Thursday, 21 June 2018

An interim design for the new back garden

Work has completed on the back garden and I thought I should introduce the design and how it all looks now. The design for the back garden is not yet fully formed, but like with the front garden, I'd really like to get plants out of pots and into the ground to reduce the amount of watering I'm doing, which has been taking a toll on my very limited energy. So here's what the garden looked like when we moved in:

We got rid of the sheds immediately on Freegle, as we have a large garage that is basically my garden shed, so didn't need these. They were taking up growing space. Of course, once they were removed, this is what was behind them:

Ignore the beehive shaped items, they are my compost bins, but otherwise, quite the mess*, and you can see how much the conifers were trying to take over. Even as all this was being done, I was thinking about my interim new layout, which I now present:
Note that the three trees in the top right are the conifers which have been removed.

Originally I was going to have one long bed on the right-hand side, next to the beech hedge. But then we realised it would make trimming the hedge very difficult. So I changed this to the three beds you now see. The spacing allows you to both access the hedge more easily, but also walk around the beds to view the plants from different positions. It's a much better and more interesting layout too. These beds are north-facing, but still get a lot of sun. So they will be for ornamentals only, including some that like a shadier spot. The shade will develop over time as the Acers I'm planting** grow and provide dappled light.

Alongside the hard standing on the left are two beds with my arch in the middle. Because I have acid soil, I'm unable to plant my clematis direct to the soil, so I will be putting them on each side of the arch. These two beds get sun all year around, and will be a mix of herbs, some vegetables and some ornamentals.

The L-shaped bed will be for vegetables. I'm not growing a lot of vegetables at the moment, as they require more attention and energy than I can give nor have. So it will be for easy to grow veg, like my garlic, sorrel and salads.

Finally, the old dilapidated fencing has been replaced. I'm still trying to work out exactly what I'm going to do with this area. There will be a border along the fence, and probably where the pergola is going, but ideas are still whirling around in my head.

All this, along with the Raspberry border, completes the work for now. I have plans for the rest of the garden, including a pond and the pergola, but they are for next year. I also know that there is an issue with some standing water over parts of the grass, when we get lots of rain, and I need to work out how to manage that.

This interim design allows me to get plants into the ground, and the raised beds will make things easier on my back and my energy levels. I can now start gardening whilst I still work out what to do with the rest of the garden. Plus, time to save for the next round of work.

Now that the landscaping has been completed, next up is the planting - the best bit!

* * * * *
My landscaper was Mark Spence, John and Jordan, of Spences Landscapes, Sheffield. They did a fine job and I definitely recommend them.


*I blogged about this in my original new garden blogpost, so I'll not repeat myself here.
**I'll talk about the actual plants once they start going in the ground.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

New design for the front garden


I'm in a bit of a bind. I want to follow permaculture principals and take time before making major decisions about my new garden. But I am also in an odd situation where I have exactly the same layout of our previous garden (not the one-year rental but the one before that). In fact, it's not just an East-West layout, we are sharing the same side party wall and therefore having the sun and shadows fall the same way as the last garden.

These facts are also coming up against me needing to reduce the amount of plants I have in pots, for as the recent warm weather has shown, it's been a lot of work maintaining them. And I just don't have the health to keep managing this sustainably from an ME perspective.

Current front garden

So I've decided to take the plunge and go with the ideas I have for the front garden. To be honest, they aren't new ideas. I had them for the last garden, I just never got a chance to implement them. And that idea, is to have a 'hot garden'. By hot garden, I mean, hot colours. Reds, oranges, yellows. The hot colours will tempered by a few cooler blues and purples as well as the grasses. I'm choosing hardy perennials, really hardy ones, that I plan to leave to fend for themselves once they have been watered in.

The hedge along the driveway will be removed

You can see the plan at the top of this post. The driveway and current paths are grey. I'm getting the hedge alongside the driveway removed. This is to give us a bit more space, particularly when the car is parked and I need to get past it with my mobility scooter. But I'm also adding a bin store (the yellow rectangle bottom left) for, well, the bins. I've chosen one that's made of wood, which should be reasonably attractive, as these things go. Eventually plants should help it blend in better.

