Fond Farewell To Summer

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I didn’t mean to buy them; my brain noticed the sale signs, the mouth sprang into action, the purse was opened and money changed hands before I could intervene. Really, it wasn’t my fault. A two pronged attack, then; start the autumn clear-up, whilst taking stock, noting the bald patches and planting the hardy herbaceous perennials purchased by accident.
Passiflora caerulea (blue passion flower)
Passiflora caerulea (blue passion flower)

I observed in passing that “Mme. Alfred Carrière” is still blooming, the palest of roses, faintly blushed with cheek skin pink against the azure seasonal sky. Not a cloud on any horizon, the climber is both bountiful and beautiful. After an early spring storm tore her from her bonds I gave her a stern pruning, as I’m short and couldn’t reach very high. I can’t swamp the roots with homemade compost or other fertiliser, since the plant is close to the fish pond. Any highly nutritious run-off would trickle down hill to join the residents and thus increase the algae and duck weed, which is prone to invade their sitting room. On such meagre rations, the rose arch has been covered with blossom for the last five months.
Coloured leaves & seed heads
Coloured leaves & seed heads

Compare and contrast with “Souvenir du Dr. Jamain”, which resides six feet (2m) away from Madame. When he performs, he offers deep red roses of jaw dropping glory. I’ve seen the pictures. After heaping helpings of garden goodness and a season notable for near constant rain, mine has squeezed out one bud, which mouldered, rotted and dropped without issue. I am resolved to dole out extra water and compost next year. Also I propose to show his stems my fun loving side, with a pair of sharpened secateurs. Sorry mon fils, you’ve crossed a line and I haven’t the room for slackers.
Mostly Acers
Mostly Acers

I realise that I’ve made an administrative error in allowing Attila to choose the occasional specimen which catches his eye. This seems fair in the light of his more onerous duties, except that his taste is more tarty than mine. He complains that left to my own devices, my borders would be green and white, which is a wild exaggeration. If he were steering the ship, the council would be calling to rein in colour clashes which contravene health and safety legislation. I got off lightly this time, as he picked a Hydrangea petiolaris which should thrive on the back wall and will deck itself in subtle cream petals. En route to installing the plant in the preferred pitch, my arm was grabbed by the hardened steel grasp of Rosa “Hot Chocolate”, which forms a major component of the orange scheme. This left me with thorn inflicted wounds reminiscent of one of the more lurid medieval diseases. I managed to complete my task despite dripping gore over the soil. Not long to go before I’m ensconced before a crackling log fire. If I can avoid injuring myself with a crochet hook, I’ll soon be longing for a return to contact sport.

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Indian Summer

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The weather forms a major part of British conversation, since this is an island where it’s always too cold, hot, wet or dry but rarely a bit too perfect to be comfortable. A heat wave has been promised for this week, which no doubt presages a month of tiddling rain. A burst of gunk from the sun making the Northern lights widely visible, just increases the likelihood of murky skies. The meteorologists will be sniggering down their barometers at the jolly fun they’re having, yanking our chains and tugging our leashes. If good gardening conditions arrive as assured, I’ll eat my hat.
Clerodendrum bungei (glory flower)
Clerodendrum bungei (glory flower)

I shouldn’t moan. When we opened for charity this summer, we had a lovely, balmy day just right for wandering amongst the flowers. Across town, my friend Jasmine totally rinsed the refreshments. No matter how many lemons I minced and mashed into cordial, I couldn’t compete with her iced Prosecco served with strawberry scones. Several visitors viewed my plastic cups of sticky citrus juice with a jaundiced eye and despite the garnish of mint leaves, demanded to know where the plant sales were. I took note of the specimens that attracted most attention and where possible, I shall try to propagate the same. Yes friends, in order to maximise funds raised for a worthy cause, I’m prepared to flog some of my favourites. If I manage to part with them without a twinge, I shall consume my belt, buckle and all.
Malus sylvestris (weeping crab apple)
Malus sylvestris (weeping crab apple)

