Have you lost control of your borders?

You may have moved to a new house with an overgrown garden or you simply have taken your eyes off the plot for a while and your borders have got ahead of themselves.

If you feel that you’ve lost control of your borders, it can be tempting to adopt the hard policy of bare earth: removing the lot and starting again…

Although this is sometimes an option, there is also much to be lost in this process. Mature shrubs and trees will take years to replace. Perennials which have spread like mad, could still have a place in your garden and be of great benefit.

It’s time to step back and look into softer options.

How well do you know your borders? What are the trees, shrubs and perennials which live there? Are there plants you particularly like or dislike?

Although some plants will have to be removed to create space for other existing plants and new stock, there are ways to rejuvenate a border: dividing, moving, pruning, feeding and planting.

As we get towards Autumn and Winter, these will be the perfect months to do some of these essential gardening tasks. So, time to think on and plan your border control.

Join me at Bud Garden Centre on 13th September for a workshop on how to revamp existing borders. More details and how to book a place at Eventbrite – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/revamp-an-existing-border-workshop-tickets-43135143375?aff=eac2

Bulbous beauties

Bulbs, these amazing bits of Spring stored in multi-layered leaf systems, should be planted now.

The scale leaves which make up bulbs contain all the nutrients and moisture required for the emergence of the plant next year. They protect a bud in their core, ready to withstand temperature drop as well as pests attacks.

There are many to choose from, but this year I have fallen for Camassia quamash. This is a North American native. Kamas comes from the language of the Nootka Chinook tribe and means ‘sweet’. Their starchy bulbs apparently taste of baked pears, and also make you fart, so stick to flower arrangement with those.

I first came across the deep blue haze of Camassias on a friend’s allotment. The esculenta or quamash species is great for naturalising, multiplying itself by seeds over time.

Camassia cusickii is a taller and more showy species at about 60 cm / 2ft, but is clump forming and won’t spread unless you divide them each year.

Both like moisture and can be tolerant of clay soil, which a lot of bulbs will recoil from.

Trawling on internet, I have even found a Camassia maniac, http://www.harespringcottageplants.co.uk/about. I’m already planning a visit for next year.

Narcissi bulbs
Camassias (colour pencil on newsprint paper)

You can’t go wrong with fennel

I’m not talking about Florence fennel, which I tried and failed to grow on an allotment, several years in a row.

I’m praising here the virtues of Foeniculum vulgare. This perennial herb has hazy foliage and delicate umbels which will be at ease in most planting schemes, from contemporary to the more traditional. It doesn’t dominate the border, but squeezes amongst other plants, giving height and a subtle lemony touch. Its bronzed cousins, ‘Purpureum’ and ‘Giant Bronze’, have equal charms. The leaves can be used for seasoning and seeds can be used in teas, sauces and breads.

It does need free draining soil, but is relatively unfussy. I remember seeing it growing wild along paths in Brittany. I also notice it during a recent trip to Dove Cottage Garden and Nursery, near Halifax, where it mingles very nicely in the borders.

The plant does originate from the Mediterranean, and the ancient Greeks thought highly of its virtues and named it ‘marathon’. The battle of Marathon against the Persian was fought in a field of fennel.

Now, for an imposing statement in the garden, you may want to consider Giant Fennel, Ferula communis. It’s not related at all to the herb fennel, so don’t eat it! Just admire its body builder’s look, it can reach up to 4 m. Like all pumped up beasts, it’s not as hardy as it looks and will require a sunny sheltered spot.

Herb Fennel in the borders at Dove Cottage Garden near Halifax
Fennel seeds print
Giant Fennel at Great Dixter, East Sussex