Beds, Bums* and Borders

When I first saw the gardens at the Priory in the summer of 2008, all of the borders and beds were smothered in nettles, brambles, bindweed and the like.  It was a daunting and dispiriting sight.  And quite a challenge too  as, initially, I was only taken on for two days a week.  A local firm had been engaged to mow the grass and to strim.  But (as they were the first to admit), they were not gardeners and couldn’t identify any diamonds in the rough.  Struggling roses, sedums, day lilies and persicaria were all strimmed along with grass and nettles.  Made me weep.  I very much wished to preserve what few plants had managed to cling to life during ‘the-years-of-neglect’, so I asked them to leave all the planted areas well alone.  I planned to hand weed all the borders and so see what might be worth preserving.
A word of explanation.  (There will be questions later so you may wish to take notes). There are six large borders in the gardens; two, I (very imaginatively) call the Long Borders,
The Long Borders (summer 2009) with the raised veg beds behind

two I call the Kidney Beds

One of the kidney beds in April 2009.  Presence of daffodil bulbs didn’t make weeding any easier .

which leaves the Rock Border

The Rock Border July 2008.  The path that leads to the greenhouse runs along behind it.

and the Iris Bed.

The Iris bed with the amazing wisteria above.  July 2008
In addition there are several smaller beds including the Peony Bed and various beds up against the walls of the house.  So, during my first year, on my hands and knees, with a hand fork I weeded the beds.  Big job.  Huge.

I’m still locked in battle with bindweed (and its  nasty white, brittle roots), couch grass, a little horsetail and ground elder and my all time nemeses – creeping bleedin’ buttercup.  I have dug up enough creeping bleedin’ buttercup in my career as a gardener to bury Croydon to a depth of 55 feet.  True.  I don’t like to use weedkillers and only do  so at the Priory for the brick paving areas around the house, the brick paths, the parking area and some of the 2 or 300m drive.   I just haven’t got the time to hand weed such large areas.   (I never use weedkillers or insecticides in my own garden or indeed any other garden I’ve worked in).

Anyway, the hand weeding is working.  Slowly but surely.  What little bindweed that’s left in the beds is now weak and tiddly as it emerges.  I shall battle on. And whilst I shall never be truly victorious, I  hope to  keep  the enemy on a sullen and sulky back foot.

The hardest beds to weed (and so consequently the ones  that I left till last) were the Kidney Beds, whose surface was a tight lattice of nettle roots and stems, resembling nothing other than the ‘fingers’ on an Alien Facehugger, gripping on with grim determination.
(Still awake?  Well done. Almost there).  What, I’m slowly getting round to saying is that there is a lot of space in the garden.  A few garden plants survived their ‘Wilderness Years’ but mostly what I was left with was some shrubs and lots and lots of space.  Now all I had to do (and still have to do) is fill it.*The use of the word ‘Bums’ in this post title was  for the rather pleasing alliterative value only.  Apologies if you were expecting something altogether different.

4 thoughts on “Beds, Bums* and Borders

  1. Good idea Dave!! I'm sure they would go for that. Tell them it's a spin off from minimalist modern art!! Or throw a blanket of sand and some pebbles down and tell them it's a coastal bed!


  2. Hi Simon

    It certainly is most vexatious. I used to work in a garden with three enormous veg beds. I would spend a huge amount of my time keeping these weed free – mostly of 'buttercup. And the clients grew virtually no veg. Hardly any. That also was vexatious.

    Perhaps I should leave the borders at the Priory mostly empty. Tell the owners that 'Open Beds' is very avant-garde. The new prairie planting. Wonder whether I'd get away with it.




  3. Hi Dave,
    I see we share the same passion for that most vexatious of weeds…. the creeping buttercup!! It truly is one of the delights of the garden 🙂 I know what you mean about the nettle roots aswell.. i recently cleared a rather neglected spot for my polytunnel, and the nettle roots that i pulled out were simply unbelievable!!
    What plans do you have next to fill the space?


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