How to wreck yourself… and help!

I know it’s not long since my last post, but I need to share. More specifically, I need ideas.

I’m in pain. Everything hurts – knees, legs, back, shoulders, arms. I can’t speak for P, but judging by the stoical wincing I caught him doing when he thought I wasn’t looking, he’ll be feeling much the same. You see, we went a bit mad. And now I’m having a bit of a horticultural panic (I’m sure there’s one of those wonderfully expressive long words for it in German, something like ‘blumenstress’, perhaps, or ‘gartenarbeitpanik’).

A while ago we removed – OK, ahem, P removed – a huge and knackered hydrangea from a bed in the bottom garden:


This bed had been somewhat neglected (no, really?), the Giant Hydrangea of Boringness conveniently obscuring all sorts of neglect. It had, for instance, been where turf was heaped up when removed from the lawns to create other beds, and it was a great place to stockpile rubble – you couldn’t see any of this because of the sheer bulk of the hydrangea. Getting it sorted was obviously going to be a major task, and yesterday we got stuck in.

I thought I knew what I was going to do with it: move an Osmathus delaveyii which is unhappy in the top garden, cover the ground with Geranium magnificum,

G mag and bee bum

which is comparatively well behaved and of which I’ve got enough to make transplanting some realistic, and have lots of white spikes pushing through this – white foxgloves, veronicastrum, verbascum, etc – until the osmanthus grows up.

It’s a theory. Unfortunately it is now a blown theory, because the naked bed is absolutely flipping enormous:


The sheer size doesn’t really show here, not without P standing in it for scale and he flatly refused. After a wild guess was poo-pooed by Shedman at the Artist’s Garden, I measured it properly. It’s 6.5m across, and 4m deep at the (currently) widest part. My guess wasn’t that wild. O. M. G.

It’s also got an interesting slope, even after all the holes and lumps and bumps were filled up using the rotted-down turf mountains:


Plus, now we’ve stripped off a vast quantity of perennial weeds, some of it is bone dry. Though not for much longer; it’s raining nicely and we stopped mulching when we hit the really dry stuff. Also we’d used one whole rubble sack of bark chips…

So now what? Well, nothing until September, apart from mulching and weed control. But what then? There are several things to be borne in mind…


1. The back wall is not mine and I mustn’t grow anything up it as it’s just been repointed.
2. Though the bed itself is sheltered from the prevailing wind, the cold east wind is a nasty bastard, whips down from Moelfre behind the village and slaps straight into it.
3. The pear tree, though old, is beautiful and quite large and still productive if I speak to it nicely. There’s no room for another tree behind it, really,

pear tree

(pear plus ferns and neglected bed)

and nor do I want to add one and risk the effect of root growth on my neighbours.
4. I’ve got a Sambucus niger that is not doing brilliantly where it is and could be moved here too; and I still want to shift the osmanthus.
5. I want to keep the perennial poppies, which are fab:


and the ground by the urn is covered in crocuses in spring (they can take their chance).
6. My garden doesn’t accommodate exotics easily. Um, perhaps I can qualify that – whatever I plant has to be in sympathy with the garden as a whole, obviously, even though long views will be blocked by the pear when in leaf. For instance, last year I grew a wonderful Angelica gigas in my ‘new’ bed which was spectacular but which didn’t really work with everything else.
7. My soil is acid, though I suspect that nearer to the wall will be quite limey – I’ll be out there with my pH kit once it stops raining – following the repointing. I don’t want to add azaleas or rhododendrons as there’s more ripping out to be done elsewhere, and and I have those earmarked for the next outbreak of insanity. And I’m not a huge fan of heathers – except tree heathers and getting the ones I like is almost impossible, so they’re out. Ferns I do like, which is probably just as well as this garden does good ferns all by itself.

On the more constructive side, I’ve an open mind about colour, though I have just sown 30+ white foxgloves in preparation for Unrealistic Planting Idea No. 1. I’ve already eliminated things like prairie planting as that would just look silly, and I know I want to introduce some more bulbs for the spring (just as well I’ve not done the Peter Nyssen order yet). I’m wide open to any suggestions which may help my incipient blumenpanik. And if that isn’t a word, it definitely ought to be. There’s plenty of time for Unrealistic Planting Ideas 2 to 58,000. Well, about ten to twelve weeks.

And on the even more constructive side, it’s surprising how well aching limbs respond to a hot bath and a large whisky. Ow. Must repeat.

Yikes 3

(new bed with large plant pot)

8. Oh yes – and anything on the far side will overhang the lane and must absolutely NOT infiltrate the retaining wall. I have snowberry for that (and a man with a mattock for the snowberry).



22 Comments Add yours

  1. Christina says:

    It isn’t such a large area. The width is perfect for a bed. Ideas? Could you fan train an apple on the wall and just have low simple planting in front? Or a nice large Cotinus with bulbs planted close in as it leafs up quite late and then some Japanese anemones for late summer, plus the foxgloves you first thought of, lovely

    1. kate says:

      Hi Christina, both interesting! I particularly love the Cotinus idea – i’ve always been fond of the purpleish types, like Notcutt’s Variety or Royal Purple, and I think that colour would work brilliantly against the wall, rather like the black elder… hmmm (and I love C.c when it flowers, too)…

  2. hillwards says:

    What a lovely dilemma to have, though. It looks to me like the perfect place for a Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ … 😉

    1. kate says:

      I’ve just googled that and it’s magnificent – now there’s a thought. I didn’t know it at all; thanks for introducing me to such a beautiful plant. I could have the Osmanthus in the middle (it was a present, so I want to give it another chance), my dark elder on one side and another dark plant on the other… wonder how the Cercis would respond to pruning? I will have to investigate further!

