Wednesday, 22 May 2013

a question of priorities

Seeing all those plants so beautifully grown and presented at Chelsea always inspires me to press on with my own garden.  It isn't that I want to copy anything in particular, though I did note down the names of a few plants I'd like to grow if I can find a suitable space, more that the day reminds me how good plants and gardens can be.  The alternative reaction would be to grumble that my garden could never be remotely as good as that, and give up.

The tricky question is where to start.  Planting out the little accumulated stash of recently purchased plants by the front door seemed a good plan.  They have all been chosen with particular beds in mind, where I know there are gaps, and the sooner I plant them the faster they can start growing.  Once a plant has filled its pot with roots, most don't honestly like sitting there for even another week.  My aim is to cover the ground, so that annual weeds can't find space to germinate, and difficult to eradicate perennial weeds will be hidden.

I began with a box of low growing, drought tolerant perennials destined for the gravel in the front garden.  Unfortunately the gravel has by now amassed a crop of spindly grasses and other weeds, which I had to pull out before I could plant, so progress was slow.  I told myself that once the perennials spread to form a continuous mat the weeds would get much less of a look in, but by lunchtime I'd only planted out a few handfulls from a big clump of un-named, seed raised sempervivum, which I'd had in a clay pan until the pot disintegrated in the frosts.  I thought that rather than repotting it as a lump, if I divided it up and used it as ground cover it would cover quite a lot of space.  Still waiting to go in are the three Antennaria, the trio of alpine Phlox, and the prostrate Gypsophila, plus three more pans of houseleeks, and assorted succulents rescued from a failed experiment in creating a green roof on the pot shed.

Maybe weeding and planting is not the most urgent thing.  There are mysterious patches of die-back in the prostrate juniper by the front door, a rosemary in the turning circle, and part of the ivy hedge around the long bed, while Malus x zumi 'Professor Sprenger' planted at the same end of the long bed has failed utterly.  Probably I ought to remove the dead wood as my top priority.  I don't know what is causing them to die.  The soil in the front garden is extremely odd, and the lettuce farmer ended up fallowing the next door field for several years to try and build up its fertility, after his first crop of lettuces on it proved uncommercially erratic.  He said that there were patches through the field where the crop simply refused to grow.  The deaths are not all down to it being a former orchard, which as I now know are notorious spots for honey fungus, in that the rosemary and juniper are close to the house and well away from where the apple trees were, in what was already garden.

The edges in the back garden are whiskery in places.  Letting the edges go undermines the whole look of the garden.  Perhaps, before planting out ground cover and cutting out dead wood, I should cut all the lawn edges.  Except that the goose grass is running up in places, and I should definitely remove that before it can seed, and because it looks so ostentatiously messy.  And a willow tree that was trimmed with the Systems Administrator's help back in the winter has suddenly flopped branches down in front of a couple of the hydrangeas in the ditch bed.  They are not getting enough light, and will grow out of shape, which is a structural problem more lasting than whiskery edges, so should I trim the willow before pulling out the goose grass?

It makes the idea of building a Chelsea show garden seem positively straightforward.

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