Thursday, September 1, 2011

A bright September morn

The morrow was a bright September morn;
The earth was beautiful as if newborn;
There was nameless splendor everywhere,
That wild exhilaration in the air,
Which makes the passers in the city street
Congratulate each other as they meet.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

September dawned with a beautiful morning today, so much so that those of us who were on Twitter first thing were positively lyrical in our celebrations of the first day of autumn. It inspired me to get out in the garden and take some pictures.
I was also inspired by patientgardener's End of the Month View meme, which I always love to read, but don't always participate. I like her honesty about her garden, and the way she identifies the problem areas - although I have to say that every time I've seen it, it looks absolutely wonderful.
So having wandered around taking September morning sunshine pictures, I thought I'd identify a couple of problem areas in my garden. The first two involve luzula, or woodrush. Why anyone would want to grow this plant is completely beyond me. I inherited it from the previous owners and it have never looked anything other than a mess, even when in flower.
I suppose the only good thing you could say about it is that it is pretty much indestructible. (And that's possibly not a good thing to say.) It's not architectural like some grasses, and the colour isn't very interesting. It just sits there in a green, spreading lump.

This is woodrush in its normal tatty end-of-summer state. This one looks even more tatty than normal - not quite sure why. I think I might have left a pot sitting there earlier in the year.

Here's another patch. I've been meaning to take this out for ages, but I think autumn/winter 2011 may be the moment. While I'm at it, I may dispense with the Brunnera 'Jack Frost' as well. Very nice plant, but not here - it's too silver.

This is the border that leads up to the luzula beneath the holly tree. It's also a problem, as it only really looks fresh and interesting in spring. The feathery acer is in a pot, which makes me think I might take the advice of Graham Rice, who has just brought out a new book called Planting the Dry Shade Garden, published by Timber Press.
Graham wrote about this in The Independent Magazine a couple of weeks ago, and if you have problems with dry shade (and very few of us haven't), the book is well worth a look.
I was particularly struck by his suggestion of building a raised bed in dry shady areas, which gives you the chance to put in a reasonable depth of soil, and help plants combat problems such as rain shadow, and lack of nutrients thanks to tree roots. This border is a perfect candidate.

I'm also thinking of ripping apart the bit above. I like the bronze phormiums, but the libertia, while very pretty in spring, soon look past their sell-by - and these have been here for years. I've tried to get away with revamping it by placing pots among the existing plants, but I think it needs a total replant.

The lawn got somewhat trashed by the visitors on open day, but I know from experience that it will bounce back, given a bit of top-dressing and spiking.
So what does look good? This red banana (Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii') was the first to be potted up this season, so it's also the biggest. It's at least 6ft.

And this pheasant grass was a present from Peter Clay, who is a fellow NGS garden owner - and also happens to co-own Crocus. He very kindly tried to persuade me to have something more exotic, but I just loved this, particularly with the bronze phormium beside it.

It used to be known as Stipa arundinacea, but is now called Anemanthele lessoniana. I do wish that when botanical experts were renaming things they'd spare a thought for those of us who have to tell other people what the plant is. "Stipa" is much easier to say than "Anemanthele".

I'm very proud of the fact that my Fascicularia bicolor flowered for the first time this year. It was a huge talking point at the open day - unfortunately, because like Anemanthele, it's not the easiest name to roll off the tongue. Fascicularia look incredibly exotic (they're known in my house as the "baboon's bottom plant") but they are really, really tough. I've got two and they've been in pots in the garden for years without any protection whatsoever. They'll grow in sun or shade too. A perfect plant - if you like the saw-toothed leaf look.


patientgardener said...

I am laughing as I grew Luzula from seed last year and have it on my bank. I liked its white flowers in the spring especially with red potentialls growing through it. However, it looks a little sad at the moment but the eye is drawn away by other things.

I would be wary of the raised bed idea only because I have heard and know from experience that the tree you are making it under will send its roots up into the new soil. Maybe it depends on the type of tree but you might want to take that into account.

Thank you for being nice about my garden - like many gardeners I only see what is wrong.

Rosie said...

Gorgeous! If you really are dispensing of the Brunnera give me a shout as I have a patch of it I am extending

Arabella Sock said...

I noticed your fascicularia bicolour as I have one myself which by coincidence has flowered this year for the first time too! I think it heard me saying that it had better do something or it was heading for the tip. In the contrary way that plants seem to have it's "flower" is pointing away from where it would be most visible. I do get the benefit of the red spikey leaves though which look like a small child has spilled bright red enamel pain on them. Of course now I won't be able to think of it as anything other than a baboon's bottom.

Victoria said...

patientgardener: Your garden is GORGEOUS.
I can see that on your bank, luzula might work quite well, because it's in amongst things that aren't too different in height. But in my garden, it's beside quite tall things (holly, bamboo) and there's nothing to soften the height difference.
You're absolutely right about that bloody ash tree! To be honest, i was thinking large window-box type raised beds - ie with bottoms (though not baboon's bottoms).

Rosie: come round whenever you like and grab some!

Arabella: Yes, mine's flowering sideways, which is a bit weird. Red enamel paint is a far more poetic description, although to be honest, i don't find it a particularly poetic plant. It earns its place purely by being, um, interesting.

Lucy said...

Your pheasants eye plant is a delight. It looks just like a muppet to me.

I peered into the picture with the fascicularia bicolour for a while, wondering what I was supposed to be looking for. Only found it once I'd gathered clues from Google images.
(Still haven't got to grips with it. Have just noticed I've called it fascicularia bipolar. I'd better change that!)


organicgardendreams said...

What a great post, Victoria! To me the bed on the fourth photo with the bird house is close to perfection and you are thinking of ripping it apart?! Well, I feel you are gardening on a really different level than I do :-)! Reading your blog I think I can learn so much from you, I am so glad I found you! One thing that I am taking away today is the great placement of many beautiful pots throughout your garden. As a matter of fact I try go out in my garden today and plant something in in two blue pots and place them where I have 'holes' in my beds in the front yard. Thanks for inspiring me, each time I come over to read your blog!

Dobby said...

How wonderful it feels not to be one of the masses. I would kill for a bit of dry shade!! But the plants I bought this year for my wet shade are going great guns. Why are we all so critical of our own gardens? Probably because we get to see so many special ones on blogs like this I think. Your 'problem' areas still look pretty good to me.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

I have never heard of Woodrush but it is probably not hardy in my zone. I love Jack Frost Brunnera, looks good peeking out from dark leaved plants like Knockout shrub roses or like leaved plants.


Hanna at Orchid Care said...

Good old Longfellow (Henry Wadsworth, that is) always knows how to state it like it is and retain its poetic cadence. And talking about poetry, your garden does, in fact, look poetic with all its colors and textures interwoven so perfectly.