      1. hillwards says:

        Isn’t it beautiful? I’d love to squeeze one in somewhere here. The heart shaped leaves are beautiful – and the autumn colour *sigh*. My mum has one, and the crown has lifted nicely, so that I’m sure an Osmanthus could spread under it a little without impediment ;).

        1. kate says:

          IT’s the colour – I’m a sucker for it. I do have to be careful, though, or all the garden would be in shades of deep reds/bronze/mahogany etc… Sigh…

  3. jan rushby says:

    What about a tree peony and some rosa moyesii and some pimpinella little shrub roses that could creep about at the front with ferns etc.

    1. kate says:

      That sounds wonderfully low maintenance, but I’ve tried a tree paeony here in my early days and it really suffered… hm, it was lovely, though. On the oether hand, that was in a more exposed position…. hmmmm….. tempted….

  4. I remember you touched on this part of your garden before and I suggested back then an Enkianthus since your soil was Acid – autumn colour is stunning! The bed wasn’t so empty back then was it 🙂
    I know you said you can’t grow anything over the wall but could you consider putting in some trellis on fence posts away from but in front of the wall to grow some climbers through. Physocarpus I find are another useful shrub – there are a few with differing colours of foliage that provide a nice background for perennials.
    Good luck with what ever you choose and I hope your aches and pains go away before you drink an entire bottle of whisky 😉

    1. kate says:

      You did, I remember – and I fell in love with E. perulatus. I’ve added it to my list (already covering three sides of A4), but underlined (there are only about twenty of those). I’m not sure about trellis because of the wind issue; I know P could reinforce it but it would end top looking like something from a Victorian shipyard if I let him do what he thought would be necessary. A bit more steampunk than I intend… though I suppose I could rein him in, ;-)…

      Whisky gone. However I do have half a bottle of gin left. Will need it for the rest of the mulching, happening today…

  5. Dobby says:

    You might ache, but don’t you feel good that you have finally got the hard work done and can now dither over catalogues and ideas?
    I’m not going to give you any ideas now as you already have some good ones. I will wait until I see it in the flesh.

    1. kate says:

      You’re welcome to come round any time. I know how good you are at weeding, 😉

  6. croftgarden says:

    My initial thought was Parrotia, but it would probably be too big and a Daphne would be too small. Pittosporum tobira has lovely flowers but it may be too cold and the same may apply to Crinodendron hookerianum. What a dilemma and so many possibilities. In the meantime I’d suggest a deep mulch of bark and a big architectural log (too help anchor the soil and provide some planting pockets).

    1. kate says:

      With you on the Parrotia and the Daphne, but you’ve given me something to think about on the pittosporum front – they tend to do well round here, and I do like them. In fact Pittosporums were one of the only plants to survive the rather optimistic planting ambitions of a friend much higher up the hill, and I have a Crinodendron which seems to be coping OK, so that bodes well.

      The bark mulch is getting bigger and bigger gradually – should be covered by the weekend. Like the log idea; I’ve got some giants and it’s a fair while until they need chopping. ER, hopefully…

      1. croftgarden says:

        On balance I’d opt for the pittisporum – it has plenty of plus points and the perfume from the flowers is divine.

        1. kate says:

          I like its variegated form particularly (still supposed to smell good), but I’ve still got a few concerns about hardiness. Now I look at it again, the nearby Crinodendron isn’t quite as good as it should be, and it’s also in the line of fire from the nasty easterlies. I thought it was just the fact that I moved it a couple of years ago, but it could well be the wind funnelling down the hill. Again.

  7. Pauline says:

    How wonderful to have a whole new bed to play with. I love this part of gardening, getting all the books out, plus the catalogues and spending hours making lists. You have had so many wonderful suggestions, I will look forward to seeing what your choice is!

    1. kate says:

      I love this stage too, but it’s hard to be disciplined…. I was just on the market, and the plant man had some good white agapanthuses (? agapanthi?). Somehow I managed to walk away. Maybe because I already have, let’s see, six clumps of agapanthus in the garden. Mind you, they’re blue, and white would fit with my––– Agh! I’m sticking to my plan – no decisions just yet…

  8. Holidays says:

    I see now why you were looking at the black elder! I think that will look very good there. Do you have room for a winter flowering honeysuckle? More of a shrub than a climber and almost evergreen. I would add a load of erythroniums to the bulb order for spring. Your white foxgloves will look fab. How about helenium for autumn? You can see I am trying to be more clued up about the fag end of the year but I am not sure my heart is really in it yet.

    1. kate says:

      Oh good – it should look wonderful. Now I’ve seen your elder, I’ve been an explained to mine exactly what I’m expecting it to do when it moves! You’ll have to come and view the actual thing – I’m not planting till September, so the bed will be a blank canvas (apart from reappearing snowberry, no doubt) until then. I’ve been looking at things I can move, and I definitely want to make sure there’s some autumn colour in there, you’re right.

      The foxgloves have finally started germinating – phew!

  9. Lyn says:

    I’m not going to give you any plant suggestions, because you have a lot already, but just say that you should complement the beautiful colour of that wall. I think your original idea of blue and white would be lovely, with some dark purple, as you’ve already suggested. But don’t hide all that stone, it’s super. Lacy foliage would clothe it without completely obscuring it.

    1. kate says:

      You are so right – and I think the black elder might work rather well against the wall. Wonder if I should rethink the Osmanthus? Hmmmm….

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.