It’s that time of the month again(!), time to take a long hard look at my front garden, linking in to the EOMV meme over at Patient Gardener.

front garden on a grey day

It was sunny earlier on today, but of course by the time I got around to taking photos the clouds had returned, so everything looks even more buff coloured and subdued than it would anyway. I don’t mind it, actually, there is still plenty that is making me happy. The colour on Hakonechloa macra for instance.

hakonechloa macra

Some self-seeded pansies brightening up the base of one of the twisted willows.

self-seeded pansies

The first – rather battered – flower on the Christmas Rose.

first hellebore flower

Next year’s bluebells making their presence known.

next year's bluebells

But it is two important structural changes and another in the making that have me doing my happy dance. The first change is that after years of severe plant lust, I finally have my very own Amelanchier lamarkii.

amelanchier amarckii

I was thrilled to discover that Burncoose Nurseries sold bare rooted Amelanchiers, not trained as standards either, which even with the delivery charge suddenly made it affordable. I had to take full advantage of the postage of course, not to mention the 10% voucher I had from the last time I bought from them, so I also have a lovely pale yellow hellebore and a Teucrium fruticans to look forward to planting in due course. The hellebore will go in the spring corner of the fence border, and the Teucrium will get planted alongside the hydrangeas in the wall border. Depending on how I get on with it, and how it gets on with my garden, I am thinking about taking cuttings and gradually growing a hedge of it to finish off the wall border. Christina assures me that I can prune it to keep it within bounds, and I dearly want to soften the wall without losing the view of the bay from the lounge.

You might argue that a tree isn’t really a structural change, but to me it is part of the “furniture” of the garden, something that I will happily wait patiently for until it grows into a proper tree but which will be in place for many, many years. Similarly the “change to come” is another tree, also coming to me bare rooted.


I have been wanting to add to the plants that will eventually screen us from the house opposite – the baby hedgelet of escallonia, the ceanothus, pittosporum, black elder and tamarisk will all (eventually) provide us with excellent privacy from the road and the lower floor of the house, but I wanted something to break up the huge slab of the building. Helen at Patient Gardener posted about Sorbus vilmorinii last month and I was entranced by the pale pink berries and slightly silvery tinge to the leaves. I had already decided on a rowan, I like the folklore that says it protects from malignant beings, the fact that it provides food for the birds, and somehow it is quite a welsh tree too, though of course I have now gone and picked a Chinese one! But at least it should cope with the exposed conditions rather better than an acer, say, and grow a lot faster too. The cane marks the spot where it is going to go, where it will provide good screening for us when we are sat at the dining table without nicking the view from either the landing or the front porch. I though it would take us ages to find the right position for the cane, but we actually got it right first time. Some might suggest I had been obsessing about this for a while and had already worked it out. I couldn’t possibly comment.

The final change is why I can empty this out and use it for something else:

basket of tools

This time last year I was trying to admire the coloured stems of the twisted willows and getting a little distracted by the fence behind.

willow against red fence

Vile. And so began my quest for a black fence. Which started with my painting the existing fence. The salt winds scoured the paint from the boards. I tried masonry paint. The fence blew down. Which was actually brilliant because it was what made us realize what an amazing view we actually had! And so began the process of rebuilding the fence. And I have finished! And goodness do the willows look better for it. Actually, everything looks better for it, and I can’t believe how much difference just finishing the last section today has made.

finished fence

plants against black fence

willows against black fence


Of course, there is till the rest to do. The bit at the bottom. Where the wall that the parish council and the county council keep arguing about who is responsible for maintaining while it falls down…

the next challenge

That’s it for this month. Thanks again to Helen for hosting, and do check out the links in the comments on her blog and have a nose around lots of other gardens. I shall leave you with images of the flowers that refuse to recognise that it is almost Christmas and the buds that promise so much in the months to come.

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51 thoughts on “End of Month View November 2013

  1. congratulations Janet on finishing the fence it is a nice feeling when a long project comes to an end finally and when it makes such a welcome difference even better, for the time of year the border is looking good, I’m amazed your bluebells are showing this early and with buds too, mine never show ’till March/April, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, it is indeed a good feeling to finally actually finish something, I often feel I am constantly surrounded by a sea of “in progress” projects with a queue of new ones waiting to get a look-in! I do tend to get excited by the new…

  2. That is a smart looking fence! I like the color and the horizontal nature of it. I am not sure how many seasons my wooden fence has left, it is almost 20 years old, and I have been toying with something similar to what you have done as a replacement. I just want to make sure the boards won’t be a ladder for the more clever of my dogs.

