Last month was a busy month. We had some friends over for our 2nd BBQ party, so the garden had gone untouched (apart from dead-heading and mowing) since June, which left us with three weekends in July to crack on with the rest of Phase 2. Phase 2 is a long phase, there are more beds to be created and when we get in to the autumn there will be some plants to be moved in to them.
With the plants from the previous year now well established we were able to see exactly what we had, or not in some cases.
Some of the plants from last year that were small were huge this year, and annoyingly they took over the beds and hid a lot of the lovely plants. Our Echinacea couldn’t be seen, and the beautiful Astrantia was well and truly hidden behind the Heleniums which had gotten so tall. The Verbena Hastata had gotten really tall and looked out of place in the bed it was in. Lots of things were like this, so lots of things will need to be moved.
A lot of the shade loving plants we have were looking unhappy. Next door’s building works and meant removal of some bits that were creating their shade and so they were no longer protected from the summer sun. Something had to be done.
More beds were needed. The only bed that was truly happy right now was the sunflower and wildflower bed. It had really taken off and was filling out nicely with a lot of colour coming through.
Considering we were once all about purples, pinks and yellows, this bed was offereing up violets, reds, whites and yeloows in abundance, and sitting alongside the cornflower and sanpdragon bed which was full or deep burgundys, peach, white, yellow, red and blues – we found ourselves falling in love with the myriad of scattered colour rather than the limited palette we had always gone for. It was looking beautiful.
However, these were establishing themselves now and the new beds weren’t going to dig themselves.
As the big bed wasn’t going to be planted until late August and things moved into it until September/October, it was the shade loving plants that took priority.
The side of our house gets a little bit of light later in the day, and then it’s dappled through the small cherry tree that grows down there. It’s a fairly wide space filled with horrible lawn, it just didn’t grow properly and we couldn’t figure out why. It was also filled with so much crap. All of the rubbish left behind by the previous owners was there, depsite us having hired a skip and filling it with most of the stuff they’d left we still had all the paving slabs and some other small bits, plus there was now an accumalation of the stuff we had added to the pile with the plan of going to the local tip to get rid of it. That plan hadn’t yet become a reality. So I had to do some clearing so that I could make a start.
The area is about 8ft wide, maybe slightly more and bout 15ft in length. I wanted to remove all of the turf, put a paving slab path in and plant the whole area as best as possible. Sounds easy enough right.
I got to work moving the paving slabs – these are 60 x 60cm and heavy. And there are almost 50 of them. They were, it turns out, sitting on top of another 6 big slabs which are sitting on a mound of sound.
Also, every time i put my shovel in the ground I hit something hard. Another paving slab. It turns out the reason the grass was so awful down there is that they had buried paving slabs and sand and just let the grass grow over it. This wasn’t a lawn at all.
I spent a whole weekend digging out whole and half paving slabs and removing as much turf as possible. I was only able to do about half of the area but for now it would be enough to get in the plants I had.
I would still need to move all of the paving slabs, but the second pile was going to have to wait for now.
You can’t see in the photo, but behind the rear pile of slabs that I’d moved out of the way, there’s a gravel pathway leading up to the gate at the end. To the left is a low fence. It’s a wide, open area and the wind blows straight through it, sometimes with incredible force.
It was also open for people to see straight down the garden from the outside. I planted 8 Hazels last year alongside the fence which this year have grown to a decent height and now block any view from the pavement, but they’re not yet tall enough to diffuse the wind as it blows.
So using an old palette we had lying about I decided to put up a wind-breaker of my own. This would also act as a barrier of sight when all the leaves fall off of the hazels in the autumn.
I built a small slatted gate to put at the top of the steps at the back of the veranda adding some height there, I hoped this was also help diffuse any gales. I also put a windbreak up at the front of the shaded bed. This would also help create a bit more dappled shade when the sun came down the garden and hit that side.
I now had a decent enough home for the ferns, heuchera’s, hosta’s and Hydrangeas. Plus I added some ponytail stipa for a bit of movement down there. The idea down this passage would be to have fairly low growing plants that the wind would go straight over, they would eventually add interest to the pathway and make it an exciting little walkway at the side of the house – to be honest anything would be an improvement.
There was a lot more clearing and digging still to be done, but for now the plants that needed some protection from the sun had somewhere to call home.
The soil here was awful too, a mixture of heavy clay and shed load of sand. It took a lot of breaking up, and then adding some compost and grit to help with drainage. This area is going to take a lot longer than I thought.
The pallette windbreaker was raised and fixed to some gate posts and we painted it dark grey so that it would blend in to the background and not really be a massive feature.
With that done I returned my focus to the top of the garden. I needed to plan out the bed that was going to go in there. Our neighbours are bulding a massive outbuilding and so we have a temporary fence up at the moment which will come down once it’s completed. We wanted this area to really be a place to sit and enjoy the garden, it would also house some of the plants that we need to move, but would have one main focus plant that would fill it. The Allium bed was under development.
This was all I achieved in July. It wasn’t much, but we were in no hurry to get it finished. We just wanted to get it marked out and started. There’s a manhole cover under the birdbath, we needed to figure out what to do with it. We also had a large fire-pit given to us as a wedding gift and we new that we wanted to put it somewhere around the seating area. Some proper plans were needed to get all of this in. It would have to wait until August.