Part 1 of this mini-series introduced the corner border as an expansion project, in which there was a flurry of activity in marking it out, cutting the edge and then a sudden stop as soon as the border was covered over with polythene to kill the grass and weeds underneath.
Part 2 of this mini-series saw a return to the border a year later with the compacted soil dug over and mixed with manure, compost and more soil from seven bulk bags. There was so much material that the whole border was raised up with a stepped bank and a retaining wall made from rocks kindly donated by the neighbours.
It’s 5:00am, the sky is light but the sun is still hidden behind the trees. The birds are up and about as well as the bees; no-one else seems to be though, there’s a rare stillness and lack of “modern day” noise. Sounds are muffled. Tip-toeing out of the kitchen doors in my gardening clothes and onto the patio, which is thankfully dry, I look out over the two borders already planted up. Magnolia Hill is bursting at the seams, just on the verge of descending into flowery chaos. The formal, tall blue spires of the Delphiniums along the Crescent are so noisy with bees it sounds like a hive must be close-by. The near-end of Fruit Avenue is overrun with Shasta Daisies about to flower, their white flower buds look like stars against the darker beech hedge behind. The patio itself is a mass of green on concrete from the sprawling Nomadic Patio Pot collection.
My gaze then swings across to the large empty expanse of a newly restored border, with a rockery wall, a stepped bank, razor-sharp edge and sculpted, contoured top; it is utterly pristine. It has taken many weekends, late evenings and early morning starts to get this border ready and now, I can start picking pots and plants from the patio and the staging area and set them down in the new border in their planting positions. It’s one of my most favourite things to do, even at such an absurdly early time in the morning. The thrill of being able to just walk along and pick up a few pots, barrow them down to the border and lay them out without going through the checkout is amazing. Most of the chosen plants are rescue plants, from seed, divisions or donations; the best kinds.
The border is so large that it actually takes a few early morning and late evening sessions just to lay all the plants out. By the time this is finished, the staging is almost clear, gaps have appeared in the Nomadic Patio Pots and part of the greenhouse is empty. They’re all there, sat in pots on the new border, glittering with morning dew, impatiently waiting to be released into the ground.
It’s exhilarating to finally dig the first hole and reach for the first pot, knock the plant out, firm it into the ground, backfill and water. Then do the same with the next and the next, rinse and repeat. The first twenty or so still keep the feeling going. By the next twenty, I’ve settled into a well-practiced routine. The next twenty start getting repetitive and dare I say, tedious. The next twenty are tiresome. There are still many more plants left. I’m desperate to finish planting the border though, the build-up to it has been huge, it’s the final piece in the trio of borders at the near-end of the garden. Like a marathon runner seeing the finish line in sight, I race to get the last hostas, ferns and foxgloves into the ground as the shadow of the house stretches longer and longer, signalling the evening is coming to and end.
The final fern goes in, a quick tidy up of tools, stacking of pots, throwing out of rubbish and turning off of the hose pipe and for all intents and purposes, the border is planted.
I collapse, exhausted from fifteen hour days (nine of those are for work), non-stop weekends, lifting rocks, tilling soil, shovelling, planting, watering. It’s all done now. The plants are in the ground, the border joins the others to form a set. It’s a little like getting all properties of the colour group in Monopoly. There is still some tidying and tweaking to do but this is just maintenance work and can be done later.
For now I’m going to step back, have a bit of a sit down and look over this newly restored border, remember how it came to be, appreciate how it fits in with the other borders, how it will flower, which parts will be of interest at which times of year, notice all the different habitats and micro-climates that have been created, imagine how it might look when mature and compare the reality with what I had in my mind and finally, decide that it looks good.