I now realise that I’ve been living in the lap of luxury for the past two years, during the Covid pandemic – I’ve had someone else to do the hedge-trimming and lawn-mowing. Normal service has resumed …
During those two years we purchased a heavy petrol lawnmower and a small shed, installing both at the bottom end of the garden where I’m making new borders.
So far it’s only been the BV that’s used the mower.
He described it to me as ‘a bit of a beast’. Did that help? I’m not quite sure. I recall being mortified that I couldn’t play some very fast, high, flutey notes in orchestra, notes described by our director as ‘easy’. Only to find out later from my music teacher that this comment was supposed to encourage us to attempt something fairly challenging! If you want to be kind, perhaps best to remain silent if something has the potential to be tricky?
I’m not sure what the best, most encouraging approach is, but I do know that I conquered my fear today and got right out there. So proud (and exhausted!). Not all an unmixed blessing, because there are still small areas that have to be strimmed.
I didn’t used to be frightened of lawnmowers. I remember wielding massive great rotary beasts up and down the fairly narrow strips of grass on the order beds in Oxford Botanic Garden. Obviously I haven’t lost my gift, even if I’m not as strong and am definitely a lot more fearful. Why couldn’t I be that lady who coyly told me a while ago that her husband did all the mowing, because it was ‘too heavy’ ?
Anyway – back to the strimmer. Of course it broke down on those little bits that the mower can’t handle, marring my pleasure somewhat. Always in May when the mechanic has about 20 million people beating his door down!
Generally I’m pleased with how these new ‘meadow style’ borders are shaping up, although they are far from perfect. (I’m quite good at photography and I know the effect I’m after, even if I can’t achieve it in reality … yet.)
I need more grasses. I planted out some American prairie grasses in the autumn (Andropogon gerardii, Schizachyrium scoparius and Sporobolus heterolepsis) – all grown from seed, to add to the Stipa, Miscanthus, Molinia, Pennisetum and Panicum that I had planted in the spring. But there were not nearly enough, so I need to get a push on to choose/sow more. That autumn planting was an interesting experiment, since it’s the first time I’ve planted grasses in the autumn. Normally it’s advised to plant/divide grasses in spring in a colder climate.
The perennials, however, have been very disappointing on the heavy clay. I’ve reached the stage where I wonder if I can grow them at all! A very wet summer last year and then a wet winter has seen off Achillea ‘Credo’ (of which I had become unreasonably fond), Agastache ‘Black Adder’, Salvia ‘Amistad’ and, it appears, some Heleniums as well as most of the Monardas (I had planted ‘Scorpion’, after reading that it was longer-lived, having already experimented with the ‘usual suspects’ – there’s a trace left).
Below is a picture of what the huge slug infestation this spring did to the usually ‘tough-as-old-boots’ Ratibida pinnata. I did actually see little excavated holes in the soil, during April. Because the bottom of the holes were rich in small sluggy-type things, I think we must have had an underground population explosion over autumn/winter. This is something you learn when making completely new garden areas on previously uncultivated ground. The existing residents always strike back in the two years after you’ve finished. Whether it’s voles, chafers (whose larvae were feeding on the grass roots) … whatever …
Where do you go from here, when (given the soil) it is always to wet or too dry for about 75% herbaceous perennials? Keep using your imagination of course … and learn that grasses and steppe-adapted bulbs spell ‘success’.
There’s lots to be happy about, however. Particularly these two lovely oriental poppies.
‘Beauty of Livermere’, which I’m unlikely to lose unless I try to move it (that’s usually a come-on to the grim reaper in this garden).
I grew foxglove ‘Pam’s Choice’ from seed – but am not expecting it to self-sow. This is not because I’m pessimistic, simply that I know when I want something to self-sow it refuses.
I still struggle with the all kinds of honesty (Lunaria – but, cross fingers, may have got there) and also with Dame’s Violet. Hesperis matronalis was a thug higher up in the garden in my first gardening year here (2012), when I grew it from seed to ‘fill space’. It was beautiful, but totally intolerant of any other green thing. I think it probably has not forgiven my attempt to to curb its desire for world domination and now cowers shyly in the background whenever I try to introduce it to a more appropriate environment.
Aquilegias I have no problem with – if I did nothing, this garden would only be aquilegias. I remember sowing Hardy Plant Society seed from ‘Greenapples’ and a ‘black form’ with so much excitement. I was very naive about my soil’s ‘potential’.
I’m also pleased with the effect that the espaliered ‘Cox’s Pippins’ are making on the shady side of the orchard borders.
Time to move some of my lovely irises – the four cherry ‘Tai-Haku’ are beginning to make it too shady down here. You’ll see from the pictures that follow that the slugs & snails have been making themselves known on the irises too – not a particularly outstanding year for the irises when these critters take a starring role.
This gorgeous bronze is called by us ‘Sylvia’ – it has no name, but was given by a kind friend called … you guessed it … in front of ‘Sylvia’ is ‘Foggy Dew’.
The first flowering year for ‘Black Suited’, which actually went in the ground about 3 years ago, I think, having one prizes for Iris Cayeux.
‘Ciel Gris sur Poilly’ is close at hand (sad to say that ‘Comme un Oeuf’ did not flower this year). I adore this Amoena group of irises, I’ve recently realised. Whenever I look at a Cayeux catalogue it’s those plants that raise my lust level.
Rose ‘Cardinal Richilieu’ looking typically glum, but better supported than in the past! He is in front of the Cox’s Pippins, next to a ‘gardener’s path’ in the middle of the border where I can keep an eye on him, because the cardinal for whom this rose is named sacked our village in 1635.
As an addendum – today in Aldi nobody, not even the cashiers, was wearing a mask. The first time since 17 March, 2022.