Monday, 24 May 2010

Greetings from the Midwest

Here I am, visiting my parents, in the small, delightful suburb of Chicago where I grew up. Where, 7 years ago (it doesn't seem that long!), I planted for them, or tried to, an English cottage-style garden. I get to revisit it from time to time, sometimes in inclement weather. But when the weather is like this, I make improvements. Or so I hope.

Like most American suburban homes, my parents' house has a lovely big backyard, mostly lawn, with a flower border. The man who lived in this house many years ago was a keen gardener, and his legacy remains in the beautiful lilacs by the side of the house, and the peonies and roses that grace the left border.

My task was to transform a small patch next to the house, into an English cottage garden. It all began in 2003, when my father sent me the dimensions, and my challenge was set.

Planting time was October, when I was here to run the Chicago Marathon. The grass of course had to be dug out, but eventually, we successfully cleared the patch, and the fun began - choosing plants, and planting them.

The initial palette was predictable: Lady's Mantle, Lambs Ears, Clematis, Cranesbill Geranium. Phlox, I believe, a Heuchara, Dianthus. I can hardly remember what all went in at the beginning. Lavender was attempted, twice, but didn't take.

Like most gardens, some things died, some things thrived. This is two years later.

Note the dainty Hosta in the centre, just behind the fountain. Every time I come and the weather is good (so, not at Christmas time!), I work.

I have an interesting challenge this year, to do with that Hosta.

It has grown rather larger than expected! Something must be right in that soil. Stay tuned as I mull over this situation ...

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Spring Cleaning

First things first.

I decided that my first task of the year must be to negate the need for unnecesssary and time consuming weeding of the ugly front, and anywhere else for that matter.

Weed control fabric, my saviour. Sure, I know there are most likely weeds growing under there; but I can't see them. So I won't waste precious time weeding the same patch over and over again.

For the vegetable patch, I used newspaper, as I expected to be planting there a month later (I'm still waiting for the opportunity to do that, being at the mercy of the changeable weather).

It's a very temporary measure but I am hoping that at least it will keep the worst of the weeds down until such time as I can till, and plant. Messy and not particularly attractive, but necessary.

Of course I should have done all this last autumn, but better late than never.

The Left Border was a godawful mess. Although my desire was to rip everything out and start again, I did find that there was much to keep.

Still, I was fairly ruthless. The pinks are gone, and the scrappy lavender. Clearing this out was a very satisfying job.

Room for planting, methinks!

The Delphinium and the Lupins are coming back nicely, along with the Poppy. and the Hellebore has been glorious.

And thanks to the man upstairs, No Man's Land

Is now Kiddieland

Sweet. Note the use of weed control fabric.

And for good measure, I worked on the front as well. Once more, negating the need to ever weed this again.

Weed control fabric is my favourite garden management tool at the moment, as you can see! More blue slate is required (I used everything we had collected when we had the roof redone last year), but a vast improvement already, no? The only things worth keeping there were the Buddleja and the Palm. The soil in the front is very, very poor.

A successful clean up job, hopefully never to be done again!