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
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..
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
'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
Coggygria 'Royal Purple' with Alchemilla Mollis. (July 1999). Again,
a good colour combination.
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
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.
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.