I've Got A Pair Of Loppers And I'm Not Afraid To Use Them

The other day I had a gloriously invigorating experience chopping the heck out of our unruly front garden. Here's how it looked before I got started:

An hour and four green dustbin loads later:

Pretty sweet, huh? Let's take a closer look at the rhododendron.


...and after:

Raising the crown of the rhododendron has allowed tons of sunlight into what was once the heart of darkness, and has revealed a large flower bed begging for a makeover (and a ton of litter - the horror!). It's also nice to be able to see our front door from the street, rather than everything being hidden behind a dark green wall of menacing shrubbery.

So, the plan is to dig out and level the flower bed, and get some bulbs and plants into the ground asap before winter comes. I'm planning a mix of cottage-garden style spring and summer flowering bulbs and perennials, along with evergreens to provide structure and year-round interest.

In our old garden I made two mistakes with the borders. First of all, I planted the evergreens and shrubs too close together because I wanted the immediate impact of a full border, which meant they didn't have space to grow properly. Secondly, I planted too many parts of the garden exclusively with bulbs, meaning they looked great for a few weeks when the bulbs flowered, but looked either bare or tatty the rest of the time. So I want to try and get it right this time around.

Here are my thoughts so far - I've arranged them in rough flowering order:

The first set of daffodils are Early Sensation, which amazingly flower in January. I also like Jack Snipe (yellow trumpets and pale petals) and classic golden Tete-a-Tete. The blue star-shaped flowers in the middle of the top row are Chionodoxa Luculiae, a February-flowering bulb providing naturalised perennial ground-cover. I love Tulipa Spring Green, which we had in our old garden - the green and white petals are so pretty and unusual, and I adore green flowers in general. I think bluebells are a must for underneath the shady rhododendrons - and I can't wait to replace the stunning Allium Purple Sensation bulbs we also had in our old garden.

We're going to plant lavender along the edge of the path so the scent is released when you brush past on your way to the front door - I'm planning on choosing a compact version like Imperial Gem. The blue flowers next to the lavender are Vinca La Grave, a ground-covering perennial. Euonymous Fortunei Emerald Gaiety is an evergreen shrub with white-edged leaves that would be a good option for creating more formally shaped planting among the wilder bulbs and taller grass-like plants such as Verbena Bonariensis (bottom left picture). Finally, as we move into the summer months, the colour scheme shifts from the yellows and blues of spring to purples and hot pink shades brought by Gladiolus Byzantinus, which should contrast beautifully with the white of Gladiolus The Bride.

With the exception of the lavender, all the plants hardy, low-maintenance, and suitable for acidic soil and part-shade (I used the RHS Plant Selector which allows you to search for plants using very detailed criteria). Lavender prefers full sun, but there's a house further down the street on the same side (so also north-facing) which has flourishing lavender edging the front path, so we might as well give it a try.

So, probably top-heavy on bulbs and low on evergreens/formally shaped planting at the moment, meaning I need to narrow things down a little before I order the bulbs from Avon (formerly Floral Fireworks), my favourite bulb company. I guess you know your Ibiza days are behind you when you have a favourite bulb company, huh. Although now I've seen how much light the ground gets, I'm also tentatively contemplating grassing over the entire flower bed to create a beautiful evergreen velvety background for the bulbs and plants to naturalise through, creating a similar effect to this neighbouring front garden - the subject of my daily envious glances when I past by, festooned with children, dogs, changing bag, double buggy and toddler trophies (pointy sticks, berries, conkers etc):

Everyone in my house - dogs, children and hard-working Dads - is asleep right now, so I'm planning on sneaking out to have a crack at the laurel shortly. It's an addiction!