Battles in the borders

Acer palmatum 'Ukigumo nishiki' and hostas
What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade. –Gertrude Jekyll

…And June is when slugs are hatching plans to circumvent the gravel that stands between them and the hostas, in the island Tile Garden. I swear sometimes that gastropods can fly.

Anyway, it’s finally hotting up here; the cool, drying winds have subsided for now and all we need is plentiful summer rain to douse the pollen and tree detritus. Meanwhile lashings of dry chicken manure earlier this year, have given the louche climbing rose a bit of a kick, and judging by the density of blossom on the pyrancantha, there should be plenty of fiery berries.

In the opposite corner, polystichum ferns planted in April, have filled out the gaps that were revealed when I curtailed three enthusiastic sarcococcas. These will significantly enlarge, eventually, but until then I’ve in-filled with other ferns so that there will be the usual struggle for space that inevitably ensues with my impatient style of gardening. The flash image does not do justice to the Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) which defies youthful green in favour of bronze, adding a paradoxical touch to the planting.

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There is no better example of my ‘survival of the fittest’ approach to gardening than the SW-facing border of the top patio. Here hebe brachysiphon ‘white gem’, is buffeted by several hardy fuchsias and variegated f. magellanicas, which in turn scuffle with a couple of  so-called domesticated Nandinas. Some small, yellow perennial foxgloves (digitalis lutea) have managed to peek out from this melee, whilst polyanthus make their annual surprise appearance when all the above is dormant. At the far end, hydrangeas take the space, both mophead and the lovely H. serrata ‘Kiyosumi’, in which a Fairy rose entangles herself.

It sounds chaotic and is not an ideal spot for most of the plants since the next-door sycamore has grown into a giant shadow but it’s a kind of deliberate mistake that works busily, with young plum-purple  leaves of Nandina, blending with the flushed tones on variegated fuchsias, and complementing an adjacent, acer Trompenburg.

Being a small space, I’ve filled the courtyard garden out with dense plantings of shrubs and perennials in order to create the illusion of somewhere larger. As it’s such a shady spot too, white is a predominant colour, and certainly the dominant flower at the moment is the pearly Japonica oficinale, trailing all along the ‘east wing’ of the courtyard and pulsating with a divine fragrance.

But lest I’m ever tempted to turn this into a moon garden duo palette,  there are gorgeous colours to make me think twice:

And whilst the plants battle with each other, pests enter the fray. Once again, the capsid bug is blistering the fuchsias which means most blooms will not arrive until late summer – better that though than spray with something which makes the honey bees vanish from our gardens.

Keep battling gardeners one and all – we must never give up hope!

1-IMG_3228Written for Diane so that she can stay in touch with the Courtyard Garden wherever she is in her travels.

And for my good friend Joice who is travelling far and wide but who left some roots here.

(Images taken hurriedly with my iphone and hence do not accurately show how good the garden looks this month!)


6 thoughts on “Battles in the borders

  1. I see you have a walled garden *sigh-with-envy*. I have fantasies of walking into such a garden every morning, cup of tea in hand, checking on my plants 🙂 Guess my balcony will have to make do, at least there are no slugs up on the top floor.
    After a 4-day heatwave, we got that summer rain you’re wishing for last night. Unfortunately it’s still coming down today but at least no watering’s required…


    1. tis my neighbours garden (sigh) which I planted and continue to tend -my own was a communal plot but that is sad tale for another time. Balconies are wonderful places to sit with plants – I am reduced to a windowsill but though I cannot sit there, it gives pleasure too. Our rain is too fleeting here….


  2. Pretty – I have lots of snails and have just planted a hosta, Frances Williams, in a copper pot. Apparently there is a reaction to copper that deters snails after the first attempt. So far it is working. Some people attach a copper strip (as per draft-proofing) around the pot, or pennies.


  3. had wondered about that Candy though I’ve rather a lot of hostas in pots for copper coil. Pennies more affordable. There is also vaseline – apparently slugs slip on it! And the nematode bio-control that can be watered on. If only we had thrushes here but they disappeared over 10 years ago – not a song or mistle in sight


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