Sometimes change is good!

There was a really good Viburnum Davidii that was a feature of the Fairy Garden here at Gortnalee. It was planted about 10 years ago and really thrived. Well that was the case until this year. This is how it looked in July 2020

Viburnum in 2020

Mind you, when I look closely I can see a few leaves looking a bit damaged. However I was not prepared for what happened this year. I had been working in other areas of the garden and only came to tackle the Fairy Garden in June. I was shocked to see that half the lovely healthy shrub was dead. I cut off the dead branches hoping the rest of it would recover. Unfortunately it did not.

June 2020 – half the shrub has mysteriously died!

I kept removing the dead branches but eventually had to admit defeat. There was nothing for it but to remove the whole thing. Of course this meant a complete revamp of the Fairy Garden and the pressure was on as my granddaughter will be visiting in a few weeks! I had already made a change in removing the willow fence round the area and now I decided to remove a path along where the willow used to be – a redundant path! The willow fence had been replaced by a non-living fence made from off-cuts of the hazels in the woodland garden. I had tried sweetpeas in planters along the fence but they didn’t do well so the decision was to remove the path and extend the planting area. In this photo the dying viburnum is clearly evident.

Redundant path now needs removing – and the sweetpeas are pretty pathetic!

So there was a bit of construction to be done including removing the dead viburnum. There was weedblock under the gravel on the path so it was easy enough to remove the gravel and redistribute on the remaining paths. I added some of my compost to the area and planted it up with Cosmos that will give colour for this year while I decide on parmanent planting for this newly extended border.

But that area was really in need of a complete rethink. The sweetpeas were removed, the viburnum was no more, and a rather bedraggled buddliea has been cut to the ground in an attempt to get it to do better! There was a path that went behind the Viburnum but ti was completely overgrown and some wild mallows and a Pheasant Berry had also invaded the border. The Cotinus was all in a heap and the whole thing had nothing to recommend it.

A bit of ruthless weeding out, cutting back and tying up recovered the path. My granddaughter will be so pleased because she and her Daddy made this path when she was only about 3 years old!

The space where the viburnum was had become a real planting opportunity. Doing my best to conserve as much of the lychnis flowers as I could, I added a couple of Achillea, a Geranium Magnificum, some Chinese Lanterns. a tiny Oxalis Triangularis, and a Saxifraga Stolonifera to the area. Since all the Lychnis in that area were white I added a pink one just for fun! I have no doubt these plants will quickly fill the area and add lots of seasonal interest. Since the soil where the plant had failed wasn’t very good I also put some Soil Renew round and about to help the soil to recover. I will mulch it well this winter and hopefully next year will see a really colourful display!

The newly planted area

So now the revamp of the Fiary Garden is complete – all it needs is for one of my little visitors to decide where the Fairies should hang out!

It is amazing how this kind of change alters the whole atmosphere of an area. From being very overgrown and boring it now invites exploration so I am hopeful that my visitors will also enjoy it!

July Roses at Gortnalee

I can’t believe I haven’t posted a blog since May! Gortnalee is at its peek just now and I am enjoying spending time just keeping on top of the tidying up without being over particular.

July is of course when the roses are really at their peak although we sometimes forget just how long they delight us with their abundant flowers.

Ghislaine de Feligonde – wonderful prolific rambling rose

I have been trying to find the stories about how roses got their names but it is not easy to find anything for many of them! This one was named in 1916 after the 2-year-old daughter of Count Feligonde but had another legend attached relating to a nurse in World War One.

Albertine is the earliest rose to flower in my garden

This rambling rose I grew from a slip – the story was that I bought it and planted it but needed to move it the next year and when I was digging it up I managed to break it off from its rootstock! I was furious with myself so I just took the four stems of the rose and rammed them into the border where I was going to plant them! Three of them grew – my neighbour has one and the other two cover one entire side of my Rose Trellis! Only flowering once, I cut it back quite hard when it finishes to let the other roses there have some space!

Mme Isaac Periere – an old rose from David Austin

Madame Periere has to take her opportunity to thrive once Albertine is cut back! She has a delicious perfume and lots of generous flowers!

