It’s all very well, me deciding to redress the balance and give the back garden some attention, but it means I haven’t been blogging about the front garden at all. This seems very wrong as there are bits of it that I am really delighted with. Way back when I first started to think about what I wanted to do with the front garden I decided that I wanted the corner nearest the house, that you can see from where we sit to eat, to have mainly spring interest, and for the focus to then cascade down the garden over the course of the year until the very front would have lots of late summer colour. Here’s the view from the window on 24th April of this year.

View from the window 24th April

Not perfect, by any means, I lost a few plants over the winter, and the epimediums upped and died earlier than that (although I have seen small signs of growth from the remnants recently). But it was doing what I wanted it to, giving me a dose of Spring from the dining room table. The added bonus of the flowers on the Euphrobia myrsinites convinced me that it was a good thing that I had sown lots more from seed.

A week later, on 2nd May, it was really filling out.

spring corner 2nd May 2014

It is now at its best, though I still want to add another couple of the yellow aquilegia and I certainly need to remove some of the Spannish bluebells. This was the view from the window today, in a gap between the rain showers.

through the window 20th May 2014

I know I have planted everything too close together, but I just can’t bring myself to be sorry, this little patch that is so close to what I had in mind is helping me both enjoy Spring and to believe that eventually I will tame the rest of it.

I’ve been loving the sight of the Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ go from a small mound of purple foliage to a billowing mass of flowers, and I have really fallen for the subtle beauty of Tellima grandiflora. It goes beautifully with Aquilegia chrysantha, and I plan to add some more now that I can see which aquilegia is which. That is definitely the last time I make my own plant labels from milk bottles, the writing all faded away to nothing and I am left guessing. Or waiting.

tellima with aquilegia

tellima grandiflora

antrhiscus sylvestris ravenswing

The next section of border is bulking up nicely, and there should be plenty of material on the purple sedums for me to attempt leaf cuttings.

the next act

I’m sure over time I will manage to cram in more spring interest further down the border, and likewise add later season interest up closer to the house, but I do rather like the changing focus, and am trying to replicate it on the other side of the garden. The contrast between the fence border, planted up last year, and the wall border, which I only shaped a couple of weeks ago and am still adding to, is dramatic. Here are some views from upstairs.

late spring fence border

driveway end of wall border

wall border

I’ve begun to experiment with how to edge the borders so that I can keep the gravel from spilling in to them, but it will be Autumn before I stand a chance of starting to get rid of the grass. Still, definite signs of progress, and I find that more and more the feel of the garden starts to make me happy. I have no real idea where this feeling comes from, I spend hours thinking about plant combinations, colours, leaf shape, spacing, but in the end it all seems to come down to gut. I am groping my way towards something, and although I sometimes feel as if progress is almost unbearably slow, I am also really enjoying the journey.

Here are some of the plants currently making me smile, inlcuding the very pretty geranium I picked up at an NGS Open Garden on the Bank Holiday weekend.

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36 thoughts on “Burgeoning

  1. Janet, it is all looking so lovely. I think your planting is just right, close and full so that it form a wonderful tapestry – I hate to see plants like buns on a tray, with lots of bare earth around them.
    I will be interested to know what you are experimenting with to edge your borders to keep the gravel in check – we have tried all sorts !

    1. Thanks Jane, I hate bare soil too, not least because the wretched weeds move in, it is what I find hardest about sensible spacing of perennials when I plant them out! The buns comment made me laugh out loud, there is something of that look about the wall border at the moment…

      Edging – I am hoping to build a mini drystone wall, leaning gently back into the border supported on soil to encourage some self-seeding. The plan is that it will be just high enough to stop the gravel spilling onto the soil. This means dismantling the central bed, which I am itching to do as it is going to be much larger, but all that has to wait until I can lift at least some of the turf, and that has to wait until – well, you get the idea! In my last garden I used large pebbles set in a narrow band of mortar which worked really well, but I am hoping to avoid using mortar here.

    1. Hi Jessica, thank you, and do go for ‘ravenswing’, you won’t regret it! Plug plants work really well in my experience, plus it does grow really well from seed, which is what I did for the plants in the front garden. If you sowed them nowish they would be providing lots of beautiful frothiness next Spring…

      Thank you for the link to the labels, I like the idea of re-using the ones for plants I grow every year.

  2. Love the black fence – it sets everything off very nicely and who knew an open fence could still give a real sense of enclosure and Privacy?

    1. Hi VP, we’re delighted with the fence, and it does seem to filer the wind well which was the plan. I don’t even notice when people walk by, so it works better for privacy than I feared when we built it.