    1. Hi Les, I can’t answer for your dogs, but I have yet to see the local cats scale it if that is any help! I left extra space between the boards to allow the wind to filter through, if you don’t get bad wind you could just leave the more traditional single board width gap either side which would make construction easier. Though to be fair, it is very easy anyway, and much stronger than using most fence panels or even featherboard.

  3. I remember when you posteed about the fence and Willows last year. I actually liked the red fence, but the black looks good, too. Mainly, the shape of the Willow branches is fascinating!

    1. I remember you liking the red! I think the plants stand out far better against the black, and I find it less visually distracting too. Mostly, though, I just love those willows!

  4. It’s lovely to finally acquire a plant you’ve been dreaming about for a long time, isn’t it? Mine is Corylus contorta, and I may finally be getting one for Christmas. But those tortured willows are amazing, too. Your black fence makes a huge difference (a good one), not just because of the colour, but the more open structure. The close-ups from your flickr page are just exquisite.

    1. Hi Lyn, there is nothing quite like finally ticking of a plant on your wishlist is there! I am sure you will enjoy your contorted hazel, is it a plain green one or the purple form? I found the purple form had more satisfying leaves. Glad you enjoyed the photos! The hope is that the more open structure to the fence should mean that it stands up better to the wind and provides better shelter to the garden, filtering rather than blocking.

  5. Excellent fence, Janet. Very impressed – I may have some work for you. Pop round would you? Oh and please post video of your happy dance. Ta. Dave

  6. As everyone says that’s a good looking fence. It’ll be good to see the willows, and indeed everything else, next summer.
    It’s always good to see pansies at this time of year providing some cheerfulness. xx

    1. Hi Flighty, thank you, it seems a bit mad to get so excited about a fence, but it has made a huge difference. I love pansies and violas, the give these little bursts of jewel-like beauty when everything tends to be a little grey.

  7. yeah to the Amelanchier, I have one and it is so pretty in the spring. I am currently coveting a Sorbus Joseph Rock but I’m not sure I really have any more room? I love your new fence what did you stain/paint it with. I stained mine dark brown last spring to help show plants up but it had already faded a lot
    Thanks for being such a supporter of this meme

    1. Bah! Hit the wrong reply bit and this went in the wrong place…

      I figured you would approve!! Its tough finding room for trees isn’t it, and there are so very many beautiful ones. As for the fence stain, the garden side is mostly black masonry paint because I had started using it on the posts before the panels blew down, but the other side is ronseal one coat fencelife, which so far seems to be coping with the salt winds really well. Such a pain when it starts to fade so quickly, because lets face it, it is not a fun job.

      As for the meme, it is wonderful, still my favourite one, so thank you for keeping it going.

  8. The fence is looking great, I love the lighter structure as a back drop to the plants as well as the colour. Is the ladybird in the slideshow on witch hazel? What a fantastic lot of buds! I am off to find a Christmas Rose this week.. anything that flowers now is a treasure.

    1. Thanks Jessica, weird, I could have sworn I replied to your comment last night, and there wasn’t even any alcohol involved in my evening! Anyhow, as I thought I had said, thank you, and yes, well spotted, the ladybird was indeed settled happily in the midst of a cluster of witch hazel buds. If they all flower it is going to look amazing. I can thoroughly recommend the Christmas Rose, I put it on my wishlist after seeing it on lots of blogs and loving how early it flowered and how pure white those flowers are – though they do do that annoying downward facing thing common to most hellebores.

  9. Strand as this may sound but we do like your fences a lot! Sets off the plants before it very well and looks contemporary too! Getting the fences blown away turned out to be a blessing in disguise!

    1. Not strange at all ;-) And you are absolutely correct, it was a huge blessing that the fence blew down when it did.

  10. You may be pleased to know how easily I could pick out your front garden on Google! The completed fence looks great and how well it sets off the twisted hazels. I too am amazed at your bluebells and the fact that you have open flowers on your Christmas rose…. Well done on getting your amelanchier and other bits and bobs – these special offers have a lot to answer for, and it would be silly not to make the postage worthwhile by ordering other things!

    1. Hi Cathy, and soon you will see it in the flesh, so to speak! I seem to remember the bluebells appearing around this time last year too, so I suppose it is normal for around here. No idea about the hellebore, I bought them in January and they had loads of flowers then, and I know they flower early, so again, maybe not so surprising. It is strange, I feel so settled here, but at the same time I am still learning about the climate and how gardening works here.

  11. I really do like your new fence Janet! Very smart, and shows the plants off beautifully. Glad you got your Amelanchier tree too. Lovely post!