Compassion is a strong climber with a wonderful perfume too.

Next along the Rose Trellis is Compassion. I saw this rose in full glory at Altamont and had to have it! Albertine is inclined to over-run it in the early part of the summer but once Albertine is finished Compassion take centre stage!

Lady Marmalade – Rose of the Year 2014

Next on that Trellis border is Lady Marmalade. A wonderful rose that flowers well into autumn with wave after wave of flowers. It is described as a “repeat-flowering floribunda” and certainly lives up to her name! I would love to know who was “Lady Marmalade”?

Diamond Jubilee – a survivor!

I used to have a Rose Garden but changed my mind and moved all the roses to the main garden in two locations – the Rose Trellis and the Clematis Arch. Some of the roses didn’t survive and I thought I had lost this one, but a small stem kept appearing but not flowering and I just left it, and it got fed and mulched with all the other roses and after several years it delighted me by producing a beautiful blossom that allowed me to identify it as Diamond Jubilee.

Alec’s Red quite tall – a Hybrid Tea from David Austin

I realised that the roses were all very far from the house so I planted Alec’s Red in the main herbaceous border where I can see it as I stand at the cooker and where I get its lovely perfume when I go down into the garden.

Jamila – bought from Bakker in 2013

A wonderful rose that loves to climb – although bought as a Hybrid Tea she lives on the Clematis Walkway and produces these large abundant flowers – bothered a bit by blackspot but my new policy of taking off all affected leaves as I deadhead the roses is definitely reducing the amount of blackspot on all the roses.

Just Joey -Hybrid Tea

This rose has been around for a long time. Although described as a Hybrid Tea I find that the flowers come in clusters and he really wants to climb! Perhaps his location is the reason why the flowerinf stems often reach 5 feet!

Miniature red rose – very pretty!

When a family member far away was lost to Covid I got this rose to remember her. These little roses are really meant for pots for short periods so for me it is a bit of a challenge encouraging it to grow!

Romance is the favourite rose of the bees because of the open centre.

Romance is another rose that had a severe setbck when she was moved but the addition of layers of compost is now paying off and more and more flowers appear every year.

What a great rose! I think it is Rose Flower Carpet Pink

The most trouble-free rose in the garden! I grew it from a cutting from a neighbour – three cuttings all grew! No blackspot, no greenfly, hundreds of flowers for months at a time – what’s not to like?

Royal Red from Bakker 2013

This is a small climber – it came as one of a pair – Royal White and Royal Red and in 2013 I envisaged them each side of an arch in the then Rose Garden. Relocating them side by side at the Clematis Walkway it is clear that the original idea would not have worked! Royal Red is struggling to make 4 feet tall while Royal White is up and over the top of the arches!

Royal White climbing rose – companion to Royal Red

I love this rose. The buds are tinged with yellow but they open to white. It has scrambled up over the archway build for the Clematis and just keeps on flowering from early Summer well into Autumn. It is not strongly perfumed but its abundant flowers make up for that!

Waltz Time – another survivor!

This rose is even more of a miracle than its companion transplanted roses. I thought it was gone completely but finding a tiny sprig under the Jamila rose I potted it up to see what would happen! To my amazement it produced this lovely lilac flower and it now has a new home where it gets lots of sun so I look forward to it growing stronger in the future.

Wenlock – modern shrub rose

I really should pay more attention to the descriptions of my roses before I plant them! This was a house-warming present from my cousin Róisin and her mother Dolores in 2008 when the garden did not really exist so it survived in a pot for quite a while! The deep pink of the flowers and the generous petals are only equalled by the scent which is divine! It is planted too close to Romance, so one of them is going to have to move!

White Symphonie – vigorous climber

White Symphonie has amazing clusters of flowers and is another one that loves the Clematis Walkway. It is located at the entrance to the walkway and manages to push its way through Clematis Montana Marjorie to send blossoms skywards from early June! I probably need to train these two enthusiastic climbers to live a bit more harmoniously!

