Regular readers of this blog could be forgiven for thinking I am not particularly fond of my back garden, as I seem to spend all my time obsessing about the front. Not so. I love the challenge that the front garden represents, the opportunity for experimenting with new-to-me plants, the wonderful view, but it is also a demanding project, and by its nature when I am working on it – physically rather than just in my head – I am on view. It’s a bit like when I nip up to the High Street to buy something from the butchers, I try to remember that I am “in public” and that I really should check for smudges of dirt on my nose, have approximately clean hands, and preferably not wear clothes covered in dirt. I do allow myself the dirty clothes when I am gardening out the front, and I enjoy the chance to chat to neighbours, but I am not always in the mood for that kind of experience.

The back garden, in contrast, is quite private, very sunny, and sheltered from the wind, so that on days when popping round to the front garden or up the High Street requires a fleece, I can sit in the back garden in a t-shirt. It is an altogether relaxed space, the horticultural equivalent of that really comfy pair of jeans that you love to put on, but wouldn’t wear to impress anyone. The planting is thought about but tends to proceed in a more evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, way. It helps that the aspect is identical to my old garden, it even has an acer – the same kind of acer, no less – in the equivalent spot. It is comfortable, feels like a known quantity. It is where I potter, hang washing, chat to TNG (although we prefer to chat whilst bobbing around on the sea in the kayaks), rest in the hammock listening to the magpies arguing with the blackbirds. So here is a bit of an update on the back garden.

Rhubarb corner

Coming round the side of the house from where we keep the compost bins, the Park border is beginning to fill out, and I am delighted with my rescued and repainted half-barrel, now full of mint.

We have a hawthorn growing, rather inconveniently, along the side path, but I can forgive it the occasional scraped knuckle when squeezing past with a wheelbarrow when it is in full flower. I adore hawthorn blossom.


hawthorn blossom

I love the back garden because although there are always plenty of things that need doing, many of them are quite small jobs, that give quick satisfaction and can be fitted in around other things. Like planting up the rhubarb and comfrey in the area where I had to remove the jumbled mass of ivy, decaying trellis and choked escallonia.

rhubarb and comfrey

I am really enjoying the kitchen garden too, despite the challenges the cold Spring presented us all with, though I will be even happier once the wretched strimmer finally arrives and I can neaten the edges!

glimpse of kitchen garden

The park border is gradually filling out. I have replaced the black bamboo I brought with me from the old garden, which was struggling and just didn’t look right, with an escallonia ‘Apple Blossom’. This should provide evergreen screening and lovely pale pink flowers. I’m gradually adding in perennials brought with me or sown from seed too. It takes a lot of weeding at the moment, thanks to all the bare patches, but I am enjoying seeing it gradually fill out.

park border

I am particularly enjoying seeing the black elder I pruned back so ruthlessly rewarding me with a mass of dark purple, deeply dissected, foliage, and the astrantia major ‘Hadspen’s Blood’ is adding a touch of class.

sambucus nigra

astrantia hadspens blood

astrantia hadspens blood

Still lots to do here, the well-established waterfall of dark foliage from the acer looks magnificent, but a little isolated.

acer waterfall

I am delighted that the removal of the two enormous conifers behind it, not to mention the three spotted laurels, have not meant leaf scorch due to increased exposure. The trellis and the gymn building in the park beyond provide enough shelter.

In the back right corner I have planted up a native hazel, rescued as a seedling in my last garden, and have underplanted it with wild garlic. I have dreams of harvesting pea sticks from the hazel in years to come, and of wafts of garlic-scented air and tasty fresh leaves and flowers. The reality is more likely to be a desperate attempt to stop the garlic from taking over the garden, but hey, I had to try!

wild garlic


There are also tulips. Which were a surprise. They were supposed to be tete-a-tete daffs. I was really disappointed when earlier in the year, one of the two clumps of daffs came up and put on a good showing whilst the other just did nothing at all. Then the pot that was supposed to have the tulips in suddenly sprouted – yes, you guessed it, daffs. So I now have ‘Havran’ tulips growing alongside wild garlic and hazel in what is supposed to be the wilder corner of the garden. You know, full of natives.