I have taken cuttings of Santolina (cotton lavender) “Lemon Fizz” and Phygelius x rectus (Cape fuchsia) “Moonraker”. I snipped strong, healthy soft tips of each and stuffed them into sandwich bags in haste, in order to stop them from desiccating while I meandered towards the potting bench. I find that sterile, dampened seed compost is the right medium for maximum success. I cut each 3 inch (7cm) stem just below a leaf node, stripped off most of the foliage, then dipped it in water and rooting hormone powder. Then I placed each shred of green hope against the side of a plastic pot, along with three of its comrades. Fully badged in case of lack of mental retention on my part, I placed many pots full in trays with polythene covers. I put them in the mini greenhouse, out of direct sunlight. If they all grow, I’ll swallow my shirt.
Under glass - cuttings & seedlings
Under glass, cuttings & seedlings

Last year’s Dierama pulcherrimum have germinated well and are far more numerous than I need, unless I’m starting an angel’s fishing rod farm. If they survive another winter I shall pot them up, label laboriously and sell them. I’ll grub out all of the Hellebore seedlings as they appear under the skirts of their parents and split up other perennials such as Phlomis russelliana (Turkish sage). I’ve cut the seed heads off the Levisticum officinale (lovage) and shall plant half now, the rest in spring. All of the authorities advise sowing five weeks before the last frost, which is a fatuous thing to say. If I could predict that, I would be reading the forecast after the news. I shall give it my best shot for shelves full of exciting produce and if all goes according to plan, I’ll devour my big boots, complete with mud and laces. Looks like I’m going to have a lot on my plate.

Dahlia Day

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I don’t ask a lot from my garden, just an exquisite burst of radiance at the height of the summer, together with something of interest at all times of the year. The seasonal bed is a case in point; it has to start with annual Atriplex hortensis (red orach), which forms a velvety purple coverlet from self sown seed. This is subsequently studded with Papaver somniferum (opium poppy), whose seeds have over wintered and seedlings spread, ready to explode into exuberant growth. As the pods full of next year’s bounty start to swell on the stems, the lily buds rise in a stately manner to bulge like beer bellies, then burst into blousy bloom.
Dahlia “Babette”
Dahlia “Babette”

The final act is the Dahlias. I retrieve the tubers from the garage in spring and settle them with homemade compost and fish, blood and bone meal fertiliser in their dedicated patch. This enables me to put them in, dig them up and generally furtle about, without disturbing the roots of more permanent plantings. The lilies don’t seem to sulk, being fairly patient with my fumbling and the annuals are plentiful enough to spare a few casualties. This week, I gave haircuts to the other residents, who have given their all. I removed the seed heads from the Lilium, to reserve their energy for bulking up their bulbs for next year’s show. The orach had grown taller than me on the rich mix of soil. Since they were hogging the light or flopping over other inhabitants, I cut them down to the ground without mercy. In doing so, I stirred up the plentiful seed, which fluttered about my ears in a dusty brown gale. There will be pink seedlings to come, sprouting from one end of the garden to the other.
Dahlia “Kelvin Floodlight” & Atriplex hortensis (red orach)
Dahlia “Kelvin Floodlight” & Atriplex hortensis (red orach)

The Dahlias have now been given some room to do their thing, unimpeded by the ambitions of others. Old favourites are already looming large, having made sturdy clumps of leaves with intense balls of petals glowing brightly. I’ve tried to curtail the colour palette, towards the plum, pink and white side of the spectrum but I am unable to resist some of the oranges, yellows and scarlets. Every spring I swear that I need no more, then I find myself in some purveyor of planty delights, by accident. I always end up with a selection of packets of grubby roots clutched to my chest. The vivid photographs catch my eye and my imagination until I am as dazzled as any magpie.
Across the Dahlia bed
Across the Dahlia bed

The sunshine and rain have been good for the crop. “Babette” is a wonderful magenta shade with a long flowering period. Plentiful, sculpted ball blossoms gleam out and makes a loud statement. “Nuit d’Ete” (syn. “Summer Night”) is a medium cactus type, so dark as to disappear from a distance but in close proximity, is incomparable. “Tsuki yori no shisha” is a white, semi cactus dinner plate specimen which despite its tarty tendencies, remains one of my favourites for texture. Despite the hardships of lugging compost and boxes, through which I put my spouse, this is the moment when all of his hard work comes to fruition, in a crescendo of colour. How can I resist? How can you?

