I spend most of my time, money and effort on the back garden, it is the largest part while most of the front is a gravel drive. There are small borders along the front of the house, there’s the climbers and a semi-circular border against the verge with a white picket fence on the straight side. The number of photos I have of the verge itself I can count on one hand. There’s no reason to have pictures of the verge anyway, technically, it’s not a part of the garden and it’s only a short strip of grass anyway.
Well, it was until now.
The grass verge is a very difficult place, baked by the sun, exposed, surrounded by tarmac, very poor soil and very, very dry. It also rarely gets mowed because after the effort to cut the grass in the back garden, I run out of steam and don’t have the energy to do the front. Kind neighbours cut it occasionally but even that had to stop once the gaura along the fence established.
The gaura (Whirling Butterflies) are densely planted (of course, they would be) and grow out over the verge sending numerous long flowering stems that just go on and on for months. With the grass covered and shaded out for this amount of time, it gradually dies, then gets churned up over the winter and replaced with weeds as the seeds waft in.
For quite a long time, we probably had the worst-looking verge on the estate by some margin. Tussocks of unkempt grass choked with weeds with Gaura over the top of it and patches of bare soil.
In the summer months it was probably one of the best-looking verges because of the gaura, but it was only lovely for the summer. The rest of the time it was an utter embarrassment.
And so turns the glare of my attention and it lights upon this strip of waste ground (that I used to see everyday when going to work, not so much anymore). What to do with a problem like the verge?
- For much of the summer, the verge is smothered by the gaura, anything that cannot tolerate the deep shade under it will die here
- It is bone dry most of the year, anything that needs a moist soil or regular watering will die here
- The soil is poor and like dust, anything that needs a loamy, deep or rich soil will die here
- The location is harsh and exposed, anything not tough and hardy will die here
It’s a challenging position. I need a drought-tolerant, evergreen, tough ground-cover that won’t mind being blasted by winter winds and spring sun nor mind being covered by Gaura for the summer. It needs to grow strong enough to smother weed seedlings that might try to take hold. We thought of many plants but none could tick all the boxes.
Then one day, while I was walking down the lower terrace, I passed by the Erodium that I was keeping just by not removing it and then it suddenly occurred to me. Erodium is borderline invasive. It followed us from our previous garden, never really went away, always survived in the most unlikely places with no care or attention. It’s incredibly drought tolerant, evergreen, bomb-proof, self-seeds far too easily and it flowers beautifully over a long period, the bees are usually all over it.
Could Erodium Pelargoniflorum be the plant that will thrive in the tough conditions of the verge?
We will find out.
Currently, I have hand-weeded out the perennial weeds as well as the remaining scraps of grass and the whole verge is now a bare strip of soil. It’s a perfect litter tray – it’ll be the only fertiliser it gets. I’ll then give it a good watering to trigger the weed seeds to germinate, then I’ll hoe the lot on a hot day, rinse and repeat a few times to get rid of most of the latent seeds. Meanwhile, the Erodium is developing its seed pods. I can then have the fun of trying to collect some. The dried seed pods burst open on touch when ready and fling seeds outwards, this can cause a cascade as the out-flung seeds hit other seed pods.
Could it be that the Erodium that I was almost ready to get rid of for good, turns out to be the perfect solution for the front verge? Nothing else has worked and with free seeds, there’s nothing to loose. It’s an experiment in the making that could turn out spectacularly impressive or spectacularly bad.