havran tulips

Ah well, the best laid plants, etc. I think I may leave them to it, just to see what happens next year. Plus I am rather amused at the idea of tulips and ferns. I have lots of ferns, they have self-seeded all over the place, and I will be moving some to fill in the gap behind the acer, but I can’t help thinking they will look better with bluebells, even Spannish ones, than they will with the rather posh and classy ‘Havran’…


ferns and bluebells

I’ll do a proper post on the kitchen garden another time, including admitting to my brazen land-grab resulting in another raised bed! I have to say though, I love being able to just nip out the back door and pick something or do a little weeding, so much more convenient than heading up to the allotment, which always meant a more major session. I loved the allotment, but with my health issues this works much better for me, and although the decorative side of it is something I will work on over the coming years, I already love the contribution that the delicate flowers of mange-tout ‘Golden Sweet’ and the contrasting colours of the lettuces make.


Mange-tout golden sweet

But the are of the garden that most epitomises the feel it has, and why I love it, is Daisy Corner.

daisy corner

Originally dominated by an enormous Olearia macrodonta, or ‘Daisy Bush’, removing it has brought in so much light and increased the sense of space dramatically. I was really enthused by the idea of a Daisy Bush when we first arrived. It is a plant with an RHS Award of Garden Merit, and often recommended for coastal gardens because it is tolerant of wind and salt, the tough slightly serrated bluey-green leaves provide excellent evergreen screening, and in summer they are covered in a mass of small daisy-like flowers loved by insects of all kinds. What’s not to love? Well, what they don’t tell you is that the seedheads that follow the flowers last for months. As in July to March and, for all I know, beyond. And they look really messy, and if you are daft enough to go anywhere near the plant, they leap off and cover you, hair, clothes, shoes. Add in that although they tolerate partial shade ours was planted in a north facing bed right under the shade of three sycamores and you have a recipe for a trunk that leans out into the garden desperately seeking light. It had to go. The daisies are now to be found in the wildflower lawn we are experimenting with, along with some violas I moved from elsewhere.

wildflower lawn




I plan to add crocus and fritillaries, yellow rattle and ladies smock in due course, it is a damp area, but even as it is it makes me smile.

The daisy border itself has a backbone of white rosa rugosa, hebe, bamboo, sweet box and a rather pretty fuchsia I saved from the front garden, all of which is too small to be worth a photograph as yet. At the front I indulged myself and bought white ragged robin and geum rivale, which hopefully next year, with purple cow parsley and possibly some white astrantia will be really pretty, but at the moment only the geum is doing its thing. I love it.

geum rivale

geum rivale

However the area that works best does so by pure serendipity. Where I have re-shaped the bed under the purple beech there is a mass of Saxifraga x urbium otherwise known as ‘London Pride’. It isn’t a plant I know, in fact I mistook it for a sedum, and I certainly hadn’t ever seen it flower. I had already planted a persicaria in there, to help screen the utility area behind, but then I found a lovely Dicentra spectabilis at a local hardware store and with fil’s encouragement popped it in the trolley. They work beautifully together, and I am going to have to think carefully about what I put under the beech to complement them.

london pride

Saxifraga x urbium

dicentra spectabilis

Perhaps some of the pretty lamium maculatum I have inherited?

lamium maculatum

lamium maculatum flowers

What happy accidents in your garden are making you smile at the moment?

63 thoughts on “Tulips, daisies and a comfy pair of jeans

  1. Black elder is certainly a tough cookie and I too love hawthorn blossom – we have a tree on the plot that I trained from a bird planted seedling. And as for hazel pea sticks we are using hazels prunings for that very thing

    1. Hi Sue, I thought I had kept enough of the many, many prunings to support everything I was going to grow, but no, so instead I have bamboo and netting! Hazel will be so much better. I am thrilled at how well the elder is doing, it obviously hadn’t been pruned for years and was enormously tall but very bare at the base.

      1. Not necessarily years – it does grow really quickly. Can you believe that I first saw it a Gardeners’ World live being used as an edging/bedding foliage plant!

  2. Great post Janet, it’s interesting to see how the back garden is developing. I will look out for that mangetout, for its flowers alone. Geum remains one of my favourites. Mostly they are going over here now, but I’ll clip off the flower stems and hopefully get a second flush.
    London Pride is working well here too.. I never used to like it, but it is spreading freely between taller perennials in the borders, providing ground cover and softening the whole effect. It has won a reprieve!