Emergency Ward

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The passion flower in the big square pot has died. It followed its predecessor into eternity, except this one never formed a bud, much less a bloom. I decided to get to the bottom of the problem. I called Attila and asked him to move the other large containers out of the way. Thank you. Then I asked him to shift the huge obelisk, festooned with twining stems of defunct climber. It’s too heavy for me to manage. I’m obliged. The soil was wet, hefty and compacted. “Oh Honey, here’s a bucket, would you take out the soggy compost and put it on the heap around the back? And remove the crocks, yes please, all of them.”
Passiflora “Purple Haze”
Passiflora “Purple Haze”

I asked him if he had seen any vine weevil grubs, or anything else that might have been chewing roots, cocooned in the dark out of sight. He complained that the sweat from his brow impeded his detection skills, which was fair. The pot had one drainage hole, entirely inadequate for such a vast container. “Oh Darling, would you drill me some more, to prevent future waterlogging? Don’t break the trough”. “Sweetheart, get some more crocks from the shed and make a decent layer at the base. Get the gigantic bale of fresh compost from the garage if you would and empty it in. Put the obelisk back on top, now that I have cleaned it off. Now get out of my way, while I plant it up with new Passifloras”. “Constance Elliot”, all white and “Caerulea” in blue and green are evenly matched in growth rate and will look wonderful, scrambling their way up to the eaves of the conservatory. “Now put the other colossal pots back in place, if you would be so kind.”
Asplenium bulbiferum (mother spleenwort) & Phlebodium pseudoaureum (Virginia blue fern)
Asplenium bulbiferum (mother spleenwort) & Phlebodium pseudoaureum (Virginia blue fern)

Other residents are afflicted with a nasty dose of mealy bug. The white fluff around the swines protects them from spray-on insecticides and they seem to laugh at systemics. The best method of control is to dab them with a Q-tip loaded with methylated spirit. Try to resist making jokes at the chemist, that the stinky substance is for drinking. They give you a somewhat humourless stare otherwise known as the fish eye. I quartered the tropical plants, removing deceased cacti, trimming faded leaves, tying up drooping stems and rehoming spiders. I swept the floor most thoroughly.
Reaching the roof
Reaching the roof

Spouse had gone outside to cut lumps off the old cherry tree, which has fallen off the twig to my immense regret. He says that ladders and power saws come as something of a relief, after a little light hothouse gardening with me. He’s proud that he hasn’t broken any terracottas or residents therein. I don’t care about the ceramics. Husbands are hard to come by, especially one as good as him.

Let’s Talk About Sex

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You know that all of this bountiful exuberance isn’t laid on just for your benefit, don’t you? The sensual, silken petals are flags to attract the attention of creatures with many more legs than you or me, generally speaking. The perfect perfume is there to encourage the chitin coated day trippers to bimble about, transferring male micro gametophytes which produce sperm cells, to the female parts of the blossom. It seems like a popular pursuit; I can’t walk around the garden without disturbing clouds of buzzing, humming, flying beasts, all intent about their business. It pays to keep your mouth shut when bending to inhale the scent of a lovely bloom. Bringing in cut flowers is fraught with peril, since the kitchen fills with fluttering, waddling, squirming squatters. If humans don’t consume them by accident, the bugs form the bottom of the chain that feeds the rest of nature.
Caryopteris (bluebeard) & bee
Caryopteris (bluebeard) & bee