Zephrine Drounin – saving the best for last!

Zephrine Drouhin is an old favourite for many rose growers. Her perfume is divine and fills that area of the garden with scent every evening! She flowers with enthusiasm but best of all, she has no thorns! I no longer spray my roses so her tendency to blackspot is a bit of a disadvantage, but my policy of collecting fallen leaves and removing damaged ones when I deadhead has certainly reduced the problem. I am also trialing companion planting of Allium around her to see if that helps!

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of my roses!

Buddha Makeover

I think I am watching too many “makeover” programs on TV. A few days ago I decided to weed the area around my Buddha in the Buddha Garden and after spending a couple of hours clearing I only had half of it done. I began just weeding but I realised that more drastic action was needed.

Before and After all in one picture!

It was so difficult to remove the Celandine and the Grape Hyacinths without destroying everything else in the border that I had to do a re-think. The decision was a complete “Makeover”. So I carefully removed all the Tulip bulbs, the Hostas, a Lily and some Vinca minor “Atropurpurea” and put them to one side. Everything else was for composting! I had added some gravel previously in a vain attempt to keep the border in order so what was left when the plants were removed was hardly promising!

After the clear-out of the planting.

The next stage was to remove as much of the gravel as possible. I also realised I needed to lower the level somewhat. A large container was filled with some very stony soil which will come in handy when I am potting stuff up since I am determined not to use any more peat. Having adjusted the level to my satisfacion I then treaded it down – a bit like treading grapes – and then headed off to get some weedblock and pegs from my local Garden Centre.

Preparations complete!

I started to lay the weedblock – a double layer to try and keep the invaders at bay, or at least to slow them down! I was now under pressure because it was my Gardening Club that evening and I didn’t have a lot of time! Once I started it I needed to get it finished because the wind had picked up a lot and the weedblock would be reefed up if I didn’t have it secured!

A few big stones helped to keep the weedblock in place overnight.

Next morning I was back at the Garden Centre getting a couple of bags of decorative stone. I wasn’t sure how much I would need but I took a chanc on three bags. I hasten to add that I enlisted the aid of stronger arms than mine to get them from the car to the border!

Yes Sir Yes Sir Three bags full Sir!

There was just the right amount in the three bags, and it was a quick and easy job to spread the stone. I finished weeding that area and now I will pot up the Hostas, lily and Vinca and replace them on tip of the gravel. The Tulips are healed in to a large pot with some compost to keep them safe for planting up next year- again in POTS!!! That is the plan – everything in pots which can be switched in and out to suit the seasons!

All done! Just need to add the potted plants tomorrow!

I am totally delighted with the make-over. It is creating the simple and tranquil appearance for the Buddha Garden that I want to achieve.

Bit of a weeding problem ….

Today’s task was to plant out the Sweetpea round the pollarded Willows in the front areas. I added lots of compost to the area at the base of the trees to give the sweetpeas a chance.

Sweet peas round the base of the pollarded Willow

Having planted out these little seedlings I decided to weed that area of the border. What prompted me was the way the Lesser Celandine had inflitrated one particular plant in the border. This is the very pretty Alchemilla Alpina that I was given by a gardening friend in 2014. It was doing quite well and had started to increase in size over the first few years but the Celandine has a preference for seeding into the middle of other plants so each year I was having to extricate the seedlings to help the Alchemilla survive! Because I was out of action this time last year that job didn’t get done so I was horrified to see how it looked today!

The leaves of the Alchemilla can just be seen peeping out down near the stones!

Just for good measure there are a couple of Japanese Anemone seedlings also rooting into the plant. I began trying to winkle out the invaders but this was not working. In the end I had to uproot the whole plant and tease out the soil until the invaders could be dislodged. I filled a bucket with what was taken out!

This is what was left when the clean-up was completed!

I decided that the best approach would be to divide up the plant and pot up the divisions while I look at a better location for this very pretty plant! I’m sure this is not the best time to do this but having already totally disrupted the plant I felt there was really no alternative! Just then I spotted a little seedling of my alchemilla in the gravel path so I carefully transplanted it into the space once occupied by the parent plant!

