When we first moved here, nearly 10 years ago now, the 1.5m deep border alongside our garage was a mass of field grass with a couple of conifers, a Euonymus ‘Emerald Gaiety’ and a struggling honeysuckle. This is also one of the first things any visitor to the house, or indeed cul-de-sac, sees as it fills the gap between the garage and the road. It was clearly madness to try to cultivate such a tiny area of grass here – who wants to lug a mower all the way around to the front of the house just to cut an area 1.5m by 5m? Needless to say, it rarely got mown, so one of the first things I did once I’d unpacked some boxes was dig it out. I was full of plans to turn it into a lovely but low maintenance border, something that would be welcoming when I, or our neighbours, came back after a hard day’s work. What actually happened was that I concentrated my rookie gardener’s attentions on the back garden, which was also full of scrubby grass and ill-judged municipal-style planting in sad pockets here and there.

Garage Bed (Before)
Instead, the garage border became the dumping ground for plants that had out-stayed their welcome round the back but I hadn’t the heart to chuck out. Over time the class of plant that got dumped here improved as my own gardening style developed. Above is what it looked like yesterday morning. Not a total disaster, but hardly likely to make anyone say “how lovely” either! So yesterday I set out to attempt the next phase of making it more border than dumping ground, not least because we have a load of daffs to plant here.

Garage Bed - left (before) I love the Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’, and it clearly loves its new home – it was originally in the pond border in the back garden, but had grown too large for the spot. I then moved it to where the Dahlias now are, but wanted to reclaim more of that rare (in my garden) commodity, sunny border. So this is its third home in 2 years. I have to admit I didn’t anticipate it putting on so much width in just 6 months – it is almost totally obscuring a beautiful Miscanthus, also rescued from the pond border, but it is the wrong time of year to move grasses and I am trying to be a good girl, so it gets to stay there for now. The bamboo just apparent behind the Eupatorium is a division from a huge plant we had in the back garden, which had to move to accommodate the new greenhouse. It has taken longer to establish, but is now sending up lots of new shoots and will soon fill the rather large gap currently hidden from view but which is exposed in winter.

Lysimachia clethroides

The Lysimachia clethroides is a beautiful plant, but a thug – it spreads rapidly by rhizome. I will almost certainly regret not planting it in a pot to contain the root-ball… I have no idea which hardy geranium is hogging the front of the border with such vigour – a friend gave me 3 small clumps when I first moved, and it too is a thug, but with beautiful deep violet flowers in late spring and early summer. I suspect it would flower again were I to ever get around to hacking it back after its first flush, but as you have no doubt realised this border is rather neglected. Equally obviously this geranium is currently rather too much of a good thing, and needs taming. The fuchsia is almost entirely smothered by it.

Fuschia

I’m not actually a great fan of fuchsias. I am learning to accept them because they are a favourite with my Father-in-law, and as we will be sharing a house – and garden – for many years to come, it is part of learning to garden with others. This particular fuchsia, however, is special. It is a cutting from a cutting from my Nan’s garden, who died many years ago but who I loved very much. I have many childhood memories of playing in their garden on summer visits, and this fuchsia features in many of them. It obviously stuck in my mind somehow, along with snapdragons – which I also now indulge in. In fact, in writing about this border I am realising how many stories it holds. Even stylistically, it reflects my love of contrasting foliage shapes. Anyway, back to the plot (!)

Garage bed - right (before)In the right hand side of the bed the azalea needs some rescuing from the clutches of the geranium, and the Lysimachia looks wrong here, too floppy and lumpy somehow. Though perhaps that is because my dumping tendencies were already coming to the fore by this point. My rationale is that a lot of this planting dies back over winter. There is an almost totally obscured Phormium tenax which, together with the bamboo, Fatsia japonica (another refugee from the back garden) and Euonymus provide the only structure over winter. I’d like a little more, and I just happen to have several (OK, lots) small Carex flagillifera which I grew from seed and which need a good home… I figure they will add some structure and colour. I also have a couple of Echinacea purpurea which have been languishing in the plant-house being eaten, along with a couple of Aquelegia, and my sister-in-law gave me a dozen white foxgloves. I’m hoping between them and the daffs I can take the border a step closer to being something I am pleased to see when I come home. Though yet again it is the poor man surviving on the pickings from the rich man’s table…

