It’s the summer solstice and a good time to review the garden again. First impressions are ‘wow’ or so say the visitors. The reason being that this small courtyard garden resides in the centre of London and creates a verdant contrast with the frontage.
Dominating the scene at the moment are the hydrangeas, thickening out the whole length of the west-facing border and brimming with bud and blooms. First up are my favourite Hydrangea serratas ‘Kyosumi’ heralding from the Japanese mountain regions and displaying dark pink edges to their pastel florets. Alongside is a gleaming white H. panniculata and incoming are the dark pink mopheads, identically hued with an adjacent ‘Fairy’ rose.
The other flower which should be coming in to bloom in the shade garden are the array of fuchsias from the tiny Tom Thumb to the bushy variegated Magellanicas. Whilst these are budding without problems the mid-height hardy fuchsias are once again being decimated by the capsid bug, causing leaf and bud distortion. Since this is an organic garden and no sprays are used, I remove the unsightly foliage by hand and wait until Autumn for the fuchsias to bloom again.
The other bugbear of this courtyard garden is a neighbouring Sycamore tree (just visible in the centre image) which gets bigger and thicker each year, blotting out valuable sunlight from the South West. Against these odds and to counter the gloom, I like to grow hotter colours in containers and place them in the few part-sun spots there are.
At the far end of the garden, is my Salvia collection, planted in Diane’s garden when I lost my own space in the communal garden. They make me feel somewhat guilty for their lack of sunshine but still do their utmost as with the mexican S. microphylla ‘Hot Lips’. Soon to follow are the leaning-for-light towers of S. Mystic Spires, as well as variety of late summer to autumn bloomers.It has taken a few harsh lessons for me to go with the flow of the garden’s shade conditions and not fight it and in the process I’ve learnt to love the greenery and even the predictable plants that survive the darkest of conditions. In the top patio, are an array of containers forming a central garden with a gravel walk-around and borders heavily planted on all sides. It changes a little with the seasons and right now Hostas almost survive the predations of gastropods with these gravelly defenses. Clambering through the frilly Acer ‘Green Dragon’ is Dicentra scandens – the Bleeding Heart Vine of Golden Tears, beloved by bees. And to match it for colour a bronze Oxalis, sharing a pot with a diminutive pink Dicentra.
I cannot praise enough the Japanese hydrangea vine Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’ with its easy rambling habit and ivory florets that light up this darkest of corners. Equally striking are the whitened, architectural stems of Acanthus Mollis and shiny green foliage, big enough for bear’s breeches apparently, as such is their familiar name.One secret of small gardens is to plant with as much bushiness as possible, paradoxically creating the illusion of spaciousness. An early Spring topping of dry chicken manure and some recent watering with effluence from the wormery has paid off in blooms and lushness this year.
Written for Diane so that she can stay in touch with the Courtyard Garden wherever she is in her travels.