    1. Hi Jessica, I got the mange-tout seeds from Real Seeds, I hope they are as tasty as described, the flowers are certainly lovely. Mind you, yellow pods at the same time as pink flowers could be a little interesting… I really must remember to trim off the flowering stalks of the geums to keep them going. I had some beauties in my last garden but they were hard to get to and so left to their own devices – which meant they didn’t flower for long at all!

  3. Hi Janet, It’s great to catch up with your back garden. A private garden area is indeed a whole different ‘beast’ to the part you share with the passing world. Here I’ve kept the front relatively formal, with just two narrow borders separating the path and rectangular lawn, while our back garden is host to most of my plant-love!
    Geum rivale is a fine plant isn’t it? I love the way it hangs those pretty flowers so shyly that you have to seek them out to really see their splendour. The hairs on the stems look fabulous backlit by the evening sun too!
    I had to chuckle at the tulip and narcissus swap!
    It’s all coming on really nicely, what a lovely area to relax (and forage) in.
    Sara x

    1. Hi Sara, I thought you might smile at reading that I had succumbed and bought the geum rather than waiting to grow it from seed! The back garden is currently a bit of an obstacle course because we have the kayaks there on the grass, as well as the hammock stand. Must move the viburnum to make space for the kayaks down the side of the garage, but I am reluctant to move a large plant when it is so hot and dry. Regardless, I still love it, very relaxed, and although most of my plant love will be expressed out the front, there is still plenty of room for treasures like the geum here.

  4. Hi Janet,

    My reply is short as I lost my original long and rambling reply! Probably a good thing actually because it didn’t half go on a bit :)

    Your back is looking lovely and full, and nice to see you have Daisies in your lawn. I’ve been photographing mine after I thought I lost them last year. The clover is beginning to bloom too but I’ll have to mow it this year because people won’t want to look around the house and see an unkempt lawn… Kills me though, because the Bees love them so much!

    Good luck with your little bit of flowering lawn. I’d definitely add clover to the rest of the garden. It’s lovely and lush to walk on and as already mentioned, Bees love it. Plus it’s beautiful! <3

    1. Oh, shame, I enjoy your long and rambly replies! I’m with you on clover, it is lush in every sense. Also buttercups. I have the latter near the vege patch and am hoping it will gently migrate, otherwise I will give it a helping hand. I have clover in the front garden which I am going to have to move from there as it is in the way of the Great Works, so more chunks to dig out of the unmown area so that I can inset chunks of it there. Still not as many pollinators around as I would like, but the comfrey is about to flower so I have hopes!

  5. Hi Janet, a lovely post about your back garden and good to see its progress and how it is looking lately. So far so good!

    That Geum is lovely and so is the Lamium with its variegated leaves and purples. Happy accidents, several and love ’em as they’re one of the perks of gardening :)

    1. Hi guys, I agree, one of the perks of gardening indeed. I think I spotted some poppies popping up in the front garden where I disturbed the ground, can’t wait to see what they are like…

  6. Thank you for taking us all on a walk through your back garden. I agree that it is a different environment that affords a whole different form of relaxation. It is a truly lovely space and I really enjoyed seeing your progress.

  7. Nice to see your back garden for a change – it looks as if it is coming along nicely. I love happy accidents in the garden – mine is a pale pink flowered geranium with pale pink aquilegias towering above it – quite delightful.

    1. Hi Elaine, aquilegias are good at providing accidents, happy and otherwise, thanks to their “habits” – glad yours is a happy one, I got a yellow leaved pale frilly pink flowered monstrosity of an aquilegia growing next to a bright orange geum in my last garden. Not so happy…

  8. Janet your back garden has changed a lot since you last posted about it, the veg beds look full and lush and some lovely foliage and flowers, lots of promise and potential, I love both the black elder and acer foliage so beautiful, I can well imagine how much nicer it is to just pop out to the garden rather than a trip to the allotment, enjoy, Frances

    1. HI Frances, it’s funny, I haven’t really noticed how much the back garden has changed because it has all been so gradual. I do really enjoy it though, particularly now that plants are beginning to fill out and there is less bare soil around.

