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.