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July 2012

June 2012

Border planting - Separation from next door without a hedge

Sometimes when I get asked to do a planting scheme, my clients just want "some plants". Sometimes I get a list of requirements.

Today I went back in the rain to see a border I planted last Autumn.


There was a very detailed list of requirements that came with this border which included

A vision to have a stunning border with shrubs flowering at different times, the border has a prime spot at the top of the hill

Screening neighbours cars

Fast growing shrubs, trees and plants

Plants to deal with the slight slope, and the poor soil from the recently removed line of 40yr old conifers

Space for a small planting line of annuals next to our driveway

Easily maintainable from our side, although Neighbour is happy to have plants

Would like to buy maturer plants to start border +1m height.

Including one tall lime green conifer by the gate as a tall screen


I could have taken them at their word, but I always like to find out what's behind requests, so I went round to see their current back garden (amazing trees and foliage shapes including Liquidamber and Acers), and showed them my source folders to get opinions of which flowers, colours, style and shapes really took their fancy.

There was a difference of preferences about whether summer colour or all year round foliage colour was the most important, but the line of summer bedding has been replaced by colourful bulbs, and easy to look after perennials like Heuchera and Asters.

The conifer was to provide a permanent screen to hide the access to the back garden, - where the shed and bins are, - instead we've used variegated Pittosporums for evergreen cover, and Physocarpus for upright coloured foliage in summer. Because these and the shrubby honeysuckle that have been used as permanent evergreen plants, are fairly fast growing, we didn't need to buy large specimens, meaning that money was saved to ensure all the space was covered.


Before planting, the border looked a long bare strip, that was highly visible to everyone coming up the road, as the house is on a bend.


Initially when planted, although the autumn colours shone through, my clients wondered whether they had made a big mistake, ad should have gone for a hedge.

Now though with the shrubs filling out, and the bulbs and perennials adding a welcome splash of colour, the border  is taking shape as it should.

Here's the view out to the road.




Plant combinations to love - Alchemilla mollis and Allium Christophii

I have to admit to pinching this plant combination from Sarah Raven.

the wonderful photography in her magazines and bold and brilliant book, persuaded me that sulphur yellow may be the colour i'm most asked to avoid in planting displays, but that it can look fantastic.


This photo was taken in a garden i've only been developing for under 2 years. The Alchemilla was propagated from seedlings last year, the Allium planted the Autumn before.

Alchemilla mollis is one of the cottage garden perennials that is scorned for being slightly common. It is however, easy to get hold of. It self seeds itself, so is cheap to propagate, and looks wonderful with water on the leaves (and lets face it, with the amount of rain this year, we need plants that look good in the rain). The floaty flower edge a summer border beautifully, and if dead headed when its flowers start to fade, will give a second flush of shimmering yellow at the end of the summer.

Allium Christophii is one of the easier (and cheaper at around 70-80p each) Allium bulbs to get hold of. Although it likes to be planted fairly deeply, after that, it is very little trouble, flowering again and again. The heads are larger than Purple sensation and later, so I often plant them at different places in the same border to get succesion of the Onion flowers, but Christophii is one of the longest to last as a dried flower head, and lasted for almost a year as a dried flower arrangement in my hall.

This year i'm also trying a variation of this combination with Obsidian Heuchera for year round colour, and daffodils for early colour and Nerines for late flowers. - I' ll let you know if it's an improvement on an already excellent combination.

Enemy number one - Slugs

When you grow your own vegetables, - especially when you're talking about lettuces and curcubits. Slugs can be your worst enemies at this time of year.


There are many different types of slugs, - it doesn't necessarily follow that the bigger they are the more they eat. But for me, if they are in my vegetable patch, then i'm at war with them. - On the footpath to the station, i'll carefully step around them, If they attack my flowers, i'll probably forgive them, but if they are after my lettuces, then they are combatants in my war, and they deserve to be taken down.

