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.
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.
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 (!)
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…