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:
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.
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.
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?
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…
…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:
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:
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.