Now being an organic gardener, i'm not going to use chemicals, so over the years i've tried everything. Grit, coffee grinds, sea Shells, bran, copper collars and bands, egg shells, plus lots of others. If I find a few a couple hiding under pots when i'm at home, i'll feed them to the chickens, but when we collected a pot from the allotment last week, my girls looked at us in horror and let most of them crawl away without eating them (they prefer lettuces too!)

Unfortunately I have to let you know that although Bran is very useful and cheap in a dry year, when we've had a soaking summer it is useless.

Although Grit is good to a certain degree, if a single leaf touches the ground outside the circle of aggregate, then your plant is high level slug food.

Even putting plants in pots on shelving isn't foolproof, as I found a slug eating a sweetcorn leaf a metre off the ground last week.

So i'm using a mixture of vigilance, growing on plants until they can provide some of their own defences (courgettes get prickly leaves when they get to a certain size) keeping hiding places like long grass cut back, and a pot of death, with salt water in it, that I pop all the transgressers in to.

i've found children love slug hunting, and my school gardening club group certainly love a good hunt each week. - However with half term and an activities week meaning that we missed a couple of sessions, the slugs have overwhelmed us. - On Saturday we collected over a hundred, and these won't bother us again, but they've probably left babies to trouble us this week, so my lettuces still aren't safe.

Blooming in my Garden Mid June 2012

This isn't quite a Garden Bloggers Bloom day post, as I missed that by 3 full days, - it was probably raining anyway on the 15th, - we've had a lot of rain here in Surrey the last few weeks. - We're still in drought according to our water company. - Most other hosepipe bans have been lifted, but here, it's a good job i've got plenty of water butt's.

The extra rain has meant lots of growth, and the borders are pretty full at the moment. - Lots of weeds, but plenty of flowers

The sweet williams were planted from the horticultural society show rejects last year, - very beautiful and sweetly scented.

Also scented are these lovely roses. Labels long lost, but a very welcome addition to my June borders


and i'm hoping at least one of these will win me some of the classes, at Next Saturday Horticultural Society show.


Border planting - Mediterranean herb borders

Today I finished one of my favourite types of projects. I brought a clients vision to life with plants to complete their design.

I love this kind of challenge where a client has had a patio, driveway or hardscape feature designed, and then needs a planting expert to finish off their vision. In this case a Mediterranean patio and urn water features with planting borders.


The 2nd set of patio doors is the Kitchen, so we wanted to make sure that as well as being beautiful, these borders are bountiful in providing the herbs for culinary use.

The 4 main border squares are each based (loosely I admit) on a herb type. - Fennel, Allium, Sage and Rosemary, with a central Stipa Gigantea grass to tie the borders together.


The area nearest to the kitchen is slightly more shady, and had been overshadowed by bushes. - These have now been removed, and we have rivers of different coloured mints and lemon balm, plus shapd bay, and Elder, to carry on the edible theme into the shade.

The end result is good looking, scented, and productive. - ideal for sitting out next to, when we get the summer.



Papaver orientale - stunning and easy border perennial

When I started in Horticulture, Papaver Orientale was one of the plants on a college Plant ident. - I remember not being nearly as impressed with the blousy blooms that were almost hidden by Aqueligias, as I was by the stunning Wisteria (must have been floribunda because we learnt about clockwise twisting), or the scented rose hedge.

4 years ago though, I was bowled over by this combination in a client garden


I was even more amazed to find out that this border had been left to it's own devices for years, and throughout that time the early spring to summer show of bluebells, then Poppies and aqueligias looked stunning. (a complete mess later on in the year, but.....)

Since then, Oriental poppies have become an essential part of my planting arsenal, used to fill that colour gap after the tulips, and before the summer penstemons and heleniums.

Here are a couple of my favourite shots taken in client gardens this week


Here punctuating the purple of alliums and foxgloves with scarlet.

And here, even after being beaten back by rain, adding lovely purple and red shades to this border.


I use them teamed with later flowering perennials, so that the tatty foliage of late summer is hidden, - Asters and Sedums can also provide some support for heavy seed heads. i've found the white coloured varieties take a couple of years longer to bulk up, but as reliable early June sparks of colours, in any free draining soil, they are well worth a try.

My Current favourite. - Papaver Patty's Plum