Monday, 24 September 2012

Was it all worth it? Panic Planting and the Gardening Year

The title of this post covers two points 1) The panic planting earlier in the month 2) The gardening year as a whole.

1) Planting the garden in September

We did do a lot of work to get the garden presentable for our guests last weekend, and we were supremely lucky that the weather on the Saturday was glorious, because the Friday and Sunday were not so!

I was terribly busy cooking and trying to be a gracious host, whilst my dad spent the day driving me bonkers and picking holes in everything. The guests all kept loitering in the kitchen while we were trying to organise the seating arrangements, juggle plates and carve joints of meat, so it was great to be able to throw open the French doors and thrust our guests out into the garden, knowing it looked the best it could.

No one really commented on the pretty bits of the garden, except MrPB's Summer House and the guinea pigs (which were much admired), the spoil heap and weeds covered by tarpaulin (which were not admired!), and the dirty great Leylandii...which were the subject of hot debate including lots of suggestions on which bits need sawing off.

I'm not disappointed that discussion revolved around the work-in-progress bits rather than the finished bits. People tend to be drawn to things that don't look quite right or out of place, whilst simply accepting those things that feel complete or harmonious. Maybe the 'incomplete' somehow 'jars' the mind and eye, and they need to understand what and why. (Oooh! nice unintentional rhyme!!)

2) The gardening year

 As a whole it's been a tricky one for me. I have sown no seeds, grown no produce, bar three tomatoes. I haven't visited the allotment, and have left the garden very much to its own devices. My heart has not been in it this year. The very wet Spring was followed by a wet, then bakingly hot Summer, in the middle of which I was quite quite poorly. Before I knew it, August was here and I had done nothing.

I only took part in the first Gardener's Society show of the year, and the results were a clear demonstration that all was not well.

My attention has definitely been focussed very heavily on my jewellery making, and commissions for the gift shop that stocks my pieces, and almost every evening has seen me working in my craftroom till late at's not really any wonder that I was so unwell in July :-/

I have managed to shed some responsibilities during the course of the year, and my hope is that things will be different next year, and I will feel inspired by the possibilities of my little alloment and garden...they're not much, but they're mine xx

Monday, 10 September 2012

Garden Party and Panic Planting

We're having a family get together at the new house next Saturday, and I've been thinking about how things will look to our guests, most of whom have not seen the house in real life before.

I know the front garden doesn't look great, as it's really more of a Spring/Early Summer garden (before the trees have 'leafed-up'), but I thought the back would do me more credit...

Then I looked again, with fresh eyes...Oh dear!

So many garden jobs to do!

We still have half the garden as it was when the builders left, ie rubble and weeds. The fence needs replacing and there is still a pile of used Grow Bags waiting to be emptied into the raised beds. My answer to the weeds and rubble, was to pull a big tarp over the lot of it, the tarp is green, so hopefully it will camoflage the mess (cough cough).

I  knew the pretty side of the garden would cheer me up...oh...'x' has finished flowering and needs cutting does 'y'...and 'z'...the slugs have massacred 'a'...and it looks like 'b' never grew at all. This is not good. The saddest loss is the big tree fern we bought last summer to replace the previous one that died. We've come to the conclusion that it must be something to do with the huge canopy of leylandii that overhang from our neighbours. The rain cannot penetrate it, and it sheds dead needles continuously to form a crispy, copper-coloured blanket over everything. The soil beneath, is just dust.

Urgent remedial action was required, so I went bonkers at the local DIY centre, and bought 2 trolley loads of flowering perrenials that should continue well into Autumn, things like Phlox and Pinks, and I also bought lots of Heuchera 'Palace Purple', which are such good doers, two Clematis to twine through the ivy on the fence, and a Fatsia Japonica to replace the tree fern. We've had one before, and know that it is pretty tough, so hopefully, once it gets it's roots down, it will be okay.

I had to do a surprising amount of clearing to make space for my new treasures, including uprooting and potting-up four or five nice Strawberry runners. The three clumps of Viola 'Rebecca' have had a bit of a haircut, and a slight repositioning. A lovely Heuchera, given to us by my God-Sister last May, had put on enough growth to be split into three decent plants. I love free plants!

The clump of Dahlia 'Dandy' which I grew from seed  a few years ago was looking really sad. I think again it is probably to do with the Leylandii. I decided that I would give the clump a haircut, and then changed my mind and dug it up, with the intention of throwing it away and starting again. However, the clump of tubers was enormous, and beautifully fat and healthy, so I instantly changed my plan, chopped off the top growth and split the clump into three. Hopefully this will reinvigorate the plants, and I'll get better flowers next year...fingers crossed.

After two evenings, working like a Navvie until it was too dark to see, the garden looks much more 'flowery'. The beds have been beefed up with the spent growbags and some manure, and if I keep diligently dead-heading, and watering, all should be well.

The front garden hasn't escaped this drastic action though - ooooh no! The block paved drive had begun to look like a hayfield, and we could literally have run the lawn mower over it. We decided that as this was the first impression our guests would have of the house, we needed to weed. So armed with a knife each and a bucket, we spent the best part of 3 days cutting out the weeds from between the cracks - whose idea was it to use 'rustic' paviours :-/

The effort was well worth it though, as it does look super. We also bought some low willow effect hurdles along the front of the short bed at the end of the drive, in front of the hedge. This means that we've been able to increase the soil level without it washing onto the drive in the first rain, and to put in some more new plants, including: 2 hebes, 3 Cottage Pinks, a dwarf Pink Echinacea and 2 Euonymous. That sounds like a lot of plants, but it looked a bit bare when I laid everything out in position, so I added 2 Heuchera 'Chocolate Ruffles' (split from a plant in another bed, and some 2 year old Hellebore seedlings.

I'm really pleased with what we've achieved, though we were dog-tired by Sunday evening there is just the house itself to worry about!! :D .