Planting a new border

Sunday, 31 March 2013

The new garden area after the trees were removed

Readers may recall that last November, we got council permission to remove from a garden boundary four half-dead conifers that were causing a nuisance to our neighbours. The border thus created was about 5 m in length and 2 m wide, in one of the sunniest spots in the garden. November was not a good time to rush into planting, and very glad I was that I did not, given the hot, dry summer that we subsequently experienced. This gave me plenty of time to ponder what I would plant, giving scope for many lovely daydreams!

Hens enjoy the process of border-building

It also gave me time to improve the soil for the border. First, we had to get the stumps reground, as the original grinding had been rather ineffective. The resulting sawdust had to be taken away to break down on the compost heap. We then added a number of bags of cow manure and barrowed many loads of our homemade compost to the border over the ensuing months, to the delight of our hens, who were occasionally let loose into the border to scratch it over in their quest for curl grubs and other bugs. We dug the amendments into the soil to try to produce a good tilth. We got rid of all the weeds that sprang up over the months.

I had earmarked Easter as my planting goal, as it is the perfect time of year for planting: cool-enough weather (usually) so that the plants are not challenged by too much heat in their settling-in period, yet warm-enough soil for the roots to establish reasonably well before the onset of winter. My plant choices were influenced by my experiences of a local garden group's visit to my garden last September, when I felt ashamed that my garden was so bereft of flowers and I had vowed to add more early-spring colour.

Camellia Dream Girl

After much deliberation, I decided on a couple of Camellia for the back of the border - these young plants were relocated from elsewhere in the garden, so fingers crossed that they will survive. One is the exquisite semi-double, white and lavender pink 'Star Above Star' (which is often grouped with Camellia sasanqua but is strictly Camellia x vernalis), and the other is 'Dream Girl', which is a Camellia sasanqua x Camellia reticulata cross, with large, semi-double, bright pink flowers; both of these are said to cope well with sun, and bloom from winter into early spring. The previous places where these shrubs had been located were not ideal, so I hope they might spread their wings in their new spots.

Dichroa febrifuga

Accompanying them in at the back of the border are a Dichroa febrifuga - the so-called 'evergreen hydrangea', which grows to around 2-3 m and has beautiful, round bouquets of tiny blue flowers for much of the year; and a new Salvia to me - the cultivar 'Timboon', which is a cross between S. involucrata and S. karwinskii. It grows around 2 m tall and has deep burgundy-pink flowers in wine-coloured calyces in late autumn and winter, which may continue into early spring (I hope!). A couple of other new Salvia have been put into the middle section of the border - including one called 'Blue Senorita', which I know very little about at this stage.

Watsonia Wedding Bells

Smaller plants for the middle of the bed include pink Marguerite daisies, grown from cuttings from friends; several small-growing Salvia microphylla cultivars in colours of pink and cream; some recurrent-flowering hardy zonal Pelargonium with a lovely pale pink flower, from a plant grown by our godson; and spring-blooming bulbs Watsonia 'Wedding Bells' and Hippeastrum papilio. A few foliage plants have been used to provide contrast: Artemisia 'Powys Castle' and a compact form of Plectranthus argentatus, as I love the combination of silver foliage with pink blooms.

Bush turkeys have invaded our garden

I had planned to mulch the border with cane mulch, but at the moment, we are battling an invasion of bush turkeys, who delight in scratching around in cane mulch and scattering it all over the garden - and digging up plants in the process - so until I can think of a way round this problem, the bed remains unmulched.

It is all rather an anticlimax once a border is planted out: surveying the puny plants spaced far apart, the vision in one's mind of a full and floriferous riot of colour seems a very long way off, but now we just have to wait for a while until things start to grow. Every other border I have planted in my garden has never ended up as I imagined, and has been tinkered with beyond recognition from the original plan I made. I am sure this will happen to this new border too!