All of this insect activity has borne fruit, literally as well as metaphorically. Strange shaped pods are ripening in the August sunshine and have started to rattle. I spread newspapers all over the dining table, to allow seeds to drop out of their cases. Outdoors, the stems cannot be shaken to remove any tenants, for fear of wasting the good stuff. So it is that Attila’s meals are made hazardous by wildlife, seeking only to make their escape to pastures less burnt.
Vitis vinifera “Purpurea” (ornamental grape)
Vitis vinifera “Purpurea” (ornamental grape)

Since Spouse is computer literate, I asked him to acquire some inexpensive manila envelopes in which to store my treasure. I declined plastic food bags which, although cheap as chips, would make seeds rot and risk suffocating the spiders not evicted or eaten by misfortune. We’re vegetarians, so he wouldn’t scoff them on purpose, I promise. He bought me specialist paper packets so alluring that I feel inadequate in their presence. Any more posh and gold plating would be the next logical step. I’ve filled them to bursting with incipient Aquilegia (columbine) and nascent annual poppies. Now I’m pimping around the district, pushing my largesse into the hands of those who will rear them well.
Euonymus oxyphyllus (Korean spindle tree) seed pod
Euonymus oxyphyllus (Korean spindle tree) seed pod

Anthers, stamens, pollen and ovaries, the flowers are all about the birds and the bees. In order to achieve fertilisation, some will do it themselves, while others must have another, to provide cross pollination. This is especially true of fruit trees. The only way to sort the men from the boys is to do a little light reading. Amongst my gardening customers I included a retired policewoman. General conversation on the subject lead her to confide about the time that she arrested a lady of the night, who was plying her trade in the high street. In the course of the takedown, the hooker mentioned that there were over one hundred sexual positions. The WPC declined to investigate the topic, which I regarded as a squandered opportunity. I would have requested some edited highlights, since an education is never wasted.

Hubris

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I really do know everything about gardening. I’m so sharp that I have thought up bright solutions for peculiar problems. I purchased two scrawny specimens of Phygelius x rectus (Cape fuchsia). The two were so close in colour, I thought that planting them together would show up the differences. Not a bit of it; now I have an amorphous tangle of stringy, sticky bush and the very occasional peach/pink flower. If there is a distinction between them, I can’t see it. I returned from Bodnant clutching two Euphorbias to my chest. They each do the familiar spurgy thing but one’s bracts are bigger than the other. I put them in a sunny bed, to show up the variations and as you can see from the picture, I haven’t learned a blasted thing from my earlier excursion into smarty pants territory.
Anemanthele lessoniana (pheasant's tail grass), self seeded to perfection
Anemanthele lessoniana (pheasant’s tail grass), self seeded to perfection

I endeavoured to grow soggy plants in sand, by sinking pond liner beneath their feet. Anything precious put there, promptly died without ceremony. The ground elder scrambled over the top and thrived. I tried growing Ligularia dentata ‘Desdemona’ (leopard plant) in a muddy tub which I kept topped up with water. The whole lot festered, stank and kicked the bucket in record time. I germinated moisture loving Inula magnifica from seed and boxing clever, installed it in a shady border. They departed this life after one season, to my immense regret. Now I see that they have self seeded in the baskets of marginals in the pond.
Euphorbia sikkimensis (red stems at back) & Euphorbia cornigera (bigger bracts)
Euphorbia sikkimensis (red stems at back) & Euphorbia cornigera (bigger bracts)

There’s little point in trying to teach Nature any lessons, I have to conclude that She knows much more than I do. I have a lot of success with Iris germanica (bearded iris), which can take as much sun baked stringent drainage as I can provide. My only limitation is the amount of brightness afforded by an English summer. I have a stand of white “Lady Snowflake” which have bloomed magnificently for ages. Sadly, the flowers have dwindled until I ended up with a single stalk. The bad news is that the rhizomes need breaking up and dividing every few years. After tearing off each piece with a growth bud and throwing away the spent central lump, the good news is that there will be lots of new plants, for free.
Geranium pyrenaicum “Bill Wallis”, grows only where it pleases