  3. I think it looks fabulous–especially along the fences and stone walls. I know what you mean about going with the gut. Most of my garden (at least the main structure of it) was planted before we got here, and some sections are simply natural woodland. But I do have a small cultivated plot near the house that is largely my creation. I’m more and more happy with it as the years go by because it reflects my choices and my personality. Your gardens are perfect–as Jane says, the plants form a lovely tapestry.

    1. Thank you Beth, it is always good to see something come together, isn’t it. I love your woodland, an that process of gradually making a space more and more your own is one of the things I really love about gardening. Its just all a little more dramatic here than I have experienced before because it was so over grown and full of things I didn’t like when we moved here!

  4. Ah, illegible plant labels – bane of my life. Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ seemed everywhere at Chelsea; aren’t you the fashionable one? A. chrysantha is a beauty though it doesn’t half spread itself about – the little monkey. It’s looking lovely, Janet. You must be very pleased. Dave

    1. I am immensely comforted to know I am not the only one to suffer from the plant label issue! Good to know I am a trend-setter, though in fairness I think the anthriscus has been a staple at Chelsea – and Malvern – for years. I love the way it can help to knit other plants together, and will be adding more as and when I manage to collect seed. And weed out the green seedlings… Most aquilegias seem to be a little thuggish, despite their demure appearance. Not to mention promiscuous. And thank you, yes, I am chuffed to bits with it at the moment!

  5. That view is lovely Janet, even the window itself is lovely!! Seriously though it looks great, the planting together with the slatted black fence :)

    1. Can’t beat a good bit of pvc for a window ;-) I do love the black fence though, wish I had done it in my previous garden but I chickened out when we painted it and couldn’t be bothered to wrestle with the plants years later when I had become more bold!

  6. I love the way you have included the view of the sea into the garden. The area by the window certainly fils the bill as to a great view from the window. In your view of the garden from upstairs the lawn is a curvy shape, please think of this as a question rather then a critism but have you thought about void space – maybe the lawn would give more cohesion if it were a defined shape. Alternatively, and maybe this is what it already feels like on the ground, the lawn becomes a wide grass path through the borders as you have a successful island bed this might work really well.

    1. Hi Christina, I never tire of that view. As to the lawn, you are right, it looks dreadful as it is, but I marked out the bed with the future in mind, which involves getting rid of the lawn – and therefore the mowing – altogether and replacing it with gravel. Likewise the central bed will be enlarged and made less formal, edged with large rocks rather than the deep wall as it is currently. All part of knitting the whole front garden back together again from when it was divided by the pond and raised brick planters. So for the moment it is very much a work in progress. I should have said in the post, the strange grass spur is where we plant to have steps and a path in to the garden from in front of the house. Its just such a messy in between stage, a little like growing out a fringe!

  7. I understand completely; in your head it is sort of already done (I do that) and then am surprised when others don’t immedieately understand. Sounds just right, which I should have known, knowing how you think think through. BTW I meant to say it is really easy to do leaf and stem cuttings from sedum (I got about 40 pieces of material from two stems. I wrote about it here: http://myhesperidesgarden.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/the-greenhouse/ and there is good information here: http://lodgelanenursery.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-to-propagate-sedums.html I did some last week and must do some more of the other varieties in the garden.

    1. I knew you would “get” it! It was Sue’s information I was going to use for the sedums, will check out your post too, thank you, I love it when such great plants are easily propagated, makes up for the rest. Waiting for enough new growth on the teucrium to take cuttings from that too, anthemis has proved really easy. On a roll!

  8. It looks lovely, Janet — I especially love the airy textures in the spring bed. It must look extra-mesmerizing when the wind blows.

    I’m always pleased when I see A. chrysantha growing anywhere, as it’s a southwestern US native. Just a little local pride — as if I had anything to do with it.

    1. Hello Stacy, how lovely to hear from you! You are absolutely right about the wind, there is this wonderful ripple effect, echoed in the stipa tenuissima in the central bed. Oh, and remember your lovely pale lemon crocuse I raved about? They work perfectly in my front garden, and I will be planting lots more in the Autumn, so thank you! Am glad to have given your local pride a boost ;-)

  9. Oh it’s knitting together so well Janet and the repeat planting certainly plays a major part in the process.
    I have a spare packet of Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Yellow Queen’ – a freebie with this week’s ‘Garden News’. Any use to you?

    1. Thank you for noticing the repeat planting Anna! I am trying so hard not to go all dotty, the temptation is considerable given that I am suddenly able to grow plants that need well drained soil in full sun. Its intoxicating! Thank you for the kind seed offer, but I have seed left over from when I sowed these, which I will be sowing again soon. Mind you, I fear I will spend the next X years pulling out seedlings of it anyway…

  10. It really is shaping up Janet, and It’s great to see the borders from above to give an idea of the shape of the garden overall. The wall border will fill up in no time. I know what you mean about gut feeling. I often think my plant choices are pure lucky, but I think subconsciously there is probably a plan!
    I really like the combination of purple foliage with yellow in your spring corner. And that aquilegia chrysantha is gorgeous. I will be hunting for one of them now!

