A mix of feelings

I’m sitting in the garden as I type and right now I’m looking at a hover fly, wondering: where on earth do they get the energy? They’re running on very efficient natural batteries.

This year I’ve moved around about a third of our plants and introduced two new long borders (in part-sun and full shade) into the ground of our side return where there were once pots on gravel. As a result our garden is suffering from that affliction of new plantings: small plant-osis. Those early months where everything isn’t quite big enough nor growing fast enough. Since the solstice however things are filling out.

Our side return has seen the most change after I planted up both sides of the makeshift path with many new tropical shrubs, annuals and perennials. Still small now, they’re filling out fast and flower buds showing.

Does anyone else have that sense of sadness when a plant you’ve been growing dies or grows so poorly you fear it might? It’s a strange feeling, a combination of frustration that my plan for the garden has been slightly thwarted by fate coupled with a sadness for the loss of the plant. Worse, I worry that I was somehow responsible for the problem or could have prevented it in someway.

I love how our Monarda didyma ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ has slowly moved around the garden. Its scented leaves as glorious as the flowers.

Ultimately gardens are a puzzle we try to solve until the day that we’re the ones that conk it. Then we at least become fertiliser.

One of many self-seeders I’ve added to the garden.

This has been a strange year for growing. Despite almost idyllic weather with both rain and sunshine I’ve had more confusing problems with plants than any year yet.

Normally I can figure out problems with plants and solve them; watering, fertiliser, light levels… no probs. Yet this year there are issues I can’t fathom. It started with my seedlings, many of them slow to get going, others dying back. Potentially I’ve been affected by the weedkiller in compost I reported on after being told about it by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty. However on advice from other professional gardeners I’m inclined to think it was more to do with cold weather and lack of nutrients. Two of my dahlias had a virus, I had to throw them out which was particularly sad as I have had them for so long and worrying in case others are affected (virus is transmitted by aphids).

Clematis viticella ‘Galore Evipo032’

At the moment I’m a little worried for my shrubs. Schefflera taiwaniana, Fatsia polycarpa and Grevillea rosmarinifolia are all key shrubs I was hoping would have big impact this year. The Schefflera is fine but the leaves look a little lighter and limper than normal – it’s been fertilised and watered, I can only think I have slightly overwatered it, so I’m holding off for now. As for the other two, who knows, they’re both quite new. Still alive but not thriving.

Dahlia ‘Gallery Art Nouveau’

Due to all of the changes I’ve been making, which will benefit the garden long term, I haven’t been happy with its look to share it fully. The pressures of social media mean I’m reluctant to shout about it until things have grown more fully. There are big gaps in key places that I know won’t be there for long, but it’s hard to convey that in a tweet and who wants to see a photo of bare soil?

After a terrible year in 2018 due to harsh weather our fern wall is starting to look lusher and back to its former glory.

As always it’s easy to dwell on the negatives when actually so much is growing really well. The new lounger chairs we bought arrived last month and I’ve since spent more time in the garden than ever before – I’m still typing this outside. It’s funny how a piece of furniture can change your life but now our garden is also my office in the afternoons (on dry days at least).

One of our window boxes with new succulents.

Out front our tiny scrap of land receives afternoon baking sun and I’m tired of the watering so I’m gradually replacing everything with succulents and other serious drought lovers. I love the window boxes, each plant looks like a little gem.

Passiflora ‘White Lightning’ out the front of our flat.

Most importantly of course, regardless of what I think of the garden, Rumbles our cat and the wildlife still use it and love it, and Because of that so do I.

Bee on our Lavandula angustifolia ‘Nana Alba’
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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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3 thoughts on “A mix of feelings

  1. The entire place looks great. I was pleased to see the fern wall as I first knew it when I saw it on t.v. with gardener Monte Don. But then, the addition of these window boxes, succulents in them no less, really has my attention as well. I love it that you are outside using the garden as an office during dry days. Too, the comment about us one day becoming the fertilizer for plants was also endearing, in a humorous kind of way.

  2. looks great Jack, how big are your ricinus pots, worried I have under sized my pots. Suppose if larger, you could under plant with some foliage.

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