Late Spring Blog

A lot has happened since my last blog, which I am ashamed to say was a whole year ago. Life took over during the last year, but despite my attention often being elsewhere the garden has continued to do what gardens do. Some plants have survived and thrived, others have decided it wasn’t worth the effort. But despite quite a few casualties, this spring the garden is actually looking more splendiferous than ever. Structurally there haven’t been any changes, although some signature plants have had to be replaced. Generally though, everything is looking more mature and, as several friends have remarked, rather “Chelsea”. Result!

Success stories

After the disappointing turnout of my Alliums last year, I splashed out on new Allium Aflatunense and Allium Roseum bulbs in the autumn, and my efforts have paid off. I’ve decided it’s worth adding a few new bulbs each year to be sure of a good show. All through the winter my Hellebores and the heather did me proud by providing interest and colour. Early spring brought an impressive display of primroses – all self-seeded – which I hope will be a recurring feature. Now they are over, the foliage provides some welcome greening where there would otherwise be bare earth, giving garden a more established look.

A mass of Campanula flowers

Providing really showy colour hanging over the wall near the dining area, the Aubrietia and common Campanula have been really magnificent this year, and I’m hoping to get a second showing by cutting them back severely when they’ve finished flowering.

But the stars of the show this spring are without doubt three of my roses. The Shropshire Lad is burgeoning, and the Perennial Blue is just a mass of blooms, with loads more to come. The bees love them, and the air is heavy with contented buzzing. The new Summer Wine provides a lovely delicate contrast. The rose I planted to grow over the bower is valiantly struggling to provide a bit of colour despite the dark conditions.

Casualties and disappointments

The magnificent Perovskia which formed a cornerstone at the top right-hand corner of the garden decided to give up the ghost this year, so sadly I had to dig it up. The two Delphiniums I planted last spring complete with elaborate slug trap arrangement have survived being eaten but unfortunately are so weedy that I’m considering getting rid of them if they can’t prove their worth over the next couple of weeks. The Penstemon, Salvia Blue Note and Lobelia Speciosa have decided not to bother this year. My Heuchera was growing but not necessarily in the right places. It was looking decidedly tatty, so has been replaced.
As for the Foxgloves, just one rather delicate specimen seems to be left, and is very late getting going, but I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt at the moment.

New planting and other changes

As life never stays the same, and I expect to be away from home for extended periods this year, I decided not to go to the trouble and expense of filling the wall baskets with summer bedding flowers. I knew this would cause angst about whether they were being watered, and it was unfair to impose this on my neighbours, however willing.

I also decided that the herbs on the fence require too much watering and have reduced my herb growing activities to mint, parsley and coriander, which are in a very large pot further into the shade so they won’t require so much attention. To fill the gap on the fence, I’ve placed a token Geranium in each of my four terracotta semi-circular wall pots in the way I’ve seen done on the walls of houses in Mediterranean countries, in the hope that they’ll survive a bit of neglect.

The top row of plants nearest the upper terrace has seen the most changes. I donated the Buddleia Davidii to a far larger garden as it was getting somewhat out of hand and planted a giant poppy – Papaver Patty’s Plum –  which having produced three amazing blooms has decided to call it a day for the summer. We’ll see if it decides to spring back into activity. I’ve replaced the Lobelia Speciosa and Perovskia with two Hollyhocks – these have always been a favourite of mine but I’m not sure if this was a smart move. Possibly not.

I’ve also added a Lavatera Burgundy Wine next to the Hollyhocks, as I’m told this is a tough customer and is unlikely to let me down. These taller plants will hopefully be appreciated from the top terrace too. A cheekily self-sown Alchemilla Mollis has also decided to take root in the paving slabs, and I love its succulent freshness.

And finally, I’ve decided that the two Heathers are somewhat out of keeping with rest of the planting, as they are dense and heavy looking, although they do provide colour in winter. For the moment they have been given a severe haircut and next spring they will probably be replaced with something lighter.

Other newcomers dotted around the garded include most notably a Geum Scarlet Tempest – announced by the RHS as the Chelsea Plant of the Year no less (needless to say I had mine before). This vibrant peachy orange plant waves around in the breeze and steals the limelight at the centre of the bed.

Geum Scarlet Tempest

Also adding to the cottagy feel of the planting are a new Verbascum Sugar Plum, and a Hebe Caledonia to replace the Heuchera. In the difficult shaded area right at the front near the bottom terrace I’ve decided to do away with the spring bulbs (now just a slimy mess) and plant something more permanent that can bear the shade of the large fern. I’ve chosen an upright Veronica with blue spears and two alpine Veronicas in front.

Generally I’ve decided not to repeat the early spring bulbs I planted around the edge of the terrace for two reasons: One is that the sun doesn’t reach my garden until well into March, and I don’t spend much time out there until it does. The other reason is that the remaining foliage leaves an unsightly mess which can’t be cleared away.

Wildlife

There’s not much news to report here except that a colony of Tree Bumble Bees (Bombus hypnorum) has taken up residence in the robin nesting box which was left full of nesting material by a couple of hopeful wrens last year and then abandoned due to the attentions of a neighbouring cat. I’ve tried to capture the hive of activity on film, but they are just too fast flying in and out. Otherwise the garden is full of life with various types of bees and hoverflies. My latest feeder seems to have flummoxed the squirrels, so they have given up trying – good news for the birds.

An updated plan of the garden and plant list are available on the blog site. Happy gardening!

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