I only took you half way round the front garden in the earlier post, there is so much going on in it, and as my posts always have a tendency to be lengthy anyway, I took pity on you all! We pick up the tour in the back right corner as you face the house, which is dominated by a pampass grass.
Not my favourite area – to complete the 70’s vibe, the pampass grass is accompanied by a pieris, a rhododendron, an azalea and yet another (very pink) hydrangea. It’s all rather dated, very messy, and not terribly healthy.
The rhododendron has succumbed to a hefty bout of powdery mildew, and the little evergreen behind it is badly chlorotic. Given how congested these plants are, it might be that just taking out one or two would solve some of this.
There is a huge gap immediately to the right of this area, and a lot of space behind too. This part of the garden backs on to the playing fields, and that part of the playing fields is actually a group of willows and a couple of hawthorn, with lots of cow parsley. I’d quite like this back corner of the front garden (!) to echo this by having a woodland theme, perhaps moving the lacecap hydrangea over, adding my smoke bush, maybe planting some native hedging plants behind. Shoot me now, because I even caught myself thinking that the pieris looked quite pretty when I looked back at the photo I took of that area back in May…
It’s a shame that the bluebells are the invasive Spannish invaders rather than the natives, but that could be solved, once I see what other bulbs pop up here in Spring. What is amusing is how much the soil PH varies within a very small area. It goes from very acidic to neutral within a foot, which makes me thing that the soil has been locally amended to accommodate the acid lovers. Since this isn’t something I will be happy to do, they may not survive, only time will tell.
The one thing I was certain of was that I was going to be digging the pampass grass out. I have seen it used effectively, but only in really big borders where it has space to do it’s thing and is surrounded by plants that complement it. Neither of which apply here, where it also forms a trip hazard as you walk round the house. Then I was disturbed by the sound of lots of wings beating just outside my bedroom window, and opened the curtains to see that the whole plant was being mobbed by sparrows! I counted over 20, fluttering around in silence, chomping away at the seed heads. It was really windy, so this is the best I could do on the photography front:
So the pampass grass stays until the Spring…
The rest of the border that runs along the fence is, quite frankly, a mess. Leaving aside the fence itself, which is a vile colour, it is choked with weeds and full of the stumps of plants that have been chainsawed off.
I was excited to see a dark green holly poking up amongst the weeds, until I saw that it is actually a reverted shoot from a virulently yellow variegated form. I am hoping that by cutting off everything apart from the dark green shoots I will get myself a dark green holly for my woodland area!
There are three identical plants with rather pretty contorted stems, that look for all the world like Salix babylonica ‘Tortuosa’, Twisted Willow. It is recommended that you don’t plant even this comparatively small willow close to a house, though I am hoping that, if I prune them/it (not sure I need 3…) hard every Spring it will be OK. Particularly since we already have half a dozen large willows within a meter of the house growing in the park!
It does leave me with something of a dilemma though. Do I keep all three? If so, they will be seen to best effect if I paint the fence a pale colour, perhaps a cream, so that the stems stand out against it in winter, an effect that will be lost if the fence is also planted with lots of climbers, which is my natural instinct. Another thing to ponder, but in the mean time I can at least do some weeding.
I also need to get to grips with the roses. I am a complete ignoramus when it comes to roses, never having grown them before. There appear to be two ramblers on the fence, one deep pink the other paler, neither apparently strongly scented, which is a shame.
Both of these roses have clusters of small blooms, and I have seen roses just like it growing in lots of the gardens around here, in much more exposed conditions. I wouldn’t choose to plant them, not least because of the lack of scent, but since they are here, I will live with them for now at least, and take them into account when planning what I do with the rest of the garden. They do give loads of colour, which is great, and both would look lovely against a pale cream fence if that is what I end up doing. I wonder how many coats that dark red will take – maybe I should go for black instead!
Mind you, the darker pink rambler, which is better established (for which read, was not hacked last year), smothers the trellis it is growing on so completely you wouldn’t know what was behind it – at least until winter.
There is also a salmon pink shrub rose of some description, again with no discernible scent. Again, it has been cut hard back, and has very few blooms.
I will probably end up moving this, but the most pressing issue (other than the weeding) is the large gap in the fence which then gets taken over by trellis.
The path to the Playing Fields runs behind here, so I want both the privacy and the security of sturdy fencing all the way along. Come Autumn, when we can see what we are doing, we will need to extend the fence along the boundary, and then paint it whatever colour I end up choosing.
We are now back at the front of the garden, by the pond. When I first explored this area, just after we moved in, I found myself stumbling all over the place because the ivy covered the ground so thickly you couldn’t see the obstacles. One thing I did spot that intrigued me was this:
I quickly realised that the ivy-covered slope at the back of the pond must be a cascade – not that you could tell.
Anyone observing my behaviour over the past couple of weeks could be forgiven for thinking I hated ivy. I don’t, I am a big fan, particularly when it gets to the mature stage and flowers profusely. However, even the RHS, in an article explaining that ivy is not, in general, the tree killer most people consider it to be, concedes that in a garden setting “it may require some management”. An hour and two trug loads later, I had “managed” enough ground covering ivy to unveil the cascade and the surrounding walls with planting pockets.
I also traced the cable to the pump, which I wrestled from the grip of the roots of the rush. Thanks to the very helpful people at Messner, I even have a manual for it, though currently attempting to run it blows the circuit to the downstairs sockets…
Clearing the ivy away revealed lots of lovely large stones too, but my biggest surprise was finding a somewhat teasing figure crouched alongside the cascade.
I look forward to making her acquaintance!
I am glad to have wrestled the ivy away so that I can see the structure at the front of the garden, but I do find myself torn. I love ponds, but this one is very small, so will need a lot of maintenance to keep clear and healthy. It is currently about half full of leaf debris and duckweed, so if we do decide to keep it we will need to clear it out completely. The pond itself, and the cascade, are showing lots of liner, so there is plenty of work to do there too. And then there are those walls with the little planting pockets in the top.
I am getting a vision in my head of an area of informal planting punctuated by groups of the greenish rock local to the area, framing the view of the sea and the beach behind. Brick walls really don’t go well with that, and narrow planting pockets in the tops of small walls do not fill me with a sense of excitement. Having lots of bricks to make paths in the veg garden, however, that does excite me… The work required to demolish the walls and clean up the bricks, that feels a little daunting.
Sorry, maybe I should have done this in three parts, not just two, but it is going to be a useful record for me to look back on later, and I hope you now have a pretty clear idea of what the front garden looks like, and the challenges and opportunities it presents me with.