The hedge shared with the neighbour will be reduced by c. 50cms

The hedge along the footpath will be reduced by half, to let in more light, and also because it's currently out of control. And the beech hedge I share with the neighbour will be cut by about 50cms (I've already oked it with her). I don't want to reduce it too much. I love the beech hedge but would like it to be just a little less high.

Geum Totally Tangerine

All the grass is going and I'm putting in a path, that is wide enough near the driveway to make it easy for me to turn my scooter around, and then leads to a central circle bed, which is where I'll be planting my Quince tree. Yes, I'm trying a Quince again. I'm thinking of trying the variety 'meech's prolific', as it should produce fruit a little sooner than other varieties, and is, well, meant to be prolific!

The reds will include Dianthus cruentus

My plant list includes Heleniums such as Dunkle Pract and Waltraut, Crocosmias including Irish Dawn and Coleton Fishacre and Geums, Totally Tangerine and Mrs J. Bradshaw. I'm going to finally grow a plant I've admired for several years, Kirengeshoma palmata, and the shadier side, next to the beech hedge.
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Irish Dawn'

Grasses will include Stipa gigantea and Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln'. And a cutting of a cutting of a cutting (times a couple more), of the first plant I ever brought in the UK, 20 years ago. It's something a little 'boring' in that it's so common, but it captured my heart 20 years ago, and it captures the hearts of bees on a daily basis. The plant is Hypericum 'hidcote' - yes good old St John's Wort.

I'll also add some purples for contrast, such as Verbena bonariensis.

These will all be under planted with bulbs, from Galanthus and Crocus to Tulips and Alliums. My aim, is to have a explosion of colour all year around. Ok, I'm still working on the winter bit. If you can recommend any bulbs that flower in December, let me know. But you get the idea.

Grass will be removed and borders and paths added. Plus a quince tree.

This also sounds like a lot of work, right? Yep, it is. And to actually do the work, I'm getting in landscapers to do the landscaping, then Andrea to do the planting. I'll be using my limited energy wisely, making tea.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Photo essay: a little bit of early summer at Sheffield Botanical Gardens

In the now 5 years I've lived in Sheffield, somehow I've managed to not visit the Sheffield Botanical Gardens in early summer before. Quite remiss of me, and clearly, quite a lot I've been missing.

Always, my favourite part of the Botanical Gardens, the Rock and Water Garden.


I think this Allium Roseum.

Iris sibirica. Variety unsure, maybe 'snow queen', 'white swirl' or 'white swan', or none of these!


The Rose Garden was looking good and you did get some fragrance. It will really shine in a couple of weeks. I hope to get back to see it and do some fragrance testing.

Rosa Devoniensis climbing had a fine fragrance.

Hidden between the fence/road and the Pavilion, the Four Seasons Garden always has something to delight.
Lychnis flos-jovis. Want.


Above/below: Crinodendron hookerianum, the Chilean lantern tree. It's frost hardy and I'm wondering if I could risk trying it in my garden?
Or maybe just continue to visit it at the Botanical Gardens!
Thanks to Head Gardener Plants for the id.



Above/below: Paeonia lactiflora 'Bowl of Beauty'


 Iris sibiricia 'Silver Edge'. Also want.

 Mass planting of Iris sibiricia 'Silver Edge'. I loved the green and blue, light and shade, contrast.

Iris sibiricia 'Perry's Blue' 

Mass planting of Iris sibiricia 'Perry's Blue'. 

Sheffield Botanical Gardens, always a pleasure.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Nursery visit and plant fair at Pottertons

Large pond at Pottertons

Having long admired the Pottertons Nursery displays and plants at flower shows, I finally got to visit their garden and nursery on the weekend. It coincided with a Plant Hunters Fair taking place on site, which was perfect as there are some new plants I was after for my new garden. As as bonus, I was able to order some red Heleniums I was after from Martin of Special Perennials (who also organises these plant fairs), to pick up on the day. This is a write up of both the fair and Pottertons.

