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Blitzing the garden

Our friends Carol and Mark visited me for the day today, to implement the next tranche of Carol’s plan for a GroundForce-style makeover of my garden, though thankfully without the “water feature” which always seemed to be a compulsory feature of that programme! Chris and I had the water feature (a waterfall into a shallow pond covered permanently with blanket weed) dug out within a year of moving in here, because we hated it so much, and I’ve no desire to replace it.

Carol and Mark brought with them a car boot full of spare plants from their garden, including a tray of alpine strawberries, another of bugle, one of vinca (periwinkle I think) and a fourth of grape hyacinth bulbs. We then made a trip to my local garden centre, where I bought another boot-full of hardy perennial bedding plants. Given that I’m not one of life’s natural gardeners, I think perennials are going to be far more practical than annual bedding plants, which I would have to replace every year. I’d much rather plant clump-forming and spreading perennials just once, and let them do their stuff to fill the borders, and hopefully out-compete the weeds. I take a robustly Darwinian attitude to my garden! It’s very much the case of survival of the fittest.

We spent the afternoon planting up the beds that are most visible from the house, particularly along a sunny wall underneath my apple trees, and in a much shadier and damper north-facing bed next to the house. We also under-planted some of the rose garden with the strawberries and bugle, though there we’ve only managed to clear the weeds out from a small fraction of that bed. The rest is still full of Ladies Mantel (alchemilla mollis) which seems to sell for £5 a pot in garden centres, but is nothing but a weed in my garden. I’ve asked my gardener to try a clear a bit of it every time he comes, because if I set him to do the whole lot at once, I suspect he’ll hand in his notice and I’ll never see him again!

I’ve now got a gardener to come once a fortnight to do some weeding, pruning and hacking back the undergrowth. He seems to need quite a lot of supervision, which is tricky as I’m not sure myself what is a weed and what is a “real” plant. But at least he seems happy to climb a ladder to weed the concrete slabs in the retaining wall behind my garage – there were some quite large sycamore and ash saplings growing out of it and I wanted them gone before the roots did any damage. I’m really not happy going up a ladder myself to weed that bit of the garden. Last time I did so, I got stuck on the narrow ledge, couldn’t turn round, and had to shout for Chris to move the ladder to the other end of the wall so that I could get down – clearly not an option these days! That wall is one of the last patches of the concrete slabs left visible in the garden – almost all the others are now well hidden behind the oak sleepers, which are beginning to weather nicely after their first winter.