Last Year in the Garden

Last year in my garden

I moved to my present home 2 years ago, and last spring started work in the front garden. The house has great presence on the street but the front garden was somewhat dismal and had nothing of note by way of planting. Just grass. 
I love formality in gardens, but I also have an affinity for perennials and roses above all else. So the front garden, I felt, needed both. The main area is a rough rectangle with grass, bordered by the driveway. So I wanted to keep the strict formality and follow the straight lines already there. The beds would, in my mind anyway, be abundant with a profusion of perennials and roses. 
Firstly I came up with a rough plan. I also went for long walks around the village to see what others had planted – a good starting point when planning a garden, is to plant what you know works in the area.
Finding the right plants is not always easy. I have not got great bontanical knowledge of plants, and I am also very frugal when paying for plants. If you are not careful the costs can run away with you.
I like to buy from little stalls in people’s front gardens, so I always have a ready supply of change available and stop wherever I see plants on offer. Spring is a perfect time of year for hunting these stalls down. Normally plants on sale like this are the excess plants from local people’s own gardens, so you can be sure that it has a good chance of being a successful grower in your garden. The only word of caution I would add is that you need to check that no perennial weeds are being transported along with your new plant. Before planting I examine the roots and pick out any nasty things like nettle.
Last year was just about digging out the beds and planting. I did not create a huge master plan other than position the roses strategically, a place for sweet peas and a hydrangea.
It took me weeks to dig the beds. Luckily the soil did not need much improving. I live in the Fens – an area of North Cambridgeshire which was marshlands originally until they were drained a couple of hundred years ago. The soil is rich and a lovely texture. It had also not been planted for years. The land is very flat, some parts below sea level, and we have the most amazing open skies.
This photo shows what the garden looked like early last summer – tiny little plants.

I added compost to the soil and had to borrow soil from other parts of the garden to fill up the beds. The grass that I lifted I turned upside and piled in an unused corner of the garden – hopefully this year it will be usable soil.
I dug and dug and dug. The flower bed on the left is only 90 cm deep but I may increase the width a bit this year. The front flower bed is much wider ad angles slightly as the front wall is at an angle to the garden and I reduced this effect by cutting the bed at a lower angle so that the rectangle of grass is not so obviously skew. If I had not done this then one end of the bed would be very deep at one end.
I know I have over-planted the beds, and now that spring 2015 is well under way I cannot wait to see what comes up – what has thrived and what a difference a year will make to the size of the plants. You can see from the photo that the plants did not get to be huge last year.
As the year progresses I will be tackling the main back garden, so any overfull plantings will be moved to the back.
Fingers crossed that it will be a good year.

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