    1. Hello Cathy, I realised from Christina’s comment that in the process of trying to keep it briefer I failed to explain the shaping and why it all looks very different in my head already, some of the shapes look rather odd at the moment because it is such a work in progress. It is a strange feeling planting up an area with half an eye on where the bed will finish in the future rather than just planting it for how it is now.

      Purple foliage is a bit of an obsession of mine, I’m always adding more, it works so beautifully with so many other foliage colours, from silvers through greens to the acid yellows of euphorbias. A. chrysantha grows really well from seed, if you sowed nowish you would have lots of plants come next spring.

  11. What a wonderful change in your border by the window, it looks quite mature! You have worked wonders with it and I’m not surprised you are pleased with it.
    Stipa gigantea is a wonderful wafty grass, it won’t block your view of the sea, as it blows in the breeze or wind, you will still be able to see through it, it’s my favourite grass!

    1. Hello Pauline, I am quite shocked at how mature it looks to be honest, but in a good way! I am now completely sold on the idea of planting Stipa gigantea in the front garden, but it will have to wait until the Autumn, when hopefully I will have managed to extend the central bed. Anything that dances in the wind is a winner for me, I love to see the movement.

  12. Oh Janet your garden looks stunning. Who cares about plants being a little close together. I think most of us are guilty of that when we have a vast amount of bare soil staring back at us and we are so desperate for the garden to look established. I think it all looks fabulous. A Twitter friend very generously sent me a chunk of Tellima recently which was a lovely thing to do and I can’t wait to see it flowering. Not sure if you’ve tried picking them but the Spanish bluebells make lovely cut flowers. I’ve seen them craftily being marketed as Cornish scilla. ;) Thanks for sharing the transformation of your garden. x

    1. Blimey Lou, thank you! You’ll love Tellima, even when it isn’t flowering, I wish I’d known about it years ago. Hey ho, I am always shocked at how very many wonderful plants there are out there that I have never come across. I’ve been meaning to pick some bluebells for a couple of weeks now, I just never quite manage to get round to it, but I think there are still some at a good stage, they do last ages. Cornish scilla?! I suppose that is one way to get past the prejudice against them!

  13. Surely it’s better to plant too close together than have visible spaces, besides which it also looks better too. It’s certainly all looking good and should provide much pleasure into the future.
    I’m sure that you must be well pleased so far, I know that would be. xx

    1. Hello Flighty, I do like to smother bare ground, it gives the weeds less of an opportunity to get a foothold, but it does create extra work, in that things tend to need to be dug up and moved around most years to make room as they grow. Plus I find when I am planting things that are new to me I never know how quickly they develop, all part of the learning, but I can’t see me stopping tending to plant more closely than I am “meant” to.

    1. Thank you Sue, there are a couple of things being crowded out by the Cephalaria gigantea so I will have to tweak in the Autumn, but it does cut down on the weeds! I think I see signs of some epimediums making a return visit, so perhaps yours will do likewise? I think mine suffered from a lack of water whilst getting established last year, and then getting blasted by late cold storms won’t have helped. I am determined to persevere with them though, they are so beautiful.

  14. What a lovely view from your window! I love all the blue blooms–so peaceful and calming. You’ve certainly accomplished a lot in the short time you’ve lived here, Janet.

    1. Thank you Rose, I am really enjoying building a garden from scratch, and it is good to have one area looking quite mature as I work on the other areas that are definitely not.

    1. It’s wonderful, isn’t it Donna, it still takes me aback when I see it. And I get to see it every day!

  15. Wow, that bed has certainly burgeoned indeed – it looked pretty good in April, but wonderful now and I love the busy planting, and the combination works beautifully! The A. chrysantha that I grew from seed are much shorter than I expected, barely a foot tall, though that suits the windswept narrow beds in the front garden where I put them (and perhaps indeed, the wind and less rich earth keep them low there by design!).

    1. Hi Sara, I have been really enjoying it, the ‘Ravenswing’ is nearly over, I am waiting for it to seed around a bit before I cut it back in the hope of a second flush. I think I am getting confused between ‘chrysantha’ and ‘fragrans’, as the latter is much more yellow than I was expecting and I have had the odd one or two much shorter, brighter yellow plants which I now think must be the ‘chrysantha’. This is the problem with using plant labels that fade grrr… I am hoping for some divisions of Aquilegia ‘Lemon Queen’ this autumn from the old garden, it is a truly wonderful aquilegia, long flowering, statuesque, pale lemon with swept back spurs. A real beauty.

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