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2018 Reflections (a.k.a. Friday night not the same without beer)

Not sure why I chose tonight (might be something to do with self-enforced absence from craft ale) but I decided to delve into my box of plant labels and make some notes on this year in the garden.  You don't have to read my long, boring story below but I would be interested to hear your own stories of big projects, what went well and what was a disaster in 2018.

For me 2018 was about getting my garden back.  Oct-Jan was house extension time and the scene in Feb is not one I ever want to see again.  Mud, rubble, bits of plastic, bits of metal.  But I looked on the bright side and saw an opportunity.  Late Winter and early Spring was about making new borders and renovating those that had been trampled and compacted by diggers and inconsiderate builders.

The new border was the most exciting aspect.  First off getting the shape right, the curves and the paths that would cut through the planting.  Many hours spent scouring the net for suitable plants that would be happy with heavy clay and not a great deal of sunshine.  And then trips to local nurseries - making friends and having great conversations with people who live plants.  I'm jealous of them but know I probably couldn't do It myself.

As the year has progressed the border has provided some great moments but overall a slight disappointment (5/10).  Bit harsh to judge in the first year I know but my main issue has been the lack of any decent height in the middle of what is an island.  The height was supposed to be provided to some extent by Angelica Gigas but the slugs took a liking to it and it didn't stand a chance.  I have actually rescued it and potted it up - it's now in the cold frame and so I might give it another go next year.  The slugs also took a liking to astrantia this year which has never happened before - that also left a pretty big hole in the border.

On a positive note the Astilbe and Hydrangea worked really well together, to such an extent planted more Astilbe in Autumn.  Must have been the wet spring they liked.  I was also happy that a Choisya which has never really looked happy in my garden now appears to be thriving and is looking really good underplated with Geranium 'Blue Sunrise' which I was never that impressed with but then turned out a star performer.

Another happy find has been Bowman's Root which flowered beautifully and then looked great in Autumn with some amazing colours.  

Biggest battle as ever has been with slugs and snails.  I left it too late to take any effective action, the damage had already been done.  It's made me much more conscious of choosing plants that are less attractive to the blighters.  I planted some lamium in spring which looked beautiful - the foliage and the flowers - but they were torn to shreds, as were my dahlias this year.  It has even made me consider giving up dahlias which surely shows I am a man on the edge.  Anyway, next year the battle starts early - at the first sign of green shoots it will be nematode time.

Special mention to my Tibouchina which due to the building work stayed outside all winter, including through the Beast from the East.  I looked as dead as a door nail so I just chopped it back to a stump.  A couple of weeks later I had new shoots and by September I had a 6ft shrub.  It flowered really late (still flowering now) and I find the purple flowers just incredible at this time of year.

Enough rambling from me.  Just seemed a good time to get this all off my chest as the rain and wind is lashing against the windows.  

Have a great weekend everyone. 



  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 26,399
    Rain and wind lashing here too which is most welcome as it's been bone dry since mid June and that has put paid to garden projects as the soil has been unworkable.

    Anyway, I'm off to bed now but I wish you well with the slug campaign next year and I reckon a new bed takes 2 or 3 years to settle down and show its full promise, especially if you're using perennials for height rather than shrubs.   Maybe get some bulbs in to extend the interest at both ends of the year?
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Bee witchedBee witched Scottish BordersPosts: 748
    Hi @1634 Racine   .... nematodes have worked really well here. 

    We live in a valley in Scotland so it can be v. damp at times. Before using nematodes I could collect 400+ without even trying.
    I decided that life is too short and tried the nematodes. 
    Haven't looked back since ... if I do go out "collecting" I now only get less then ten, and these are from areas like the lawns that haven't ever been treated.
    My garden is almost 2 acres ... so I only treat the flower/ veg beds. Nowadays I just buy a 40 sq m pack four times a year. I dilute it to 2 twice the amount in the instructions so I can make it go further and just give a "top up" to the residual population of nematodes in the ground. Seems to be working.
    Bee x
    Bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey   
  • Hi @1634 Racine   .... nematodes have worked really well here. 
    Thanks Bee.  I'm on the edge of a woodland and don't help myself by making features of rotting logs and suchlike.  

    I've ussd nematodes once before and had some success.  Probably made me too complacent.  Interesting to hear about your dilution - I might give that a go.
  • RubytooRubytoo On the sofa, Southerly aspect.Posts: 1,286
    @1634 Racine . Missed your update on your October post about your bookend hedge, but I have just seen it and so glad that it is growing and worked out.
    A small thing in the scheme of things but something coming right when you have all the rest of chaos to restore is nice. Also the Tibouchina.

  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 5,058
    I sympathise about having to restore a garden after the devastation of building works, mine was only just showing signs of being a garden rather than a wilderness, not at all helped by most of it being destroyed for a new septic tank installation. Creating an opportunity out of your builder’s destruction certainly resonates... we took the opportunity to install a lovely new terrace over part of the rubble wasteland, so I count that a success.

    My new borders and indeed ‘being a gardener’ are definitely very early works in progress, some things worked, others not, still learning, still experimenting. In my case, whether what grew well in my sun-baked clay soil in summer will survive my cold, wet winters without drowning - have I amended the clay sufficiently or not? I’ll let you know next spring!
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 7,936
    Hi Racine, I have found that Thalictrum "Hewitts Double Purple" does well in clay and gives height in a double sided border without being overpowering - and the slugs don't like it (or at least mine don't!). It apparently likes a bit of shade as well even though I've got in full sun so it might be worth a try. It doesn't "run" either. New borders do take time to look their best, so I'm sure yours will look good next year.  
  • @Rubytoo You're right about the hedge.  That was a 'win' and it was all with the help of the GW forum.  I knew there was a reason I kept coming back  :)
  • @Nollie Sounds like we have some similar challenges, including being relatively new to this gardening lark.  In my original post I was going to mention exactly what you said - learning something new every day - sometimes when things go well, more often when I'm making mistakes!
  • @Lizzie27 I have planted Thalictrum Rochebrunianum in the new border.  One of the plants grew strongly and looked good, one right next to it was miserable all year.  Some things are a mystery to me.

    Hopefully they will all bounce back strongly next year.  I am wondering whether they will self-seed as well because there was a ton falling off this autumn.
  • Bee witchedBee witched Scottish BordersPosts: 748
    Just a couple of ideas @1634 Racine for perennials which will add some height ... 

    Actaea simplex (Atropurpurea Group) 'Brunette' - lovely plant  - I've got 2 clumps of three plants which really make a statement (and our bees love them!)

    Also, Filipendula purpurea (purple meadowsweet)  which quickly makes really big clumps

    Both do really well in my damp clay soil here in Scotland .... and this spring I was able to split the meadowsweet and repeat further down the border which has worked well.

    Bee x
    Bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey   
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