Going mini – further notes from a bad gardener
Little things in the background easily overlooked
I like to overcrowd our flower garden, leaving it to the survival of the fittest and then infill with ground covering, preferably flowering items. This way the taller guys hold each other up a little and the whole lot together keep out some of the weeds and provide lots of layers of cover for the many frogs, toads, lizards etc that live around us and who, in turn, keep down the slugs and snails.
What’s the general aim?
This is a ‘cottage garden’ that ought to have an old school look: you know, the sort you get on jigsaw puzzles with some woman in a bonnet, long skirt and apron and carrying a woven trug on her arm whilst standing on the doorstep of a wee stone cottage. However, as a 4 foot 10 inch gardener, I’d never be able to see any of that style of tall planting unless I went around on stilts or with a ladder. I try to achieve that higgledy-piggledy mish mash look with other, shorter and more solid growths, giving steps of differing height in the beds as the eye travels back.
This is a wasteful way of gardening
It does mean you spend money on plants that you may never see again because they’ve got no chance. The conditions in each of the small flower beds are different as they each face a different direction: at the foot of a small garden wall or in with miniature trees or a box hedge or with surface water drain running though, so each can produce different results from the same or similar plants. But, after 6 years plus, each spring, other than tidying up and hacking back, I spend very little on new plants unless I can’t resist something. Usually there’s plenty coming out of each size of plant that can then go in any gaps that have appeared due to winter weather or animal depredations.
Sisyrinchium (a plant with a name that sounds like a made up planet in ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’), is an exception to the survive or go under planting. I try to rescue as many of them each year from the inundations of the more rampant. There flowers are so precise and delicate, fairly sparse per plant (even when not over planted) standing proud above their carnation-like foliage. They have a whole personality of their own and provide contrast to the sprawling lower ground cover.
I love this tiny flower but many do not. (See ‘Alpine Garden Society’ – a bit of a dramatic garden health warning). The flowers are a little over 1.5 cms and make my eyes go funny. Not a recommendation in any way, you may think? The blue is so glowing that shade is essential to try to get a photo of them. It does spread, but that’s what I wanted it for, and it if grows in and between and below taller plants, then all the better as far as my gardening tastes are concerned. It’s been placed in a ‘deprived’ bed in front of a semi-espalliade Morello cherry and had has to compete to survive.
Where do I draw the line with spreading, invasive plants? Well, nothing too tall gets planted if it can be helped. Usually no plant over 5 foot and or with a spread greater than 30 inches. The problems come with the medium sized spreaders that I yank out wholesale 2-3 times a flowering season, knowing that they’ll be back again before the end of flowering time. Then, at the end of the year, and sometimes at the very beginning of the next, out they have to come again. As the garden is fairly small with 5 distinct planting areas, the labour is not arduous and can be easily broken into work loads, day by day. With the invasive smaller items the same is done, but usually they intermix quite nicely. If there’s one that could do with more space so that it makes a better ‘show’, it gets popped in a pleasant plant pot or trough of suitable size on the bed in the place I’d like to see it.
What happens when I get too old to be a doing of it? Flame thrower most probably.
I don’t usually buy bedding plants other than pansies, violas and occasionally sweet peas, but this year trailing Lobelia joined our jungle, placed in various pots that have been plumped in and between the taller perennials. The pots give contrast, help support and separate the bigger growers and, this particular year, were bought to provide us with any colour. The rabbits have been a plague to anything they could reach and it looked for a little while as though we would be good at growing lines of 2 inch stalks and nothing else.
- Invasive Flowers that May be Threatening Your Garden (proflowers.com)