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Into The Second Year.


It is May at the time of writing this and I am well into my second year with the plants really starting to get established. Now the garden is taking on a life of its own with most of the plants filling out and some of the plants even seeding down from last years short growing season following a late planting. The good old, cheap and cheerful, favourite of Foxgloves, (in the foreground, at the point of the triangle) are a case in point.

This first photograph is a view looking up at the top of the garden showing a large Chinese Fan Palm, or Trachycarpus Fortunii in the middle that was one of my mothers favourite plants at her old house. They are very slow growing and although, they are quite exotic looking, they are quite hardy. If given enough time though, they will grow enormous as can be seen from plants down on the south coast where they have taken on the proportions of trees! The palm is just one of many quite large things that I dug up and brought with me and it just goes to show that large plants can safely be moved if it is done at the right time in the winter months when most plants are dormant.


Another large plant that I brought with me was the Columnar Golden Yew Tree that can be seen in the next picture on the right. This had actually spent most of its life in a big tub on the yard at the previous house, but I decided that it would be better in the ground where it adds height to the bed without overpowering it.

As this view shows many of the plants are more foliage, or small shrubs, rather than flowering herbaceous plants. The plants have a range of leaf colours though from the golden colour of the Spirea (In front of the Yew) to the blue of the grass and silvery Blue of the Hairy Phlomis along with varying shades of green and some variegated leaves like those of the Hosta (just peeping in the corner on the left.) There are also many types and shapes of leaf from the grasses, Irises, Yew, Palm and colourful Broom that is barely in the foreground.

As can be seen from the next picture I have used woodchip both on the paths and actually on the beds as a mulch that is gradually working into the clay soil to improve it. The woodchip does not impart much in the way of nutrients to the soil as it rots, but it does act as a very good soil conditioner helping to break up the Clay, or it would add a peaty type texture to sandy soil. It also encourages insect much life that is good for the garden and provides healthy, natural food for many birds. Indeed, Blackbirds can frequently be seen flicking the woodchip backwards and forwards in their search for a tasty morsal.

My brother did come across one problem though with using Woodchip paths where there are cats in the garden. Apparently some cats think it is a type of "Cat Litter," and do their business in it! He said he had to take it up and relay the paths with slabs as the problem was so bad!


This picture is a sideways view across the garden showing a little of the flower border in front of the fence at the side of the garden and to the right, of my second hand toolbox on my lower patio and the patio doors. Most of the flowering plants in my garden are situated in just the one long bed which makes more of a feature of the few plants that do flower in the other beds, when they do, like the tall Irises in camera shot.

There are a number of young trees around the garden like the small Crab Apple, (In front of the window) that give the garden a variation in height. In years to come they will have to be pruned to keep their height in check and stop them dominating the small garden. Most trees can safely be cut back quite hard though, as long as it is done at the right time. Flowering trees need to be pruned shortly after flowering to keep them flowering the following season, but many are best done in the Winter months.


Having two patios in the garden is quite unusual, but the lower one is very shady so is best used for sitting on the hottest of days when shelter from the sun is wanted most, and the upper patio, with the greenhouse on, is in the full sun for most of the day. This one is especially nice late on a summer evening as it catches the last rays of the sun going down over the top of my bungalow. However, the two large expanses of slabs would look a little stark and barren if it were not for the many Tubs used to break up the spaces by introducing more height and variation in shapes without lots of flowers. Flowery tubs tend to need watering and more attention generally than small shrubs and trees in pots. Several of the plants in my tubs are really not very hardy in our winters so have to be taken inside for shelter from the frosts. My green Banana - Musa Basjoo is a case in point. It is a lot tougher than the other Banana commonly available, the red leafed Musa Ensete, but like the Carica Candamaresis (Mountain PawPaw), with its odd shaped trunk, it is not completely frost hardy, although both will stand quite low temperatures. The Pomeganate on the other is much hardier and does stay out even though it does appreciate a sunny, sheltered spot to thrive. My attempt at a bit of Topiary with the golden leafed Lonicera Nitida is also happy outside and as tough as old boots, but again gives a little added something to the yard, or at least will when it gets a bit bigger! I often feel  that this non flowering Lonicera (A member of the Honey Suckle Family) doesn't get the attention that it deserves. Buxus, or Box, Privet and Yew are always being discussed, but not the poor old Lonicera Nitidia even though it suffers from far less diseases and problems than the others! The Europa Olive is also pretty tough and a better variety to buy for the UK than some of the others available that can be tender. However, there is a disease spreading across Europe that is devastating Olive Trees everywhere, so I don't know how long I shall have it! I've also got a couple of smallish, clump forming Bamboos in pots. Last year I bought one and planted it in my garden and this Spring I dug it up, divided it and potted 2 nice little roots up as well as putting a nice clump back in the garden where it came from! Palms can be very expensive, but here again I did well buying one pot that had been reduced to half price that actually had 2 plants in. These I divided and potted separately giving me 2 plants that in effect cost 1/4 each of the original price marked up at the Garden Centre. That was a bargain!

On the right, the final picture, shows an overall view of most of the garden looking up through the the lounge window, but excludes the flower bed on the extreme left and out of camera shot. Right in the foreground the steps and low retaining wall can be seen that holds back the soil for the first rectangular bed with the crab Apple in. The slope of the garden is not immediately apparent, but there is a difference in height from front to back of several feet, although the retaining wall levels the slope out to some extent.

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