The Race Against Time

Whoever said that gardening was a relaxing, leisurely activity, with no strenuous work, heavy lifting, over-exertion, stress or deadlines obviously had someone else doing it for them. I say this as I am now noticing the days getting shorter, each passing day there’s a couple of minutes fewer to garden in. Each passing day moves us nearer to the end of the growing season and each passing day is one less in which I have to try and work through the creation and planting of two large borders in the garden. What’s at stake are a whole host of potted shrubs bursting at the seams, countless young plants that are getting ever more impatient to be planted out and a planting window, after which a whole season must pass before the opportunity comes around again.

Digging up the compacted clay and mixing in the new soil is hard, arduous and slow work. Contouring and profiling the border takes time to get the right levels, slopes and shapes. Reforming the battered border edges after the heavy work is time-consuming. Only after this is all done can I finally start working on the queue of plants waiting to head out beyond the patio staging area and into the great garden beyond.

As it turns out we’ve given areas of the large borders enigmatic names such as:

  • Crocosmia Circus: where several grass paths come together and leave you surrounded on all sides by the tall flames of Crocosmia Lucifer
  • The Crescent: a narrow but long section of border perfect for a regal line of delphinium spires and stargazer lilies
  • Magnolia Hill: A mixed shrub border of contrasting foliage shapes, colours, flowers and scent crowned at the pinnacle with a Magnolia tree
  • Judas Rise: A highly mounded part of the border with steep sides crowned with a neighbour-donated Cercis Siliquastrum – the Judas Tree
  • Fruit Avenue: A long straight border filled with all manner of  decadent fruit trees and delightfully tempting soft fruit shrubs

Right now we’re working on each piece in that list apart from the first. The descriptions reflect the end-product but the current reality is very different. A mass of Delphiniums will eventually be planted in a long majestic sweeping line once the Crescent is complete. The rear part of Magnolia Hill – which turned out to be mixed shrub border – will receive the potted shrubs. Fruit Avenue is waiting for – you’ve guessed it – bare root fruit trees and soft fruit shrubs.

I want to try and get these areas ready for planting before the weather starts to decline and it’s a race against time. If Fruit Avenue isn’t ready by winter, I’ll miss the bare root tree season and will have to wait another whole season before the structure of this border can go in. If I’m late with the Crescent, a whole load of Delphiniums might expire in their tiny pots, having waited and waited and waited.

Sometimes it feels like plants wait for no gardener.

We’re just left with September before the weather really starts getting foul. The Crescent has just been planted and Fruit Avenue needs to be ready before the New Year (taking into account that I’m more of a fair-weather gardener). It feels as though time isn’t on my side at the moment but each minute the tiller is mixing the soil, each barrowful of compost and manure that goes into the new borders and each evening of fair weather after work when I can get out and do a little bit more means the monumental task of creating these new borders comes closer to reality.

14 Comments


  1. Going to have to take a few days off work, both of you! Then you can get the fruit trees in and the delphiniums done. I do like the sound of crocosmia circus! Got Lucifer already and really love it, plus another deep orange, a new one, darker and with bigger flowers than Lucifer, and also the really common one (smallish orange flowers) which was in the garden when we came. Good luck with all that planting….. and know anyone who might lend you some arc lights? 🙂

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    1. Hi Mrs Mac, we took two weeks off work to try an relax, but we just spent it gardening like the clappers instead. It was the only way we could get this border finished in time. I’m planning a far less ambitious border next year – it will just be the one too!

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  2. Your plans sound very exciting, and I think a few vacation days are in order. I would just add that we gardeners sometimes create our own stress by having very ambitious goals! On the other hand, that’s what makes it fun!

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    1. Hello Jason, I think once I’m in the clear with regards to completing the borders, winter preparation, potting on plants, getting things in the ground and the bulb-season planting complete, I’ll be able to have a bit of a sit down, things are still hectic for now though. I’ll certainly have more modest goals for next year!

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  3. Don’t you feel like you work two jobs? Your plants have hired you as an excellent caretaker. While it’s all a ton of work now, it will be glorious as it all settles and matures. 🙂

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    1. Hi Tammy, this is totally spot on! My day job at the office, then the evening and weekend job out in the garden. It can get pretty exhausting. I’m really looking forward to planting up the newly created borders and seeing how they mature – that’s the fun part, going to the garden centre to fill the new borders with goodies!

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  4. I love your clever garden names! I, too, am racing against an end-of-September garden deadline and hoping for lots of good weather between now and then. An added complication for me is that I can only work a maximum of two hours at a time and then have to let my back rest at least one day in between gardening days. Fortunately, my plans are much less ambitious than yours — just one 18′ x 4′ border to be dug and planted. Are you prioritizing fruit avenue so that you don’t have to wait another whole year to get those fruit trees in?

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    1. Hi Jean, I like the names too, I’m not sure how we came up with them, but they seem to suit the new borders well. You’re absolutely right about Fruit Avenue, it must be complete before December, when the bare-root fruit trees that I ordered a month ago are due to arrive. Otherwise I will miss an entire growing season, waiting for the next opportunity to buy and plant them and as they form the structure off this long border, I can’t plant things around it until the structure is in, so it delays filling out the entire border for a season too – you can tell now why I’m so desperate to complete it!

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  5. Oh you sound so stressed out! If you know where your structural plants are going, just try to get the soil around them at the correct level and to a good standard of fertility, then worry about the rest of the border at a later date. The same goes for fruit and Delphiniums. So long as the actual planting spot is good, then the rest of the avenue/border can be dealt with at a more leisurely pace. If the Delphiniums end up in the wrong place, you can always move them, but at least they will be in the soil and not expiring in their little pots.

    If you can’t do that, you can always pot up your bare root plants so they are ready to put into your borders later in the season – and pot on your Delphiniums. It might seem like an unnecessary additional job, but if it takes the pressure off, it’s time well invested. Please don’t wear yourself out gardening – it’s meant to be relaxing and good for you!

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    1. Hello Sarah, in many respects it has been rather stressful, I tried to take on too much this year and didn’t take into account that we both have full time jobs and also need some time to have a rest. I’ll have a much more relaxed set of goals to do next year. The large number of young plants waiting to be planted out spurred us on to try and complete as much as possible before the weather deteriorated and that’s why we made a push to complete the borders before the end of the season. I’ll be glad when the bare root trees are in though and will have fun filling out the new beds next year as a reward!

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  6. I love the names, too. My garden beds seem to end up with accidental names like “The Sad Sand Cherry Bed” and “The Not-as-Sad Sand Cherry Bed”–so I am extra-impressed by someone with your vision. Good luck in that race against time!

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    1. Hello Stacy, that’s almost how ours were named too; we chose the names around the shape of the border and the plants that I planned to put in them. If they change then it’ll only lead to confusion so I’m committed!

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  7. I love your names Sunil! I recall those last weeks of Summer, and with Autumn arriving on the 23rd, the race begins! However in Georgia, we are racing to prepare our Autumn beds. I will be planting the garlic along with lettuce and cabbage and kale. Maybe some carrots and radishes too. With temps still in the high 80’s at the mid day, we just turn the Summer planting switch off, and turn the cool weather with on! It is very different from what I did for 30 years!
    I cannot wait to see your swath of delphiniums. WOW!

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    1. Hello Jayne, the weather has turned and the temperature is dropping. We’ve already moved some plants to the greenhouse and I’ll be keeping an eye on the night time temperatures, which is already running into single figures (deg. C) the magic number I’m looking out for is 5 deg.C, at which point I’m in full winter protection mode with a well-deserved winter hibernation not far away.

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