I can’t believe how much this garden has changed in such a short time. I came to it in 2006 and photographed it from the start. This photo was taken three years and one month ago. Today the curved bit of lawn that the bench is sitting on has been incorporated into the border. The tiny newly planted alchemilla mollis are fully fledged plants and they and the new ones now form a straight(ish) border edge that now heads towards where the pot of santolina Lemon Fizz sits. The pergola over next door’s front door, just out of sight on the left, has a Canary Bird rose that spills wonderfully into our garden, meeting the black bamboo that spent a few years all polite and slimly black but is now shooting out huge stems that go way beyond the guttering. A veritable jungle of lush privacy.
Now that the new long border has been carved out, there is much less lawn, but as said lawn is more weed than grass, that’s no bad thing. This end is now mainly dandelions but the clover can get lovely and lush when the mowing is left at the bottom of the priority list. The apple tree is in the process of being de-ivyed and this winter will see the bigger branches lopped to bring air to the crown. All these jobs must be done before the new plants go in.
The wooden box of mixed salad leaves to the right of the bench served well for a few years before falling to bits. The space has been rampantly taken over by pink geraniums, which are soon to be cleared, and the bare ground behind the bench is now home to peonies. These were bought bareroot in those sad boxes that the sheds sell, often at totally the wrong time of the year. They were put in, probably too deep, and promptly ignored (our favourite gardening method). Nothing happened for a full year and then some unmistakeable leaves pitched up. Hurrah! No flowers, but more and more leaves as the seasons went on. Then last year a flower. Great excitement, but instead of the sugar pink Sarah Bernhardt as the packet promised, one deep, deep luscious red flower appeared. This year there were two, floppy and devastated by wild summer winds, but I have no idea what they are called.
That’s the thing about gardening. I plan these borders, spend hours poring over books, magazines and catalogues. I choose the plants, I see the finished border in my head. Just like decorating, I see the room in my mind as clearly as if it were a photograph, and with paint and fabric, that’s how it turns out, just like the picture in my mind. Gardening’s not like that really. By the time I’ve found the plants, they’re in the ground and just where I want them, nature happens and everything just changes slightly. Plants move themselves around, the little devils, others just arrive, by seed, by invisible runners. My drifts of echinacea, ice plants, pinks and lavender turn into a messy patchwork, with added geranium, verbena and hyssop. But it looks great. They’re all plants that like the same conditions (this is a thin layer of topsoil on top of the rubble that used to be a path) and they’re all harmonious colours. And for the colour theorists, the opposite of pink is green, so the alchemilla mollis complements them perfectly.
I think I design my garden, but as always, nature does what it wants, and nature usually knows best.