Front Garden

Our front garden is a) small b) North-eastish facing c) in patches suffers heavy clay soil

Long term I would like to get rid of the grass completely, as it’s a real nuisance having to bring the mower round the house just to mow such a small patch of grass… However, that will either have to wait or the reality is I plan on moving in the next few years and most people want lawns; even if it is miniscule.

  • The garden has lots of roses in it; none planted by me. I suspect there must be at least 10 roses…I have no idea what most of them are but they’re all unscented and to me an unscented rose is just pointless. However, there is one wonderful specimen – Iceberg which has excellent repeat bloom and most years blooms constantly, even if it snows. Only prolonged snow will knock it out.
  • There was also originally a large Forsythia which had been left to grow into a tree, and had bare bark for around 2 metres and new growth only at the top. I chopped it right back and it is now beginning to bulk up again and is looking quite nice and bushy. I will need to begin pruning it again to make sure it maintains its nice form and density.
  • We also have a now, huge Buddleja in the front… I think it self seeded itself and appeared as if by magic one year. I remember noticing some branches peeking out behind a rose on some photos I took. And now, it’s massive. It will need flooring every year or I may attempt to completely remove it.
  • And finally, there’s a rather problematic shrub rose, which again I suspect has self seeded itself as it looks quite wild and I do like its size and pretty single white blooms. However each bloom only lasts one day and this rose has been allowed to grow to the point where it too has bare branches at its base and growth only at the top. So I’ve decided to remove it and plant in its place David Austin ‘Susan Williams-Ellis’ which also has lovely white blooms, a nice thorny and shrubby habit, excellent repeat blooms and best of all a gorgeous perfume.

My main issue with the front garden is that you just don’t notice it. It’s raised up and I guess difficult to describe… As you come through the gate and along the path, the garden is to the left but raised up to waist-height. Then it steps up to around chest level. The path then goes up some steps and it’s at this point that we are now higher than the garden. So most of the time as we walk up, our eyes are almost at ground level. And the first impression to the left at the other side of the garden is that of the large shrub rose and Buddleja and all you see is the bare bark because all growth and interest is higher up. Then through the bark it’s easy to see this unsightly old red brick wall. So although I do want the height of the shrubs I need something which has a dense, bushy habit and will help to hide the horrible wall.
One might suggest to plant Ivy… Well yes that is the obvious choice, however I cannot do this because the wall that divides our gardens in fact retains my neighbour’s garden. So what appears to be a wall to me, Keith’s garden next door is flush with the top of the wall. So if I plant any climbers they will creep across his garden. I have considered putting up some trellis which is higher than the wall, but I would have to be very careful about ensuring nothing grows through and beyond.

Path border

In September I came across some Corkscrew rush, I scooped up a few pots with no real idea where I’d plant them but knew I would find a space for them because I’d wanted some for a while. I had just dug up a corner of a border which was being taken over by couch grass. The area was almost solid with Crocosmia, and the Primulas, Lavender, Geranium and Astilbe which was there were beginning to be strangled not only by the Crocosmia but also by the couch grass.

Once I began to dig in, I was shocked just how much the couch grass had taken over. On the outside it didn’t look too bad, but underneath… Wow, I almost totally filled a trug with the roots from it!

I tried to get as much as the grass roots out but know I will never get rid of them all without using chemicals… They have worked their way under concrete slabs and I will have to use chemicals soon otherwise they will continue to damage the path… It’s the last thing I want to do as I never use chemicals but in this instance without pulling up the path I have no other option.

In its place I planted a few Salvia – white and purple, divided the Geranium Phaeum and planted a number of bulbs – Crocus, Allium, Narcissi, Tulip and Daffodils.

And in November 2011 after adding a top dressing of fine mulch.


So far in 2012 the border has done very well. I’ve extended it further, and almost completed the entire length – I’m holding off until autumn or spring now due to the plants blooming. I’ve removed the much-loved Iceberg rose which under all the rain we’ve had this year was rolling around on its roots in the mud. I’ve since replaced it with Susan Williams-Ellis as well as planting some Stipa, Saliva, Erysimum and various other plants…

I believe I planted the spring bulbs around the first section I planted too densely. So at the moment I can barely see the Salvia and Geraniums because of the leaves left behind after the blooms from the Alliums, Tulips etc. I think I need to thin them out for next year.

Window Border

Over the years it’s been very obvious that the front garden has issues with water drainage, one corner in particular and I decided to cut the edge of the lawn as it had slowly but surely began to heavily encroach into the already rather narrow border. As I was cutting the edge I noticed it was very wet and boggy. Afterward it played on my mind and I decided to try to combat it by extending the border and planting plenty of shade lovers. The idea being that they would help use up the water; I half expect some of the water issues are due to there being no plants in there except for a short period over spring when the bulbs and primula are out. Added to this is the fact it’s a north-eastish facing border which had a wall at one side and then shade from the houses and resultantly receives no direct sunlight but I wouldn’t describe it as heavy shade like that of being under a big tree.

I picked up some heathers very cheap – £1 each, and susupect they will die as I don’t think I added enough compost into the soil to keep them happy.

The Spring bulb show was quite impressive and this border looked the best it ever has.

I’ve still a long way to go with this area, as it extends along to the wall and down. So next year I’ll be cutting the edge of the lawn again because the grass has been encroaching up and into the shrubs. Then I’ll remove the large Shrub rose, chopping back the Buddleja and am considering removing the Hydrangea as it’s still very small and sickly. It does not get any direct sunlight, and I have other far more suitable plants such as the Skimmia which could take its place.

Copyright 2011 Liz.
All rights reserved. Content created by Liz for Gwirrel’s Garden.

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