Geranium pyrenaicum “Bill Wallis”, grows only where it pleases

The same goes for married life; you cannot force a man to do a job that he doesn’t want to. I had four slabs of concrete, removed from a path at considerable personal expense, in order to site a blackberry cane. I had asked Attila to break them up to go into rubble sacks and then spent six months reminding him. Then nagging, followed by bitching. Came the Saturday when his team lost at football, to a bunch of spindly, knock-kneed teenagers. My spouse stalked out of the back door and pausing only to pick up his sledgehammer, reduced the blocks to dust in less than a minute. The moral is, don’t just pick your battles but time them properly, as well.

Ponder This

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Despite England’s reputation for moderation in many things, occasionally we get a moment of blazing summer sunshine and that brief instant is when my friend chose to move large quantities of dirt, from one end of her garden to the other. Jasmine had been very busy digging herself a water feature on one of the hottest days of the year. After all that hard work, she retired to the kitchen for a well earned cup of tea and a treat. Upon turning her back for a millisecond, she found that her large and handsome dog had eaten her custard tart. Jasmine was laughing when she recounted the story; if it had been me, I would have had a new rug in front of the fire. If I was feeling merciful, he would still bark when I stepped on him.
Begonia “Connie Boswell” in the conservatory
Begonia “Connie Boswell” in the conservatory

I wanted to give the girl a gift that her pet would not inhale from the table and consume without tasting. I dragged Attila out for a little forced labour in our own pond, to grub out some Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag). I rinsed the duckweed off the plant and its prodigious roots, since I didn’t want to make another a martyr to the filthy stuff, for the rest of their lives. I potted up in ordinary garden soil, since rich compost will promote the growth of algae and blanket weed. I topped it off with a thick layer of gravel, which will weigh down the container once immersed and will prevent the earth from floating away. The whole thing made a large statement, which I hope will go some way to extending a pooch’s prospects.
Lathyrus latifolius “White Pearl” (perennial sweet pea)
Lathyrus latifolius “White Pearl” (perennial sweet pea)

Spouse has long, muscular arms with which to reach the overgrown plants at the far side, without taking an involuntary bath. Having introduced him to the concept of a little aquatic employment, I pointed out that all of the marginals could benefit from some attention. I said that there really wasn’t much to do, just a bit of a tidy-up and pointed out that after his initial anointing with mud and slime, he could hardly smell worse.
Sanguisorba canadensis & Potentilla fruticosa (white burnet & shrubby cinquefoil)
Sanguisorba canadensis & Potentilla fruticosa (white burnet & shrubby cinquefoil)

Lysichiton americanus (skunk cabbage) is reviled in the UK, where it has escaped from garden cultivation into natural waterways and is giving native plants a run for their money. I’ve never noticed any egregious stink for which the species gets its common name. If it is a bully elsewhere, in my estate it is a sissy. Iris and Inula have seeded themselves in its container and made it into a shrinking violet. I attacked the squatters and re-homed them, while husband beat up the farthest specimens. Perhaps in revenge for the grubby jobs doled out, maybe because he thought it was amusing, probably from inattention to detail by the man in my life; when the fountain was given a jet wash to improve the flow, I got several gallons of ice cold water in the face, made interesting with a soupçon of eau de rotting vegetation and parfum des fish poop. When I remonstrated, Attila said that I should be grateful for his assistance and I am. I maintain that he now owes me a turn of the compost heap, to even up the overall niff, reek and pong.

