So, the building work is over, the green roof is up and a transformation has taken place. True, my timing for the new planting that followed couldn’t have been worse – the driest spring on record ain’t great for a new green roof or border. The new widened flower border I’d been so excited about filling still looks drab and half-empty, despite splashing out what felt like a fortune on plants. The plus side of this is that I am enthusiastically embracing the idea of sowing perennials from seed – after all, if I can grow tomatoes, chillis, cardoons and lettuce that way, how much harder can it be to bring up heucheras, verbascums and echinops from seed And even if some of them fail, at £2-£3 a seed packet, it’s no great loss. Slower, yes, but I get more plants for my money, don’t add to my plastic pot collection and save on delivery charges (and transport costs).
So I’ve already pricked out some Verbascum Snow Maiden' for my gravelly front garden, and sowed echinops and cerinthe for the flower border: a packet of Tom Stuart-Smith’s favourite Cenolophium denudatum, plus a mixed packet of heucheras I picked up at Chelsea last year, some sedums for the bare-looking green roof and Verbascum ‘Silver Lining’ for the front garden all await attention.
The one part of the garden that I am most pleased with right now is the side passageway. It’s obvious from the picture below that it was an eyesore: ugly, weedy block paving, a grim fence and gate, and a set of wheelie bins completed the gloomy outlook. I know a lot of people don’t bother with an area like this, seeing it as a utilitarian area for storage, recycling and bikes. But that doesn’t make sense to me: it’s the first thing I see when I open my back door.
So the aims were simple: hide the bins, lighten up and green the space and make room for vertical plants. You can see what you think of the transformation in the pic above. The double wheelie bin cover is brilliant: at only £120 it’s fabulous value for money, and give you excellent access to your bins from the top and front. I stained it in Cuprinol Garden Shades ‘Seagrass’. I covered up the ugly fence and added an extra bit of privacy (who puts an open trellis panel right opposite the neighbour’s back door?) with reed screening from Wickes. The doors at the end lead to a storage space for bikes, DIY stuff, etc: all the stuff I don't want in my shed or in the house, effectively!
My other mission was to cover up as much of the pebbledash as possible (more visible in the pic looking from the other direction, below), so two lots of trellis should soon be covered by Clematis ‘Fragrant Oberon’ (so far, not living up to its name and a bit too understated even for my liking), and ‘Nelly Moser’ (romping away already), and Lonicera henryi. Plant-wise, I am slowly realising that I am no good at colour: or perhaps I should say, I am scared of colour. I chose Dicentra spectabilis ‘alba’ and now realise the carmine form would be far superior, for instance. I am going to steel myself to buy an eye-popping climbing rose for the fence in a bid to put things right – any suggestions? I still need more heucheras as ground cover (hence the sowing, above), and I am impatient for the Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ and Phyllostachys glauca to fill out, but the non-plant elements have done a lot to make things brighter.
The other thing I really like – and this is very sad I admit – is my hosepipe holder. Asking for two of these for my birthday confirmed my family’s view that I am irredeemably odd. They came from De Wiltfang and were recommended to me by someone on Twitter (thankyou, whoever you are) and are worth every penny as they are literally the only hosepipe holder I have ever come across that’s not ugly. And it’s these little details that make all the difference. All I need now is a replacement for my leaky dayglo-green hosepipe and cheap plastic fittings ...
Left on my to-do list are vine eyes and wire on the fence for the rose, a blackberry and the honeysuckle I’ve put in (is this a strange combination or a good idea?). I’d also like to have either a little set of white cast iron chairs and a table to go next to the wheelie bins, and if the budget ever allows a big mirror for the wall at the end. So, any thoughts people? All criticism welcome, encouraged, in fact.