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This gardening blog is written in Bathurst, NSW, Australia.





Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Two Delicious Dilemmas

Back in October, the Crab Apple Border looked like this:


Behind the crab apple, the Ceanothus was in its full blue glory. However, the pink Cistus, planted in front of it and growing up through it, had hardly any flowers this spring, and I reluctantly decided that, after many years of exemplary service, it needed to be replaced. But I would wait until the Ceanothus finished flowering and cut it back at the same time. 

So November came and the border looked like this:


The crab apple, Ceanothus and pink Cistus had finished, but a white Cistus in front of it was still in bloom, so I waited a bit longer, to prune them all at the same time.

When, early this month, I finally pushed my way in, secateurs and loppers at the ready, I found that not only the pink Cistus, but the white one and the Ceanothus, had all become so overgrown that they were just dead wood apart from a couple of inches of green growth at their very tips. I went away for a sit and a think, then got out the pruning saw. Here is the result:


It's a bit hard to tell, but all three shrubs are completely gone. The Cistuses had grown so tall, they were swamping the Queen Elizabeth rose. They were much taller than me and had sprawled out to fill a space about 5 metres wide between the rose and the fence. These shrubs were planted when this garden was much sunnier, and they had been desperately seeking more light.

(By the way, I just want to say that I am very, very proud of this 'Polish Spirit' Clematis that is climbing the crab apple tree. For years I thought I could not grow Clematis - the sad evidence was not lacking for this belief - but I can!) 


The patch of fence you can see to the left of the tree was hidden by the Ceanothus before I chopped it down. There seems to be a struggling comfrey plant there. Who knew?

This next shot shows the new gap better. You can now see right through to the Mediterranean Border. I think I like it. It's a bit like a secret tunnel. I am going to keep it because it adds depth to the view of the border, but I do want to hide that fence again. So, low plants in the the tunnel and tall, narrow ones for the fence.



There is also now a big gap in the Mediterranean Border, as the Cistuses and Ceanothus were very visible from here, too. 


So here is my first delicious dilemma: what should I plant in these new spaces? I am not going to rush into a decision, but think about it at least until autumn, when it's cooler and good for planting shrubs and perennials. That gives me about 4 months to plot and dream and scheme. At this stage, there are endless possibilities and anything could happen. Bliss!

And my second dilemma? Well, it's similar, really. This is a little garden we call the BBQ border, because, well, it's next to the barbeque. It's also right outside our bedroom window. It's a difficult spot, shady in the morning and late afternoon, but in blazing sun in the middle of the day in summer. it's also sloped, so it gets dry at the top. The plants in here are, along the back, a hybrid musk rose, 'Cornelia' (hidden behind the Loquat tree in front of the garden), common mauve lilacs and a Hibiscus syriacus with white flowers. In the front are a Chinese star jasmine and a Pittosporum (I think it's 'Limelight') shaped into a dome, with hellebores under it. It's uninspiring and the planting isn't integrated. But what to do? 

Well, inspired by the good results of hacking away in the Crab Apple Border, I decided the Pittosporum, at least, had to go. It was in too much shade and so it was dead and leggy underneath. And really, what was it doing there anyway? 


Later the same day, the clouds had come over, a  mist had descended, and the Pittosporum had gone. But something else had appeared. That's a Buddleia, a silver one with white flowers, looking a bit sad, but amazingly, still alive. A little reward for being so decisive.


So here is my second delicious dilemma: what kind of garden can I turn this space into? What should I remove and what should I add? Well, I know a few of the answers. 

The Buddleia will be moved to a sunnier spot. It deserves a break. 

The lilacs, on the other hand, are doomed. They only flower for about 2 weeks and then look really dull for the rest of the growing season. 

The hibiscus can stay. It's taller than the fence now and has lovely flowers in late summer and autumn.

I'd like the rose to stay, too - it flowers well here despite the shade - but I'll cut off some lower branches of the loquat so it can be seen better and get some more light, too. 

The Chinese star jasmine can stay for now - it's a tough, evergreen ground cover that looks quite attractive.

Beyond that, I have no idea. But maybe when I've removed the Buddleia and lilacs, inspiration will strike. 

I'm in no hurry. I've finally learnt that I don't have to rush around, whenever there's a bare spot in the garden, trying to "fix" it. Waiting, while I observe and read and think and imagine, is a part of gardening, too. Actually, it's one of the best parts.

21 comments:

  1. Hi Lyn, you are certainly brave to take out some bigger plants in your yard, but I believe a good gardener is able to make decisions and realize them when something is not quite right or satisfying anymore and you did! Gardens always change and for me that is part of the fun. I am curious what solution you will choose and hope you will blog about them! Happy Holidays!
    Christina

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    1. It was a tough decision to take out the big plants, but once I started, it was really satisfying to get rid of all the dead stuff and open up some space. I'm also curious about the solution I'm going to choose, and I'll certainly blog about it when I know!

