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Update That Front Border


The semi-circular border in the front garden is coming along nicely. It’s been about four months since I first started work on it and one and a half months since I finished planting it out. With the summer sunshine and occasional watering to get plants settled in, the result is looking very picturesque.

New front border in July 2014

It’s amazing how much the border has grown and filled out since it was first planted. Let’s just have a reminder of how it looked then:

Newly planted front border

Those sunflowers look so tiny, just look how much they’ve shot up since then! The roses planted either side of the ornamental blossom tree have started filling out too. The lavender and thyme planted in two formal rows at the front are bushing out and are much more visible in the gravel than they used to be. In case this isn’t a big enough change, let’s just have a reminder of what I originally started with, right back at the beginning:

Original front bordering March 2014

Gone are the vigorous viburnum shrubs and the straggly lavender and in their place a mix of dahlias, iris, sunflowers, roses and a few other bits and pieces that I managed to find room for.

There are some parts of this border I really like, the first is the Clematis “Star of India”, which has wound its way up the trunk of the tree (with a bit of help from some garden twine) and is flowering in the lower branches. Being a young clematis (I only got it last year, I think) and subsequently having been moved, I wasn’t expecting a great show but it has surprised me. At the moment though, only an observant passerby will wonder why a blossom tree is flowering with lovely deep purple flowers in the middle of summer. My plan is for this clematis to establish, fill out in the tree canopy and turn it purple each summer.

Clematis "Star of India" in an ornamental blossom tree

The lavender threw a few surprises our way too. Out of the eight plants – all taken from cuttings – one is a very dark coloured lavender, while the other seven are light pink. None are the colour of the lavender that I thought we had in the last garden. I just can’t figure out where they came from, I must have lost some marbles in the house move. The thymes planted right at the front are looking well too and should start knitting together in a few years, they look “at home”, set into the gravel drive.


The rescued dahlias have come on very well. They were all discovered in and saved from a discard/compost heap at the back of the garden. Out of the thirteen sets of dahlia tubers I salvaged, only two didn’t regrow. I’m glad I took the time and effort to recover these plants as they’re not cheap. At the time I had no idea what kind of dahlias they were but hoped they would grow taller than they are as they’re not very visible, especially from the other side of the fence but the flowers are delightful; a mix of single reds, whites, pinks and yellows. I may move them to a more visible spot if their full height is only two feet.

Rescued Dahlias now in flower

The two roses are coming on well. Rosa “Gertrude Jekyll” and Rosa “Teasing Georgia” (both climbing) were planted either side of the tree, each to grow up their own obelisk. Both roses flowered, but needed regular watering and I could see the strain the plants were under because the flowers were not fully formed and wilted very quickly due to the root systems having been damaged in the original house move and in the re-planting. They have finished flowering now and are beginning to grow new foliage and stems – always a good sign. By next season their roots should be well on the way to fully re-establishing and then the fun can begin. Rosa “Teasing Georgia” is especially vigorous and is reaching up the obelisk, towards the tree and towards the fence already. It also branches heavily and will make a substantially sized plant in the coming years. Rosa “Gertrude Jekyll” on the other hand, is somewhat more sedate, but is very capable of reaching a respectable size slowly, but surely.

New foliage for Rosa Gertrude Jekyll

My plan is to weave these roses through the picket fence and have them spilling over the top and cascading down while taking the verticals into the lower branches of the tree. Since these are short climbers, they won’t reach up very high but I have a feeling that “Teasing Georgia” is going to be a handful given how much growth it has already put on; it is already poking through the fence in several places.

Rosa "Teasing Georgia" poking through the front fence

There are several “features” I want that front border to have such as the tree turning purple with clematis while the fence turns pink and yellow with roses. I want the lavender on the other side to create a hazy band of pink airy flowers and I want the thyme to knit together and reach out across the gravel. The verge and pavement should be covered in rose petals, blown from fading flowers from a summer breeze. A sweeping stand of tall, bold sunflowers should nod their large heads in the wind. It should look arrestingly beautiful, bountiful and with a strong hint of opulence.

I have noticed myself becoming much more focussed on how I want a border or an area of the garden to look and feel. I know what emotions I want to invoke, I know what kind of interest I want, what scent and at what time of year for it to “peak”. I take this picture and then reverse-engineer it and garden in such as way as to recreate that very picture. It’s akin to having a jigsaw puzzle; by knowing what the final picture looks like, I know the pieces I need to use and how they fit together. This approach to gardening is something that seems to have gradually crept up on me such that I have only really noticed it now. It’s not a right or wrong way to garden, simply one methodology out of many and given the early results I have had with the front and side borders, it seems to be working rather well.

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Sunil Patel

I'm Sunil Patel, this is me. I created the Garden at 13 Broom Acres and I open it to visitors. I also bake and write blog posts giving a "behind the scenes" look into what it's like to maintain such a garden.

Visit the blog, then come and visit the garden. We can have a good sit-down, a jolly chinwag and a relaxing cup of tea with a sinfully generous slice of home made cake.

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susan maclean 20/07/2014 - 11:29 pm

That clematis is looking gorgeous. Well done on that little border, it really is lovely. I love clematis, but the only one so far that thrives is a Bill Mackenzie, small yellow downward facing flowers which i love. But I have planted and lost “Freckles” for winter colour, and there are a couple more that just did not thrive…. mystery, as I would have expected Mr Mackenzie to fail also, as this is a hot dry garden. I have discovered a little corner that has created its own shade, so maybe try again there. Anyway, well done you. I think your approach to a garden is your own, but so it should be. Me? I stick stuff in and hope it turns out just as I want it to…. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!

Sunil 21/07/2014 - 6:58 pm

Hi Mrs Mac, I’m not having an easy time with Clematis, there has been some good flowering, but also some disappointing no-shows, I think they all need time to settle down and perhaps an automatic watering system so the ones in the pots don’t have to wait for me to remember to water and feed them!

Alain 21/07/2014 - 1:28 am

Hi Sunil,
Your border already looks a lot better. With the picture taken a few months ago, you can really see how much it has grown.
Could the change in the lavender be due to a change in the light intensity? Plants can look very different in different settings.
This time next year, your border will look quite established.

Sunil 21/07/2014 - 6:56 pm

Hello Alain, when I first planted it up it looked very sparse and almost embarrassing, I’m glad it didn’t take long for it all to fill out. In subsequent years, when the roses and clematis grow large, the summer flowering display should be quite a sight. I’m not sure about the lavender, I think I may wait a few years for the young plants to bush out and grow, this may not be their final colour, when put side by side, they are distinctly different.

gardeninacity 21/07/2014 - 5:39 pm

Looking great! Love the sunflowers and training the clematis up a tree. You are doing a good job of coming up with a vision for your borders, then translating that to reality.

Sunil 21/07/2014 - 6:53 pm

Hi Jason, I hope the clematis in the tree does well, it’s “one of those things” that I’ve wanted for a while, just a few more seasons to go. The neighbours comment on the sunflowers as well, they’re only meant to be for this year, but they may make a repeat appearance as they’re proving popular.

casa mariposa 23/07/2014 - 3:00 am

I love it! You and I garden in much the same way. I always start with the whole and then break it down from there. You were smart to add the sunflowers for a bit of summer zing while everything else is filling in. The plants look very happy and healthy.

Sunil 25/07/2014 - 7:44 pm

Hi Tammy, I’m glad the plants have all done well, I like to think it was because of all the digging over and improving of the soil business that went on before it was planted up. I’m likely to do something similar next year, but add in lupins as well as there’s a bare patch under the tree where the sunflowers are too tall.


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