Its been a couple of months since I wrote anything here, and suddenly it’s midsummer. Despite it being the time of year when those who garden are supposed to be at their most inspired, I have felt strangely disinclined to transcribe my efforts into words. March, April and May were filled with endless planning and preparation. Weekends and evenings were spent trimming, tying, adjusting, relocating, mulching, feeding, protecting and planting. There were tasks to complete and much to write about. And this has rewarded me with a garden that actually looks as though it has been cared for.
I suppose too, that this is the culmination of a two-and-a-half year effort to create hope out of disappointment; to make whole that which was halved. The result is that I find myself sitting in it and thinking, rather than doing. I have been rendered inactive by this minor success.
Now I don’t mind a little complacency now and then. Plans I have hatched and executed have come to fruition and I’m happy to sit and enjoy the results. But the more I sit and observe, the more I realise some adjustment is required. As always, some plants have thrived too well and their exuberance has bullied the sensitive ones into submission. This alters the balance across a border, so some careful editing is required. In particular I’m thinking of the Phlomis. When I first noticed this plant some years ago it was at the moment just before it flowered, and I was struck by its sculptural green pompoms, each with a pair of spear shaped leaves, stacked and swaying on their stems.
I failed to appreciate what was to follow, when yellow whorls burst forth and transform a restrained and monochrome composition into something considerably more flamboyant. My elation two years ago when the carefully tended seedlings finally grew and flowered, encouraged me to pepper the bed with them in a bid to eliminate bare earth. But now I find myself sitting here surrounded by a sea of yellow and this is not something I’d sought. I have taken to removing large clumps in order to breathe some air into the borders and encourage a little confidence in other less boisterous occupants. In a single season, the Oxeye daisies, Sanguisorba and Valerian Officinalis have all but disappeared.
A real success, and one I’m happy not to tamper with, is the planting up of the Willy Guhl bowl. For months we were so pleased with this purchase and the contribution it made to the newly paved garden we left it unplanted, favouring instead its unadorned sculptural form. However, by the end of April I decided that it might benefit from a little herbal enhancement, so purchased a collection of thyme plants which I hoped would form a fragrant carpet over the surface.
Now two things that thyme hates are waterlogged soil and shade, so I mixed the potting compost with equal amounts of grit, and set the bowl in the sunniest part of the garden. I have to say things have gone well. The thyme has learned from the phlomis and spread reassuringly to the edges of the shallow bowl, covering its surface in a cushion of grey, green purple and white. I’m worried that the six months of gloom which oppress this tiny garden during autumn and winter may be its undoing, but we’ll just have to wait and see…
Talking of sculptural forms, the other Willy Guhl has now benefited from the addition of three small Erigeron Karvinskianus plants. I wanted something simple and unpretentious that looked as though it might have just artlessly self-seeded, and these have fitted the bill well. For literally months the three tight rosettes of leaves just sat there and did nothing. Then suddenly they exploded into life, and now their tiny white flower heads are dancing over the pot like a constellation. I’m rather hoping this will do exactly what we are warned it will do, and actually self-seed amongst the old brick steps and the cracks in the wall.