It’s time to concentrate on the back garden for a while.
I’ve been turning my attention to planning the front borders up until now because there’s just so much bare soil out there. I now have this space three-quarters planned – there’s just one corner I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do with yet. I’ve moved most of the shrubs I want to move and even binned a couple which have outlived their usefulness. Now it’s a case of waiting for everything to grow; most of the herbaceous perennials or annuals I want to plant in the front I will grow from seed. This is probably ambitious, to say the least, but I simply couldn’t afford to go into a garden centre and buy everything I’ll need to fill the front garden, and I kind of want the satisfaction of knowing I’ve created much of it myself, from seed. Don’t get me wrong – I have bought and will continue to pick up bits and pieces along the way, especially if I spy bargains at a plant sale or special offer. But I’m trying my best to grow most of it, and that process is already underway.
So, with spring fast approaching, it’s time to look again at the rear garden. There’s plenty of bare soil here too and I want to take a different approach with this area. I have had the idea of woodland planting for the back garden for a while, as it tends to be more shady and there are a lot of mature, established shrubs and conifers. This was confirmed on a visit to Belfast Botanic Garden in late spring last year when much of the planting which caught my eye was lovely lush, untamed woodland-style planting and I was inspired by many of the combinations – pulmonaria and geraniums, ferns and tiarella, hostas and hellebores, planted alongside rhodedendrons, pieris and euphorbia. It struck me that I have the basis of this kind of planting already and want to keep the theme going.
There are other criteria for the back garden: I would also like it to more or less take care of itself, I’m happy with a slightly ‘wild’ look and the plants will also need to be fairly tough as the chickens are free-ranging out there regularly now and love to scratch about in these borders and take dust baths in the driest spots.
Colour-wise, everything that’s out there already is purple, pink or white and that’s a theme I quite like and will continue – with the exception of wild primroses. I really want these, as they are perfect woodland plants, will spread and provide early spring colour. I hope their soft yellow shade will be a nice contrast for other planting in this area.
The plants which already shine in the back garden are geraniums, hostas, aquilegia and some alchemilla mollis which I have to keep an eye on or it would take over. There are quite a few Fritilliaria melleagris (snakes head fritillaries) which will soon be emerging I hope and I’m also watching for the hellebores to make an appearance. Last year I also added some white Hesperis matronalis (sweet rocket) which I really like and some Japanese anemones – I hope these will settle in and spread around the back and in between the larger shrubs.
So, the planting is already fairly ‘woodland’ or ‘wildflower’ in theme and I want to continue that, adding some sturdy specimens which will provide more colour for more of the year, and preferably ground cover too.
I’ve made a start – my local garden centre had an offer on pulmonaria this weekend, so I’ve picked up three ‘Raspberry Splash’. These have lovely silvery-variegated leaves and are a pink-red colour which I like as an alternative to the more common purple variety. They’re quite large so I’m pleased that they’ve already filled quite a good-sized gap. I also spied primula vulgaris, which I’ve been hankering after and got half a dozen to plant at the front of the border. They’re not in flower yet but I really hope they’ll establish and provide a very welcome spot of early colour.
Here’s how it’s looking now they’re in place:
Obviously, still quite a lot of soil on show, but as we know, gardening is about playing the long game, and I’m hopeful these young plants will establish and spread over time. I expect I may still have to use some annuals or bedding plants to fill in the gaps for a year or two but that’s fine with me. In fact, I have a plenty of forget me nots grown from seed which will need a home and I think they will work nicely here too. The other plant I want for the back garden is tiarella – I think the frothy white spires will provide a nice contrast to some of the other plants and, again, should provide some good ground cover in time.
So watch this space – I certainly am! I’m checking almost every day for the little green shoots of bulbs, hostas and other perennials emerging in this part of the garden and I’m looking forward to creating a little bit of Belfast Botanic Garden which I can see from my kitchen window.