Six on Saturday: 08 May 2021: A walk up the front path

Looking down the path, sunny side on the left, shady side on the right with the big yew ball. The forget-me-nots have colonised the sunny side, and I’m hoping the white Honesty will too.

I associate May in Belgium with paddling pool weather, as when my son was younger he loved a splash in the garden at this time of year. But it’s far too chilly for paddling, I’m still wearing my woolly cardigan! At least it has rained, so the plants are content. I’ll only be content when I can sing along to “Here Comes the Sun”.

This week I’m going to show you the front path, which was once dolomite, laid to grass on either side, with some old roses on the sunny side. It made for extremely awkward mowing and represented, mais oui, a wasted planting opportunity. So, little by little, turf was lifted and things became more interesting. My first choice for this week’s Six on Saturday goes to a sun lover by the front gate:

1 Iris germanica (I think). The first time I’ve had an iris flowering in my garden. It’s with its other iris friends in the sun-baked front-end of the front path, right by the gate, but none of its friends have come out to play with it, which means it looks a bit silly all on its own. What’s the secret with Irises, are they tricky, do they need more than just sun?

2 Geranium. I’m a big fan of geraniums, if only I could remember all their names. This one is further up the front path, a nice, clean blue. I like the simplicity of the flower too.

3 Rhododendron ‘Horizon Monarch’. More front path action, but this is on the shadier side. I was horrified when the buds started to emerge in a saccharine peachy pink in the first year after I bought it, and I thought a terrible labelling error had occurred. Thankfully, the peach is just a teaser, the soft Cornish clotted cream yellow reveals itself splendidly when they open up, with just hints of peachy pink, phew. It’s an impactful shrub that doesn’t grow to the monstrous size of some rhododendrons, max 2 metres high.

4 Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’. Neighbouring the rhododendron is this bright wood spurge which has been adding zingy tones to this shady spot for weeks now, but got shoved off the Six on Saturday slot by limelight-hogging tulips. It’s time to remedy that, as this really is a super plant for those tricky spots in dry shade. I wish I had planted another patch on the other side, so I’ll try some cuttings this year. Has anyone tried this with Euphorbia? Behind it are ‘Fire King’ wallflowers, which seem happy enough here, but are out of sniffing range.

5 Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’. Such a dainty little thing, but tougher than it looks, I’ve got three of these in the dry shadow of a large yew, shaped by the previous owner into a giant ball. They don’t seem to mind at all. When they’re not in flower, the deeply dissected leaves make an attractive ground-covering slowly spreading mat of purpley-green. Highly recommended for tricky spots.

6 Strawberries. When we laid new gravel on the path last year to replace the dolomite, the workmen thought I was a bit of an eccentric/batty English lady, insisting that they don’t remove the self-seeded strawberry plants that they called weeds. Belgians, I find, tend to favour clean straight lines and perfect symmetry in their gardens, but I like the ways these cheekily break into the gravel, and who can complain about picking wild strawberries just outside the front door? I will have to watch those runners though, otherwise the front path may become a strawberry field.

Well, hope you enjoyed that little stroll down the path, I’ll revisit it soon when the roses, catmint and more geraniums erupt into a frothy cottage-garden flower fest. So much to look forward to, and hopefully some paddling pool weather will be on its way too. There’s much more to see over at the Propagator’s Six on Saturday page, pop over and have a look. I need to decide what to do with all my pots of going over tulips, and hopefully do some planting out of seedlings in the greenhouse if the weather allows. Have a great weekend everyone.

Shady Characters

Shuttlecock Fern and Nasturtium leaf contrasts

I decided to write about the shadier woodland section of my garden for my second post, mainly because the weather has been damp and a tad grey lately, and in these conditions I think the sun-lovers always look like they are missing something. By contrast, the shadier sections don’t seem to care, and even revel in damp drizzle (unlike me!). I just love the way, for instance, that the Nasturtium leaves catch and hold onto droplets of rain.

Shuttlecock fern with Heuchera and Geranium macrorrhizum

I have the good fortune to have a lot of shuttlecock ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris, also known as the ostrich fern) growing here, more by accident than design, but they really suit the situation, and don’t mind the overhanging trees (lime and hornbeam) in the least. They are statuesque, spreading slowly but surely via their rhizomes, and adding a really vibrant splash of fresh green: perfect in drizzle! I like the contrast they make with the Heucheras, and with Geranium macrorrhizum, which flowers earlier in spring to coincide with the newly unfurled and incredibly fresh-looking ferns.

My cat, of a nervous disposition, feels safe looking out from her ferny vantage point

When we moved here almost exactly three years ago, this area was essentially a huge patch of geraniums, interspersed with a few of the ferns, and overhung by our neighbour’s mature lime and hornbeam trees. Although they are next door, the trees really do feel part of the garden, and we added a raised wooden deck here, which is our main garden seating and eating area. It actually gets a fair bit of sun, facing south, but with the overhanging trees, so it’s an unusual combination (and quite challenging for some plants, I have discovered, as the tree roots suck out a lot of moisture, and in autumn their fallen leaves smother everything).

A woodland feel but with some herbs, which like this sunny edge. Rosa ‘Compassion’ is making its way slowly up the pergola

I added a pergola to one edge of the decking, to add some interest, give more of a sense of enclosure and frankly what gardener can resist a chance to experiment with a few extra climbers? I’ve gone with a climbing rose on one side, Rosa ‘Compassion’, which is doing quite well for its second year, and two clematis on the other side: Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ and Clematis ‘Betty Corning’, both from the small-flowered, summer-flowering Viticella group, and both flowering now. They are quite old varieties, ‘Etoile Violette’ dating from 1885, with ‘Betty Corning’ around fifty years on its heels, launched in the US in 1932. There’s something special about growing plants that were enjoyed by gardeners living in centuries past, and the thought that they were getting the same pleasure from them as we do today, despite the world having changed beyond recognition in so many other ways.

The gorgeous plush purple flowers of Etoile Violette, offset perfectly by its yellow stamens
The romantic nodding heads of Clematis ‘Betty Corning’

It’s such a pleasure to see plants growing well, and these two clematis seem so content in their woodland setting. All that lush growth has certainly attracted the aphids, and if you look carefully you will probably spot them on my photos, but the clematis really don’t seem bothered, and are flowering away quite happily. I’ve noticed ladybirds in other sections of the garden, and I’m hoping that the presence of large amounts of prey for them will attract them over here.

Speaking of predators, here is another one who was hopping around as I took these photos, a very welcome visitor. I would love to know what kind of frog he is if anyone reading this has an idea….