In my opinion, the late, great Alan Bloom has a lot to answer for. While I think he was an unbeatable plantsman (some of his introductions number in my top five garden perennials), he seems to have given gardeners permission to throw away discipline. Sometimes I think that if I see another curvy 1970s ‘island bed’ I’ll scream!
Unfortunately most of the folk who make these have absolutely no idea how to use their precious curves (Bloom did have a good eye). Consequently, their gardens may be filled with sumptious plants (as Alan Bloom’s was, and still is) and any number of so-called ‘features’, plonked down higgelty-piggelty, but when I look at their plots from a distance I am simply left wondering what on earth is going on.
Here comes the brag – not something I often indulge in. I was blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with a plot that allowed no room for putting borders or features wherever I fancied. I had to follow the lines in the land that already existed. I built on that structure and enhanced it with everything I did.
A Sissinghurst-style garden with clear lines that contain and provide sense to a very naturalistic (and sometimes unruly or unsuccessful!) planting.
We’ve had some very cold nights (down to -4 degrees centigrade last night) and I can stand on my balcony and see the hard frost, 7 years on, describe what that imposed discipline has done for me.
There have been many planting headaches – particularly arising from the fact that I don’t believe in using a lot of water in the garden during the hot summer months, so many of Alan Bloom’s beautiful perennial plants won’t survive here – but, overall, the garden is really coming together.
Looking down over the veg plot to the new orchard borders, I’m enjoying the four erect cypresses bordering the veg plot that the Bon Viveur forced me to plant.
And particularly the four yews in the orchard – put in to echo the big block of box at the bottom of the garden steps.
They will eventually be clipped into statement pillars that accentuate the wilder planting around them (clever Christopher Lloyd and his father!)
One side of the twin orchard borders was completed this spring – I was down there planting Narcissus ‘Mount Hood’ and little Anemone blanda ‘Atrocaerulea’ yesterday.
In October, preparing for the border on the other side of the path (to be dug from January 2020), I cut the seedheads from the mix of pot marigold, cornflower, nigella & larkspur that edged the finished border in 2019 and laid them on the ground on the mirror side, so that we will walk down between twinned strips of ‘wildflower’ planting next year.
The Bon Viveur commented during the summer that the colours – what with the shadows of the Prunus ‘Tai-Haku’, the dark yews and the blue cornflowers and larkspur – hinted at Provence.
While we were working down there, we collected walnuts from the two young trees and laid them in a heap.
The birds were very grateful. As we worked, there was a continuous tap, tap, tap while they feasted. It always stopped when we turned to have a look – but we think the main dinner guests were coal tits. They call ‘itsy, bitsy, bitsy, bitsy’ to me whenever I work here. Coal tit talking himself down …
The yew hedge that divides the Long Border from the Rose Walk (created to emphasise the the long, flat Walk and disguise the steep slope down from it) is really thickening up now, 6 years on.
Here’s what the plot looked like in February 2012 …
After I had dug the Rose Walk in April 2012 …
And today …
I can hardly believe now that all of those yews were planted in a long funnel of wire fencing to protect their roots from foraging rat taupiers (voles). There is only one small area to the end furthest away in the picture above that is growing on more slowly – but it’s getting there …
I originally planned topiary arches to accentuate the shape, but I think in this lifetime I’ll content myself with varying the level slightly.
Fortunately you can cut quite hard back into old yew. I love the dark shape in the winter months, since it really highlights the red and yellow dogwood stems. You don’t notice these in the summer (when they are fairly boring), but in winter they come into their own.
The Knot Garden, 4 years on, is starting to plump up a bit from the original small cuttings that I struck in situ. And that’s in spite of the Box Tree Moth caterpillar and Box Blight (never a problem now that the weather’s so dry).
I’m in-planting with coloured foliage and tulips for the spring. Currently the foliage is from purple Heuchera and silvery Stachys, but I’m going to add some purple-leaved Ajuga and some silvery grasses in Spring 2020.
So yes, I’m really rather pleased with myself and the structure of my garden. It all takes less time than you think – although a lot of hard work. I am constantly reminded by my husband to add another few stitches each day.