Gardening Dilemmas 3

Do I rest on my laurels?

cottage gardenWith a little help from an errant jet stream the cottage garden now looks like a cottage garden and not a bare batch of ground with some scrubby grass/weeds imitating a lawn. At last “nice, wall, terrific view shame about the garden” has been replaced by “what an interesting colour combination”.
cottage garden borderAt the start of the year the plan was to fill the borders with plants to produce a “good show” of blooms during the summer for our holiday cottage guests. Somewhat ambitious considering the climate, the soil and the location. This was not going to be another hope over experience adventure, I was playing to win. My devious strategy was to grow as many plants as I could from seed, plant as densely as possible and throw the colour charts out the window. Well it worked for Christopher Lloyd! My stroke of genius was to include all the plants which in a past life which I’d classified as barbarians (invasive thugs) and cross my fingers.
On the plus side I have filled the borders and the dense planting has helped the reduce the intensity of the wind damage. Life is too short for staking herbaceous plants; no room for wimps in this island garden you need to be able to stand on your own feet (or should that be roots) and sway in the gale. The decision to use native plants or cultivars derived from wild species was a good choice and appreciated by the bees, butterflies and hoverflies. However, on reflection it might have been wiser to choose the Achillea in separate colour strains rather than the mix of summer pastels! I was obviously a woman on a mission  and not a thinking gardener when I sowed the California poppies next to the maiden pinks!

The jury is out on the grey and orange of the sea poppies with the blue of the salvias or harebells, but alstromeras with the lime green of Alchemilla is definitely out! I’m not sure whether it is the harsh landscape of the coast, the grey of the stonewall or the quality of our light, but this garden needs strong colours. Zingy, vibrant colours would never be my first choice, so I’m not sure how I manged to produce borders where such strong colours predominate (clash). The nearest I’ve got to subtlety is the soft pink of the thrift against the stone and gravel paths!

maritime pea

Maritime pea

As for the thugs – the maritime pea (Lathyrus japonicus) was a mistake, it rampaged through the border and refused to climb up the wire netting. Pretty flowers do not compensate for thuggery and I fear that I will be pulling it up for years to come. Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium caeruleum) is doing a good job in one or two difficult areas, but the reprieve is probably temporary. Alchemilla, borage and aqueligas – promiscuous profligate seeders but they are too pretty to sacrifice. I also grow Alchemilla erythropoda and A. alpina, which are both attractive and rather better behaved.

So do I rest on my laurels and enjoy the glory of my exuberant floral tapestry or do I rush in and remove the worst offenders? It may be more sensible to wait and see what survives the winter and be a little more discerning (boring) in my seed selection for next year. I admit that I have already removed most of the self-sown marigolds, although as Himself mourned their passing I’ve had to promise to establish a new colony in another part of the garden. I’ve also had complaints from the bees about the removal of the maritime peas, perhaps I’ll try sweet peas next year!

P.S. My yellow-horned poppies or sea poppies are Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum which is why they are orange and not yellow. Must have ticked the wrong box in the catalogue (oops)!

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15 thoughts on “Gardening Dilemmas 3

  1. Your garden looks beautiful and the bright colours look especially good against your fantastic backdrop! The oranges, reds and purples really are zingy and well suited!

  2. Your garden looks beautiful and your hard work clearly paid off. You can plan for changes next year.

    Here in south Texas with our cultural roots in Mexico we don’t know the meaning of color clash. We toss it all in together and call it a Fiesta garden.

  3. I wouldn’t worry too much – the garden looks fantastic! A seaside setting, a cottage, a stone wall – what more could some of us ask for? And you have it! I would go right ahead and “rest on your laurels” and just enjoy it! I’ve always said – you may not wear an orange skirt with a pink top but in nature, these colours blend just fine.
    As far as the “thugs” go – all of us have fallen into exactly the same tempting trap. I too took “bad plants” from my aunt’s garden, even though she and my cousin’s wife warned me not to (goutweed, periwinkle). They filled in just fine …..and then took over!! I am still pulling some of these today. Oh well – that’s what gardening (and life) are all about: Live and Learn!!

