death virus!). A plant that looks this smart in January gets the thumbs up from me, and the spots of lime-green on the tips of the stems promise a splash of vibrant colour this spring. I also read that it’s popular with pollinators, great news. However…

Euphorbia spreading by rhizomes between the crocus

…we might have a problem. Yes this plant in a notorious spreader, and it’s already sent out its little babies to pop up from underground rhizomes between some crocus, planted underneath my Crab Apple. It could end up taking over – but is this a good or a bad thing in such a tricky spot? Ask me later this year. Interested to hear from anyone else who’s got experience with this plant – did you live to regret it? Is it a death wish?

A better behaved perennial that I’ve been very happy with along the shady side of our front path is this beauty:

Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’

As well as dainty, starry flowers in summer and autumn, Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’ has handsome deeply-divided leaves with purple-bronze tints, and is evergreen to boot. What a plant! Now the RHS plant finder says it likes moist, well-drained soil but it’s done well at the feet of some mature holly bushes. I’d like to use it to line the entire path of the glade, in the company of ferns and euphorbia. Will it survive? Only one way to find out…

Once the path and planting are sorted, I would love to add a little water feature, maybe where the bird bath is currently. Something like this would be nice:

Seen in a garden in the neighbourhood

I look forward to showing you how things take shape here, but I’d really better get on with it before the growing season gets going! It feels like spring is already on its way, the bird song is piercing and the starlings have already started nesting in the wall cavity of the office at the top of the house (I can hear them scrabbling and the fledglings chirping at intervals as I write this. They do seem to have started early this year, I wonder if they are confused by the mild winter we’re having).

That’s all from me for now, till next time, au revoir.

29 thoughts on “22 Jan 2022: Glade you could make it

  1. Great post. I quite like Euphorbia amygdaloides, despite it’s general thuggery. I find it’s best to take a spade around the edge of the area you want it to stay in; fork around the edge to find the runners and follow them along. Or let it roam! A garden I worked in had huge swathes of it and it looked a picture every spring.

    Also, for some reason the Black Death reminded me of Billy Connolly in Muppets Treasure Island: “The BLACK SPOT!”

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    1. I love ❤ tiarella it looks so unreal what agreat project well done while I am sitting warm infront of TV. I do miss gardening waiting for warmer atmosphere

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  2. I echo what Fred said. It’s always interesting seeing how a garden has developed and it’s easy to forget just how much a garden has changed until you look back at old photos. I looked at your nice big walls enviously initially not considering the challenges they posed. It seems ridiculously early for nesting birds.

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    1. I initially wanted to grow fruit along the walls, apricot and peaches, but the dryness combined with lower light levels in summer because of the overhanging trees prompted a rethink! The tougher climbers are doing ok but I have to watch out for mildew in dry summers.

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  3. Nice to see the evolution of the space, and I appreciated your outline of its features and challenges. You have already done a tremendous amout of work and it shows – the corner is transformed from bare and uninteresting to a space that invites exploration.

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  4. That tiarella is a beauty. I lost one once but feel tempted to try again. Your path is a real invitation to explore. I love paths! I planted a euphorbia Robbie last year under an old apple tree. I’ll check for signs of invasive intentions and will let you know if I find any.

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      1. Have just had a good look and can’t see any signs of spreading. But it’s only been there since last spring. I would like it to spread a bit as the area is a bit bare at this time of year apart from a couple of hellebores and some luzula grasses. Later there will be some brunnera, white lunaria and aquilegia. You are probably right about tiarella and the PH factor. It’s usually the problem in my garden combined with the dryness of the soil. Sigh….

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  5. It’s so interesting peering into other people’s gardens and exploring their projects. Thanks for sharing! Tiarella looks a gorgeous plant for the edge. I’ve never grown it, as we are probably rather too dry for it. I am trying a plant that hopefully has the same kind of effect: Actaea simplex, which takes ‘medium moisture and full to part shade’

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  6. Yes, I had that euphorbia in a previous garden. Absolutely great for shady dry spaces where little grows and it’s lime yellow bracts are lovely but yes, very invasive. Spreads and spreads which was good for my dark corner and I was happy to let it have the space. But it is a regular task if you want to confine it. The tiarella looks so healthy.

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  7. Lovely to see the area you are working with. I’m not a fan of Euphorbia, and there are some pretty invasive species here. Their milky latex is potent! I too love the Tiarella! It is a real beauty. I agree that a water feature would look lovely in your glade. I’m looking forward to seeing your ideas take shape.

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      1. I think that most like drier conditions than we have, but there is a large shrub (the species name escapes me at the moment) that is very invasive. It exudes lots of milky latex from its wounds, making it horrible to prune. Some of the newer cultivars are pretty though, and I believe more controllable.

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  8. What a pretty design you are creating in The Glade! Since you were able to take an “above” photo, does that mean you have a house window that views it from above? It’s very pretty, and an extra bonus if you can see it from the house like that. I was unaware of the plant Tiarella. I love the variety you have and wonder if our gophers would eat it here? hmmm must research….

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