Mid Term Selections

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During the early clear-up, the sharp, dried stems left behind the Campanulas (bell flower) gave me an unexpected jab in an unprotected place. Not wise when I have secateurs on my belt and sturdy scissors in my back pocket. The culprits were cut to the ground as they should be but probably with less mercy than had they behaved in a more gentlemanly manner.
Allium “Red Mohican” & “Christophii”
Allium “Red Mohican” & “Christophii”

The Santolina rosmarinifolia “Lemon Fizz” (cotton lavender) and Anthemis tinctoria “Sauce Hollandaise” (dyer’s chamomile) are both hardy herbaceous perennials, now past their best. They have been a mass of delicate yellow blossom giving me a wealth of golden texture, untroubled with pests but pestered by bees. I gave each plant a fairly austere haircut and rewarded their exemplary performance with a dose of fish, blood and bone fertiliser. I have a fabulous book on how and when I should be doing this: The RHS “Pruning And Training” by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce (ISBN 0 7513 0207 4) is my favourite reference for necessary attacks on weird stuff in the conservatory. When I’m knee deep in the border, muddy, sweaty and a long way from the library, generally I do my chopping immediately after flowering.
Cynara cardunculus (cardoon)
Cynara cardunculus (cardoon)

I cut the tops off the lilies, leaving the leaves to photosynthesize. The colonies of snails hiding beneath were collected and put in the green bin, to go on their holidays with the council. The Sorbaria sorbifolia (false spirea) has been busy suckering all over the front bed. Proper practice is to sever the unwanted shoots at the parent but I couldn’t dig up six feet of heavily planted border to get to the source. Whilst endeavouring to remove roots below ground level without endangering my secateur blades, the shrub’s woody stem caught me a glancing blow. I bleed if you were to give me an unkind look. Now I had a trickle of my own life-giving fluid splashing on the soil. The Sorbaria learned a harsh lesson thereafter, since sheer temper helped me to give the brute a sound battering. It will be back, I know but for now it is temporarily subdued.
Eucomis comosa “Sparkling Burgundy” (pineapple lily) in the conservatory
Eucomis comosa “Sparkling Burgundy” (pineapple lily) in the conservatory

How do you decide where to prune? Little old lady gardening decrees that you hack things down to sap oozing stumps. If you are a twenty first Century gardener, perhaps better to resist slashing shrubs down to sticks like Grandma. Aim to leave a pleasing shape from which new growth will sprout. Doing the job now, means that a halo of leaves will have time to grow before the season ends. Any plant which causes you pain, either physical or emotional, may be trimmed, thrashed or trashed and deserves what it gets.

Luscious Lilies

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A florist informed me that the stamens should be cut out of blooms in the garden as well as the vase, to make them last longer. I can’t do it. The sacrilege is akin to shaving the hair from Botticelli’s Venus, as bad as knackering the nadgers of Michelangelo’s David. My laundry is drying in the summer sunshine and the warm breeze floats the sheets to flirt with Lilium “Rhialto”, dusting them with rusty pollen. I would rather send the washing back through the machine and drape them around indoors for a week, than emasculate one of my favourite flowers.
Lilium “Bonbini”
Pictures of Lily L. “Bonbini”

The Asiatic species bloom early and tend to be low on fragrance. They have the greatest range of colours and shapes. Like most bulbs, they like lots of sunshine and will not tolerate soggy soil. Given a bit of bone meal, they are perennial, trouble free and fetching. Oriental lilies are taller and later with larger flowers. These are the ones to go for if you have a huge hall to perfume, a vast sitting room to scent. In my garden, tree lilies are bursting from their buds at about six feet (2m.) high. Even these stems are largely self supporting, unless given an outrageous amount of fertiliser or stiff gust of wind. If they start to cant, I support their heavy heads with hopefully subtle struts.
Lilium “Muscadet”
Lili Marlene L. “Muscadet”

The genus name is said to come from the Greek “louloudi”, meaning flower. It is supposed to represent purity and innocence but given the sensual, sinful smell and the silken glory of the petals, I can’t help thinking that they got this one wrong. Lily beetle is a nuisance but not my nemesis. I spray with Provado at night, to minimise bee buggery, twice a year. The insecticide is a systemic, thus deterring the laying of eggs and the subsequent self anointing poop covered grubs which do most of the damage. I still get enough red insects to keep me fit, jumping up and down on their soon to be lifeless corpses.
Lilium “Silk Road”
Lily the Pink L. “Silk Road”

