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Posts Tagged ‘beds’


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Is it too late to start dreaming about new projects for the garden in 2013? Of course not; if anything it’s too early. After all, I tend to do my main projects in autumn when the garden slows down and – crucially – when there are fewer guests so it’s all right if I make a big mess of things. For me that’s the time to dig new beds, whereas spring should really be more about maintenance and filling out the beds I dug the previous autumn.

After all, when summer arrives I want the garden to look it’s best – whatever that is. This summer “best” will most likely include debris of pine trees scattered over the lawn as we’re cutting down 10 trees on the property line to the North-East; they are boring on our side, dead on our neighbour’s side and prevents our neighbours from getting any sun on their lawn throughout the afternoon, so they need to go. (And when they go, hopefully the hedge under them will fill out and give us a privacy screen at ground level, rather than from 4-15 meters up in the air!)

Last year I dug out The Puddles in spring, and that was probably a bad decision, because it meant I wore myself out digging there and had little energy for the rest of the garden – as witnessed by the non-existence of a vegetable patch last year – but then I dug out the new lawn bed in autumn and that seemed almost effortless by comparison and is quickly filling up with plants. So autumn is definitely the time to execute new ideas, and that means spring is the ideal time to dream them up!

But… What is to be my dream this year? Well, besides the tree-felling there are some “smallish” projects to tackle, like finishing The Ambitious Border so it runs uninterrupted along the length of the South-Western property line, incorporating The Puddles. That’s perhaps 5 square meters to dig out, which is easily done. (Quoth he, knowing full-well that statement would come back to bite him in the posterior!) I ought also to focus on creating more of a privacy screen towards the road, especially in the Woodland area where the Flâneur Husband had a stroke of genius and suggested planting rhododendrons in front of the Woodland; it would give them semi-shade, moderately acidic soil and all in all good conditions, and they will soon be able to cover that open view under the trees. (I have bought two new rhododendrons and suggested planting them in a position where they’d look good but serve absolutely no practical purpose whatsoever, whereas his suggestion combines aesthetics and our desire for privacy in the garden.)

Taking the rhododendrons out for a pint

Taking the new rhododendrons out for a pint

Anyway, I still haven’t decided what will be the “grand project” for this autumn. Perhaps the twin of the lawn bed should be merged with the rhododendrons to be planted in front of the Woodland? That would be quite a project – and it would begin to tie to two “sides” of the garden together. So far I’ve mainly been focused on the South-Western side of the garden because that’s where we tend to spend the most time due to the sun, but that means I’ve been more or less neglecting the North-Eastern side – except for the apple tree which gets plenty of attention, and NOBODY except me is allowed anywhere near it with pruning shears!!!

So what could happen in a large, prominent bed that continues the line of the lawn bed bud extends backwards to the Woodland? Well, the rhododendrons are decided upon, of course, and with the large over-hanging prunes at the back I think I’d want some tall shade-tolerant plants at the back in general. Preferably shrubs, so perhaps just more and more rhododendrons. (We have some that are still small enough to be moved if necessary, and more could be purchased as and when necessary.)  The first lawn bed has a predominance of shrubs – more by accident than intent – as I’ve used it to house roses, black currants, red currants and gooseberries, with an area in front for perennials which has turned out to be heuchera, Eryngium, phlox and other random plants. So the second lawn bed would need something different; perhaps a raised section for plants that like well-drained soil (something we do not have naturally, which is actually a blessing as it means even the hottest of summers will not leave our garden parched!) or perhaps an actual pond – as opposed to The Puddles.

“A pond“, you say? Well, The Puddles have really excited me, and I’d be thrilled to do something larger along the same lines; wildlife friendly, surrounded by dense planting and with a few aquatic plants in there. After all, I already have too many water lilies for my puddles, and the more natural sort would enjoy more depth and space. And of course the animals probably wouldn’t mind, either. Last year I spotted a newt in puddle 1, last weekend I spotted two newts in puddle 1 and today I’ve spotted 3 newts in puddle 1 and one newt in puddle 3…  That’s 4 newts!!! In The Puddles!!! “If you build it, they will come”, they say… Well, it has proven true so far! Today I also spotted some sort of insect larvae of a size where it can only be damselflies or dragonflies…

And all the initial fears about creating an incubator for the mosquito population have been allayed ages ago, since it seems one day The Puddles will be teeming with mosquito larvae and the next they will all have gone, no doubt thanks to the newts and toads. They are a complete success, so I’m at the same time compelled to and daunted by the idea of creating a larger-scale habitat. What if it isn’t such a rampant success? What if it fails miserably? And what if it turns out to be an absolutely marvellous thing?

Clearly I need to think about this a bit more, but the idea – the dream – has been planted in my brain, so we shall see what happens.

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I spent months getting The Sunny Border carved out from the lawn, digging in compost etc. to make it ready for planting, of course while also doing the same for The Puddles. Lots of work, lots of sod to dig up, move around, lots of compost to incorporate in the soil, lots of planting and so on and so forth.

