For some time now I have been ruminating about the front garden, looking with a jaundiced eye at the scrap of lawn left after the first changes I made here a couple of years ago. I have also been giving the forsythia scornful looks, and the laburnum tree has been living on borrowed time.

Well, over the last few weeks I have taken steps.

First to come out was the forsythia thicket. Some love its jaunty yellow, a harbinger of spring. I think it’s nasty and have always hated it. It was quite fast work to remove the bulk of the material, slightly longer to remove the stumps, but clear it I did. It is now performing much more useful duty, shredded on my compost heap.

The laburnum tree was next, it was a fairly ugly tree and bang on the boundary with next door. That came out in short order but required the services of a tree surgeon to achieve. I have it in mind to replace with a nice tree. Liquidambar, perhaps.

All that cleared the way for a new fence which I did all by my lonesome. In a minor DIY miracle, it is fairly straight and almost exactly level.

One reason I was so annoyed by the forsythia is that it was riddled with bindweed, next to impossible to clear from among the roots. Fence finished with then, there was a period of much effing and jeffing as I dug out bucket after bucket of bindweed roots from the surrounding area. It is strangely satisfying, I must say, but ultimately futile – I know I won’t have got it all.

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The final preparatory step was to remove the lawn, or what remains of it. I have bagged up the lifted turf in the expectation that it will break down into some nice loam.

Some time back I sketched out a very rough idea of what I am aiming for in terms of the finished layout. The planting plan is a memory jogger rather than a hard and fast plan.

I have put in the path using bits and bobs of paving I had kicking about. This will facilitate access to what will in effect be a fairly large border. I should be able to see, admire and reach everything from the path, or no more than one carefully placed step from the path.

Finally, the fun part, the planting out. I was reminded as I went that the soil in this front garden is largely unimproved and is extremely sandy and stony. It was not easy planting, certainly when compared to the back garden which has the same basic soil but has been improved over the last few years with a good amount of organic matter. This last weekend I put about 20 plants in.

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abelia grandiflora (moved from a too-shady spot in the back garden)
aquilegia ‘nora barlow’ x2
poppy (unknown) x5
geranium ‘salome’ x2
geranium ‘orion’ x1
geranium ‘beth chatto’ x2
geranium ‘bevans variety’ x2
penstemon ‘patio wine’ x1
fuchsia x1
salvia ‘hot lips’ x1
salvia ‘heatwave glitter’ x1
gladiolus ‘mon amore’ x1
aster ‘bahamas’ x1

I also moved a few things around. I am aiming to have some gradation in the height in each of the planting areas. I have more plants in reserve that I can use on the fenceline – roses, clematis and abutilon. I also have some penstemon, gaura, hosta, anemone, helenium and some more salvia waiting to go out. Plus I will soon have plants of garden ready size from this year’s seed sowing, a mix of perennials and annuals. Many of those are earmarked for the back garden but a good few can go in the front. I have a lot of planting still to do then, but I think I can get quite a show out of this garden this year.

You can follow the development of this new patch in the monthly Border Patrol series.

I’ll be back soon with more garden gadding.

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