The little seedling and a tiny piece that broke off during the weeding process.

The next task was to divide and pot up the main plant. I managed to create lots of pieces with decent roots attached and planted two or three pieces in each pot! They are planted in a mix of soil and my own sifted compost so I hope they will do well! For the moment I will keep them in the cold-frame so that I can keep an eye on them and see how they go! If they survive I plan to find much more suitable locations for them where I can enjoy them!

Divisions of the Alchemilla – hopefully at least some of them will survive!

It is particularly disappointing when a treasured plant from a friend gets into this kind of difficulty. I have mixed feelings about the Celandine – in my woodland area they are one of the first flowers in the Spring and when they appear elsewhere I try to weed them out with as much of the root as possible. They are one of the early pollen sources for the bees and other insects but they really are terrible thugs! People say they just die away in summer but the ones in my garden don’t appear to have heard that news! Here’s hoping that the rescue of the Alchemilla Alpina will be successful!

Spring clean-up

It is almost the end of March and the spring colour is evident in the garden but the clean-up from last year still has a bit to go! Yesterday’s target was the area where one of the large Poplars was removed during the winter. I am carefully watching the suckers of this tree near the house for signs of life! I noticed the other day that the suckers are emerging from a root over an inch thick so removing the tree before it undermined the house foundations was the right thing to do!

This area of the garden is woodland really – native trees predominate and the undergrowth is a mixture of spring bulbs and self-seeding plants from the more cultivated parts of the garden. It usually gets an annual clean-up and is then left to do it’s own thing but last year because of my back surgery it didn’t get this annual attention so this year it was really necessary. Apart from the usual clean-up there were lots of little branches from the defunct Poplar entangled in the mess! It was less difficult than I imagined – the wire rake made short work of the clean-up although I did have to get up close and personal with the Crocosmia dead foliage and the Rosa Rugosa needed to be cut down too. I cut them to the ground every year and they seem to like that treatment!

Of course the result of this vigorous activity generated quite a bit of debris and I needed a solution for its disposal. I recently watched a YouTube channel “The wild gardener” which described the building of a Dead Hedge – a good environmental idea – so I thought of an area in the lower garden that would fit the bill. I had tried to establish a willow fence last year but it hadn’t taken so I used that as the back edge for the hedge. I used some good straight hazel rods to hold the front in place and there it was – all ready to go! The process for the Dead Hedge is simply to pile up dead branches and trimmings into a kind of giant Bug Hotel, pressing down each layer that is added. Over time it will rot down but can be added to each year to the desired height!

For me this was a perfect solution to two issues – since the farmer next door removed the hedgerow and replaced it with a stock-proof fence I have felt that side of the garden is very exposed but this will reduce that sense of exposure when I fill it to the height of the wire fence – and of course it also provides a good wild-life haven. I plan to scatter some wild-flower seeds in the ground in front of it to finish off that area!

Gardening in Winter

When I first met up with Garden.ie friends one of the more experienced gardeners told me that she hung up her gardening gloves at the end of November until the end of January – or maybe it was the end of October to the end of December – whichever it was, I was amazed as I couldn’t imagine two whole months without a gardening “fix”!

I have worked out ways to garden despite the weather, and regardless of the season. When it is cold I don leggings under my waterproof ski trousers, two pairs of socks and a woolly hat. When it rains I switch to a waterproof jacket, and when it is both cold AND wet I resort to an old coat of my late husband – because it is huge it becomes like a tent round me, and with the hood pulled up over the wooly hat I am snug as a bug in a rug! I have several thicknesses of gardening gloves depending on the season and have become quite adept at weeding with the thermal gloves I wear in Winter!

I have even been known to squat down on my kneeler with a large golf umbrella providing shelter when there is a section of a border I’ve almost finished weeding when the rain comes down! But the main thing is that I am always well wrapped up against the elements and the work keeps me from getting cold – in fact I am often so hot that the hat comes off for a while to cool me down!

