Balsam (2)On two sides of the garden, the other side of the fence is a morass of overgrowth. Brambles, hawthorn, Himalayan balsam, sycamore seedlings and all the wild things that colonise any patch of ground that is untended. Try as I might, I cannot stop the invasion of my space. Birds eat the fruits, expel the seeds from “the other end” and lots of little unwanted things spring up. These aren’t so bad as they’re easy to pull up when young. The Hiimalayan balsam looks quite pretty when in flower en-masse, as long as you like pink, but they eventually shoot their seeds for miles around and those little seeds do not respect any barrier. BalsamI find plants growing in the gravel in the greenhouse, between paving, out of the gravel paths, in the lawn, in the slightest fault in mortar, indeed anywhere where there’s the smallest bit of anything in which they can take root. These I allow to grow a bit as they’re easier to pull out cleanly when they’re about a foot high; smaller and the stems snap off at ground level and they regrow.

But by far the biggest problem is the roots of the hawthorn and hazels which I cannot stop growing under the fence. I yank up the young trees and dig out the immediate roots where the ground is bare but, ultimately, there’s no alternative other than periodically to clear the borders and dig down to get at the deep roots. This is something I do about every seven years or so. It’s my gardening seven-year-itch I suppose.

New wallpaper
New wallpaper

This relatively major operation provides an opportunity to refresh the garden; to remove plants which haven’t quite behaved as I’d like, to divide and replant others but, overall to “redecorate”. After all, we redecorate rooms in our houses and usually change the décor to a different colour, a different pattern of wallpaper and so on. The garden is no different.

This is after hacking back above the fence!
This is after hacking back above the fence!

A couple of years ago, I’d started this process of renewal when an accident at the beginning of May laid me low for the rest of the year. Last year I hadn’t fully recovered and found that anything more than an hour a day in the garden would send me back to the doctor for another supply of painkillers. If I knelt down, I often couldn’t get up again. A lot of the garden has been neglected and the wilderness behind the fence has encroached with vigour. Even plants I would have wanted to keep have been pierced by growth that has proved impossible to remove completely from their roots.

So over the last couple of months I’ve really gone to town. Borders cleared; no wasting of time trying to resurrect anything. I have large chunks of beds and borders (large to me anyway) to plant up again. And my theme is “bold and bright.” There are colours that go together and there will be some plant combinations that do this. I’m going to introduce some grasses. I’m also going to shock by dotting plants that clash around the place – bright reds in the middle of pastel groupings and the like.


I tried my ideas out a bit when I planted up the wall planters around the conservatory early this year – using primulas and primroses of deliberately unknown colour mixes. And I liked the effect. Brash, in-your-face! The summer container planting may be a bit more subdued but then it may not.

Watch this space ……..

2 thoughts on “Renewal

  1. Bedding! That’s what you need. Bright and gharish. Go totally over the top. When done full on it’s amazing. And glyphosate. I’d add that to your tool box. Of course you do know that its the other side of the fence that is best for nature…..

    1. Oh dear! I’ve cut down a bit on bedding this year. Only got 800 or so plants romping away in the greenhouse. But you know I go in for garish bedding – the sort Anne likes! I use glyphosate occasionally too. And it’s always “the other side of the fence”.

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