Our garden is 15 years old this month and it’s time for a change in the shrubbery in the bottom bed. Everything there is looking a bit overgrown and tired, so I’m having a grand old time cutting back before I decide on a new planting scheme for this area. One afternoon I stood back to admire my handiwork, and I suddenly realised just how much my garden’s changed over the years.
It’s not only a matter of a change in size of the plants; it’s the plants themselves that have changed. My garden’s not a grand statement, it’s an ongoing conversation which I’ve engaged in whilst cultivating the soil and learning more about my garden and gardening. Conditions have changed too – one side of the garden went from open to shady over the years as the trees over the fence grew and matured. Now one of those trees has gone and I’ll have to consider whether the shade tolerant planting I have nearby needs replacing.
The most striking change this summer is the terraced area in the middle of the garden. I have quite a dramatic and diagonal slope there, so we needed several levels and some steps installed before I started to plant. It took me many years of trial and error before I realised these terraced beds are really like a large island bed and so I should plant it accordingly.
Looking back at my photos and planting lists, I see that only a third of my original plant choices have survived. The obelisks with clematis, plus a Fuchsia magellanica, dahlias and seasonal bulbs form the backbone, but pretty much everything else has changed. I’m being bolder with colour and the bees have a wider variety of plants to sip from. Other wildlife seems to be appreciating the changes too, with a wider variety of birds and butterflies being spotted in their respective counts this year. The crowning glory was finding a Silver-Washed Fritillary sitting on the Clematis ‘Elsa Spath’ during my recent contribution to the Big Butterfly Count.
It’s all a bit of a jumble and I love it. However, I also realise it’s not perfect. The angle I’ve chosen for my illustration photo belies the fact there’s a quite a gap in the middle of the planting, which becomes more obvious when viewed from our patio. This is because I’ve been too indulgent with the perennial cornflower, Centaurea montana. It’s a superb plant for the spring (it also repeat flowers until much later in the season) and the bees love it, but it’s very good at spreading and out-competing the other plants nearby. I’ve dug most of it out and have some perennial wallflowers, foxgloves and salvias ready to plug the gaps.
It seems my conversation with the garden continues…
How has your garden changed over the years?
Michelle Chapman is a gardener, freelance writer and blogger from Wiltshire. She is the author of the award winning blog, Veg Plotting, where she writes about her small town garden, seasonal food and anything else which strikes her whilst up at her allotment.