  9. You have certainly been busy, your back garden has come on amazingly since we last saw it. I like your little meadow, I’m sure it will get better and better each year. We quite often leave part of our lawn uncut, just to see what will pop up, we’re never disappointed. The colour of your geum is lovely, must find one for my sunset border!

    1. Hi Pauline, I am looking forward to seeing what the mini meadow throws up in the future, though I will definitely need some yellow rattle to help stop the stronger grasses taking over completely.

  10. Janet I am in love with your back gardens. They have come along splendidly…those veg beds are amazing and that wild lawn is a fab idea…it gives me an idea for my damp back lawn…Ia m not familiar with Saxifraga x urbium but it is lovely. Looking forward to more updates…wow!

    1. Hi Donna, thnak you, I love it too. The London Pride was a real eye-opener when it flowered, I already like the foliage, but the haze of pinky-white flowers on wiry stems is delightful. Look forward to seeing what you do with your damp grassy area, we can swap notes!

  11. I loved looking at your back garden. I agree, it is often worth leaving a ‘surprise’ combination of flowers for a while to see if it works. Sometimes it can start new ideas in the garden. The Hawthorn and Ramsons really bring in the wild countryside in spring to a garden and your wildflower lawn should look gorgeous with the Daisies and other flowers you’re selecting for it. I love the Geum, too.

    1. Hi Wendy, I am going to have to prune the hawthorn a little to stop it attacking us as we make the trip to the compost bins, but it is lovely to have a mature one in the garden, however awkwardly placed! But yes, that is exactly the idea, the wildness of the plants in the park over the fence “leaking” in to that area of the garden, linking the two. I say that now, ask me when the wild garlic is popping up all over the place and strangling the less vigorous plants…

  12. What a good long catch-up with where things are going in your garden – lots of promise and of course things will start to gel together all the more as the season progresses. Those tulips would be lovely wherever they were! I had to smile at your black bamboo as I have just got rid of one that had never thrived, I had nowhere to put it any longer, but it wasn’t cheap when I got it so I didn’t want to throw it away – fortunately I found someone happy to give it a home! That’s a brighter Geum rivale than the ‘Leonard’s Variety’ I have, but I have a white one as well – they seem to flower forever (and G. LV seeds itself about) so I will look out for your variety too.

    1. Hi Cathy, I agree about the tulips, they are one of my favourites, and always look amazing. Its funny about the bamboo. I know they take a long time to establish when small, its why they always recommend you buy the biggest specimen you can afford, larger plants seem to do better for some reason, but this one really just didn’t want to do anything. I think I would have been patient if I still liked the look of it, but the border started off in another direction. I had to smile at your geum comment, as mine is ‘Leonard’s Vaiety’ too… I really must amend the post to include the full name…

      1. How odd about the G rivale – mine is definitely paler than yours. I wonder if it has cross-pollinated with the white one ….?

  13. I really enjoyed reading this post and looking at the photos early this morning whilst drinking a cup of tea.
    It’s the daisies that took my eye and made me smile as my mum loved them in the lawn.
    Happy gardening! xx

    1. Hi Flighty, I hope it was a large mug! I just don’t seem to be capable of short posts!! The daisies make me smile too, as do the buttercups now emerging. Mind you, some of that is a wicked smile at the thought of how horrified my Dad would be!

  14. So much has happened in the back garden since you last posted. I don’t really have a front and back space but I want to create some more private spaces within the garden. Happy accidents are aminly on the slope where interesting combinations happen all the time. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, with the free-draining soil in the front garden I think I am going to experience lots of accidents, happy and otherwise, I never got things self seeding like this in my previous garden, it is a whole new experience. Hopefully at least some of the end effects will be as good as your slope. I imagine you have lots of scope for creating more private areas by using taller plants? I look forward to seeing what you do.

  15. No matter where you garden, Janet, there’s sure to be plenty of magic and lots of great advice! And truly, the Bleeding Hearts with the “London’s Pride” are spectacular! This would be a great post to link in to the “Lessons Learned” meme.

