Sunday, 11 June 2017

in the shady corner

I have been planting up the shady corner at the far bottom of the back garden.  Originally it was not so shady, and was home to a couple of hydrangeas and a little shrub with glaucous new leaves and white bell shaped flowers called Zenobia pulverentula.  You don't see them about very often, and you won't see mine now because as the surrounding trees grew up the Zenobia and the hydrangeas died.  The corner remained empty and largely ignored because there were a lot of other things to be getting on with.  A few years ago I started to plant it with species that would live in deep shade, but this coincided with the last generation of cats getting so old and doddery that the rabbits ceased to take them seriously.  Rabbits, it turned out, eat Cardamine quinquefolia, and Bowles golden grass, and once we had rabbits living in the rose bank it became pointless buying new woodland plants for the back garden.

Now, thanks to the Systems Administrator's sustained campaign of sniping from the bedroom window over two years, and more especially thanks to the new generation of cats, the back garden is rabbit free.  Last winter while the bulbs and herbaceous plants were safely below ground for the most part, the SA manoeuvred the electric pole saw into the corner and cut back the overhanging top of the hedge so that there was a clear chimney of light to the sky.  I planted the bare root Cyclamen hederifolium from Pottertons, and then two trios of ferns from shade specialists Long Acre.  The Cardamine came back to life and produced leaves and flowers that were not eaten within days of emerging.

Today I added three Geranium phaeum 'Album', which I am hoping will seed about after flowering next spring.  I already have the form with dark flowers and dark blotches on its leaves which is very obliging about filling in dry, dark corners under a shrub rose further up the hill.  Sometimes the white form of a species is not so vigorous as the rest, but the new plants looked pretty chunky and no shrinking violets.  I added another fern, an unusual form of saxifrage that looks at first sight like ordinary London Pride but has hairy leaves, a spotted dead nettle Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy', and an entire tray of Milium effusum 'Aureum' or Bowles golden grass, raised from seed. This is a small, dainty, airy little grass with warm yellow foliage and I am hoping that dotting it around will create the illusion of dappled sunlight.

I installed a water worn tree stump, recycled from the scheme that is due to be demolished at the top of the back garden since the sea buckthorns that were at the heart of it died, cause of death still to be determined.  The stump looked very well in the shady corner, and I thought wistfully that what I needed now was several more stumps, but they will have to take their place in the queue of nice-to-haves for the garden.  After all, nobody actually needs a tree stump.  Wanting several is a very first world problem.

Some Disporopsis pernyi and Maiantemum dilitatum from Pottertons went in as well.  They have been growing on in pots in a cold frame, which the Disporopsis took to a great deal better than the Mainanthemum.  The Disporopsis is a sort of miniature Solomon's Seal, and had begun to clump up quite hopefully in its pots.  The Mainanthemum has the potential to be invasive, but at the current rate of progress I shall be quite relieved if it lives at all.  Some white violets went along the front of the border, along with an interesting kind of Lychnis I hadn't seen before encountering it on a Plant Heritage plant stall.  It is all starting to shape up quite nicely, just so long as the Muntjac don't pay a visit before things have had time to grow and spread themselves about.  They have been barking a lot close to the house in the past few days.

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