This year I left most of the clearing up of the borders till January but I have been able to get most of them cleared by now. I haven’t stepped on too many emerging bulbs, but I think that next year I will return to my previous habit of doing this work earlier to avoid the collateral damage to the spring flowers! For me this is the time when I can really see the structure of the garden, and because of my policy of close planting and encouraging self-seeders, once the growth gets going in Spring all that bare earth will be covered!

I am really pleased with the work I tackled this last week – the Birch that is a feature of this area really shines in the winter light although so far I have resisted the suggestion that the main stems should be washed!!!

Winter Flowers

Walking in the garden today I was overwhelmed by a delicious scent that I couldn’t quite place at first. Looking around I realised it was the beautiful Viburnum Bodantentse, a truly wonderful shrub in my garden.

This shrub has a story, like many of the plants in my garden.  I lost my husband in 2002 and really thought I could never be happy again but when I met Brendan a new chapter began in my life. As we began to plan a life together, I started introducing him to my family and he was universally accepted by all. One memorable visit was to my cousin Áine and her lovely husband Tom. We spent a very pleasant evening, with much of the chat around our plans for our future. We were planning to build a home together that would reflect our shared respect for the environment so we city dwellers were planning a totally new life in the country, building an Eco house on half an acre!

Áine and I shared a love of gardening, so the conversation inevitably turned to what did we plan to do with half an acre of a garden! Brendan was quick to say that he would give me a free hand in the garden – in other words, it was up to me! Already in his seventies it was his stated intention that he would not be starting to mow lawns again! I was already making drawings of possible garden layouts to surround the house we planned to build, and I shared some of these ideas with Áine. She immediately offered me pieces from her beautiful mature garden which I was delighted to accept. I said that when the house was built, I would come back to take her up on her offer! The conversation moved to other topics and eventually we rose to leave.

Áine insisted we should take cuttings there and then, as we didn’t visit them often and I could be getting the cuttings established while the house was under construction! Despite my protests, Tom was despatched in the pitch dark with spade and bucket, with Áine sending him in all directions by torchlight and the limited light from the house!  The bucket was quickly filled with various goodies. Then Áine took her secateurs and snipped off cuttings from the large shrub right outside her door.  “This is a great plant for wintertime” she said as she added half a dozen cuttings into the already overflowing bucket!

We returned to the apartment we were living in while waiting for the house to be constructed and next morning I surveyed the contents of the bucket. There were a number of herbaceous plants, some of which I recognised but some that were new to me. The Viburnum cuttings needed immediate attention. I had never tried to take cuttings before, so I was going on the advice from various TV programmes to learn the technique. Without much hope I potted up the cuttings and no-one was more surprised than me when one of them developed new leaves! I managed to keep the cutting alive while we went through the process of building our house and it was still surviving when we moved in the following Autumn. It had to survive another winter in the pot as work on the garden had not begun.  It finally got planted the following Spring and it was not very promising. With lots of other more pressing work to be done in the garden it was almost forgotten. Each Spring when I would weed the border where it was, I would remind myself about it. First one small branch, then another – and then it finally decided to get going! It is now a generous shrub and gives me so much pleasure when I walk past it – the perfume fills the air, and the pretty flowers are so welcome through the winter. But most of all, when I pass it I think of Tom and Áine who were so kind and encouraging when we were setting out on the adventure of our new home together.

Carpe Diem

With the crazy fluctuations in weather we are having this Winter it is easy to decide it’s just not worth trying to get any garden work done. For me that means spending way too much time sitting looking out at the garden and fretting! The daylight hours are definitely starting to stretch, but sometime it is hard to see the improvement because of the rainclouds overhead.

Yesterday began as such a day, but before I had finished my breakfast the rain and clouds had vanished and the sun had made a welcome appearance. Determined to get out in the fresh air I donned the gardening gear and set out to do some cutting back. My main target was my Tree Peony as Monty Don had said this was the time to prune it. I had also seen an excellent YouTube video demonstrating in detail how to do this job, Unfortunately, when I approached the shrub I couldn’t remember all the excellent tips so I decided to leave that job until I rewatched the video! Such changes of direction are a real feature of my winter gardening! Since I was in the front garden with secateurs and loppers to hand, it seemed the right time to tackle the Buddha Garden border which was looking very tatty !

