A few months ago I wrote about the felling of the big blue cedar which used to dominate the front garden.
Everyone was right to say I’d get used to the void. At the end of May as I sit on the apple barn steps I find I’m enjoying the more open view of the garden.
I’ve stopped looking up and fretting about replacement tree planting. Instead, a new use has been found for the stump situated where two paths converge. I think the solution suggested by a friend brings the eye back down to earth.
In late spring the bank of Calamagrostis surges from a knee to thigh high sea of foliage. In a few weeks the grasses will be even taller and topped with purple flowering spikes at just above head height. By mid June the four staggered rows of Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ (to the far right of Mia) will obscure the curving path running along the wall top. The obvious way around the terraces will be via the wide gravel path between the lower wall and the single row of variegated Calamagrostis ‘Overdam’ (to the left).
Once the grasses are singing their summer song only those in the know, like Lily the cat, will venture along the secret path. Like the meadows around us, the grassy terraces are home to lots of interesting creatures. Occasionally some loose their way.
Last week I came across a 60 mm long furry Drinker Moth caterpillar inching its way across the gravel towards the grasses in search of a snack. As I was heading that way I offered it a lift on the trowel.
I delight in finding a reason for a stroll along this maintenance path simply because the child in me loves hearing the grasses rustle as I brush past them. My latest springtime excuse is to see what the latest variation in the promiscuous aquilegia seedlings has turned out to be. They seem to be at home in what was the shady area under the cedar and, lately, like me, their flowers have been looking a bit frazzled in the heat. Otherwise, their leaves seem quite healthy.
According to the RHS there’s less risk of introducing the dreaded Aquilegia downy mildew if plants are raised from seed. (If buying plants, or if there’s concern about existing plants, the expert advice from Touchwood Plants is very helpful.) I’m tempted to sow some greeny-white ones to add a starry springtime sparkle to the little meadow. Sarah Raven’s descriptions of either A. ‘Munstead White’ or ‘Lime Sorbet’ sound perfect. If I’ve understood Derry Watkin’s online cultivation notes correctly, there’s less chance of aquilegia cross-pollinating if different forms are sited a minimum of thirty inches away from each other.
While we were wandering along the access path a friend kindly pointed out that in my wild and wooly garden I don’t stand much chance of enforcing chaste behaviour among the carefree columbines. This is quite true, I might just as well sprinkle a mix of the predominantly purple or pink seeds that are ripening in the jolly jesters’ hats with a shrug and a smile for good luck.
The more serious question arose when we arrived at the T-junction where the two paths meet, dead ahead of which is site of the stump. Even in April, when the perennial planting is not shrouding it, the path is barely three feet wide. We decided that as there isn’t room to manoeuvre a stump grinder without unpacking a lot of the planting, it will have to stay.
In which case, Jackie suggested, why not use the stump as plinthe for a simple sculpture to draw the eye in my rambles along the path. This conjured images of bespoke budget-busting spheres which would look more at home in a Chelsea Show Garden than in our rustic patch. On the other hand, the earthy coloured salt glaze globe that I bumped into in the garden centre while dropping off NGS posters seemed just right.
It’s also a perfect springtime perch from which to enjoy the aquilegia.
Perhaps one of the best things about gardening is the friendships it fosters and, as a result, the sharing of good ideas.