    • I think we’ve all fallen into the thugs trap and some of us never learn! I’m not sure whether it’s desperation or an obstinate belief that “we know best”. So I’ll do my penance and begin the 7 years weeding!

  4. I think that it all looks beautiful — but no gardener ever rests on their laurels. We almost always see little (or big!) things we want to tweak. And even if we think it’s perfect the way it is, the plants (living creatures that they are) won’t behave exactly the same way next year.

  5. I’m with Himself – marigolds are harmless and don’t deserve to be uprooted.
    Your garden looks lovely – time for a rest, preferably somewhere more comfortable than on some laurels.

    • I’m proposing trans-location not ethnic cleansing! I’m just moving them to another part of the garden. They were here when we came and I’m sure they’ll still be here when I’m gone – particularly as I have a long border totally devoted to marigolds in the veg garden.

  6. I was blown away (not literally, though that wouldn’t be inappropriate) by your garden – it is looking absolutely lovely – yet more evidence that, thugs or no thugs, Christopher Lloyd is always right. Or worth following, at the very least.

    I’d leave some of the thugs and see what survives – maybe it will be a bad winter (one of my neighbours, an old shepherd, assures me that it will be horrible), maybe it won’t (he’s been wrong before)… on the other hand, do you really want the thugs to set seed? I’m wrestling with this dilemma myself, so I’ll be interested to see what you decide.

    • Hello Kate – thank you. You are right I should listen to Mr Lloyd and the wisdom of my blog readers! It must have been a grumpy day, but I’m over my bout of petulance and now like the rich hotchpotch of colours – although I’m still having trouble with the orange and vibrant pinks! I think on balance I’ll wait to see what survives the winter and let nature do the selection for me.
      I usually let all my plants self-seed, mainly because I don’t cut the flowering stems down – they’re an important over-wintering site for insects and help protect the plant from the weather. Time and weather permitting I’ll probably remove the seed heads from some of the thugs and just selectively weed the seedlings. However – the pea has to go!. Would you believe it – it has the most attractive seed pods too. I’m almost tempted to find another home for it.

  7. I love it…very much in “place.” What palette are you considering? I am with PJ GirlPastels, in my opinion, can “wash out” in the sometimes-harsh seaside light (My father uses lots of pinks and whites at his beach place, and you can’t really see them from farther away than 25 feet–7 meters–or so). Hots and darks give good show on glare-y days. Do you have some grasses to wave in the breeze? I really can’t get enough of the look of your croft.

    • I think my problem is that I’m so used to creating cool, green English gardens which delicate hues that I’ve not made the leap into new landscapes which need a new approach! So the hot colours stay – I must have had something like this at the back of my mind – after all I bought the seeds.
      Grasses were always part of my plan and I’ve just put in some Stipa tenuissima. I’m having trouble tracking down the seed of some of the more interesting grasses. I grow from seed when I can – my experiences of buying plants mail-order have disappointing.
      Blogging has been slow this summer – too busy gardening and enjoying our terrific weather – so I’ll post some exerts from the croft diary in the winter!

      • EXACTLY the grass I was thinking of–you obviously have a Great Mind. I’d plant a bunch of it at my Dad’s place, but it would only fall victim to his annual Blood Orgy of Weedwhacking that occurs every spring. Same for Russian Sage and Lavender, which always look so comfy with the sea as a backdrop. I understand about the blogging–sometimes it’s difficult to unravel the chicken and egg relationship between the gardening and the writing. I think you are succeeding.

      • I’d like to write more – but I just can’t drag myself indoors to sit at the computer.
        I really think you should take your Dad in-hand and confiscate his strimmer or whatever he uses!

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