Nice morning’s work

This morning was bulb-planting time for one of my clients. The garden is a neat and tidy corner plot, wrapped around three sides of a detached house. Although my client has not lived there more than a year, it is clear that the previous owners knew what they were about in the garden. There is some nice planting, with good shrubs and herbaceous perennials, as well as a couple of nice trees. The most impressive tree is a mighty Horse Chestnut, which is in the adjacent garden, but looms large over this plot: a lovely tree, but rather too big for its position. Leaves had been falling thick and fast, and needed clearing from the lawns and also from the tops of some shrubs – particularly Ceanothus – which were covered in a good layer of them. Horse Chestnut leaves, being hand-shaped – get wrapped around other plants and their branches very securely, and need some diligent attention. Where possible I raked them up to use as a mulch on bare borders, or gathered them into a heap to make leaf mould for next year – rather than simply consigning them to the ‘green’ recycling bin. In the borders they will not only help to suppress weeds, but will – as they rot-down – harbour lots of minibeasts, which will in turn provide food for garden birds. Blackbirds are especially fond of rummaging vigorously through a leaf-strewn border, like so many old ladies at a church jumble sale.

There is quite a lot of Muscari already planted in the borders, so I wanted to add both yellows and some height with the first lot of bulbs to go in. Given the preponderance of shrubs and the big Horse Chestnut, I planted Narcissus ‘Quail’, N. Poetica, Camassia ‘Quamash’, Ornithogalum ‘Nutans’ and Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ – all of which seem not to mind a bit of shade. Some mixed Chionodoxa were liberally planted too, in among the Muscari.  I will go back with some tulips for the more open borders once we get into November. It is sobering how even a fairly modest plot can absorb large numbers of bulbs very easily – I must have put 120+ in this morning, without running out of space. There are some ornamental planters too, which I will fill with some ‘choice’ tulips in due course for special effect and show.

We also discussed what to do with a raised bed which has been – and there is no other word for it – ‘plonked’ into the front garden, apparently as a salad bed for the previous owners. Nicely constructed, and currently full of Calendula, this bed really doesn’t, however, belong. We concluded that I’d remove it, and re-seed the area with grass (it is surrounded by lawn on three sides) pending any other bright(er) ideas. 

My client is, by her own repeated admission, no gardener – but she does want colour, and to be able to enjoy the garden for as much of the year as possible. It is great to work with someone who is receptive to suggestions, and highly appreciative of what gets done. To be able to ‘fill the gaps’ in a garden which is already nicely laid-out and planted, and to develop it as time goes on, is a treat.

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