I’ll call this my lockdown project but really it started twelve months ago. My clients had just moved into their property and had big plans for the house and the garden. Now, whilst many people would put house renovations first, they wanted to make an immediate start on the depressing tangle of overgrown shrubs and brambles. The fact that their garden had top priority was enough to make them my favourite clients of 2019!

Because of the planned building works, which will include a new patio and pathway, the garden had to be tackled in a way that would provide colour and interest in the first year but not be too exposed to the size 11 boots of ‘over enthusiastic’ builders. Hopefully, we’ve managed to do that but part of the lawn may have to be sacrificed in the meantime.

So, twelve months ago this is what we had. Hardly a joyful place to while away a summer’s day.

North Facing Border
South Facing Border

My clients were keen to be hands on and did a lot of the preparatory work themselves, clearing out the old shrubs, weeds and general rubble. The narrow north facing border was widened and new fences installed. By the end of October the soil was also prepared and we were ready to do the first planting of trees, shrubs and of course the spring bulbs.

Roll on five months, everything had settled in nicely and the tulips were adding a touch of spring colour. Bright vibrant colours were to play a significant role in the final planting scheme and the tulips also reflected this theme being a mix of Dolls Minuet, Ballerina and Black Hero.

South facing border
North facing border.

So far so good, but then came lockdown at the end of March and with it the closure of all shops including Garden Centres and Nurseries. For the first couple of weeks confusion reigned as to whether gardeners could work and what could be purchased where. Plants were available online but the large retailers found themselves inundated with orders and delays were common. We were able to acquire a few key items such as the beautiful Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’ in this way but it came as a big relief when I was able to ‘Click and Collect’ the main perennial order from the nursery at Bluebell Cottage Gardens.

The tulips were lifted and stored prior to the next stage of planting, but I had to tread very carefully around the alliums that it had seemed like a good idea to plant in the autumn. I had to confess to a little mishap with one of the Christophii!

The two Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ that seemed to have settled in fine over winter were looking a little sorry for themselves at this point but fortunately they’ve recovered well. Their orange stems should look good against the grey fence as they mature and they will provide some winter interest in a mainly perennial bed.

In the shady north facing border, I was really happy with how the colour of these astrantia picked up the red stems of a rather beautiful hellebore.

Aquilega are ideal for adding colour in spring and there are so many different colours and varieties. We chose Aquilegia ‘Crimson Star’ for the shady border and Aquilegia ‘Black Barlow’ for the sunny border.

And this pretty little Brunnera ‘Sea Heart’ is perfect for a shady spot. The leaves are now huge silvery heart shapes.

At this point in early May I had no real prospect of starting any new projects as we were still very much locked down, so it was sit back and relax time for me. In fact things were so quiet I could have taken a holiday. If only…….

In the weeks that followed, I had regular updates from my clients and photos of anything new that was happening in the garden including slug and caterpillar reports. Some of the perennial foxgloves that we bought online struggled a little but hopefully will come good for next year.

And on a sunny August day I went to see for myself how things were progressing.

In the shady border the Hydrangea ‘Little Lime’ was looking rather lovely and works well with the Photinia ‘Pink Crispy’ in the background. I love the way the flowers turn pink as they age.

Coprosma ‘Pacific dawn’ is an evergreen shrub whose leaf colour intensifies as the weather goes colder. It is only borderline hardy but it’s in a sheltered position and should be fine although now I’ve said that we’ll probably get a cold winter. Worth the risk though I feel!

The sunny border was looking very vibrant just as we planned. Touches of blue contrast with the red, yellow and orange and cool all the hot colours down. Here Nepeta x faasenii ‘Kit Kat’ joins forces with Rudbeckia ‘Little Goldstar’ at the front of the border.

I just love these Echinacea purpurea ‘Rubinstern’ and they seem very happily floriferous here. Hopefully they will come through the winter successfully.

The Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’ are blooming for a second time. They are planted as a drift in the centre of the border and should clump up nicely for next summer.

Helenium ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’ is a bee magnet as are many of the flowers in this pollinator friendly garden.

Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ is a bit of show off with an incredible number of flowers.

And overall, the border is looking pretty passable for it’s first year and is certainly popular with bees and butterflies.

The builders are due to arrive in autumn and have been given strict instructions to keep off the borders and use the lawn area for storage. And I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that we get to Phase Two without too many mishaps.

To be continued …..

Garden designer, photographer and blogger