The Handsome Helper made a complaint recently when we were walking in the garden.
When I complained about him complaining he told me that it was good for me to have complaints about the planting. Of course it is. And, indeed, it did make me aware of just how different our views of the garden are.
Because Charles was simply (hm – maybe?) looking at what was in front of him. Whereas I was looking at a select number of plants, wondering whether they would do. I realised then that I walk round the garden all the time imagining what it may become. Next week, next year. Looking to see what’s missing, what it needs, how it’s working and whether new plants or less plants will finally tip it into the right place.
This is dull.
The planting we were looking at had recently had several plants added. I was unhappy about that part of the garden. It had looked dull at this time last year – in fact it has never looked really good in July. So I was doing what I usually do – add some plants I think might work, and then if they do, I’ll add some more of them. The new plants in this part were very new and were part of Charles’s complaint, because they looked a bit random. But I have hopes and so daily I check that they are alive, water them if necessary, and imagine them fully grown. And look at where more of them might fit. Charles looks at a few very little new plants and wonders what on earth they are doing there. Understandable. It’s what you would see, were you here. You’d yawn.
Another example, to help clarify:
I planted a Thalictrum rochebrunianum in this garden.
Close up it looks like this:
Isn’t that amazing? I love it. it has excellent leaves also. Well, I planted the one on the left ages ago, thought it looked great there, so I added some more. One survived (on the right), the rest vanished. This year I looked at it again and decided it was so right I had to fill the rest of this garden with them. Which I have – babies. So now I go every day to see if they’re ok. But Charles wouldn’t notice them because they are tiny and other plants are making an impression. He sees this, I imagine:
Anne, looking at this – yes, the Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ will look great with the thalictrum – let’s see how they are doing.. Charles, looking at this – well he possibly looks at the path. He’s a path person.
I wonder what visitors see? They mostly come and ask for plant names.
And does any of it ever work???
Well, trying to keep it all going, spring to autumn has to be a major challenge. So we have dull bits at times. But I think some places are coming good at last. You can see that I use a very slow method. It has taken years to get the Persicaria alpina (Koenigia alpina, Persicaria polymorpha) right along this border, what with one problem or another. I’ve been spending late springs for some years looking desperately for the plants to show themselves, made into a hard search by them growing mixed in with the almost identically leaved Persicaria campanulatum. But this year it made it and I got six or seven doing their thing at a decent size at last. It does bring the whole together.
That’s close up. This is a rather distorted wide view – it’s really hard to show you this. (You need to visit!)
The Persicaria has a long flowering, fading slowly into pink, so the effect will work for a long time. There was another one out of shot on the right, until a deer sat on it. I’m relieved it didn’t choose to squash one of the middle ones. I think the effect works not simply because of the repetition: I think the sheer size of the plant in flower gives some substance in the border, helping it not to be too bitty. I see most visitors get close up and examine the other plants from close to. I study this border relentlessly from a greater distance, by the house or in the conservatory. Looking and tweaking, that’s my endless game.
I hope you’ve been able to cope with this long explanation.
It is probably, along with much research of plants and plantings, one of my major activities in relation to the garden. And little spoken about – it’s hard to explain. One of the great garden pleasures, though, is sharing these preoccupations and their progress with like minded friends. Do gardeners all live in the future?