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Click image to enlarge (August 1999). Looking down the garden from the top right hand corner along the reclaimed concrete slab path to the pear tree and the shaded seating area in the bottom left hand corner. To the right of the path is the cobbled circle. The small area of lawn (about six foot square) under the pear tree is planted with snowdrops and snakes head fritillaries for spring interest. The summer of 1999 was quite good weather-wise, and the parched grass under the pear tree bears witness to this. To the right of the wooden chair in the seating area is a hebe bush which froze solid with the snow of December 2000, and which has since been dug out.

Looking across the garden from the top left hand corner in July 1999. In the background is the variegated poplar (Populus candicans 'Aurora'). I pollard this tree every spring to maintain this narrow upright habit. Every branch is cut back to about one centimetre from the main trunk in mid March. Although this variety can be prone to suckering, the drastic pruning each year seems to concentrate the tree's efforts into the re-growth of the branches, rather than the production of suckers. I am unsure if the leaf variegation is affected by pollarding. In some years (as this photograph shows) the variegation is maintained. In the summer of 2001, however, the variegation was not nearly so dramatic. This tree may need to be moved at a future date - another good reason to keep the growth in check..
Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge
Looking across the garden from the top left hand corner in July 2001. The planting in the foreground is perhaps more uniform in structure than the previous photograph taken from the same angle in July 1999. The planting is dominated by the verticals of Cephelaria Gigantea (the giant scabious) which is just left of centre in the photograph. This is an excellent structural plant, six to seven foot tall and flowering with me from June to August. The flowers are a pale primrose yellow, and help to tone down the more strident yellows of the Verbascum Olympicum (right of centre in the photograph) and the Solidago (Golden Rod), which is about to burst into flower in the bottom left foreground. As the garden slopes downwards towards the bottom of the garden, this is the only perspective from which the neighbour's shed is noticeable. Hydrangea petiolaris clothes part of the fence. Although having been planted six years ago, it has yet to flower. To the left of the Hydrangea is Lysmachia 'Firecracker'. This is a clump forming herbaceous perennial but slightly invasive. Its attractions, however, (yellow flowers against bronze foliage), far outweigh the small effort involved in managing it. If it has one disadvantage it is that the stems can be bent and broken by rainfall or high wind in my garden, and it therefore requires staking.

A wide view of the shaded seating area in the bottom left hand corner of the garden in July 1999. In the left foreground is Geranium maderense, with the common foxglove, feverfew and the tall spires of Linaria purpurea in the right foreground. The chairs are Lloyd Loom club chairs in their original colour. They are date stamped "Feb 36" and "June 36", and are thus generally in keeping with the age of the house and original garden.
Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge The shaded seating area in August 2001. Note how the Hawkweed (Pilosella aurantica) has colonised the area under the table and chairs. Spring 2002 will see removal of large amounts of this to restore a sense of balance to the area. Hawkweed is one of the plants I could not do without in the garden. Although prolific in its spread, and considered a weed by many, its flowers are not only a superb colour, but each flower is perfectly formed. If you get a chance, look at one up close. A double circle of golden orange petals surround the golden yellow anthers and stigma. If this were not enough, the end of each petal is serrated into five or more tiny 'fingers'- an incredible degree of design in such a small flower. To the right of the seating area is Acer palmatum 'Dissectum Atropurpureum', together with the flowers of a sedum (bought from a plant sale in Belfast Botanic Gardens) and Stipa tenussima.

The cobbled circle in August 2001, with Buxus Sempervirens in terracotta pots around the edge. In the foreground are several Stipa tenussima, with Lonicera nitida 'Baggersen's Gold' to the right. On the other side of the cobbled circle are Lysmachia 'Firecracker' (left of centre) and the scarlet flowers of Crocosmia 'Lucifer', which are just going over (just right of centre). This cobbled area is an excellent natural seeding ground for the Stipa tenuissima, the fine sand between the cobbles providing a seemingly perfect sowing medium. There are about twenty self seeded plants there at the moment, these having seeded in spring 2001. These will be lifted in six weeks time (early April 2002) and moved to other parts of the garden.
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Click image to enlarge
Narcissi under Cotinus Coggygria 'Royal Purple' with Skimmia Japonica 'Rubella' in the background. (March 2000). Though often maligned as a shrub due to its overuse in municipal and 'car-park' planting schemes, a single specimen of Skimmia Japonica 'Rubella' in a small garden provides good winter interest.

Rosa 'Gertrude Jekyll' with Alchemilla Mollis and Geranium maderense in the background. (July 1999). One of the 'new' old roses, this rose has double, fragrant, deep pink flowers. The sulphur yellow and lime of the Alchemilla mollis provides just enough 'zing' against the pink to provoke controversy about colour co-ordination. Who cares about consistently complementary colour schemes? Nature certainly doesn't.
Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge
Cotinus Coggygria 'Royal Purple' with Alchemilla Mollis. (July 1999). Again, a good colour combination.

Geranium maderense with the blue flowers and silvered buds of Catananche caerulea in the foreground (July 1999). This geranium self seeds all over my Belfast garden, despite coming from a Mediterranean climate. The flowers, a magenta pink, are borne on tall candelabra-like inflorescences, from late June to August. Although I incorporated a lot of grit into the soil before planting the parent plants, the seedlings quite happily appear in ordinary soil. These are usually lifted and potted on to reposition in the garden or to give to friends.
The parent plants are probably about four years old now, although the plant is often referred to as short-lived or biennial. These plants have been given a collar of grit to prevent excess wet at the crown of the plant in winter. The plant is largely evergreen, the fresh emerald green of the leaves providing a wonderful contrast against the bare soil in winter. The plant's growth habit is such that it seems to literally heave itself out of the soil. It is not unusual for me to have to add grit to increase the height of the grit collar to cover and protect the increasing amount of the base stem emerging from the soil. Despite this, I lost one of the three parent plants as a result of the snows and freezing conditions of December 2000.
Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge
Pilosella aurantica ("Hawkweed") with Lilium pyrenaicum subsp. Ponticum ("Turks Cap Lily"). (June 2000). This group forms part of the planting in the bottom right hand part of the garden below the cobbled circle. On a still warm June evening, the scent of the Turks Cap lilies can be smelt from a distance of fifteen feet.

August 2001. Solidago (Golden Rod) provides a background to Cephelaria Gigantea (Giant Scabious), Verbascum Chaixii Album, Verbascum Olympicum, Echinops 'Arctic Glow', Echinops 'Blue Glow' and Rosa Graham Thomas. This planting is in the top left hand corner of the garden, in front of the old shed which will be taken out to create another seating area in spring 2002. Other plants in this area include bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum'), and Stipa tenuissima. Click image to enlarge

Copyright A Walsh 2002-2007