    1. What a lovely thing to say, thank you! Will check out the “Lessons learned” meme.

  16. We promised to buy ourselves a pair of kayaks when we moved to the coast – and still haven’t. We really should – especially as we had a seal visit Seaford recently; this was so unusual it made the local TV news. I’m afraid my hands are rarely even approximately clean and my face pretty grubby too (and quite often streaked with blood – thanks to a stray bramble or rose). An interesting look. Dave

    1. You absolutely have to get that pair of kayaks, if for no other reason than you will escape the brambles! So much less hassle than taking out a sailing dinghy, which always used to be my favourite way to enjoy the sea. A quick bob around, a gentle bit of paddling, hey, the spray might even wash some of the mud off for you!

  17. Loads of great stuff going on in your back garden Janet, all you need now is a feature plant of Pieris Forest Flame. I wonder if cuttings would take, I could send a couple on to you, or***maybe not.

    1. You are the very soul of generosity! I’d ask you to send some of spotted laurel too but I still get loads of seedlings popping up so no need!!

  18. Truly envious of your back garden space Janet as most of ours is to the front and the side. Would love to have that comforting blanket of somewhere to potter and not be on show and not be in hearing distance of a busy main road. Oh well there’s always the next garden. Your post has given me a gentle nudge to look for a replacement ‘London’s Pride’ which went awol a few years ago. It is such a dainty plant with exquisite flowers. It must be brilliant to have your veggie patch close to hand – allotments don’t make for night time mollusc patrols in quite the same way. Love the bean flowers :)

    1. Hi Anna, I fear you over estimate my dedication to the veg patch, I somehow never quite get around to nighttime mollusc hunts, so it is just as well the blackbirds are so active! Apologies for inducing garden-envy, hopefully the ‘London Pride’ nudge makes up for it…

  19. It won’t be long until your black elder becomes the main attraction in that border. Astrantia is a lovely plant to grow beside it too. I’ve let mine take on a single trunk.

    I prefer my backgarden anyday … just me and nature and nature accepts me no matter how I look :)

    1. Hi Rosie, you’re right, and I can’t wait for the mass of elder foliage to fill the space there, it should tell me what else to plant in the border too, though I think a cerise achillea will be going in, the contrast should be quite something. As to back gardens over front, I was reminded of the downside of having so much front garden the other day when I was on hands and knees weeding out the front. On a weekend. A sunny weekend, with lots of holidaymakers, meaning I was verging on paranoid about ensuring nothing was being bared that I minded about as I leant over…

  20. Hi Janet, having not been long in the blogsphere, I didn’t know you had a back garden. I like the way it is just green and natural and semi-structured with the beds, also private as well. Those tulips are to die for and I have noted them on my list.

    As for happy accidents here, I stuffed in a bargain bag of iris sibirica last autumn without much thought and they have come out in stunning shades of blue although not in quite the right position (and today being battered by the wind).

    1. Hi Claire, thank you, I do like the relaxed feel to it. Iris sibirica is a real favourite of mine, and one I aim to add to a damp corner in the back. I had it in my pond in my previous garden and adore it. I’m sure you will find the perfect home for yours.

  21. Your garden is really filling in–I’m amazed at how much you have accomplished since moving here, Janet! The ‘Havran’ tulips are lovely, and although I know they don’t quite fit your image of this area, they certainly are a beautiful surprise. I’ve had lots of surprises like that, mixing up bulbs or seeds:)

    You must love being able to just pop out the door and pick vegetables and herbs whenever you want. I once had a vegetable garden in a lot across town, and it was very easy to forget about it when I couldn’t see it…or the weeds:)

    You’ve also made me appreciate being out in the country–I don’t have to worry about what the neighbors must think of my sloppy gardening clothes!

    1. Hi Rose, I was lucky enough to be able to bring some plants with me from my previous garden and I have grown a lot from seed too, so it has really helped fill the gaps – it is wonderful to see everything finally put on a growth spurt after the horridly cold Spring.

      I do indeed love being able to just nip out the back door to collect things to eat and cook with! I do envy you not having to bother about neighbours and what they can see, I look forward to when the screening in our back garden is such that I can nip out in my pjs without fear of being caught!!

