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A few months ago I wrote about the felling of the big blue cedar which used to dominate the front garden.

View of the terraces from the barn steps

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.

Blue cedar stump 2016I’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.

Mia surveying the terraces in late May

Mia siting on the wall which runs parallel to the access path

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).

Lily grazing on nepeta

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.

Drinking moth caterpillar

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.

Meadow in May

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.

Seed pod

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.

Cedar path

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.

Poster : NGS day June 6th 2016

Greenfields is Jackie’s garden

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.

The globe from the gravel path

It’s also a perfect springtime perch from which to enjoy the aquilegia.

Globe and aquilegia

Perhaps one of the best things about gardening is the friendships it fosters and, as a result, the sharing of good ideas.