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:
(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.