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Getting down to earth – Part 2

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Border of Cannas and Geraniums

Preparing your grounds after clearing is important. No planting should be done until you know what type of soil you have and what to do to improve it and you can have different soils in different parts of the garden. A little experimental digging will soon reveal soil profile whether it is heavy or light and the extent to which it is well drained. Although suitable plants can be found for almost all types of soil, your chances of growing wide range are greatly increased if extreme conditions are modified by careful cultivation. Weeding in a methodical way is not enjoyable but if I have it in mind to tackle a certain area I have to approach it with three-quarters closed eyes just wide enough not to walk into an obstacle or something still otherwise I shall be distracted by other weeds or tidying jobs en route and will never reach my destination.

It is the same thing when my trug is full and needs to be taken to the rubbish heap or wherever it is to be emptied. Distractions on the way there or back may prevent me from ever returning. So I am reluctant to empty the trug at all. I take the largest one I have and fill it to overflowing till it is so heavy that I can hardly move it. I know I should do better to bring a barrow to the scene of operations but then there are manifold distractions en route to fetching that too. As a last step in preparation, break up any large lump of soil and add a generous sprinkling of fertilizer. Then, the ground should left for several weeks to settle, before planting. Crowded shrub border takes a heavy toll on soil nutrients so add a good general fertilizer each year to your established border. Soil can be improved too by adding generous amount of leaf mould, compost which will help improve moisture retention and nutrient level of the ground as well as the structure of both very heavy and very light land. Where soil is alkaline, peat bog as top dressing will make it easier to grow lime-hatters such as rhododendrons in areas of chalky soil. You can prepare new borders and beds and lawns.

Borders can be classical style, long border with taller flowering plants or ranged along its centre and flanked back and front by plants of graduated height, a lovely inspiring sight. Borders can edge a lawn in traditional style. Narrow borders against walls or path or against a hedge.

In laying out a border, it is helpful to leave a narrow path between the back of it and the wall or edge behind in order to provide easy access when work has to be done. Another approach or contrast to your border is having beds. There are different types suitable for formal and informal gardens. These in contrast to the conventional border backed by a wall or hedge are generally irregular in shape set in a lawn so that it can be approached and viewed from all sides. Raised beds are an attractive way of growing a collection of small herbaceous perennials and dwarf shrubs, including dauphines and conifers. A bed (11/2-2 feet high) brings the plant closer to the eye and makes maintenance easier.

Rock gardens are for: growing dwarf alpine and herbaceous plants bringing them to prominence. Peat bed can be prepared for growing rhododendrons and other shade-loving and acid loving plants. Peat is sterile and so does not add plant food to the soil but improves moisture retention.. There are also containers to be prepared for pot-grown plants. So you have prepared new beds. Now while waiting for the soil to settle, could’nt you make a-once -and-for-all effort to have those deadly boring oppressively invasive host as removed? Even ornamental ones can be overdone especially when rhymed with toasters.

Good gardening and a quiet life seldom go hand in hand. To think you have at last achieved (even by accident), some telling effect, is a great fillip but to go on feeling that you can just coast along with the same achievement year after year is unrealistic.

Candid friends may rescue you off your pedestal, but such friends are rare. Mostly they will be thinking of the delicious dinner with which you regale them and perhaps the chocolate cake with Beaumes de Venise after. Candour is so much for competition of that sort. No one will risk such honesty against the chance of another invitation. Nothing for it than to be your own severest critic.

Try to visualize how your garden will be looking at its peak. How could you pull up your standards? My suggestion will be to take stock more often and be more critical of your own garden appearance. I don’t mean everything should be apple-pie-order. Two of the most likely defects in need of remedies are first: That certain juxtapositions look pretty horrible and second (even more frequent) that you don’t have enough of any kind of plant to look really effective, your borders and beds are suffering from measles syndrome. What to do about those spaces in your border if planting initially seems far apart? You can fill the gap between your groupings with annual short-lived perennials and bulbs that may easily be moved later. These will provide a temporary source of interest, as it will then bulk out the planting scheme until the larger plants have reached maturity. What about those shrubs you have removed? You can plant in what is appropriate and that means plants that need the same conditions. Make sure the hole is sufficient to allow a full spread of the root system and for a plant of any size, it is worth adding some moist peat to the planting hole, together with a liberal sprinkling of bone-meal and then mixing them both in with the soil.

How does one get rid of that drought-breeding tree that is also obstructing the view from the window of beautiful scenery of your landscaped garden? The air will be breathed more freely without it. I appreciate the obstacles of undiscriminating tree worshippers, and that one is in an awkward site for manipulation and extraction. How to get rid of the stump, the expense? There must be some way, unless one prefers the alternative of moving oneself, in which case, we are back to the need for a second opinion and who is to give it?


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