Nearly twelve years of enthusiastic planting has turned a tabula rasa (the blank space of our back garden) into a woodland thicket. It’s time to reclaim the space, or to lose it in a tangle of vegetation. Lack of light at ground level and woodland conditions are changing the character of the area. I have fallen into the most common of gardener’s errors: planting too many specimens and underestimating the growth habit of trees and shrubs. I love most of the planting in this section, but it needs to be thinned out and not allowed to grow so tall or it will become unmanageable. Many smaller more delicate plants have been lost due to the absence of light.
This autumn I was resolved to start on the pruning regime. The weather made it difficult to make much progress, but I have begun the task. The raised border at the eastern side has two large trees that will tolerate hard pruning, Sambucus Nigra “Black Lace” and Viburnum Bodnantense “Dawn”, a large Hydrangea, two unnamed climbing roses, a pale pink and a rose pink, Pernettya with pink berries, a large white Phlox, Mahonia, and a spreading Hellebore. Underneath there are Cyclamen, Astrantia, self seeding Aquilegias, and a host of spring bulbs. I do not want to take the trees out, I have pruned them back severely and I hope to keep them in check. The two roses have climbed vigorously, sending long thorny arches into the neighbouring garden, I prune these every year, but I think they need a heavier hand.
At the back wall, running the length of the garden to the south there is a large holly supporting the rampant rose Rambling Rector, and offering protection to the delicate Acer “Orange Dream”. Roses Zéphirine Drouhin and an unnamed white dog rose, and Clematis Montana Rubens scramble along a sturdy timber structure, a strong thorny Pyracantha “Red Column” holds its own, and a Viburnum Tinus “Gwenllian” crouches underneath. Behind the bench the white dog rose continues and tangles into the Clematis Viticella Purpurea “Plena Elegans”. Beyond the bench is the slow growing Magnolia “Leonard Messel”, a large Hawthorn, brought from Cork as a cutting, with Honeysuckle “Lonicera Belgica” growing through it, Bergenia tucked in under it, and two Potentillas flanking it, one yellow and one pink. Purple flowering heathers, daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, and other spring bulbs are planted underneath.
First step was to raise the space under the plants by pruning lower branches, this allows light in and a Ruscus under the holly has produced red berries for the first time in years. I still need to reduce the height of the holly. The Rambling Rector rose has climbed to the top of the holly, into the heights of the Sorbus (Mountain Ash) and into a large Damson tree growing outside our garden wall. With its abundance of white blossom it looks amazing for two to three weeks in June, but this vigorous rose will have to be kept to a more manageable height, up to now I have been nervous of killing it, but I think that’s unlikely.