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  2. Hi Lyn, you have a lovely time ahead of you deciding what to plant ! It is one of my favourite bits of gardening. You are right to take lots of time to think and plan. Can you grow David Austin English roses where you are ? I thin they would be top of my list for the back of the border. I am a bit biased though, I do literally dream about them. Should I get out more ?? :-)

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    1. I used to really panic when things looked bare, and be really impatient to just plant anything to fill the space. But now I'm happy to take my time, having learnt the hard way that thinking time is important! I can grow English roses (I have 'Eglantyne') but I think it might be too shady for them at the back of the Crab Apple Border. They would be okay on the fence at the back of the Mediterranean Border, but I have said "no more roses". Which ones would you recommend - just hypothetically, of course? :)

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  3. That's one of the best parts of gardening - changing things! Since plants grow, it's a necessary part, too. I like that you'll plan and decide what you want instead of just rushing to put something there. (I have a bad habit of rushing!) But, with plants, there are so many choices! I hope you get something you will be very excited about!

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    1. I have no idea at all what I'm going to plant yet, but I'm confident some sort of inspiration will strike! It's so hot here this week (36 C) that there's no temptation to rush in, anyway.

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  4. I always feel invigorated after a trip into the garden with my loppers and pruning saw! Too many people are afraid to admit when a plant needs to go, but knowing when and how to edit is an important part of gardening. Have fun deciding what to plant next!

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    1. I know, I love pruning, too. But I hate dealing with the prunings, so this sometimes holds me back! I intend to have lots of fun before I finally decide what to plant.

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  5. I think we must be kindred spirits! I can't the number of times I have weighed in to trim a shrub only to discover that it was mostly leafless under a slight furring of green. Sometimes things come out completely, sometimes they are given the opportunity to sprout back from lower down and earn their place again, but it is always a shocking and exciting transformation. And nothing beats the delicious dilemma of what to plant in a newly aquired gap. Enjoy your planning!

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    1. I really should have got rid of the Cistuses last year, but I relented, and then regretted it this year, so it wasn't too hard to make the decision. And then it looked so different - shocking and exciting describes it exactly! I plan to enjoy my planning very much.

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  6. I love trimming back plants, and then when they re-shoot they look nice and healthy and bushy. I love some of your grey foliage plants - it is way too wet grow those types of plants here. I look forward to seeing what you will plant.

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    1. I love trimming and pruning, too, although I bet your plants grow back faster than mine! It is nice to be able to grow the grey plants, but even here I had to build up the bed to get them above the clay.

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  7. Yes the joys of gardening - empty spots or fill them in. I think your idea of taking time is the smart idea. Time to research and plan. Maybe add an element of sculpture or a large pot - could add interest too. Just a thought from up here along the shores of Lake Michigan in USA. JC

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    1. Thanks for commenting! Sometimes it does seem that gardening is all about getting rid of plant matter and then adding more - that's what keeps it interesting. Adding sculpture is an interesting idea. I do want to hide the fence with planting, but the space in the middle could be a spot for a sculpture - I hadn't considered that.

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  8. You are so busy! And it's so encouraging! I love all your ideas, really. The secret garden effect, the flat stone wall, the amazing purple clematis vines. Very nice, and exactly the kind of garden I enjoy the most.

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    1. I'm glad you like the ideas. I need to develop them a bit more. The hot weather has arrived, so there will be less gardening and more thinking going on.

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  9. Oh, it's so much fun to plan for new plants! Enjoy your pondering! Your borders are always amazing. And clematis are my absolute favorite plants - I've both grown and killed my fair share of them. But growing one up a tree is still on my to-do list!

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    1. I love clematis, too, especially growing through shrubs and into trees. This one is very easy to grow and very vigorous. I just sit back and let it do its thing!

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  10. Sometimes we have to take brave decisions in the garden, and taking out big features that has been there for years is one of them. The good thing about that is you get an empty space to fill with something new and exciting! I have taken out 3 big plants in my garden this summer and have a large space (relatively, for my tiny garden) to fill this spring, I have bought a hardy double gardenia which will go in that space, but at the moment the plant is tiny so it will need to grow a bit as it will drown in that space.

    I can recommend a lovely David Austin rose for a shady spot, if you go back on your ‘no more roses’ - 'Wildeve' will happily grow in a quite shady spot. But it is a bush rose and you would perhaps want something more substantial to grow up your fence? You can see the rose on my blog, I have it in my garden.

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    1. I do like having these spaces to fill - at the moment, the possibilities seem unlimited, which is a nice feeling. Judging by past experience, my "no more roses" resolution may be more of a guideline than a rule, so I'll go ahead and find out about 'Wildeve', just in case. Thanks for the suggestion.

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  11. I spent yesterday methodically working my way around my gardens with a weeder and secateurs in my hand. The results were not as dramatic as yours but satisfying nonetheless. I need some plants for shaded areas and would like flowers as well. Do you have any suggestions.

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