Reorganizing and Replanting Snow Damaged Borders
Most of us have lost a few shrubs and perennials to the cold weather. Unfortunately when the freezing temperatures have damaged the roots it may not be completely apparent what has been affected until the weather warms up and the plants try to grow. One or two that struggled last winter didn’t have the energy to fight more extreme cold. I’ve lost my Ceanothus that I had enjoyed for years, Rosemary and Lavender. Luckily it’s January and that means it is the perfect time to plant some new interest and reorganise a few shrubs which are perhaps not positioned in the best place.
My south west facing front border has needed an overhaul for some time. It was planted 11 years ago and the conditions are far from perfect. The soil is very heavy clay, which can be limiting and at the time we had four lively border collies. They would get excitable and circle the house trampling anything I had planted. I have a good back ground of evergreens including some brilliant tough variegated hollies and a maple hedge enclosing the space, so these shrubs are more finishing touches. It’s quite freeing to finally change the border into something closer to what I want not just what could grow!
Before I start it is imperative I add volumes of organic matter to such heavy ground. I use bags of Border Booster. I will also add a light sprinkling of bone meal under the roots as I plant as this will ensure the plants establish. When there are spots that really struggle to drain I tend to add some gravel to the soil.
In my old border I was swamped with things that will survive almost anywhere. I had an abundance of Mallow, which is a beautiful flower but can seed and grow like a weed. I am overwhelmed with Cornus, Dogwood, which has its place but it must also be kept in check. I feel it is best planted with a selection of Cornus varieties so you have a mix of different coloured stems for full winter effect. Lime green, dark red and orange together create quite a fiery effect midwinter. Perhaps its suits wild spaces best of all, mixed with Hazels, Forsythia and Ribes etc. I am a huge fan of the big leafy Photina ‘Red Robin’, which I have planted everywhere I can, but the new varieties like Pink Marbled edge which is a variegated red rather than just dark red ever green, they are even more exciting and I want to add some of this variety. Mahonia ‘Charity’ survived my difficult garden and it is still a brilliant winter shrub with its wonderful yellow plumes, so I think it has earned its place at the back of the border. My ornamental Quince is growing nicely against the wall along with a variegated holly and a Garrya Elliptica, my favourite all time shrub. I have now planted 3 in my garden because they are absolutely beautiful. I look forwards to the crinkly silver leaves and silvery catkins every winter. By my front door I have a Viburnum tinus a good staple evergreen with lovely white blossom. I have no complaints as I think every garden needs one somewhere. I have used some to create an evergreen hedge in my back garden and it works extremely well.
I now have lots of gaps where we have cleared the unwanted overgrown or diminished shrubs and now I would like a pretty walkway up to my front door
A More Ornamental Approach
This is an indulgent ornamental border without question, determined by my Pineapple Broom Tree, Cytisus battandieri (an ornamental silver tree or shrub with blossom that resembles a pineapple) in the forefront and my new rose arch to support a huge lilac Wisteria. I also have a very sweet miniature weeping lollypop Cotoneaster tree, (evergreen with berries and blossom) and a Exochorda or The Bride. An extravagant summer flowering shrub with a cascade of white wedding blossom hence the name.
The border needs to be controllable without too much need for maintenance so it’s not ideally suited for a wonderful herbaceous border. I still feel some Echinacea ‘Kim’s Knee High’ a pint size variety escaping into the little pockets of space and some Brunneria ‘Jack Frost’ as an extra splash of ‘forget me not’ spring blue and the new Dragon Heart Geranium. Some plants you just have to have!
What I really need is some structural solid shrubs in place with a tasteful selection of herbaceous plants, filling the pockets and softening the edges. A front border falls into that difficult category of needing to look good all year round.
I felt including some mood enhancing fragrant shrubs to waft past me as I pop in and out of my front door was a good idea. I love miniature lilac it’s quintessentially English. I chose the sweet scented Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ I was then even more indulgent and thought a David Austin shrub rose would make a lovely clump of colour and what a perfect excuse to plant some Hidcote Lavender plants underneath. I commandeered Ingenious Mr Fairchild for its rich pink tones and fruity fragrance. Travelling up my pathway I have selected the spring flowering Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ for its Jasmine overtones and it is evergreen.
Those that are not highly scented shrubs need to have a special ‘’wow’’ factor about them. I already have a Pineapple broom. I felt it needed an ornamental Strawberry bush for company (Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’.) This is evergreen making a lovely shaped shrub and its amazing feature is the big round red fruits. Further back in my border I have planted a Calicarpa, which is one of my all time favourites. I find the purple berries in autumn extraordinary. I am going to slip in some Rosanne Cranesbill geraniums in some of the pockets, as the blue flowers are profuse.
To entwine my rose arch on the opposite side to my robust Wisteria I am including a deep violet Viticella Clematis. It is the strong colours with the soft lilacs and pink that I love. This clematis hits the spot. Its resilient perhaps because it relates closely to the wild varieties. I have to rein myself back from planting too many herbaceous fillers but as the border evolves I know every little secret space will beg me to plant something. Is that not the joy of gardening? There is always something to add and improve.
This border will begin with a burst of English Bluebells I have left in the shady spots with my Epimediums and Solomon’s Seal. I am hoping I now have enough of an evergreen base, fragrant interest and indulgent and exciting flowers and berries to carry me right through the seasons.
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