18 months ago, shortly after the birth of my son, I wrote a blog about my intention to redesign the planting in our tiny back garden. The best laid plans of mice and men! Of course in the general melee of life, parenting and the dreaded return to work, little of consequence occurred during 2018 to progress these grand plans. I did give some thought to the plants I might potentially like to use and did a spot of research into their characteristics and preferred conditions which at least helped to narrow things down. Quaint notions of fully developed planting plans however never materialised.
During this past Winter, in order to force my hand to some extent, I boldly decided to remove some shrubs from the smaller, east-facing bed. Out went the overgrown and misplaced Rosemary and Lavender. In respect of these at least I had planned ahead and taken steps to retain their fragrance elsewhere in the garden. Also hacked out was a Viburnum tinus which had never really seemed terribly happy, rarely flowered and appeared to be permanently infested with some sort of vexatious beastie. Finally the Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia which, though spectacular for about two weeks in the Autumn, then dropped its leaves to leave bare fence and was far too vigorous for the space available. Retaining deadwood in the garden is considered to be an excellent way to support wildlife so I have left the excavated roots piled up in an inconspicuous corner for the beetles to enjoy.
Having left myself with a rather barren looking corner I decided to take a day off work in the Spring with the express purpose of replanting, and incredibly I actually followed through on this plan instead of drinking coffee all day! The bed is not a large area (1.8m x 1.8m) and parts of it are almost always in shade because it is bordered to one side by the shed and to another by the garden fence. That said I have come to realise it gets more sun during the summer months than I had initially thought. My original objectives were to have:
- more coherent planting;
- better structure;
- year round interest;
- fairly low maintenance.
To this I would now add a desire to include planting which supports wildlife having become more engaged than ever with environmental concerns. Partly due to economics and partly to an aspiration to reduce waste, I also set out to re-use a reasonable number of the plants already present in the garden. This was done either through relocating plants from elsewhere or lifting and dividing plants to create multiples.
Starting with the shrubs I moved an existing Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ from another border to a position against the shed. This is one of the few plants that has remained from when we first moved in and the hope is that it will scramble up the side of the shed and perhaps spread along the back of the border. Against the fence I planted a Pyracantha ‘Red Column’ chosen because it is evergreen, has pretty white flowers the pollinators like in Spring and scarlet berries the birds like in Autumn. The other remaining shrub is Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ which I actually brought with me from a previous house. It’s been looking a bit sad of late but I decided to leave it where it was, in the centre of the bed, and give it a bit of a prune in an effort to reinvigorate. It provides such lovely scent in late Winter, when you’re normally desperate for something joyful, I’d be sad to lose it.
Thereafter I really just laid out (slightly haphazardly) a the range of herbaceous perennials I wanted to accommodate and then started planting them in. I have included multiples of at least three of each plant to try and create a more unified scheme than previously. A full list of all plants used can be found at the end of the article. I would say that overall I am happy enough with the initial plantings, though will need to see how they establish. Some are known to be quite invasive (e.g. Periwinkle, Vinca major), and though I want dense planting, I will need to see how they sit alongside one another. The bed has already filled out significantly since the image below was taken. Disappointingly two out of three Foxgloves I added got quite decimated by slugs and so never really got going. The third though, a white one, has been considerably better and I am hoping it may self seed and multiply for future years. I am intending to add some Spring bulbs in the Autumn for early colour, but may need to see whether the bed needs more summer colour and potentially a little more height.
A garden is really always a work in progress, and this little project is no different!
Plant List – Summer 2019
- Pyracantha coccinea ‘Red Column’
- Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’
- Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’
- Helleborus x hybridus
- Carex ‘Ice Dance’
- Aquilegia vulgaris
- Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae (bargain bin rescue!)
- Vinca major
- Digitalis purpurea ‘Sugar Ann’
- Digitalis purpurea ‘Alba’
- Cyclamen hederifolium
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