The allotment and the back garden are now mostly tidy, and mostly growing things, so finally I have been able to turn my attention to the front garden. It has been covered in oriental poppies this year, and I left them alone on the basis that at least there was something flowering in the garden. Having said that, their serried ranks were more than a little overpowering and I was relieved when they finally died back and I could pull them up. They arrived of their own volition and have merrily self-seeded all over the place for the last few years. I’m glad to have them there but next year I think I will be rather more proactive about pulling them out if they’re in the wrong place as this year’s display was … excessive.
I’ve never really been quite sure what to do with the front garden. It’s a plot about twelve feet by twelve, with a chunk taken out of it by a bay window. It is accessible only from one side and the far end becomes quickly overgrown because it can be difficult to get at. At various times I’ve put in stepping stones but they’ve never really worked as well as I’d like, and often got lost under plantings. The ground is like a bog in the winter, despite a considerable amount of work on my part to open it up, and yet like dust in the summer, despite having had a lot of organic matter worked into it; it’s in full sun for much of the day in the summer and conditions are brutal, somewhere around USDA zone 10 (by contrast with the back garden and the allotment, which are about zone 8). Some plants do very well, for example hardy geraniums, but they then take over. So do weeds, particularly annual mercury, which is all-pervasive, and green alkanet, which is top of my list of hated weeds, mainly because its leaves have little hairs that stick in my skin and bring me out in a rash. Its little blue flowers are so pretty, but it is a thug. On top of this, the garden suffered somewhat at the beginning of the year when I had to unblock the main drain through the rodding eye in the front garden. I’ve leave the mess to your imagination but suffice to say that the garden got turned over and trampled down a lot as a result.
The new plan is to make a couple of little brick paths across it, using the various bricks and terracotta slabs that have emerged from behind the compost bin, and divide the garden into beds. This is P’s department, though this year he will not be all but burying the stepping stones and then wondering why they almost immediately disappeared in the soft soil!
My part of the plan involves choosing the plants, and I currently have long lists of known drought-tolerant plants to consider, plus offers of many, many seedlings from my father. I am hoping for a cottage garden-y effect, with plants self-seeding (though without poppies everywhere next time). Today, though, I had to dig the garden and clean it up. I cut back the pyracantha yesterday, and tied in various branches to encourage it to grow round the bay window. I would really like to dig it up but the birds like the berries, and I like the birds, so I just try to keep it under control. And the berries do look lovely in the winter. So today was a session of turning earth, clearing out weeds, potting up some sidalcea seedlings to give to my father at some point. I already have some I potted up for my own use last week. And more digging. It took me an hour or so to clear and rough-dig the ground but it now looks so much nicer, a blank canvas. I need to work over the ground with a hoe and get out the rest of the weeds but I’ll wait until P has made the paths for me as I am sure there is much ground-trampling to come.
I probably should have taken ‘before’ photos but I was so ashamed of the mess I really couldn’t bring myself to do it. But I will start taking photographs from here on in, just to show you what it looks like, and to chart my progress. Today, though, I just wanted to record that finally, all three of my little plots of land are under cultivation.
(Things are going well at the allotment. We are now into courgette and accidental marrow season, and the courgettes are delicious. Things are going less well in the growing salad in the garden department, thanks to Rosa, but she is worth a post of her own at a later point. )