  22. hello Janet, I thought I’d post my yellow rattle comment on your blog too incase you don’t go back to old comments, wish I could use that comment reply thing, anyway ……..
    yellow rattle is tricky as it has to be sown on the surface and not covered, it needs to be sown in the autumn as it needs a cold spell, I tried some in the fridge, even one lot in the freezer compartment made no difference, do NOT get seed from landlife wildflower seeds as that is where I was getting the seed that never germinated, the ones that did germinate came from Scotia seeds, it’s better if you scratch at some areas of grass to revel the soil as the seed needs contact, you might be able to buy plugs, I couldn’t find a nursery that would send to the islands but they might to where you are,
    good luck, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, I do follow comments too, but thank you for making sure I got this – I did try sowing some in the Spring, wondering if it was cold enough to break dormancy, but no joy, so thank you for confirming what I thought I needed to do – and for telling me where not to go for my seed! I could buy plugs but they are relatively expensive and I’d rather grow my own and have loads I can try to get to do their thing in the meadowish patch.

      1. Janet another thing is that apparently yellow rattle seed doesn’t keep long (or so I’ve read) so old seed might not germinate, you have my e mail from this post so if you like e mail me your address and I can send you some seed when mine produce it, I’d be happy to do that and you will know it is this years,

        bindweed in the park, can you put a barrier down into the soil along your perimiter fence to help with roots coming through, I have done that a little bit along one of mine to stop the tough grass, I’d like to do more, I resisted for a long time but have used glysophate in the past, it is difficult on horse tail as they have a waxy coating that shrugs it off, you can see I have read up on it a lot, know thine enemy, bindweed yes it does have lovely flowers but I also think climbers are harder, you have a tough job, but at least it’s not Kudzu! ever since I found out about this invasive vine in the south east USA, which aparently it can grow as much as a foot a day!! I am greatful I only have tough grass, horsetail and a few other weeds to contend with, take a look:
        have a lovely Sunday, Frances
        p.s. you needn’t publish this you can delete after reading

  23. Your acer is so pretty, and I am quite jealous of that black elder! What a gorgeous plant, and such a fashion statement in your garden! The London’s Pride is adorable. It looks fantastic with the bleeding heart, too. I loved hearing you describe the back garden. I could hear the love you have for it.

    1. I was so lucky to inherit the acer and elder, both are magnificent plants and obviously really love it here. I am glad my love for the garden came through, it may not be a show garden but I get so much pleasure from it.

  24. what a thoroughly enjoyable tour of your back garden Janet – so well laid out into very diverse sections. The wildflower meadow part is charming and loved the surprise tulips, even for colour alone.
    p.s. must get some London Pride!

    pps ‘the best laid plants’ would make a brilliant blog!

    1. Hi Laura, goodness, can’t believe I have taken this long to respond to your comment – and you are right, “The Best Laid Plants” would make an excellent blog title! Hope you get your hands on some London Pride, it flowered prolifically for weeks, and the seedheads are lovely too. Wonderful plant.

  25. The saxifragia is really pretty. I’ve never seen that cultivar here. I have a giant self seeded knautia in my sunny border that the pollinators and I really love. Your acer is incredible!

    1. I love knautia, such a bee magnet, I am hoping mine will self seed too. The ‘London Pride’ has been a revelation, such a beautiful little plant, and flowers for ages.

  26. I love your happy accidents. And your backyard is lovely with a wonderful kitchen garden. My happy accidents are the yarrow that has sprouted here and there in the perfect spots.

    1. Yarrow is a great plant for happy accidents, I am hoping for some from the ones I have planted in my front garden.

  27. I had to do a double take of the saxifrage. What a gorgeous little plant. I am so impressed with your new kitchen garden, it must be wonderful to have all that at your back step now. There’s nothing quite like going out to pick something fresh for dinner.

    1. Hi Marguerite, I do love the convenience, and so much easier to manage than when I used to have to walk up to the allotment, even though I have less space here. The saxifrage was a major revelation, a lovely little plant, in flower and out.

  28. I’ve loved reading this tour of your back garden, Janet. You certainly have some beautiful shrubs and flowers – I particularly love the sambucca and the astrantia, absolutely gorgeous!! Just realised that we haven’t heard from you in a while so hope that you are well and absence is due to being busy (I know what that’s like!!). No pressure to post but would love to know that all is well!! Caro xx

    1. Hi Caro, yes, I have been awol thanks to getting a new kitchen fitted, starting to try to regain control of my life again!! That sambucus is even more amazing now, such luscious dark foliage, but the poor astrantia is not enjoying the dry conditions at all.

Comments are closed.

Back To Top