The Rock Border

In the long borders,

alliums have taken over mass-flowering duty from the tulips;
and fine and dandy they look too.  They have multiplied tremendously in the two and a half years since I planted them.  Fine by me – I shall lift some and use elsewhere.
But the long borders are in need of a major planting makeover.  Or at least some heavy, relentless tweaking. Of all the beds at the Priory, I think these are the least successful – certainly for much of the year.  Were the garden mine, I would strip everything out and start again from scratch.
However, it is not.  So I need to take into account the plants and shrubs that are already in situ.  These include a mahonia (groan), a shaggy, misshapen berberis (groan), a huge dogwood the size of a small sovereign country (groan), two yuccas (two groans) – which are constantly trying to spear me in the eye whilst weeding – and the one trick pony, Viburnum bodnantense
(though a trick that is greatly appreciated when it flowers in the bleak midwinter, (“frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone” – you get the picture).  On the positive, the long borders do have two large clumps of persicaria which I have really come to appreciate.  They flower and flower and flower all summer long and bees (and oddly, wasps) adore them.
There are various singular plants plonked throughout and they do look like they’ve been plonked.  Last year I  attended a brilliant one day course at my favourite (probably) garden, Great Dixter.  Under the tutelage of Fergus Garrett we (30 or 40 madly-scribbling-down-everything students) learnt “Succession Planting in the Mixed Border”.  And I nicked loads of ideas for the Priory.
One recommendation was this:  Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Yellow Queen’.
Fergus told us to resist impulse purchases at the nursery – yeah, I know.  Difficult.  But try and do your research beforehand and buy varieties of plants that have a good, long flowering season.   Like the above aquiliegia.  Just wish I’d bought five or seven rather than one!  Now I will just have to wait for it to self seed before I can spread it through these borders.  In the meantime it’s a great example of David’s Plonked Gardening Style.

Repeat planting of certain plants is so important in trying to achieve a coherent and harmonious border and it is what I’m slowly trying to achieve in all the borders.  Though the building up of stock in order to achieve this is a slow process.  A work in progress then.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the garden…
On a south wall of the house, one of two honeysuckles is in full “Look at Me” mode.  The scent first thing in the morning is truly and wonderfully heady.  Rather like standing next to someone who’s wearing way too much perfume or aftershave.  Only this is a nice experience.   Very beautiful.
I’ve come across so many honeysuckles over the years that have looked scrawny and sparse and could barely be bothered to produce a handful of flowers.  Not this one.  I took out a few pavers from about its base to increase the size of its planting hole.  I mulch it annually with mushroom compost, give it a light trim with shears and secateurs after flowering and a splash of extra water when I remember.  And away she romps.  Go Girl, go.

Over in the kidney beds, Centaurea montana is off to a flying start and won’t finish for months now.  A fine beautiful blue.

A survivor from the-years-of-neglect, also in the kidney beds, are some self-sown lupins.  Sadly (for me) they are all pinky pastel shades.  Now don’t get me wrong all you pinky pastel fans;  pinky pastel has its place (though at the moment I struggle to remember where that might be – the compost heap?).  But personally, I much prefer a  rich, dark colour to a pale washed-out one; so what did I get?

Lupin Bland Mediocrity and

Lupin Oh-Dear-Not-My-Cup-Of-Tea-At-All.  Great.

My favourite bed (at the moment that is) is the Rock Border.  It’s turned out pretty much as I’d hoped, though some of the shrubs will take another year or two to reduce to the size I’d like.

 A few plants like the above hosta and fern have always been there.

But others like the forget-me-not and Alchemilla mollis, I’ve added.

I’ve also put in three clumps of this cracking campion.  It came from an NGS garden a couple of  years back.  I think it is Silene fimbriata but am happy to be corrected if that’s not the case.
In amongst the silene and the shrubs in this border, I’ve planted over a dozen white foxgloves.  These were grown from seed last year.  I love them.
Here is one of them up against a weigela that’s always been there (a pinky pastel weigela, naturally).

There are also self-sown Aquilegias; here again, just to wind me up, is a pale pinky pastel

but thankfully most of them are darker, like this one.

And this one.

Now.  If you wouldn’t mind getting down onto your knees (but only if you’re sure you can get back up again) and sticking your nose into the undergrowth, you will see, here in amongst the forget-me-nots, one of the newest additions to the garden.
It is Omphalodes linifolia and several seedlings were given to me by a good friend.  To be honest, I’d forgotten I’d ‘plonked’ them in this border till they caught my eye the other day.  Well worth getting your knees dirty for.
Quite perfect.  In time it’ll make a white carpet – so I’m told.
Here’s my hand if you need some help getting back up again.  Sorry – it’s a little sticky.

At the far end of the Rock Border, up against an old brick shed, is a new planting area.  It was carved out of the lawn by my friend Andrew, whilst I was away marching up hill and down dale in Yorkshire.  It will be a small tropical bed and I’ve already planted a hardy banana and a couple of dahlias.  In addition I’ve got cannas, pots of lillies and more dahlias to go in.
I’ll let you know how it comes along.

4 thoughts on “The Rock Border

  1. Thanks NellJean

    Hi Sara, least the yuccas will be flowering soon and I have to say that they are impressive – if you're into three foot long white flower spikes (which I am).

    I generally don't buy single plants anymore unless it's one I can split!

    Hi GS, they are there. You just have to be very, very quiet and look very, very closely.



  2. Wow, the borders are ramping away. The alliums are doing a sterling job. Good luck with taming the megaliths in the long borders – I don't envy you that, especially wrestling with yuccas!
    Lovely splashes of colour everywhere – hard waiting for the single plants to multiply and give a little more coherency. One of the pluses about things you grow yourself from seed is that you can ensure you have several to spread about, but when in the nursery it seems greedy to buy more than one…
    Love the campion.


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