The successful and the not-so-successful
How did we progress in our English country garden in Kent in 2023?
Now, I must say that some of our mini-projects were successful; some still need attention, and others need a bit of a rethink.
But hey, you win some, you lose some.
Summer in the southeast of England was a bit mixed in 2023; there wasn’t oodles of sunshine; in fact, it was decidedly lacking. However, at least this meant that our plants and lawn weren’t baked through.
Although we still got the obligatory hosepipe ban, as we installed a drip feed irrigation system a couple of years ago, our patio pots were overflowing with colour.
Our cottage garden borderAnd Woodland Shady
Our first task was to try and remove a very invasive geranium; we did pretty well with this; however, there were signs of its return in early 2023, so it was back on our hands and knees to tackle it again. I’m hoping there will be even less this year.
Our cottage garden border is reasonably long and quite deep, so to keep the cost of planting down in 2022, we purchased youngish plants. This was a good idea, although the scorching heat of 2022 made it a challenge for them.
Roll on to 2023, and quite a few of our perennials returned; although, there were undoubtedly ones we had lost. We purchased a few more to fill in some gaps and bought a few Dahlia bulbs for some colour later in the year.
However, what was a winner were the cornflower and cosmos seeds that I had previously scattered, which looked incredible, popping up throughout the bed. They helped maintain some contrast through the months, as keeping a wash of colour through summer is quite challenging.
In general, I think we certainly made good progress; I can’t wait to see how our cottage garden bed transpires in 2024.
In 2023, we also decided to add more plants to our Woodland Shady section of the garden. We already had a couple of ferns and hostas, but we wanted more. We also divided one of our older ferns into three clumps, and they came on leaps and bounds.
So, we purchased another couple of ferns and hostas, three heuchera plants, a Lime Marmalade, an Orangeberry and a Wildberry. I’m looking forward to their progress in 2024.
Sowing seeds and cuttingI always nurture too many
For the second year, I grew some flowers from seed; now, I must say this was a bit hit and miss. I think I may stick to buying my bedding plants from plugs or trays from a local nursery as my plants did not flower as much as the ones I’ve previously purchased.
Take thunbergia, for example; in 2022, I picked up three little plants, and they went wild, growing through my obelisks and continued flowering for months. I grew about eight or ten, and they struggled to do anything.
New method of growing tomatoesA tip from Monty Don
Usually, I would grow my tomato plants in individual pots. Still they were becoming very tricky to manage as my supports were struggling to take the weight.
Then, one evening, I was watching Gardeners’ World, and Monty Don explained how to support your tomatoes when planting them in a grow bag. Well, there’s no looking back for me now. I’m sticking with this method, and here is how it worked.
Ok, the way that Monty Don plants his tomatoes is that he has twine in place first, from the base of his greenhouse to supports at the top. The string is around 2 metres in height, allowing the tomato plant to grow around the twine.
Monty cuts a long length of twine, allowing enough to reach from the compost or grow bag at the base to the support at the top and plenty of string to be wrapped around in small circles. These multiple circles or loops of twine will be placed underneath the roots of your tomato plant.
We don’t have a greenhouse, so the tomatoes were growing outside. On our fence, we attached three wires across the fence panel horizontally to give the twine and the tomatoes support.
Take your tomato plant out of its pot, place the rolled twine in the hole of your grow bag, and pop your plant on top of the string, pressing down firmly and gently. Pull the twine up taut, being careful not to drag it out from under the plant’s roots, loop it up through the horizontal wires to the top, and tie it off securely, et voila.
It worked a treat.
You can never have too many rosesOr so I’m told
As mentioned, we live in Kent, and not too far from us is Rumwood Nurseries, who specialise in roses; what could be better. Rumwood Nurseries offer an online ordering service, so you don’t need to live in the southeast of the UK to benefit.
Now, I must admit that I am no expert in roses or gardening come to that, but what I will add is that ensure you do some research before buying your perfect rose.
Do you want your new rose to be a rambler, climber, floribunda, hybrid tea, miniature, shrub, patio feature, ground cover, standard or half-standard? Most importantly, the colour of the rose and do you want it scented?
We visited the nursery in late August with the intention of buying two roses, but you guessed it, we came away with five. Although I must add they were all 50% off and were incredible specimens.
We planted them in the garden, and as they were reasonably established plants, they looked like they had been in our garden for years.
Spring flowering bulbsAnother 175 bulbs planted
In autumn 2022, I planted around 400 spring flowering bulbs in our garden and within our patio pots and planters. I must admit some of them looked stunning, and others looked a little bit lonesome. So, guess what? Gary and I planted another 175 bulbs to brighten up spring 2024.
I’m now keeping my fingers crossed that our efforts are all worthwhile.
I purchased our bulbs from J. Parker’s. We’ve used them before, and they have a vast selection of bulbs and tubers and are also reliable. An added bonus is that I got a discount as a Gardeners World magazine subscriber.
As well as the mixture of alliums, I bought more daffodils and narcissus.
I can’t wait for spring.
Plans for 2024Our front garden
I need to re-plant our two front garden beds. Nothing is cast in stone yet, but I’m toying with the idea of planting some low-growing grasses.
Our two front beds did have Buxus edges, but unfortunately, they managed to become infected with a Buxus blight, and they all died, so they had to be removed. Additionally, the lavender planted in the centre became too woody and needed removing, so I now have two empty beds.
Any ideas for low-maintenance evergreen planting would be welcome?
The other project that we are planning, is to remove our tired raised beds and replace the area with an attractive rock garden. We want to use local Kentish stone and the planting will be simple and delicate.
I think this may be a challenge, but let’s see how we progress.
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