A big clean-up on the Buddha Garden main border! Still have to trim the Box Hedging!

This border contains one of the pollarded Salix Alba Chermesina (a pretty red-stemmed Willow) which hadn’t got cut back last year and so was disappointing this winter with much fewer new stems to colour up! As usual I forgot to take a “before” picture but I hadn’t really intended to tackle that job. The plan was just to cut back the herbaceous stuff including the Thalictrums which are spreading nicely but do not die back prettily! As I was removing the stray Japanes Anemone seedlings that were threatening to engulf the entire border I moved closer to the Willow, and just trimmed off the lowest branches that were getting in my way. Of course, once I started trimming it I just kept going! The sunshine was so encouraging after a couple of dull days, and I was well wrapped up so the time flew and before I knew it the job was done! When these Salix were first planted I used to coppice them to the ground, but one of the original ones died so I took a different approach with the two survivors, twining several stems together to make a more interesting shape when they are cut back and so far this is working!

Job done!

Just as I was transporting the prunings to the yard for shredding the sky darkened and the rain drove me indoors but not before I captured the work done, and also took a picture of the second Willow yet to be pollarded and of course the lovely blue sky!

Salix Alba Chermesina is pretty in Winter

So with a great deal of satisfaction I scurried indoors before the heavens opened on me. I decided this year not to shred the willow trimmings and have started stacking them behind the leaf-mould in the composting area but I think I might try out my new shredder on these pieces. If they can be shredded properly they make a great mulch! But that is a task for another day!

Willow is a great test for any shredder!

The taks of shredding so much willow is one I dread each year but the new shredder is much eaiser to work having a design that allows both soft material and tought branches to be shredded well! Now today is not sunny, but I wonder will the rain stay off for a while so I can try out my new toy?

Well, the rain stayed off, and the new shredder lived up to my expectations – 40 minutes turned the pile of willow into this useful mulch!

Some things need doing and other things are worth waiting for

The garden has had some major surgery over the past few weeks and I am still getting the place back to rights. The Hawthorn hedge bordering the garden on the west side had gradually got higher and higher so that it was no longer possible to trim it without a stepladder so drastic action was needed. FRom the field side the whole hedge was reduced back to its original height just above the timber fence. It looks awful at the moment but should look really well when Spring comes along. The other surgery was for a different reason. I originally planted Poplar trees along the street boundary in 2008 or 2009 when the garden was first planted. My intention was to remove them after about 7 or 8 years once the other trees had matured so about 4 years ago we removed most of them but the two each side of the gate looked well so I left them be. Bad decision! I was unaware that Poplar roots spread to two and a half times their height and I became aware that the shoots from the roots were approaching with a few feet of my house so there was nothing for it but to remove these very tall trees. This task was also completed in the past month or so! The tidy-up was my main focus since then but sometimes the garden can surprise me with a treasure to lift my spirits! The reliable Mahonia is one such plant.

When I started collecting Clematis I was fascinated to realise that there were some which were evergreen and also winter-flowering so I acquired a few. Clematis Pixie did well for me for a few years but then I lost it to the winter. Cartmanii Joe survived a bit longer. The evergreen Armandii is not fully hardy and I have struggled but have managed to get it to survive long enough to give me one or two flowers, but the most frustrating one which I acquired in 2014 was ‘Wisley Cream’ – much praised on various websites. It is a small-leafed climber, not at all like a Clematis leaf, and it produced a fair bit of growth each year, but never a sign of a flower! I ignored it for most of the year, but each autumn when I was tidying the borders for the winter I would come across it and wonder would it flower that year but it never did. I lost some of my larger clematis last year and so Wisley Cream had a bit more scope to spread itself which it duly did. The other day I was passing the Clematis arch when I noticed that Wisley Cream and Armandii seemed to be twining roudn each other for support. But what was that? Could it be a flower? Yes! At last! After seven years Wisley Cream has decided to flower!

