One of my jobs today was to try and regain some control in the herb garden. It does seem that half one’s life as a gardener is spent trying to get something to grow and the other half is trying to get it under control! The herb garden is a good example of this, the level of growth from some plants in a season is phenomenal. I have a type of Artemisia called ‘Oriental Limelight’ that will go from nothing to about 4 feet in a month! It is beautiful but invasive, it certainly hogs the ‘limelight’. Our herb garden, where the more unusual and specialist herbs grow, is not particularly big and is made up of six beds, built at different levels, sizes and shapes around a central path, all in brick. It is really pretty but particularly the bed for medicinal/household herbs can become rather rampant. This has things like Camphor, Ladies maid, Ladies bedstraw, Soapwort, Wormwood, Tansy and the over enthusiastic Oriental Limelight. Some of these plants had become so tall that the wind and rain had knocked them down, so I spent some time pushing myself in amongst them and tying them back to metal stakes (canes are not strong enough). The next problem is the mint bed. My original plan with the herb garden was to keep the mint in one bed because it can spread everywhere. I had about six different varieties of mint in pots standing in the triangular bed and I planted Silver mint and Mediterranean mint in the bed.
What plant can overrun and smother mint?
The silver mint, which is a beautiful, soft leaved plant is another rampant monster! It had overrun the entire bed and swamped all of the pots. The Mediterranean mint that originally shared the bed with the silver mint disappeared in the first year, unequal to the struggle. I pulled out all the mint containers and found them homes elsewhere in the herb garden, luckily, most of them have survived their near suffocation, they just looking a bit bedraggled. Thank goodness the Moroccan mint had survived because it makes the best tea (excellent for soothing windy tummies!)
I then carried on planting the New Guinea impatiens and a plant that is new to me, Dipladenia, from Nik’s nursery. I planted out the container that sits in the centre of the culinary herb bed and added Dipladenia to the urns at the start of the central borders. I then planted impatiens in the large decorative urn on a stand beside the children garden, one in a small urn in the children garden, and some in the stone planters on either side of the blue bench – this looked particularly pretty with the contrast in colours between the rosy red/pink impatiens and the painted blue bench.
By this time, I had finally persuaded Meave to come out briefly to deadhead the sweet peas by the fruit cage which were desperate as usual! Another job for today was some dahlia rearrangement. I do have some idea of colour combinations when I plant out the dahlias but this can be disrupted when plants either lose their label or become mislabelled – quite easy when there are about 200 dahlias! I have a dozen still waiting to be planted that are ‘unknown’ and I’m waiting for them to bloom so I can see their colour and plant them. I am not that precious about my colour combinations but sometimes things do clash. A bright red Bishop of Llandaff had found itself misplaced in a small display bed next to a very, very dark red Arabian Knight, (not a good look), so I removed it and swopped it with a peach/salmon dahlia that was accidentally in the large display bed rather than the small. I then added a bright red pompom and a peach/pink cactus flowered dahlia that had bloomed in the queue of ‘unknowns’ and added them to the relevant display beds.
Despite showers, I still watered some things that I know are vulnerable like my newly planted antirrhinums on the mount which will droop at the slightest provocation! When the showers became persistent I went inside the tunnel to start tying up the cucumbers which are growing impressively and have produced quite a few cucumbers already – they seem to be in a race with the sunflowers that interplant them.
I finished the day by planting the four banana trees – very exciting. I started by cutting off any dried-up leaves at their base with a sharp knife. I then dug four big holes – two on each side of the central border. The plan is to make the central triangle on each side of the border, which is planted with hot colours, look more tropical. Any remaining space in these areas will be planted with the remaining eight large cannas, which also look tropical and compliment the shape of the banana leaves. I’m very pleased with how they look, really exotic, they will also potentially grow to be quite large and tall and could look really impressive. The only concern is getting them through the winter…I don’t want to remove them in the Autumn so I will probably need to wrap them up. The frustrating thing is when you lose one, which is what happened with my thread palms, leaving me with 3 out of 4! Trying to keep borders symmetrical and ‘mirror’ like can be very tricky…you are in natures/God’s hands!