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Cornucopia - Freedom versus Control

Freedom versus Control
Jenny Papé

While tending my waterside beds this summer I realise that I have a temperate jungle! Well that is fine—I have always enjoyed the luxuriant hidden valleys of some Cornish gardens such as that at Trebah and this year I have my own jungle dell. The plentiful rainfall has produced massive leaves of Darmera peltata, standing chest high, with each circular leaf holding a pool of rainwater, with fronds of Onoclea sensibilis reaching up between them and a clump of Osmunda regalis, the royal fern arching over behind. The golden striped leaved bamboo Pleioblastus viridistriatus has grown rapidly after its winter shearing and is a sunny backdrop to frothy flowers of astilbes in red and pink. The rogersia leaves are also extra fine this year, overtopped with their heads of rosy pink flowers. All this is interspersed with sword like iris leaves, arching clumps of the golden sedge and flowers of Primula florindae in shades of cream, buff and orange.

A relative newcomer to my little waterside dell is Telekia speciosa which I probably bought at some plant sale a couple of years ago and popped into a corner of the dell bed ‘as it likes damp soil’. Little did I realise that it is a giant of a plant with fine heart shaped leaves and strong upright flower stems topped with large yellow daisy like flowers. It is a striking architectural plant but is a self seeder and now I have three of them taking up a lot of space!! Add to all this an area of Ligularia przewalskii and various hostas and euphorbias all growing vigorously with the ample rain, then my control problems, come this autumn, become apparent!!

Yes I will have to do some control. My problem is that I like my garden to be full of happy looking exuberant plants with not a peep of soil in sight—yes, you’ve got it—a jungle garden!!

That was the freedom bit, so now to the control bit.

I must make an effort—whatever the weather—to prune shrubs at the right time. I must get out there soon – by the end of July - and prune the deutzias (I have quite a few of them), the philadelphus and the kolkwitzia. The winter is the best time to try and regenerate overlarge shrubs. Some of the deciduous berberis and large Viburnum x bodnatense I know will benefit from complete removal of some of the oldest stems. In early spring I like to cut down some of the cornus bushes, so encouraging new coloured stems, and near the river bank I have several lovely little willows with narrow grey leaves which usually get pollarded each spring. This year it was so cold at times and so wet at other times that the pollarding of these willows got left. The result is huge mounds of fine grey foliage cascading over the banks and stroking the river water as it flows by. OK for one year but I can’t let it go for a second year.

Then the herbaceous plants! I usually leave most of the cutting down until after the winter as the old stems and seed heads give some colour and shape to the border as well as being good for wildlife. For several years now I have been rather lax at splitting and moving herbaceous plants with the result that I can’t now get into the border to tend the plants, tie up or stake, or even get out the persistent bindweed that always seems to appear. But - the border is so full that the plants are mostly self supporting and the rather larger clumps and intermingling swathes of flowers do create the feeling of a luxuriant flowering jungle!

A garden gives me an enormous amount of pleasure. Whether I am looking out of the window watching the robins catching mayflies by the river, or if I am snatching a quick few minutes in between showers to check on each new day’s blooms, it gives me pleasure. I have frustrations of course—finding out too late which are the rabbits’ favourite nibbles, or noting that the badgers have slightly altered their path to the bridge so pushing and trampling their way through some lovely foxgloves. But the garden is part of the countryside and so I accept that there has to be room for both plants and animals. What is the ‘Chelsea Chop’ but a late spring cut whether it’s done by snips or teeth, and I can plant the foxgloves somewhere else next year. And what a thrill it gives me to look out of the window in the morning and see a deer ambling across the lawn—but just as long it is heading for the bridge to the wood and not to the roses!!

An excerpt from Jottings from a Country Garden first published in the Wilts & Avon Group Newsletter September 2012 and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 32.

© Copyright for this article: Jenny Papé

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2013. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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