May is a busy old time in the garden. There’s weeds to keep under control, things to tie in, plants to pot on, plants to plant out, plants to get rid of, cuttings to take. Weather-wise, May has seen a mix of sunny and rainy, causing an olympic growth spurt in the borders. In this monthly series of posts, I am attempting to review the shape and content of the borders as a whole, rather than focusing on individual plants. There are some slide shows in this post, best viewed on the web rather than via the WordPress reader. Let’s have a wander round.

Rear Garden

Border 1 – filling out nicely, although on closer inspection there is space for a middle rank between the taller plants at the back and their lower brethren at the back. I have plonked a few plants into this gap which hopefully will be more evident come June’s Patrol.

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Border 2 – the long sunny border, from which I am expecting great things. The climbers along the fence line are beginning to do their thing, although only 2 or 3 have reached the dizzy heights of the top of the fence. Two of the roses are flowering, both cuttings of ‘danse de feu’, but the others won’t be far behind, there are plenty of buds. In recent days I have stuffed more plants in to gaps in this border, a common theme, so it should bulk out even more. I lack height in this border. Although the climbers will get better and better each year, covering the fence in the process, I hope, I could do with a bit more structure. I have planted a couple of spare dogwood cuttings in here. I plan to coppice them each year so they don’t get too dominant, but I should get four or five feet of growth each year, and some winter interest to boot.

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Border 3 – The wisteria show is over, but she is looking very lush in the foliage department. I have been tying in new stems in the direction I want to extend the plant. The other long whippy stems I will prune back in a month or two. I’m also pleased to see some good growth lower down on the trellis. I did some work last year to train some long stems down there. Again, I could use some height, some back of the border starlets. I have some dahlias to plant, and also some tithonia, hollyhocks and digitalis, all of which have some height. perhaps they will fit the bill.

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Border 4 – This border has lost a long-standing resident, the ceanothus has been decapitated. This is by way of disposal rather than some kind of desperate renovation pruning. It had started to look pretty ropy, and there’s just not room in my life for ropy plants. I’ve left the trunk in place, partly out of laziness, but also because I think it is holding up the trellis!

In general though, I like this border. It has the height lacking in Border 1 to 3. The honesty is gone over, but I’m leaving it be for the seed heads, the reason I grew it in the first place. There are still some spaces into which I could shoehorn more plants, but they’d need to be pretty well grown on to compete with what’s already there. I have some more foxgloves and some persicaria which would do well in here I think.

Border 5 – the long shady border. I have added quite a few plants into this border since last month. Having pruned back most of the shrubs, there is an opportunity to settle in some shade tolerant planting. I have added some more pulmonaria, some impatiens, some hosta, a honeysuckle for the fenceline, some foxgloves and a few other things. The drunken pittosporum is still off its trolley, despite me staking it. It is also dropping leaves, so I wonder if it is in terminal decline. We shall see. Last year I planted a couple of hardy geraniums, both of which are filling out nicely. I’m fast developing a thing for geraniums, I bought a few at a plant fair last weekend, and I’ve grown some from seed this year as well. The shade tolerant varieties are a boon, and of no interest to Mr Slug, even better. I shall get more, one way or another.

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Border 6 – small, but improving. The last couple of weeks has seen allium and geum combine in pleasing fashion. I’ve planted some of the successful eryngium cuttings in here too. Must sort out something for that bit of trellis. I do have a spare clematis which might serve. The end-game, still a figment of my imagination, is to expand this border when I change the line of the path. Might never happen…

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Before we head to the front garden, a quick trip down the side alley where things are improving. There are now 4 planters at the gate end of the alley, each now planted up. Moreover, the planting is beginning to take shape. The climbers on the less shady side are really getting going. Many of these were bought in Morrisons for £1.76 each, a bargain price for what seem to be very well grown plants. Certainly they are getting off to a good start, with the clematis and honeysuckle all gaining height fast. Somewhere buried in there are climbing roses, slower to get going, but going nonetheless. The idea is that between them all they cover the first few metres of wall down the entire side of the house. I have a few more planters to add at the garden end of the alley. The ferns in the living wall have a bit of growing to do before they begin to hide all the framework. Coming along though.

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Front Garden

Borders 7-9 – This time last year, none of this existed. It was a weedy, dark, overgrown, unwelcoming mess. A lot of digging and the best part of 200 plants later, the front garden is now a different place entirely. There are still gaps, I’d still like some height at the back, and I’d still dearly love to get rid of the forsythia and the bindweed and ivy that go with it. I notice next door is for sale. Would it be very impractical for me to buy the house just so I can do as I please with their border?

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Border 10 – my commandeered space, technically not mine as it’s on the road side of my front wall. However, I’ve added some rotted manure to improve the soil a little, and have planted some spare plants in here. Should make it a little more jolly to look at, although that won’t be evident till next month at the earliest.

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So that’s the two dollar tour for this month. Let me know in the comments if you have any ideas to improve any of the borders.

I’ll be back for another look-see in about a month.

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