As you can see Armandii is also showing signs of buds too! It is looking good for us so long as we don’t get too much frost! I am particularly pleased that the flowers on Wisley Cream are quite plentiful and look exactly like the pictures that tempted me to acquire it in the first place!

Putting some manners on the Tropical Garden

I love the exotic-looking plants in this area of the garden. It was a real no-mans-land for a long time but as I acquired some plants with exotic leaves the idea of a specific Tropical Garden was born. Of course, as usual I took no account of how large these plants would grow, and on top of that, I didn’t get to it for the past year so it had really got a bit out of hand! It was more jungle than tropical so some changes had to be made!

Here is the list of plants as of this summer but I decided that some remedial action was needed to show off the more unusual plants!

  • Acorus
  • Acanthus Mollis  
  • Cordaline
  • Cortaderia ToeToe
  • Darmera Plelata
  • Eryngium
  • Ficus ‘Ice Crystal’
  • Hedera helix ‘English Ivy’
  • Hedychium gardnerianum(Ginger)
  • Lysimachia nummularia
  • Melianthus Major
  • Phlomis
  • Rodgersia aesculifolia
  • Rodgersia Cally Salmon
  • Rodgersia Podophylla
  • Tetrapanax Rex
  • Trachycarpus Fortuneii
  • Veratrum Nigrum
  • Yucca filamentosa

The stars of the Tropical Garden this summer were the Eryngium. The original seedling has increased and multiplied each year and this year in particular the extraordinary blue flowers and stems were a sight to behold! It can happily self-seed away here, just being removed if it comes up in the middle of other plants!

The Acorus is slowly taking hold round the edges but it has lots of competion from self-seeders. I have high hopes that my current modifications will allow it to thrive. The Cordaline was too close to the path and was a danger to anyone passing by so it had to go. This created a space where I was able to relocate Veratrum Nigrum that I had put too close to the Rodgersias, The Darmera is struggling a bit but it will also benefit from the removal of the Cordaline and some Lysimachia Firecracker that had invaded the space! The Acanthus Mollis also known as Bear’s Breeches managed to flower for the first time this year too.

The Hedera is an unusual one and I manage to keep it under control by ruthless cutting back each year. I can allow it to become good ground cover up to a point! The Gingers are so exotic but Their beautiful flowers were lost among the Tetrapanax leaves this year so they need a better location – and this will be available when the ToeToe is fully removed. The Lysimachia nummularia is another great gound-cover plant and gives colour all year. Every Spring I wait anxiously for the Melianthus to appear and so far I have not been disappointed. The pale green foliage is a real contrast in this garden. I love the strange flowers on the phlomis but it is one that needs to be cut back hard to stop it taking over the universe! The Rodgersias are thriving and the Tetrapanax and Trachycarpus are both now sizeable plants but the Yucca is a big disappointment. I placed it at the centre of this garden to prevent it stabbing passersby but after over ten years it has failed to provide me with a single open flower. They always got hit by frost before they could open but the last couple of years it didn’t produce any flowers. I may have to leave is as the thought of trying to remove such a potentially lethal plant fills me with trepidation!

I realised the other day that the Toe Toe was really swamping everything else in the whole garden so I have started the process of getting rid of it. I am totally amazed at how even cutting it back has opened up the whole garden and allowed better views of the plants. Some plants like the Gingers will need to be moved, but the new aspect will no doubt be a big improvement.

I hope the slideshow below gives an idea of that this area looks like – and maybe next year it will be possible to see the individual plants a bit better!

My determination to reduce the maintenance of the garden is making me take a fresh look at each area as I progress through the tidy-up going into Winter. Each plant, each area is being assessed for the amount of effort involved in its maintenance and the pleasure I get from it. I find myself being more tolerant of large clumps of geraniums that have spread beyond their allotted space, and I am slower to remove the stems of plants that have gone over – bare soil is an invitation to weeds to get established before Spring growth covers the ground! I don’t think it will ever be a ‘Low Maintenance’ garden but it can certainly be a more easily managed space!