So back in March I engaged the services of an old school gardener - a chap who has worked all his life in nurseries, and instinctively refers to plants by their Latin names, as opposed to the usual kind of 'gardener' you meet nowadays, who basically cuts hedges and lawns and knows zilch about anything else - to clear out whatever plants he thought were spreading like wildfire, or growing too tall, or suffering from rot, or just plain ugly. He went at this job like a whirling dervish one day while I was in France, about to be locked down(!), and on my return my neighbour commented on how much he had achieved in a single day. His horticultural MO was tantamount to a scorched earth policy, without the military context or the scorching. But certainly my beds were nearly bare by the end of it, with a few plants spared on account of their fitting my stringent selection criteria for next time, of which more anon.
|Charlie Bonkers, the previous incumbent|
In addition to dealing with the jungle of the flower beds themselves, I did finally screw my courage to the sticking place - suppressing my not inconsiderable repulsion in the process - and tackled the far end of the patio, into which I had never felt brave enough to venture all this while. Like the recent 'big garage clearout', which took two days and a lot of sheer physical graft, this was another job that was in the 'too hard' and 'too horrible' category to be done till now, but once I overcame my mental block and got on with it, there was a huge feeling of release and satisfaction in the finished result.
For on that side of the patio were all sorts of receptacles with stagnant water and soil and stones in them; broken bits of pottery; old watering cans lying on their sides, home to rotting leaves and snails galore; watering cans with puddles of suspected weedkiller inside, plus a thicket of tangled vegetation and an old jerry can with a hole in it. I simply avoided going there, not least because there was also a clematis and honeysuckle madly climbing up the back of the garage, adding to the knotty mess of foliage. I could put a small bench in the space I have created. And have been using the water butt! It's a whole new outdoor space to just be in.
|"Yes, it probably could do with thinning out!"|
Until the gardener can replant next year, he will be doing another round of weedkilling, while I am in charge of lawncare. Which brings me to an embarrassing tale on that subject...
For the last time I mowed the lawn, on one of those boiling hot days we have had lately, I was nearly stopped in my tracks as soon as I started by the discovery of a dead frog. I had seen a live frog in a flower bed a couple of days previously, and presumed it had fallen prey to the cat - even though I had also observed them companionably sitting back to back to each other, like two amusingly mis-sized book ends. So I dashed out into the street, aimlessly looking for someone's husband to borrow to dispose of it, as I can only handle dead birds and mice - frogs seem a more alien and offputting category of corpse to me, especially as I couldn't detect any legs on this one. In the road I ran into the man who runs the local hardware store and solicited his help. "You just pick it up with a shovel and put it in a bag", was his opening salvo, until I apprised him of my psychological issues with amphibians. "Ah, but I can't leave my car unattended, as I have a lawn mower sticking out of the boot", he countered, "but if you prepare the tools first, then come back here and mind my mower, I'll deal with it." After thanking him profusely, I laid a spade, a pan and brush, and a sturdy rubble bag on the lawn, and stood guard by his car while he did the biz. The chap was back in no time, my equipment clearly untouched. He had evidently removed the snail (as it turned out to be) between his finger and thumb.
|Bare or what?! (interrobang)|
Hmm...so taking stock I wonder if I might get the gardening bug, as I briefly did after my mother died? I do feel a lot better psychologically for doing even the most menial physical work outside, and by clearing the patio after so much time I feel I have bulldozed a huge mental and physical obstacle out of the way.
Then the gardener had previously asked me to make a list of flowers and shrubs that I like, which he can then vet for their behavioural characteristics - for as with people, beauty is only petal deep, and plants may run amok or succumb to weevils as soon as look at you, which would never do. I went away and did that, and also added a list of my own parameters the plants must meet - not all of them(!) - but I would like the garden to include some plants like this in the mix:
- Architecturally interesting
- Not overly prone to pests or disease
- Not overly prone to self-seeding / going bonkers
- Slightly acid-loving
- Easy care
- Variegated foliage
- Seasonally colour-changing foliage (two for the price of one)
- Plants with silvery / frosted foliage in winter (bit niche, this)
- Plants with shoots that droop down like exploding fireworks (arguably even more niche!)
- Arrestingly blue flowers
And last but not least....SCENTED. Which is where you all come in. I would be most grateful if you could suggest flowers, shrubs or trees (dwarf varieties only!) that have a nice fragrance. Not honeysuckle, as I have just chopped one of those down, haha.
|The clematis survived the cull....|
So far I have come up with a peachy rose, 'Virginal' mock orange, lemon-scented geraniums, jasmine, and a daphne of some description, but I have lots of time to gather more ideas, which can then be fed into / run past the gardener's reality-checking algorithm.
Strangely, I love the smell of lavender as a shrub - and it ticks the architectural box as well, also 'bee-friendly', if I was sufficiently ecologically-minded to have that one too - but not in any other format, so that is on my list. And I have a selection of mints in pots already, which I love to smell, though I don't really care for mints as a flavour either, plus the different varieties are not all pleasant by any means(!). I think apple mint is the one that smells traditionally - and acceptably - minty to my nose.
In my research on possible contenders for the big planting next year, I chanced upon four plant terms or names that made me smile:
- Macrophylla (sounds like a kind of immune cell)
So in addition to scented suggestions, do add any quirky horticultural words to this list. ;)
Oh, I nearly forgot...there has been one new addition to the planting already - 'Larry the Locust tree', donated by my friend Kate. He comes in the biggest pot I have ever seen, so am mindful that the watering operation needs to be substantially scaled up, especially in the hot weather. He provides a nice focus at the newly cleared end of the patio, and hopefully will soon recover from his inevitable transplant shock.