And then from Monday evening to Wednesday afternoon  I do this:

Unnamed bed

How the *BLEEEEP* did that happen? And with only a few blisters? No broken back, no need to lie down for a week or visits to chiropractors?

This new flower bed is noticeably larger than The Sunny Border, and the soil in that part of the garden is every bit as heavy and clay-y as in The Sunny Border, so I’m really surprised I’ve gotten all this done in so little time. Was I really that lazy last winter/spring, since it took me so long? Or am I just getting the hang of this whole digging-malarkey?

The flower bed has a slightly odd shape; rounded in one end and cut at an angle at the other end, but though this be madness, yet there is method in’t. You see, I have a dream about continuing this flowerbed further, and intersecting it with a path that cuts through at an angle so it appears more or less as a continuous flower bed. It may or may not happen, of course, but at least there’s the possibility.

Unnamed bed

So… In went a blackcurrant bush that has been sitting mirthlessly behind the annex ever since we bought the summer house, a gooseberry that comes from The Flâneur Husband’s grandmother’s garden (and has been languishing in a far too small pot for a year and a half), those Rhapsody in Blue roses that I bought in spring but never got around to planting, the two asters I bought Monday morning and a poor hydrangea that had been sitting around in a dark, overgrown corner of the garden, just waiting to be rescued.

It turns out only 4 out of the 5 Rhapsody in Blue roses survived their miserable stay in the pot, but the 4 look healthy and strong, and the blackcurrant was rotting away at the root, so it came apart when I moved it, resulting in 3 separate plants that each have fresh root systems and look viable, so there is hope that my neglect won’t have any serious consequences.

Also, the fuchsia that I bought this spring to brighten up The Courtyard has proven to be two separate plants, so I divided them and planted them a few feet apart. They will probably need some protection over the winter to settle in, but if they make it, they make it and otherwise it was not a lot of money spent on something that flowered from I bought it ’till now!

Unnamed bed

And the two aster plants I bought in the supermarket on Monday morning? Well, I divided them into the separate plants, and each pot yielded 6 plants.They look rather puny at present, but I have confidence that next autumn these will look great.
Apart from the joy of having a new flower bed, these two days have also – finally – seen the end of the Flâneur Husband’s birthday present from his mother (a cubic meter of compost). It is great stuff, really, but I think it might have been the wrong time to get it delivered in spring. After all, than meant that I could only really use it in new beds and borders, so a lot of it has just been sitting out by the road for the entire summer, looking rather messy in a huge white fibre bag.

(Mind you, since my own composting efforts yield FAR too little organic matter to count when laying out a new flower bed, let alone three in a year, it was great to have that “bag of plenty” sitting in the drive.)
Anyway, there you are. A new flowerbed in less than 48 hours from the first digging to the final planting. (Okay, okay… The final planting is going to be whenever I can fill the gaps, and probably it will be a spring.sowing of annuals next year…) I feel terribly accomplished and efficient!

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I might not get a LOT done this weekend, but what I do get done makes a visible difference!

Another stretch of the Ambitious Border has been weeded (shouldn’t it actually be “de-weeded”?), and now I only have one meter left before I reach the end of the bed. -Then, of course, I might extend it, because the ambition is to let it follow the entire length of the hedge, but I do have to pace myself.

Between the spots where I had annuals last year and the spots where the acanthus and the globe thistles have gone AWOL, I now have enough space for most of the perennials that are currently in temporary storage beds, so I can actually start thinking about where to put each group of plants.

Next weekend I’ll be up here with the Flâneur Husband, so we can plant the border together and get the vegetable beds sown up. And maybe extend the border a little to make room for sowing some annuals?

Friday’s weeding

Saturday’s weeding

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On Friday I left for the garden straight from work, and as I was walking from the bus to the summerhouse I suddenly noticed something…

The woodland anemones are beginning to bloom. It’s still just a few dots of white on the forest floor, but soon it will be a veritable carpet. I will make sure to take a proper walk in the forest the next time I go up there!

I arrived in the garden just in time to have a couple of hours of daylight left to enjoy the garden before retreating inside to a warm fire and a Scottish coffee (as they say in Scotland, it’s like an Irish coffee, just with better whiskey).

I do enjoy the calm and quiet of sitting in front of a warm fire in a small wooden house with no TV, no people, no nothing. Just me, being there in the moment and feeling my mind de-clutter itself.

Mind you, that was the Friday evening. Saturday I was hi-jacked by one of the neighbours who seemed to be in a mood for sitting around a fire with a few too many beers, so that’s what we did from the afternoon into the late hours. The weather was excellent on Saturday; warm sunny spells interspersed with  mild snow showers.

imageWhile I wasn’t being laddish around a fire I did get something done. The vegetable beds are now in decent shape for sowing, perhaps on Easter Monday, perhaps later. (The forecast threatens with freezing nights down to minus 5C, so I have to wait for the temperatures to rise a bit.)

I think I still want to work in a bit more compost in the vegetable beds, both to lighten the soil and to bulk up the volume a bit.

