Early December: At last work has started on the front garden. We had planned to complete it in November but now we are aiming for mid-December so that we can get the exterior festive lighting installed for Christmas.
Combining hard landscaping for car parking with an environmentally friendly green space is such a hot topic these days – the balance has to be just right, incorporating practicality & creativity. Air pollution in the London suburbs is relatively light, but as the front garden is north facing, the plants have to be able to withstand exposure to string winds.
Day 1: David’s first job was removing the privet hedge, quite controversial at it was decades old, but we have assuaged our guilt by increasing the space allotted for plants (that’s the whole point of this exercise in my view) and creating better drainage on the drive. However I hope that the more open plan design does not encourage any opportunist theft. Previous pots had to be anchored down to avoid temptation!
Day 2: My task was to lift and pot up all the ornamental grasses and T&M tree lilies from the central raised bed into temporary containers, so that David could dismantle it, a mixed blessing as it turned out, as I was able to divide the grasses and separate all the bulbils for propagation. The tree lily collection was part of the T&M summer 2014 trials so this was their 2nd summer in the front garden; I lifted well over a dozen healthy bulbs, each one with several bulbils, and some even fell apart into two huge intact pieces. The ornamental grasses provide year round interest, but the tree lilies are the star turn in the summer, their towering stems and multiple flower heads pumping out fragrance that stops passers-by in their tracks. I know from experience that they grow taller with each year so I had better give them plenty of room in the new scheme. One main objective is to disguise the three council waste bins whilst still allowing regular access and mobility. Somehow David has to incorporate our water butt and a couple of small storage cupboards in the recess between the front bay windows too! A combination of contemporary fencing and tall ornamental grasses should do the trick by drawing the eye towards the dense planting scheme.
Days 3, 4 & 5: It looks a bit stark right now with all the plants out and the hard landscaping being laid: the raised bed’s retaining walls are being constructed with new railway sleepers, the concrete surface has been broken up for better drainage and gravel is being poured into the base. The horizontal wooden slatted fencing is almost in place, and the overall layout is working out as planned. I can already see a seaside theme emerging (never mind the fact that we are in the middle of a city). Neighbours and passers-by are stopping to see how our latest project is taking shape.
Mid-December: Having just returned from a trip to the south Cornish coast, where ferns, palms and phormiums abound, the seaside theme seems even more appropriate; we even bought a wooden seagull for the top of the fencing. As the mild weather persists I have been able to plant up the bed with the grasses, phormiums, ferns and heucheras, as well as all the narcissi bulbs I unearthed from the previous tubs. I have divisions of most grasses that I can now keep for our NGS Plant Sale next summer, and room for some more ferns. David has fixed festive lights all around the sleepers and a multi-coloured reindeer to keep Sid the Seagull company!
My only dilemma now is how I can incorporate the tree lilies into the theme – I am thinking a pair of large metal planters either side of the front door……David, if you are reading this there are still 12 shopping days until Christmas.
Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year to you all.
Caroline Broome has been gardening for more than 20 years. Having passed the RHS General Certificate, she has since developed her East Finchley garden into a “personal paradise” that she and her husband invite the public to visit each year via the National Garden Scheme. Learn more about our contributor using T&M’s ‘Meet the experts’ page.