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Self Seeding Stress

Hi there,  

I moved into a house with a beautiful cottage garden about 4 years ago.  I'm not much of a gardener but i'm trying my best. 

It's a large garden about 40-50ft by 130ft and when we moved in it was populated with a few core statement perrenials/shrubs such as Roses, Peony's, Agapanthus, aquilegia etc,  but most of the garden was populated with self seeding annuals variety's such foxgloves, poppies etc. 

The first year i was really eager to keep it nice even though i didn't really know what i was doing,  i bought some TM pug plants and shoved them in the ground,  they all died.  The next year i realised i shoved them in the garden too soon and potted them on waiting for them to grow and then shoved them in the ground. Some survived but many disappeared over winter... 

But between that and my 'weeding'  i seem to have just created a big fat mess... there is no cohesion, i have all sorts going on, big patches where there is nothing. 

This year i've realised one of the biggest mistakes i made was over weeding, i've almost completely weeded out some of the self seeders.  This year i only have a couple of fox gloves and poppies opposed to year one when there where thousands. 

I've tried to leave the beds this year and I'm trying to take more of a 'leave it, till i recognise it' type approach ... but all i seem to get is dandelions :/ and some sort of weed like daisy. 

I've left the poppies and fox gloves to go to seed this year and i've been shaking the seeds out into the boarder as well as saving some for next year.  In a hope to re-populate them a little. 

I just have massive patches and the whole garden is ugly.. i know there is still some good quality plants in there. When you take time to look, you spot little gems but if you look at the garden at a distance/whole it's just a mess it looks like it's never been looked after. 

Any ideas how i can rectify this mess? i've really getting me down because it was so lovely when we moved in. 

I know it won't look nice this year but what can i do to get on top of it so maybe next year it looks like someone cares for it.  



  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,918
    First thing to do is post a few photos  :)
    That will help with some ideas. The icon that looks like hills is the one for that.
    Don't despair though - it's a big plot for someone experienced, let alone someone who isn't. Concentrate on the area nearest your house too. That gives you encouragement to keep going. 
    If you're not hellbent on the cottage look [cottage gardens are actually a lot of work!] then have a look at various books, magazines, online sites etc, to get an idea of what you like, and what changes you could make. Having some structural planting - shrubs and trees, and evergreens, can make a huge difference, as it forms the bones of a garden and means it won't look so empty when the annuals and perennials aren't there. You can then add to that as you go along. Repeat planting is also the way to have a cohesive plot. That just means grouping several plants together that work well, and then doing the same at various points round the garden. 
    We have a thread on the forum too, where people can post pix of their gardens, so you might want to take a look at that too. It's a very long thread, but it might give you ideas.  :)
    Here's the link to it
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • PlantmindedPlantminded Posts: 2,719
    Hi there, don't be despondent - gardens take time and you learn a lot during the process of refining it to your own taste.  Try having a good look at your garden at the beginning of winter when all the froth has died down - this will help you plan the structure with trees, shrubs and evergreens etc as @Fairygirl has advised.  Some ornamental grasses will also help your garden keep interest over winter as well as at other times of the year.  There's a good book on a fresh approach to cottage gardening which may help you called "The Modern Cottage Garden" by Greg Loades - you may find that you are well on the way to achieving this look!  Take time to experiment and enjoy your gardening!
    Wirral. Sandy, free draining soil.

  • leielaleiela Posts: 3
    Thanks (I have changed my name but it's still me haha)  

    As i said there are some nice plants ... and full of weeds atm as i am "Trying" to stop pulling out the self seeders but dang it's hard.   when it's all just a mess of stuff! 

    Ok Photos.... Front Garden First... (front garden not as bad as the back) 

    Ignore the scaffold, The borders on the left are currently pretty empty due to the damage caused by the workmen.  

    I have plants i have saved in pots... including about 6 geum, some orange rudbeckia and some pink echinacea, Achillea Red.  There is still some crocsmia up there but it doens't flower and i can't work out why... well it does sorta but it's pathetic tons of green and i get about 4 orange flowers on a good year.  

     Hopefully i can move things about so it works better than it did before.  

    The front garden gets full sun all day, except the patch under the bush seen in the first picture. 

  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 9,558
    I think it would look better instantly if you mow the grass and re-cut the edges. Longer-term maybe consider weeding between the paving slabs, and if it was mine I think I'd dispense with the smaller grass area (on the right in the first pic) and have more planting, unless you need it for access to something that's out-of-shot.

    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • leielaleiela Posts: 3
    edited July 2021
    it does look better when it's mowed and weeded on the paving.  It has been mowed recently but i didn't do the edging.   Which i do normally keep on top of,  but we have workman sorting out the rendering (for over 8 weeks now sigh!) so i haven't bothered. Mostly i'm just focusing on trying to keep the weeds out of the beds till they are gone. 

    I have debated getting rid of that bit of grass but i'm struggling to fill and look after untill i've worked out how to manage what i have already. 

  • SendmesunSendmesun Posts: 63
    edited July 2021
    Looks like you have an interesting array of plants there. I'm a novice gardener and after a few years of moving things around and randomly buying plants/ discarding plants I didn't like I've realised that to pull it together a repeating pattern helps as Fairy girl says. 

    For the crocosmia to flower it may well just need splitting. I split mine last summer (possibly not the ideal time) and it's finally starting to flower now.

    Good luck, Its difficult when there's a mass of plants to figure out what's pleasing on the eye and get the winter structure / summer flowers to gel. I move plants around every summer and winter trying to get that elusive cottage but not untidy look that is not dull on the winter. 

    It's fun learning though! 

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,918
    I'd agree with @JennyJ. Keeping grass, and especially the edges, neat is an instant fix.
    Ditto the paving. Don't be frightened to just apply a weed killer to the paving, but just take your time, and pick a still day, to avoid getting it on plants you want to keep. I also think she's right about that tiny bit. A selection of nice shrubs, with some spring bulbs underneath and around them, will give you a very easy area to maintain, and add year round interest. A good layer of mulch to help keep weeds down - organic or gravelled - makes it even easier.
    Have you considered removing some of the borders? That may sound a bit extreme, but if you took away the planting along the railings, and either just grassed that strip, or better still - put in a hedge, that will instantly make life easier. Beech or hornbeam can be kept quite tight and narrow, so it wouldn't encroach on the lawn. Again, mulching well, means less chance for weeds to thrive. 
    Tackle one section/area thoroughly at a time, to get on top of the weeds though. Autumn is often better for tackling troublesome areas, when the soil can be damper, and digging or hand weeding is much easier.

    When building work is going on, you have to accept it's a nuisance for a while - I understand that totally. Been there many times  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Wrigs21Wrigs21 Posts: 192
    I’m in the same boat having just taken on a large project. Got a touch ambitious and some of its worked and other bits haven’t. Don’t forget when you see those pictures of fantastic country gardens it’s taken years of trial and error. Worth getting out and visiting some gardens and nicking some ideas. We’re lucky to have the Piet Oudolf garden down the road in Bruton which makes good use of repeating patterns. Also worth reaching out to some of the specialist nursery owners as they’ll often give some ideas and advice for free 😁
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