End of month view: March 2015

When a project becomes an obsession, it consumes your time, your money, your thoughts, your very soul. The front garden of our new flat has been my obsession for the past three months. During this time I have thought of little else, spent money on little else, used my free time for little else than digging, planting, heaving unwieldy loads of concrete, earth, gravel, and armfuls of hedge, from here, to there, to back here again, to the car, to the tip, to hell and back, it sometimes seemed. And it was all in pursuit of an aesthetic vision that was sometimes hazy, sometimes felt unachievable, but drove me on through sleet, rain, sub-zero temperatures and aching muscles…

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November 2014

Do you remember this? This was the garden that we bought in November 2014, with its concrete paving and overgrown shrubs.

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January 2015

And this was the view at the end of January 2015, shrubs gone but privet hedge still very much the boss.

I played around with different garden layouts on quadrant paper. The shed would go in the darkest corner, along with a small compost heap. I wanted a curving path leading from this to the gate, and an area to sit and admire the view, with space for potted plants and a climbing rose. There would be a sunny bed, a shady bed, and a blossom tree in the North West corner where it would not overshadow the beds too much.

What to edge the borders with, and what to tread underfoot? My first edging choice was wood, but I could not find a source of what I considered to be inoffensive wooden edging. Plastic? Eugh! Bricks? Pretty, but my Aunt Kate warned me that they harbour slugs. Everedge? Have you seen the price of that stuff? I am not Rockefeller. On with the search. But search as I might, the only viable option seemed to be Everedge. Bendable, long-lasting, attractive and a piece of cake to install, it was screaming ‘Perfect’ to me. But the price… ouchio.

Fine. Maybe I could find the funds for Everedge. I would turn off the heating and rifle through bins for my lunch. Before long, I convinced myself that three figures for garden edging that would eventually be hidden under clouds of lavender and catmint was entirely reasonable, and soon enough five heavy slabs of dark brown Everedge arrived on my doorstep.

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Here is the shady bed outlined in Everedge. Finally, a garden is emerging, a garden no longer dominated by a very bossy hedge.

Now for the paths. Having admired the reclaimed brick paths of more than one garden blogger, I think this would have been the option had I had more time, energy and money at this stage. Grass was a no-no (too much upkeep, not enough sun). Flagstones? Ah, sigh. Probably six times the cost of the Everedge. What about gravel? It is inexpensive, quick to lay, free-draining and not wholly unattractive. What’s more, it gives a pleasing crunch underfoot.

20150330_130249-2On Monday, we took delivery of a package that was too big for the letterbox.

Spreading the gravel was surprisingly fun. Perhaps not the back-breaking part where we shovelled it out of the bag into the wheelbarrow, but definitely the pouring out and combing it smooth with a rake. Ah, that lovely crunch; the satisfying way it smoothed over the sins of the bumpy, muddy, rocky ground below; the contrast of the dark soil, black Everedge outline, pinky-grey paths…

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IMG_0043And so here, at last, is my End of Month View: March 2015. Ta-da!

It will look even better once the plants are more than an inch high. So, exactly what plants do we have?

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Well, this is Scotland, after all. A wee winter heather…

IMG_0032Leaf buds reluctantly emerging on a hydrangea aspera ‘Macrophylla, which I bought for a song from the garden centre sale shelf.

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A yellow honeysuckle for the railings. The honeysuckle is in a race with the weather… I need to paint the railings, but cannot until the temperature reaches 10 degrees on a dry day, by which time the honeysuckle may have begun winding around the railings. Come on, sunshine!

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Cyclamen, from Bodnant, to naturalise under the morello cherry tree…

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… and a Bergenia Eroica, also from Bodnant, just coming into bloom. The foliage will turn to ruby red in winter.

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And my beloved drum primulas, divided from the vigorous specimen I planted in our rented flat’s front garden last spring. This one will be divisible again before long, and is working hard to give my mostly bare garden some delightful spring colour.

IMG_0008And another vigorous primula, again divided from clumps in our rented garden.

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The white tulips, Menton tulips and white narcissi that I planted very late in January are bursting through the soil in a most gratifying manner.

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Alliums are a garden must, in my opinion. This is one of several that I bought from Bodnant’s inspirational garden centre. It does not appreciate the wind that has been howling through the depleted privet and damaging its long, floppy leaves.

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A camellia japonica ‘Mathotiana Rosea’, also from Bodnant. The Brazillian had been sitting an exam in North Wales while I borrowed his car for a blissful morning at Bodnant, and he did raise an eyebrow when I brought his car back to him filled with a jungle of new plants. The camellia is in a pot of ericaceous compost. The soil in Scotland tends to be acidic, but I have not tested ours, so the pot is to be on the safe side.

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A garden is not a garden without roses. My darling Granny gave me a generous birthday cheque, and with it I raided David Austin’s virtual shelves for five roses; here are two: a climbing Shropshire Lad for around the sitting room window (joined by a clump of ‘borrowed’ snowdrops from our rented garden), and a yellow Lady Gardener, the latter sprouting famously already…

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..while my poor hellebore ‘Double Ellen Red’ is doing rather less famously. It caught a fungus while wrapped in winter fleece, and I am not convinced it will make it back to the land of the living. One lives in hope…

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And where is my hosta Devon Green? No where to be seen… yet.