    1. Thanks Cathy, we are very happy to have it done, and are delighted with how it smartens up the garden and sets off the plants. I like to think the neighbors are happy too, having something a little more attractive to stare at with small glimpses of plants too. Am very excited about watching the amelanchier grow into a large plant…

  12. Amazed to see how much colour your Hakonechloa macra is still displaying. Mine looks like straw! Must check on the state of my bluebells in the morning. So pleased that you decided to plant an amelanchier and look forward to seeing its spring colours. Black fence = touch of genius Janet :)

    1. Hi Anna, it is still so mild here that the marigolds are all still flowering their little socks off and the nasturtiums are threatening to take over the entire garden, so I suppose it isn’t surprising that the hakonechloa is still coloured nicely. Genius?! Perhaps not, but I am so delighted with how it has turned out, it isn’t often that I conceive of something in my mind’s eye and it looks exactly like I thought it would when made tangible.

  13. Your new fence is the perfect backdrop for you colorful willows! How convenient for the wind to blow the old one down! You have reminded me to search for my own first Christmas rose! Hopefully, they will be blooming soon.

    1. Hi Deb, it does make a wonderful foil for the plants, and yet somehow fades into the background too, just what I wanted it to do, I am so very happy the old one blew down, I still have to pinch myself at the wonderful view revealed. How anybody could fence themselves off from that is beyond belief.

  14. Thanks for the link, Janet, I’m sure you’ll love the Teucrium, it is such an easy plant. I’ll try to post some images of the pruned Teucrium and those that I more or less just allow to grow as they want, it is like having two different plants in the garden, mine are already in flower and will continue to do so for months. The fence looks fantastic and hopefully will give others the confidence to paint their fences black which seems extreme but really it does in the end fade into the background behind the plants rather than leeping forward as the bright false wood coloured ones do.

    1. Hi Christina, I’d love to see teucrium in both managed and unmanaged guises, that would be really interesting – and a good foliage follow up post?! I frequently intend to take careful photographs of various plants at different states and stages because it is so helpful when working if/how/where to use something, but of course I never quite get around to it. I’m really glad you like the fence, we are thrilled with it, and yes I hope it might inspire others. It sounds so shocking somehow, using black ona fence, but it is far less obtrusive.

  15. The fence looks great and I do love Twisted Willows. We have a large one here that we planted many years ago, although recently it hasn’t looked as healthy as it should. I am amazed that your bluebells are so far forward, I was walking in the woods yesterday and there is no sign of them at all here. And it’s lovely seeing a flower on your Christmas Rose – again mine are very far behind.
    I’d like to plant a Rowan here, too. I like the idea of the berries for wildlife and for Rowan Jelly (and the tree for protection!)

    1. Hi Wendy, thank you, I am chuffed with how it has turned out. I think you are the first person I have coem across who has twisted willow! Do you prune it at all to get the brighter coloured young growth? Mne haven’t put on as much growth as I was expecting since I moved them so I think I will leave them be another year to allow them to establish well. They are a wonderful plant, I find the leaves so much prettier than the contorted hazel, which somehow always looks a little deformed when in leaf. It is only the one clump of bluebells so far, but there again they have suffered a lot of disruption because I have done so much work in that border. I’m sure you can find room for a rowan or two, go on, you know it makes sense…

      1. Hi Janet – Our twisted willow was one of the first things we planted here – so we’ve had it a while and not really done much to it over the years. So I wouldn’t really like to advise on its care, but I would have thought pruning it in winter would encourage the younger (and brighter) growth.

  16. What a difference the fence makes as background contrast – the slats let wind through and enable passers by a glimpse! Rather annoying to be caught between 2 posts re who is responsible for your garden wall. Yes trees are definitely structure – I thought of you when reading up on the white winter flowering cherry Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ – it’s suitable for the aspect you have ‘caned’ but unlike Rowan does not protect against evil spirits. There are some good winter pinks too
    p.s. the ladybug looks snug in the bud

    1. Hi Laura. The wall business is really irritating, the poor thing will be so much harder to repair because of the neglect, it will probaly wind up being replaced with blockwork in the end, I douby anyone will be willing to pay for the skilled labour required to repair it properly.

      I have thought about winter cherry, although Liz (Gwirrel) has not been entirely happy with hers, and I think it would grow too large for the places I have available. As for your other attempt at temptation, you are a cruel woman. I have thought about a daphne, but it will have to wait until I have created more borders. Plus there is the issue of my own sense of smell, which is appalling, particularly at this time of year! Not getting a whiff from the witch hazel I can forgive myself for as it can be elusive, but the viburnum?!

  17. That certainly is a super looking fence, so modern and streamlined, showing your plants off to perfection. Hope you or they, find someone to restore the wall properly, it would make such a difference.
    Could your bluebells possibly be hyacinths, my bluebell leaves are not showing yet but the hyacinths are?
    I can feel your enthusiasm when you talk about a tree for your garden, amelanchier is my favourite small tree, yours will soon grow to be beautiful!

