You dream about a moment, you make plans, rearrange them in your head over and over, and then the time comes and for a second you falter at the enormity of the task ahead.

On Saturday afternoon,  as the world was ending elsewhere, I was in my own state of rapture. King of the Hill and I tidied and dug over the first sections of the ornamental borders, and finally it was time to start planting. I was a little giddy for a while.

We began with a little square of the northern border along the fence. This will be the narrowest part of this border, which will swell in a curve towards the house and then dip back in at the top to meet the patio-to-be and path-in-waiting by the house. The stack of chopped up wooden pallets between this patch and the horse chestnut and beech trees at the far end of the border will have to stay in situ until the patio is built and we have made some more wood stores, when we can chop it properly into kindling and store it by the house.

After a deep breath, I ransacked the pictures in my head to find which of the bigger shrubs I had in mind for this small stretch of the garden, and then got moving! I planted the viburnum plicatum ‘Pink Sensation’ a small distance away from the pallets towards the back of the border, and beside it (allowing a metre or so for spreading) the hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ice Crystal’ that we picked up at Malvern.

Then I homed two of the dicentras, some of the aquilegias, two small astrantias towards the front, and interplanted these with a selection of perennials and annuals raised from seed in the greenhouse. I left a gap at the very front for alchemilla mollis, geraniums and other low selections that I have in mind, and was very careful to leave a margin so that we don’t trample our plants when we come to move the pallets, or dig out more of the border towards the house.

The pots were moved nearer to the house along the fence, though they formed a slightly smaller collection by the end of the weekend, and the emptied pots were quickly filled again in a potting session in the hungry greenhouse. The ladybird poppy still waits, waving its bright splashes of scarlet in the wind, captured here backlit by the afternoon sunshine alongside the vibrant green foliage of the magnolia stellata which also awaits a home a little closer to the house.

On the other side of the garden we dug even further, pulling out the ivy, nettles and other pernicious weeds that had been revelling here, and digging as best we could amid the thick roots of the silver birch which rise to the surface in places. I dug out, cleaned and split the primroses by the shed and replanted them around the yellow rose, which is looking very happy this year.

I planted the sambucus nigra between the old birch and the young betula utilis v. jacquemontii ‘Trinity College’ and in front of it the silvery plumes of stipa barbata. A clump of daisies has survived intact, and to these I added echinacea purpurea raised from seed last year, and several other perennials and annuals again from this year’s frantic seed sowing which were starting to look impatient under glass. Unlike the other bed, this border is not yet fully planted, with spaces still to fill, but oh! the joy of finally being able to put plants into the ground.

On Sunday I continued to add the occasional plant to this border, struggling at times to stand against the strong south-westerly winds that blow unfettered across from the fields beyond. No sooner had I gently tipped a plant from its plastic container ready to sink into the newly dug hole before me than the wind had hurled the pot across the garden to collect along the fence. I feel a little uneasy about unleashing this weather on these poor plants – the stipa has been horizontal for two days now – but it will be a couple of years before the new hedge thickens up sufficiently to shelter the garden a little once more, so it will surely be survival of the fittest for the first season or two. Who says cosmos won’t thrive in howling gales? Ah well…

We also tied the two pear cordons to a post and wire system. Both trees are bearing fruit this year, and with the strong winds their stems have been bowing back onto the cabbage cages behind with some force. Hopefully now they should at least remain vertical, and perhaps some of the fruit will survive the onslaught.

Once the pears were secure, and the wires on the apple supports replaced with something more robust, I sought refuge in the greenhouse for the remainder of the afternoon and evening – incredible how much time is swallowed by sowing, pricking out and potting on the succession of seedlings. King of the Hill suggests that perhaps I have sowed too much ( his conviction strengthened by the amount of compost, pots and labels that have been swallowed by the greenhouse each week ).

Every time I walk beneath the peach tree to pass to and from the greenhouse, the wind wallops me on the head with the lowest branch. With quite a crack. Eliciting more than a little muttering from me. Perhaps the tree doesn’t realise that I am the lone champion of its survival here – King of the Hill is not particularly keen on peaches, or the central position of the peach tree that we inherited.

I’m sure that there is going to be a lot of change in these borders – some pairings will work by happy chance, and others will need tweaking, or require digging up and moving – but it is so good to finally have made a start. Now I really can’t wait for the groundworks to begin in a few weeks so that we can complete the hard landscaping and open up the rest of the garden once and for all.


7 thoughts on “Rapture

  1. How wonderful! The adventure truly begins. All that patience and nurturing of plants in pots and seedlings in trays, all that dreaming, and finally some plants in the ground. Look forward to seeing it develop and change and turn into a lush and beautiful garden. As for sowing too much, join the club. It is a never ending source of shock to me how much time all the sowing and potting on takes, I think I enter an alternative reality once I head in to the greenhouse. It also swallows shocking amounts of compost, which I try not to cost up as I go… Hope your plants love their new homes and flourish despite the wind.

    • Finally I can start to move past my border envy 😉 It is wonderful to have somewhere to plant at last, I’ve already squeezed a couple of the spare Cavolo Nero among the ornamentals … the cabbage whites may not find them there, and they look so beautiful with their dark leaves. I must confess that as long as the bigger shrubs are loosely planned in place, I’m going to end up throwing smaller plants in wherever I can just to get them out of pots in some cases. Which could lead to some very interesting combinations, and lots of moving of plants later in the year 🙂 But I think even the most raggle taggle and rainbow-coloured garden would delight me this year after the long wait…

  2. I think a rainbow garden sounds wonderful, so pleased for you Sara that you can finally start planting, haven’t the winds been strong last night I kept wondering if I would have a roof in the morning, definately not May weather though I remember last May was windy so I hope it’s not a new trend, bravo to you for braving it I haven’t done anything outside for a week now, looking forward to seeing your borders blooming and expanding, Frances

  3. Wonderfully evocative writing, Sara. We can all experience the thrill with you. Wind the clock forward a couple of years, and your borders will be magnificent, I’m sure. We have had the same problems with wind. Combined with the ongoing drought, the wind has presented some particularly challenging conditions for my young plants.

    • Thanks Mark. I may have been a leeeeetle over excited at the weekend :-). Good to finally be moving in the right direction! Strange weather indeed, our dwarf French beans have been sitting for weeks not doing very much outside, although the runner beans have taken off. We’ve been lucky to have the odd shower so far. Hope your plants make it through to give you lots of crops!

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