There will be peas and beans in these two beds, like there was last year, but given that a great portion of the soil has been replaced I think it will be okay. And under the beans I will try my luck with some curly kale and some kohlrabi. And marigolds, of course, for what would a vegetable garden be without marigolds?

I think this will be an all right little vegetable garden.

I’ll finish off with a small – but significant – visitor to the garden; the first ladybug sighting of the season! These little fellows are always welcome in the garden!

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Feeling Lazy


It seems like I haven’t done a thing all weekend. Well, of course not QUITE, but you know how one can get in a self-deprecating mood from time to time. When I look at that picture it really doesn’t seem like much of a result.

Still, the border IS larger than it appears in the picture, and though I didn’t get around to digging in the compost and create a plantable area, at least I can be glad I changed my plan and enlarged the area of the border. I suspect it might actually need to be even bigger, but I just won’t have time for that next weekend and I also think it’s probably important that I finish it in this size, dig in the compost and gain a sense of achievement from it. Then I can always do a second spurt of digging in April.

I’ve discovered that the narrow border in front of the covered terrace actually wraps around it, so about 4 inches below the lawn there is an edging of concrete paving stones. It makes it more fiddly to dig near the wall, but on the other hand they make a nice marker for how far in towards the terrace I want to dig deep; the last thing I’d want would be to unsettle the paving of the terrace, and this old edging gives me a nice guideline.

(The clematis is planted just inside the edging, by sheer luck, and it will be preserved. I decided to sacrifice a perennial sweet pea, though, as it was just impossible to disentangle it from the weedy grass around it. Also, it wasn’t very scented, so I will sow some annual sweet peas instead with a headier scent.)

Most of the turf was “recycled” and used to beef up the embankment towards the stream at the back. (And also, on a more cosmetic level, covering up the piles of old twigs and branches that were lying there as well as some of the lumps of pure clay that were dug up when we had the drainage installed. I will fill in the gaps between the turf “blocks”, and that should make it look a bit tidier. )

This one is a bit of a cheat, since I bought this on Thursday. A blue anemone that was just too pretty to resist. I planted it out in the hedgerow, which should pretty much replicate the natural environment it’s suited for; light in spring, then heavy shade once the leaves appear on the trees.

This one looks rather autumnal, yet gloriously so, I think. It’s a mahogany that had made it’s way out into the forest, and as it is not a native plant here I pulled it up and stuck it in a plastic container in the Courtyard. If you look carefully at the centre of the leaves you can see the yellow flower buds have made an appearance, and I think they will look spectacular against the dark foliage.

In time it might end up as a feature plant in the shady (and also not created yet) Fern Patch – or perhaps as undergrowth under the trees towards the road.

Right in the centre of this picture there is a small, red tip making its way out of the soil… The peonies are shooting, and it will be exciting to see if we get any flowers this year. (Though odds are we will have to wait another year, yet you never know…)

And that’s it for now. I’m going up there again Friday evening and hope to finish the Sunny Border in some form before I have to head back to town Saturday night for a birthday party.

(And typing up this entry made me feel like – perhaps – I have managed to get SOME work done over the weekend.)

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Oops…


Isn’t it always the way it goes; you start a project and suddenly you can just see that your scope is too narrow.

I’m afraid I might have to admit that I’ve under-dimensioned the lay-out of the new Sunny Border; now that I’ve dug half of the planned area free of turf it seems quite clear that this won’t make the sort of impact I want it to, regardless of how lush and colourful the plants decide to grow.

I might have to double the radius of the semicircle, and this will of course quadruple the area that needs to be cleared. (A = π x r2 for a circle if I remember correctly – when I was a kid we used to always ask our maths teacher “but what will we ever USE this for?”, and I guess he should have just told me that when I started a garden it would be quite handy to know basic geometry… I also use the Pythagorean number sets quite often – a triangle with the lengths 5-4-3 will give you a straight angle since a2=b2+c2.)

Still, I’m making headway, and my back is actually less sore now than it was after I’d dug out the first square meter. My body is getting accustomed to the work, it seems.

I still need to work out how I’m going to dig out the turf around the young clematis. I suspect I might resort to just scraping off the grass and the top roots, lay down a thick layer of cardboard around the plant and then mulch that over with compost so it doesn’t show. It won’t remove all the roots but it should at least limit the amount of grass that manages to get through to the surface.

Plastic would probably be more efficient, but I think I’ve made enough concessions by deciding on a vertical 8-inch corrugated plastic barrier between the border and the lawn. The cardboard will decompose naturally and actually add something positive to the soil, whereas a sheet of plastic around the clematis would just be an atrocity that will disintegrate but not decompose, leaving me with small bits of plastic in the soil for years to come. (At least the plastic barrier towards the lawn has an expected durability of 5 years, possibly more, given that it will be completely covered on both sides, and when it does start to disintegrate the border should be established enough that I can maintain the edge by cutting it with a spade every spring.)

Anyway, enough of a break; back to the garden – and the heavy work – I go!

(EDIT: And now it started raining – just a slight drizzle, but enough to turn the soil into mud if I walk around digging. Armchair gardening it is for now!)

 

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