    1. Hi Pauline, I totally agree about the wall, so sad to watch it falling apart. As to hyacinths vs bluebells, I’m not aware of there being any hyacinths, could they have skipped a year and decided to show after all? But I seem to remember the bluebells showing very early on in winter last year too, in fact I was aware of a background sense of something missing with them NOT being visible! Watch this space.

      Am very excited about my amelanchier…

  18. I love the fence. It’s funny but I wouldn’t have thought about using black but it works so well. I noticed when we painted our fences how the plants shouldn’t stood out so much more than the plain wood background. Amelanchiers are one of my favourite trees. There’s no space for one here but I’m hoping maybe in the future or sorbus too are stunners. I collected some berries from a sorbus in a neighbour’s garden a few years ago and salvaged the seed. I now have a baby tree about 2ft tall. I’m hoping if we can afford a bigger garden when we move that I’ll be able to find a home for it.

    1. Thank you! It was Diarmuid Gavinthat gave me the idea – he did it on a tv programme donkey’s years ago and I never forgot how it made the plants stand out so beautifully. I stained our previous fence dark brown because it seemed to go better with the dark wood windows and doors of the house, but I secretly always regretted not trying the black, so this was too good an opportunity to miss!

      How wonderful to have a baby home grown sorbus, I really hope you find you find an affordable house with a garden large enough to give it a home, plus some friends, a garden free from the overhead wires that are the bane of my tree-loving life!

    1. Yep, that’s about the size of it! At least the progress is visible now.

  19. I love your black fence. It shows plants off beautifully. Amelanchier is a great choice because you get the lovely blossoms and then fabulous autumn colour. Mind you, if I could only have one tree in the garden it would have to be Prunus x subhirtella autumnalis. But then how do you live without a Sorbus or a Malus? And what about a gleaming white Birch?


    1. Hi Chloris, thanks for dropping by and commenting. Choosing trees when you have so little room is invidious. I have a cunning plan that may see me able to add Prunus x subhirtella autumnalis after all, if I can persuade myself that it won’t wind up obscuring too much of the view. I desperately miss my mini grove of birches – jacquemontii – and they would look fabulous against that fence, but overhead wires and proximity to house make that a bad idea. Have traded the malus for plum trees in the back garden, lured by all that juicy fruit…

  20. Hoorah, you must be so pleased! The fence looks lovely, making a striking backdrop for your fledgling plant collections. Exciting to plant such lovely trees that will bring you pleasure in the years to come as well as providing screening. I love that opportunistic ladybird too…

    1. Hi Sara, I am indeed, delighted in fact, not least that it is finally finished! Apart from the extra run at the end, which I am carefully not thinking about at the moment… I do love planting trees, and am happy to have worked out how to squeeze some in, because with all the overhead wires it isn’t as easy as it could be. And I may have worked out where I can squeeze another in too. The ladybird was a lovely find, looked so snug there in amongst the buds, which are so fat the have to break out any day, or so I keep thinking. Maybe this year I will manage to get a whiff of scent too.

  21. Janet I really like the structure in the front as it is developing and I love the black fence with the willows…you have done so much in transforming this garden.

    1. Hi Donna, thank you, I’m so glad you like it! I sometimes get impatient with the slow rate of progress, but at heart I know this is a good thing, giving time for evolution of ideas, for my sense of this place to deepen and expand.

  22. I love the colour in those twisted willow stems! These plants are growing at Capel but are quite mature so I haven’t seen the lovely colours before – gorgeous! Well done for finally getting an Amelanchier – it’s such a popular tree but I hadn’t appreciated the cost of them was high; Camden council have just planted half a dozen along a little cul de sac near me – should look lovely as they reach maturity, especially with the autumn colour! I’m sure that Teucrium is the plant that Jekka McVicar said she uses in place of box to create her herb parterres (I went to one of her herb workshops quite a while ago) so will make a good hedge. I love these end of month views of your garden and will look forward to seeing how the garden grows over the months ahead! You have such lovely ideas for your little patch!

    1. Hi Caro, I love the willows too, I have to look in to the best way to prune them to keep the fresh colour going as they mature, at the moment I am assuming that if I cut back one in three of the main stems each spring that should keep a good balance between maintaining height and gaining fresh colour. Great tip about using teucrium instead of box, it follows what Christina has told me about how well they take pruning, I am getting quite excited! I love the sound of a road lined with amelanchiers, should be stunning in spring and again in autumn. Thanks for your comments, you are always so encouraging, I really appreciate it!

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