The bramble war

I’ve been spending a lot of time in our back garden in the last month. At the end of May we planted out a bunch of bedding plants, plus a gorgeous Alstroemeria ‘Princess Paola’, which is flowering like it’s got no time to lose.

Most of all, though, I’ve been getting an assessment of just how overgrown our garden got while we were busy ignoring it last year. Things aren’t too bad on the surface – some out of control shrubs that need reshaping once they’ve flowered, a clematis that needs hacking all the way back (I think) and some discoveries, like two roses I didn’t know about, trying desperately to find some light in between other things.

The biggest problem so far has been the discovery of brambles running right through the garden. I knew they were there, and had started cutting back, but it wasn’t until I started looking in between and under everything else that I saw the extent of the issue. They seem to originate in our east hedge, and the suckers have migrated right the way through the top slope and down into the big border behind the extension.

So, I’ve been waging bramble war. At the moment my main tactic has been to just cut them back wherever I see them, a job I finally completed this weekend. But I know that to really get control, I need to start digging. This post by the very knowledgeable Rachel has given me hope that I don’t need to ruin the entire garden to do it, but it’s still going to be a major job getting it under control. I don’t want to resort to weedkillers without giving it a decent try.

The other thing we have a lot of is ivy – which I’m in two minds about. On the one hand it’s everywhere, and it’s going to make it difficult to do any other kind of planting. On the upside, it’s really helping to stabilise the slope. One to ponder. I’m also facing the thought that our bergenia mass doesn’t seem to be as happy as last year, and maybe the plants need dividing. So many things to do…

Meanwhile, this evening, I planted some annuals from seed. Yes, I know it’s late, and I’m willing to take the risk of a failure – but I wanted some extra colour and figured that experimentation might be the key to success. Grow, little seedlings, grow!

This was the last pile of the bramble war - off into the green bin with you!

This was the last pile of the bramble war – off into the green bin with you!

Catching the gardening bug

One of the attractions of the house A and I bought last year was the garden. Although A was insistent that he wanted a ‘big garden’, I knew that something easy for us to maintain would be important at this stage in our lives, where we both work full-time. The house we bought has a small garden that had been professionally landscaped and is full of mature shrubs that looked great and meant we didn’t need to start from scratch, which would have felt overwhelming.

We’ve been in the house nearly a year now, and during that first year we barely touched the garden except for adding a few bedding plants into the one empty patch of ground, and setting up a couple of pots.

Spring has really got going here recently and I’m starting to feel as if the garden is getting a bit out of control – we did no pruning last year, just let everything grow. Worse than that is that I really don’t know what we have or what to do with it – heck, I can’t always tell the difference between a weed and a plant some of the time. It would be a real shame though to let this lovely space get too overgrown and fail to keep the plants healthy.

I’ve been doing more out there the last week or two, and been trying to research what plants we have, and it’s slow progress – I feel pretty much lost. I’m hoping to ask some of our nice neighbours with lovely gardens for advice, but at this point I feel I need to start keeping records – what I know, what I don’t, how it looks, so I can keep track and try to work out what to do.

Our garden is quite strongly sloped, but the landscapers did a great job of maximising the space and levelling for small tiered lawns. I took a bunch of pictures this evening to record how things are looking at the end of May. I feel like there are lots of things I might be too late on, like some pruning and mulching and so on. There’s quite a few weeds as well – I spent quite a bit of the weekend pulling out brambles, couch grass, ivy and other nameless seedlings.

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