Plant Hunters Fair
My haul

As someone not well enough to currently attend the larger flower shows, plant fairs are an ideal way of getting some of the flower show bling without the crowds and expensive food prices. I checked in advance that I could use my mobility scooter, and yes, no problem.

There were 10 nurseries spread out across the large garden, including Edrom Nurseries from Berwickshire, Jurassicplants Nurseries from Denbighshire, Tissington Nursery from the Peak District, and Special Perennials from Cheshire. A good opportunity to see the plants available from nurseries that I couldn't usually get to.

I've purchased Hepatica's from Edrom in the past, and I was told they will have even more Hepatica's in their catalogue this autumn. Oooh! This time I picked up a trailing Clematis, C. x Eleanor, Allium insubricum and a couple of Erigeron leiomeris.

Erigeron leiomeris

I want to start a new strawberry patch and having seen a pretty pink flowered strawberry on The Cynical Gardener's website a couple of weeks ago, I was on the look out for something similar. So when I saw Fragaria red ruby at the Mayfields Plants stand, I excitedly grabbed one. It's smaller fruits are supposed to fruit from May to November, and I look forward to trying some soon.
Fragaria red ruby

Kevin chose this beautiful Iris, I. sibirica 'Flight of Butterflies' from The Gobbett nursery.

And I purchased three red Helenium's from Special Perennials, including H. Waltraut and H. Dark Beauty. They aren't flowering yet, but from photos on their website, they look nice and hot for my new 'hot garden' (hot colours, that is) at the front of the house.

Pottertons Nursery and Garden
Part of the alpine display in the garden at Pottertons

Potterton's is a specialist nursery focusing on selling alpines, dwarf bulbs and woodland plants. And wow, does the garden accompanying their nursery sell their plants for them.
The other side of the display in the previous photo of the garden


 Who wouldn't love alpines after seeing this?!

Because the garden was also open as part of the NGS, this included 'Mum's Garden', which is over closer to the nursery itself and I think not always opened to the public. It was a classic cottage garden and Kevin and I both declared that we wanted to live there.


The nursery was also navigable for mobility scooters and wheelchairs (possibly not the larger mobility scooters though). There was just so much available and I'll be honest and say that I didn't, on this occasion, go down every row, as ME* exhaustion was taking over. However, I discovered that they had a fine collection of alpine Daphnes, and I'll be definitely returning to purchase some in the future.
ALL the daphnes!

The nursery was clearly laid out and oh so organised. I love an organised nursery.

The nursery is so well organised

The staff were really helpful at answering questions. I picked up about 7 alpines this time around, including Erodium 'Ardwick Redeye':

And Anemone obtusiloba 'large blue':

I also picked up some display ideas, including this excellent use of paving stones to create a border and height. We inherited a large number of grey ones with our new home, and I don't need that many paths. Now I have an idea of what to do with the rest.

Visiting both the plant fair as well as the garden and nursery was a great pleasure. I picked up lots of pretties and enjoyed chatting to the nursery people. Everything, both the nursery and plant fair, was well organised. The obligatory, and tasty, tea and cake, allowed you have enjoy a break in between all the oohing and ahhing over plants. And gave you time to ponder on whether you should just quickly go back and pick up that other plant you liked. You know the one. Yes, you should definitely go and pick that one up too.

I plan on visiting Pottertons again (and again). They have a wonderful selection of alpines, and all the plants I purchased looked to be in very good health. It was also inspiring to be able to view plants in situ, and also really helpful when forming your plans for alpine displays at home.

* * * * *
Visit the Plant Hunter Fairs website for a list of upcoming events.

Pottertons will be having an open day on Saturday 15th September, 10am-4pm. They also have a list on their website listing the flower shows and events they will be attending coming up.


Right: In front of the large pond. Have scooter, will buy plants. And more plants. All the plants.


*ME - the chronic illness Myalgic encephalomyelitis, known as ME.