Garden Blog - Blog Post

Shoddy Maintenance


When taking on a garden, I’ve always kept up with the maintenance of areas that have been restored before starting new ones. This way, completed areas don’t fall back into decay, only to need re-doing again at a later date. It’s much easier to keep things maintained than it is to bring areas back from neglect. Unfortunately, this has been somewhat stretched this year with all the focus on the back of the garden, the restored areas were mainly left to their own devices and while this wasn’t a terrible disaster, it did mean the cultivated garden became a little bit wilder than it is normally allowed to be.

One of the disappointments has been the hanging baskets. At this time of year, they are normally overflowing with trailing bedding annuals but unfortunately, the strange weather, intermittent watering and lack of feeding has taken the joie de vivre out of of them, leaving them decidedly lacking. Part of the reason may be that the begonias were overwintered from last year and they never happily re-established, but the trailing lobelia are new and they look particularly sorry.

One whole class of victims are the hostas, which are particularly lacy this year. Hostas normally start off whole and become nibbled towards the end of the season, but the slugs and snails have been having a free-for-all on them recently to the point where we risked loosing the odd plant. We’ve since done some emergency de-snailing and prevention but there’s nothing that will will the holes back in. We’ll have to wait for next year’s new, fresh set of leaves to erase the evidence of neglect.

The tiny strip of border between the patio and the fence hasn’t turned into the success I was hoping for. The Madame Alfred Carrière rose was supposed to grow long arching stems that I could bend down to the ground to layer and chain off a new rose. The lack of pruning discipline for this rose meant all the new growth happened in the wrong places. I will have to wait for winter pruning to wrest it back into shape. The lack of any leaves on the lower part of the plant is also somewhat embarrassing.

A lack of pruning for the fruit trees means one of them had snapped a branch in the windy summer we’ve had. All six fruit trees need a prune but I am not clued up on the right way to do it, nor what the right time is. I’m hoping I haven’t adversely affected the trees or their fruiting by holding back. I had wanted to give them a couple of years to establish before I reached for the loppers but perhaps shaping early was the wise choice that I never got round to doing.

The summer fruiting raspberries should have been burgeoning with fruit, but they decided to sucker instead and I never got round to removing the excess. Fruit Avenue has now ended up with an understorey of raspberry canes that may or may not produce fruit next year. These will definitely have to be brought back under control if we want any reasonable quantity of berries. I never expected the canes to sucker so vigorously and it feels as though it suddenly happened without me even noticing. The only positive is that it has kept the weeds down significantly.

Delphinium Crescent also suffered with the weather this year. The bamboo fencing we have to support the Delphiniums wasn’t maintained and it was overcome in the mid-summer windy weather, taking the delphinium display with it. Once the line of delphiniums were damaged or blown over, there was no recovery apart from cutting the snapped plants down to the ground and hoping for some regrowth. While this has occurred, it’s been slow and hasn’t really hidden the fact that a whole display was lost.

In more, “I really should have staked that” news, the Crocosmia are growing sideways, mainly because the dahlias behind are sitting on top of them, having not ben staked. These tall dahlias absolutely require staking otherwise they simply flop over and this is exactly what has happened. The corner border hasn’t been great this year, several dahlias were lost and the regrowth was very late in starting. Plants have ended up crushed and the ginger lily is likely to run out of time to flower before the weather turns and the first frosts hit.

While this all seems doom and gloom, it’s a reminder that while I can write about all the great successes and progress in the garden, the garden remains far from perfect and the emphasis on getting the bamboo out and the back cleared has led to other parts of the garden suffering as there simply hasn’t time to look after everything while restoring other areas. The comforting thing is that all these mistakes are recoverable. The delphiniums, dahlias and hostas will return new and refreshed next year and I can think about pruning regimes over the winter when there is less to do. I can also pre-emptively stake at that time too, so I don’t forget to do it later when it is needed. Correcting or erasing evidence of one’s mistakes; it’s one of the great things about gardening.

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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 13/09/2017 - 8:46 am

Glad to see you have decided to stop beating yourself up about a few mistakes, Sunil! If there is only you doing it, you cannot be everywhere at once, and at least the back of the garden will not need clearing next year. I have had some real successes this year (a perennial bidens got to 8ft, but this means it will have to be moved to a fence somewhere as in the winds she now leans at a distinct angle despite supports) incuding my day lilies, but also, like you, some failures due to my own neglect. My Bill McKenzie clematis which should be pruned anually, wasn’t done in February, and is now off and running, has taken over at least 20ft of it’s border and a pineapple tree plus several other lovelies which are not dead but no-one can see this year. However, another clematis bought at an ordinary garden centre with no hope of a flower this year loves the circular support I planted it in, and is full of flower with many buds still to open.

Would you consider getting a professional tree surgeon in to prune the fruit trees for you? Then when you see how he does it you could DIY it yourself next year! You are correct, the chance to tidy up and look forward to doing in again next year is the joy of gardening. x

Sunil 18/09/2017 - 1:28 pm

Hello Mrs Mac, with all my attention at the back of the garden this year, the parts already done were left to themselves and the result isn’t too bad. I get to wipe the slate clean over the winter. I still need to figure out what I want to get done before the end of the season. For the fruit trees, I think I will read up over winter and look to pruning them next year, ready and prepared. When the leaves come down, I’ll be able to see the structure of the trees much better, which will help me figure out how they should be pruned.

Sarah Shoesmith 15/09/2017 - 8:07 am

One of the problems with making gardens ourselves is that areas do fall into slight chaos when the focus is elsewhere. It happens… they’re plants… they can be rescued and renovated. There are plenty of fruit tree pruning courses around – a couple of hours on a Saturday morning on one of the courses will have you brandishing those secateurs with confidence! As we say in gardening… there’s always next year…. 🙂

Sunil 18/09/2017 - 1:32 pm

Hello Sarah, I got particularly lost down at the bottom of the garden this year because it was in such a bad state when I first started. It’s so much better now but there is still a fair amount to do that will have to spill over into next year. I over-estimated the amount of effort, especially when I added in removing the large stand of mature bamboo. I’m currently thinking of autumn bulb planting 🙂

gardeninacity 15/09/2017 - 11:12 am

We never get to everything in the garden that we mean to. If only someone would pay us to take care of our own gardens.

Sunil 18/09/2017 - 1:32 pm

Hello Jason, that would be brilliant wouldn’t it? I’d give up my day job!

Alistair 20/09/2017 - 5:52 pm

Gardeners like us strive for perfection, you would think an old timer like myself would be more laid back by now. My current issue is getting to grips with the watering regime, what with all these container plants I now have. Keep up the good work Sunil.

Sunil 20/09/2017 - 7:50 pm

Thanks, Alistair. I guess your summers can be very dry and watering lots of pots could be a problem. We have most of our pots sat in groups in large trays (like tomato grow-bag trays) so water can soak from the bottom up, the only trouble is that they can be unsightly, it’s hard to hide them away.


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