We don’t have a front and a back garden. The house is positioned roughly midway between the east and western perimeters so we have two side gardens. Because you have to pass through it to get to the house, the westward space might be thought of as the front garden, which makes the eastern stretch by default into the back garden. Certainly it has the appearance and feel of a more conventional family garden. I seem to have written several times about the area to the west; it’s time I redressed the balance.
It’s a nice size: big enough, but not dauntingly large. And it’s flat and mostly lawn. At the far end is a gate leading into the field framed by a massive pine which needs some serious care: although it’s safe and sturdy enough, there are several broken, dead and dying branches. But I like the gate and the way the tree dwarfs it. It does present an invitation: come on through and see what lies beyond.
This picture was taken in April. As well as the gate it shows part of the main border when plants were just thinking about waking up. It also shows the field. How green and ‘tamed’ it looks here. It doesn’t look like this now!
Also in the photo you can see a lovely-shaped tree in the middle of the lawn with room enough under its spreading branches for small energetic boys to run around it, or less energetic me to sit under it. In April it was leafless. As spring moved into summer I was hoping for a show of white blossoms. I know now that isn’t going to happen: the tree is an acer. I’m not a massive fan of acers: a little too ornamental for my liking, but I’m not complaining – it’s a lovely size and shape and I’m hoping for autumn leaf colour. We have another acer: tall and graceful and with bright dark purple leaves. Clearly our predecessors liked maples.
To the right, as you walk into the eastern garden from the house, the long tangled terrace that marks the upward climb of the valley behind us, curves around and opens into the largest of two flower borders. This border hugs the bank which climbs behind it. It has some degree of protection from winds from the south, east and west but will bear the full force of northerly gales. We have a lot of wind from the north. Northerly winds are cold and harsh. Plants here will need to be hearty and hardy.
Because it begins a distance from the house, it will get plenty of sun, other than in the early morning. There is already quite a lot planted in this border. I enjoyed watching shoots appear in our early weeks here, and trying to recognize what was coming up. Some plants are evergreen and were there from the beginning. Rosemary, sage and a large curry plant which wafts its spicy fragrance over a surprisingly long distance when the wind is in the right direction. These shrubby herbs looked quite sorry for themselves when we arrived but with summer fully underway they’ve revived and look strong and vigorous. In May the border was looking quite promising.
We have a stand of black-stemmed bamboo which has always been a favourite of mine. It is spreading, but not excessively (yet), and it would provide a backdrop if it suddenly takes off and winds on down the border. There are other small trees and medium-sized shrubs in the border, which have become more recognizable as the months have passed. We have what I think may be a pretty little ornamental pear, with silver-green leaves. And a couple of rock roses: cistus – with papery-white petals bearing a careless splash of carmine at their centres. There is a large fuchsia – very common in Cornwall – which is not performing well.
And of course there are herbaceous plants: hostas, which were shredded by the slugs the moment they appeared so we now have a tangled mess that looks very sorry for itself.
We have some pretty geraniums, but they were in turn strangled by the shredded hostas. There’s an enormous day lily, which seemed to be full of promise in May but is past its prime I think, since there have been very few flowers.
We also have centaurea; lupins; and a purple heuchera, half-buried by a large dead something. Frothy alchemilla and shy blue scabious tumble over the retaining railway sleepers at the front and I did spot a few wild strawberries. We also have a great deal of ornamental variegated grass – a great deal too much. And we have raspberries! Bernie loves raspberries! Although growing as they do within the border makes them both inaccessible and visually dominant. Aesthetically there’s nothing especially pleasing about raspberry leaves…
In early June things were still looking encouraging.
But by late June we were on a downward slope.
And now my overarching feeling is that I’ve neglected this border – ostensibly to see what treasures it held. And it holds too much. Plants are too large, perhaps too old, and clearly too close together. Looking at it today, as we move steadily towards the end of July, it has almost no colour at all. There’s a lot of greenery but no flower, beyond the massive curry plant, which seems very happy.
I sense this border is destined to be proclaimed as our “Autumn Project”. Ideally, this one and the very much smaller flower bed in the opposite corner. This little patch is even more neglected than its larger counterpart. I suspect we’re in for some serious work in this eastern stretch.