When flowering is finished, I heave a sigh of regret and cut off the dead heads, to save the plant from weakening the bulb by producing seeds. If you are more patient than I, seedlings may be nurtured for future enjoyment, with the possibility of an exciting new strain. The easiest method of propagation is to divide clumps; if offsets are small, it may help to pot them up for special attention, until large enough to tough it out in the border. Bulbils may be taken from leaf axils of stem rooting types, for growing on. The professionals take a single bulb and tear it apart into individual scales. These are cosseted and cherished until they form mature specimens. I tried this by accident, when I fell heavily on a bag full of bulbs, purchased at considerable expense from a stall at a flower show. First I attended to my wounded knees, with much rubbing and some inventive, reprehensible swearing. Then I laid the remains of Lilium orientalis “Tiger Woods” in a warm bed and left him to it. I’m pleased to say that he’s survived but in this instance only, he’s last to appear and thus slow to get his act in gear.

Backyard Imagination

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Your garden is a place where you can express your inner artist, even if you don’t recognise the business end of a paintbrush. Nothing is wrong, within certain limitations; tasteless perhaps. Should you esteem concrete casts of favourite body parts and you can find a willing model, then go for it. In this instance, I would recommend a dense evergreen hedge to accord with the height of your neighbour’s top-most window. I’m still hoping that you can find room to shoehorn in a few shrubs, perhaps a small patch put aside for hardy perennials.
Inula hookeri (yellow oxeye)
Inula hookeri (yellow oxeye)

Visit other people’s gardens for inspiration and if you see an idea that you like then nick it wholesale, or add your own twist. I fell for a hot box on a television program about Kew. Theirs was made from woven hazel withes cut from trees coppiced on their vast estate. Lacking such amenities, I made mine from two rectangular lattices, cut in half and nailed together at the corners to form a square. I filled the box with weeds and soft prunings, then topped it off with rotted compost. I planted the sides with Nasturtiums and the top with courgettes. It looks unusual and attractive and we have to eat a lot of zucchini. If I don’t pay attention, I end up having to research recipes for marrows. I loved the notion of wall training a redcurrant and having a suitable space on the back of the conservatory, read up on how to do it. I wired the wall, tied in the bamboo supports and purchased a sturdy plant. The rest, as they say, is history.
Alliums, Hemerocallis, Heuchera & Digitalis
Alliums, Hemerocallis, Heuchera & Digitalis

The design for the arches, uprights and fence for the raspberries came from the originals here when we bought the house. Previously made of wood and crumbling from rot, we couldn’t think of a better arrangement than to reproduce the elegant pattern in galvanised steel, with uprights of tanalised timber, which should last a while. I’ve seen troughs full of Sempervivums (houseleek) made from old china sinks and tin baths, given stern drainage. Architectural salvage yards are a happy hunting ground for containers and may stir you to new schemes. I enjoyed an old fashioned mangle used as a frame for sweet peas, which looked fetching and at home in a shabby chic plan. Overall themes work well in a small garden; I aim for a burgundy and lime green colour palette but I can’t be without white, red, yellow… you get my point.
The red bed
The red bed

Cast a casual eye over the plots along your road. This will show you what will grow in your area but beware of hardcore cases who shovel homemade compost on their soil. Some of these will have a contract with stables nearby, for as much horse poop as they can handle. The added richness enables the proud owners to gather delicate examples requiring especially nutritious conditions but you can tell, should the wind shift in your direction. If you see a plant that blows your skirt up, then ask. Few gardeners will take the huff if you stop and admire their efforts, dropping in a request for the name of a particular specimen. Should the sun shine off a larger than life reproduction of their naked torso, maybe better to keep walking.