After so much “editing” – a wonderful euphemism for a near-frenzy of shrub removal – it is a great feeling to finally be putting something back. But before I started planting, I had to find something even more important. I know, I know, what could possibly be more important than plants.
When I first became interested in gardening I became an avid reader of books and magazines. I quickly came across the concept “feed the soil not the plant”, and thought that made perfect sense. Until I discovered just what it cost to mulch an entire garden to a depth of at least 3 inches. Living where we did, I could probably have found a free source of horse manure fairly readily, but it wouldn’t have been well rotted, and I didn’t have the room to pile it up and wait a year or so. Not to mention what the neighbours would have said… So I restricted myself to just planting each new plant with a healthy dose of seaweed feed and some bagged compost. After all, for the price of a good load of manure or mushroom compost I could have bought a lot of plants.
I sort of got away with it by planting things that could cope with the heavy clay soil I had inherited, and when I created the pond border I did buy lots of well rotted horse manure to dig in – just not really enough. It was really expensive, and I had rocks, gravel and plants to buy, all of which were far more interesting. Over the years I got used to seeing great clods of slimy yellow clay working their way to the surface, and promised myself that I would do better next time. So here I am. It is next time. And I am on an even tighter budget than ever before.
So I am quite chuffed that I have learnt enough to spend a large proportion of my budget on some black gold – a blend of well rotted manure and spent mushroom compost, delivered to the door. TNG does not entirely appreciate the smell, but I actually find it rather sweet and pleasant. A lot of it will find its way in to the new raised veg beds, but the rest will be soil improver and mulch, particularly in the front garden which has areas of very sandy soil.
Soil improver – check. Area cleared for planting – check. Just the plants then. Sadly I have yet to find a reasonable nursery on the Island, so I had to order online. Which at least meant I got a very exciting parcel.
I ordered from Burncoose Nurseries in Cornwall, because they specialise in plants good for coastal conditions, and sold the Escallonia macrantha rubra that I wanted for the border against the wall in the front garden at a good price. I had bought from them before, their delivery charges are pretty steep, but because their plants are good value, and more importantly, good quality, it seems to work out OK.
Each plant was well watered and the pots carefully packed in a tightly tied plastic bag to keep soil and moisture where they belonged. In theory I approve of the compostable packaging in the shape of shredded old catalogues, but in practice I was very grateful that it was that rarest of things here, a day without wind! Nevertheless, it led to some interesting effects:
Divesting a mahonia of lots of shredded paper was a delicate task…
Still, a little patience and I had uncovered a nice little collection of plants – 4 escallonia to create a mini hedge along the wall, a Sambucus nigra ‘Black Beauty’ to contrast with a Tamarisk, also for the front, the aforementioned mahonia – Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ – for the boundary in the back between us and the park, a hawthorn, ditto, and a lovely euphorbia called ‘Portugese Velvet’ because I fell in love and it was in the sale. Thus breaking the rules, since it needs to go in a border that doesn’t yet exist, in the front garden, but hey, rules are made to be broken!
Today was one of those perfect early October days, still, sunny, and warm in the sun but with just that bit of bite in the air to tell you the seasons were changing. I spent a throughly pleasurable couple of hours gently pootling in the front garden, planting out the mini escallonia plants that hopefully, one day, will form a fragrant evergreen hedge and provide some privacy.
Not exactly an instantly dramatic effect, and my new plants are planted at a greater distance than recommended for hedging, but I have time, and besides, chatting to local gardeners it is clear that things tend to grow rather larger, and faster, than advertised here. I also finally succumbed and splashed out on some Rootgrow – micorrhizal fungi that, when added to a planting hole so that the granules come in to contact with the roots of a plant, help the plant develop a strong secondary root system that will last the life of the plant and promote faster, stronger growth. I’d be interested to hear what other people’s experience has been of using it?
The contrast between the escallonia that was here when I moved in and that I re-located and the new plants is a little dramatic, even allowing for the fact that I lightly pruned the new plants to encourage bushier growth. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the plants are the size of the shadows they were throwing on the wall behind.
I mentioned that I had ordered a Sambucus ‘Black Beauty’ to contrast with a tamarix. Well, that’s the downside of ordering online, Burncoose were out of stock. It will be Spring before I have a large enough plant order together to justify the delivery, so my options were to wait until then or use something I already had and enjoy the fact that I had some extra money in the plant piggy bank to use later. Since I had spotted an ceanothus of unknown type trying to escape from under one of the mophead hydrangeas, I decided to try that instead. Whatever colour blue the flowers, and whenever the flowering period, it should fit in with the overall scheme well and contrast nicely with the elder. So, I rescued the ceanothus from the clutches of the hydrangea and planted it up.
I must admit I was surprised to see that the elder had been pruned so hard back, I had anticipated it still having some leaves, and therefore getting some autumn colour from it, but there are plenty of healthy buds on it. Pity it looks so strange next to the ceanothus, which was surprising large once rescued, if a tad strangely shaped.
All in all, a very pleasant and constructive way to spend a couple of hours. The next task is to stain the fence so that I can plant the other new arrival, a spindle tree.
Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Cascade’ definitely has plenty of Autumn colour, so I can’t wait to see it in the ground. With a healthy mulch of black gold to help it on its way.