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A geranium pokes a cautious head forth through the stony soil. I can’t recall its name.

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Two pots… the first contains a lily, whose shoot excitingly appeared yesterday. I transplanted these inherited muscari into the pot to make it look less empty. The second contains dianthus, bugle and stonecrop, all going cheap at Homebase.

And I’ve been busy sowing seeds…

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… sweetpeas…

and

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delphiniums…

Still to sow: black poppies, white cosmos, apricot foxgloves…

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Here is my new compost heap, currently containing privet hedge and leaves, shredded down. Our soil is desperate for some organic matter, though this won’t be ready for a year or two.

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And the privet is already growing back! Privets use a lot of nutrition, and if you don’t directly feed them they sap the nutrients from the soil, leaving other plants gasping. I have poured what seems like gallons of liquid feed onto the roots (which are fully cleared of the half-foot of dead leaves), plus generous handfuls of chicken manure pellets and wood ash. All this will help it grow back healthily without depleting the soil.

So, there we have it. Plenty of sweat and toil, and plenty more to do. And I couldn’t have done it without my friends… The Cousin, who uprooted the cotoneaster, then dug over the entire garden without even being asked to, before single-handedly pushing the damaged wall back into place. My friend Fiona, who donated a sunny afternoon to helping me hack back the hedge. And The Brazillian, who kept me company on tip-trips, helped me heave the concrete, spread the gravel and burn the shrubbery as well as supplying constant cheering-on, encouragement, and not a little patience.

End of Month View is hosted by Helen at The Patient Gardener. Do visit her blog and find out what she and other garden bloggers have been up to this month.

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18 Comments

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  1. Helen Johnstone 2 April 2015 — 3:04 pm

    What a wonderful achievement and blog post, I did enjoy the journey with you. It is nice spreading gravel I think the effect is so quick, really uplifting when you have spent ages getting everything ready.

    Are you going to add spring bulbs for next year, I can imagine patches of purple crocus and small narcissus.
    So glad you joined in with the meme

    • Thank you Helen. Uplifting was exactly the word for spreading that gravel! Yes, I plan to plant plenty of spring bulbs in the autumn. I have already divided many clumps of snowdrops from our rented garden and transferred them here. Crocuses, narcissi, muscari, iris reticulata… they are all going in!

  2. You deserve a bl**dy medal! You have achieved so much in such a short time Joanne. I once priced that everedge and was completely put off by the price. You’ve created a lovely space and it will come on leaps and bounds should we ever get some heat.
    Don’t worry too much about your Hosta – none of mine are up yet either, they are pretty indestructible things.
    I think your wee purple primula might be P. Wanda, it’s an extremely popular one and a good doer. Love your drumsticks, they are one of my favourites at this time of the year.
    Well done!

    • Thanks Angie! I didn’t know hostas were indestructible so that is very reassuring, as long as the slugs don’t get ’em, of course. My mother also thought the primula was Wanda… I see it about in many gardens across Edinburgh, it is so pretty and sweet and does seem to spread quite cheerfully whatever the setting, so I’ll be dividing it up as it does so.

  3. Wow – you’ve really done a lot of great work! When taking on such a big project, it is both exciting and completely daunting and you wonder if it will ever turn our the way you’ve dreamed (I’ve had several experiences with this). The gravel path makes everything look to neat and tidy. I’m impressed with how much you’ve been able to fit into your space and can’t wait to see the plants mature. Now, take a break and watch your garden grow!

    • Thank you Rebecca… a break is exactly what I need. Even I’m gardened out at this stage, so my next plan for the garden is… no more gardening! Just for now, at least. Perhaps my next plan will be a small gathering with a few glasses of wine, if we ever get any warmth, that is. Although I can’t imagine I’ll manage to keep off the gardening for very long… I can’t wait to see the plants grow either. It’s going to be quite a year seeing how things turn out!

  4. What a lovely transformation! The gravel paths are a wonderful choice as is the everedge (it is sooooo pricey here too, but it sure looks great). It will be great to see the change once the plants start to fill out….I’m sure it will be a favourite spot to relax and enjoy the sunshine once the weather warms!

  5. You have achieved so much is such a short time – a lot of hard work I think. I also love the drum Primulas and the Wandas. I have both in the garden and they are very good at spreading.I look forward to watching your garden grow.

  6. Wow! Well done! An amazing achievement. It is looking so good. Whatever will you do when it is finished and fully planted?

  7. What you will do when it is finished and fully planted, apart from digging a pond, building a garden arch, constructing a barbecue and installing a summer-house, is weeding, cutting the hedge, weeding, going out in the dead of night with a torch and a jar of strong saline solution, weeding, raking the gravel, weeding, cutting the hedge, weeding, spraying the roses, weeding …
    I suggest you cover the area where you are expecting your hosta to appear with ash or broken eggshell, or similar.

    What is it about men and plants in cars?

  8. Hi,

    Congrats on all the work! Wish I had such determination to get things done!

    I think your Hellebore will be OK. I moved a few last year into pots – with the intention of moving – and a couple were looking very dead all last year. Well needless to say they’ve both sprung back even better than before I moved them.

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