Garage Bed (after)Quite a lot of work and not all that much to show for it really. The fuchsia and azalea have a little more breathing space, and unseen there are now a dozen white foxgloves planted behind and in front of the Miscanthus. I also bunged in three Lobelia tupa at the back – no idea if they will amount to anything, but I rather fancy the idea of tall exotic scarlet spikes in late summer. I also moved a Nepeta ‘Blue Infinity’ to give it more room just behind and to the right of the azalea. Hopefully, once the bulbs go in there should be more colour and structure for more of the year now.

Garge Border - right (after)

I’m still not happy with the right hand end of the bed. Although I think the combination of the Carex and Echinacea will work (assuming the plants thrive), what I really want to do is move the beautiful large Miscanthus with the pale cream striped in the leaves to where those plants are, where at least for a largish chunk of the year it will mask the bins very effectively. It will also enable me to move the other, shorter Miscanthus, currently barely visible behind the Eupatorium to slightly to the right of where the large Miscanthus is currently, which in turn will reveal the Phormium tenax. That way these large and beautiful plants will have room to display themselves rather than jostling for position like punters queuing for the latest Apple gadget. But that’s for the Spring, and assumes I don’t cast out more plants from the back garden that require a new home, and that by next Spring I have the time and energy to remember this poor relation…

11 thoughts on “Border or dumping ground?

  1. It has come a long way from euonymous and honeysuckle for sure. I think it most inviting and love those geraniums. That fatsia is awesome. My eye is drawn to it right away. I’ve tried to grow it here but the winters kill it out. How special to have a piece of your Nan’s fuschia. Gardening is such a great connector and memory jog.

  2. Some very familiar plants there Janet :) I look forward to reading and seeing more about this border in the spring. I think that your geranium is geranium macrorrhizum (do the leaves have a distinct aroma?) which does spread somewhat. I like the look of your lysimachia ~ will have to investigate. I have lysimachia ephemerum which stays nicely put :)

  3. @Iowa Gardening Woman – having visited your blog, with it’s stunning photos, thank you, that is an amazing comment…

    @Tina – Definitly getting there… I often find I have to hack blackened leaves off the Fatsia in the Spring, but I think it is worth it – I love the flowers too.

    @Anna – love the sound of a lysimachia that stays put, and that one does look lovely, I may need to investigate further… I do have a geranium that has very distinctively smelling leaves, but it has white flowers. My thug’s leaves don’t seem to smell at all. The mystery continues, but you have at least identified my smelly geranium – its Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Alba’. Thank you!

  4. Lovely post. Keep up the good work! Am especially a fan of Lysimachia: also love Lysimachia ciliata ‘firecracker’ as well. Although mine has spread onto my lawn, and I’m endlessly digging it up and potting it on and giving it to friends.

    Would love it if you posted links to your blog on gardengrab – you have a superb blog.

    1. Flattery will get you everywhere! Have submitted a link to this post and will try to remember to do so again. Thank you for the encouragement – and the pointer to the gardengrab website!

  5. What an interesting post, thank you for sharing your thoughts. You have some interesting plants in the border. Might I suggest that actually you have enough plants there already and that more might just be too many. Your blog is always beautiful. Christina

    1. Thank you Christina, what a lovely thing to say – and I sort of agree that there is enough in this border already, what I was trying to do by putting in the foxgloves and daffs was make sure that the bed always has something interesting. The fuschia, grasses and eupatorium are all late developers, I wanted some interest and structure in spring/early summer. My hope is that as the foxgloves are going over the grasses and eupatorium etc will take their place, and hide the dye-back. We’ll see! I will be much happier when I can move the miscanthus though. The large one deserves the space to show how graceful its form is, and the smaller one just deserved some space! One of my besetting sins, planting too much too closely…

      1. I always plant to closely too, I want to see the effect I have in my mind the first season, hence I put in 300 perovskia in the formal central beds and now just 30 months later I really need to remove half of them!

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