The calendar says mid-May but the weather didn’t get the memo. It’s dull, wet and cold, and it looks like it’s staying that way for at least a week. It does partly work in my favour because I’ve been spending time dividing plants – long after the normal window for spring division has passed. In between rain, hail and sleet I’ve also managed to move plants around. If the weather was roasting hot, dry and sunny, the divisions and transplants might have turned into withered heaps on a scorched border.
A few years ago we were given several Bergenias and we scattered these down Fruit Avenue where they kind of just sat there and gradually did their thing. This year, I dug all of them up, split a few and put the lot at the end of the Crescent that faces the Rectangle. They’re now in a large group underneath a Laburnum tree and three very young (and small) hydrangea shrubs. The plan is that the Bergenia will provide the ground cover while the hydrangeas establish and grow over the top.
Before I could move the bergenia though, there were some scattered aquilegia that I moved over to the Landing Pad and put together in a group (as opposed to being scattered), before I could do that, there were a few scattered Catananche plants that I had to move, I put those together with some others to make a group.
The general theme has been consolidating plants into groups and blocks instead of having them scattered about. I think keeping plants in blocks makes much more of an impact, particularly in larger borders where a single plant, or the same plant scattered in a few places just gets lost. I’m at the stage where the minimum planted quantity of any one thing is five. Of course, this doesn’t go for large shrubs and trees, but herbaceous perennials. The smaller they are, the more you need.
Aside from moving and consolidating aquilegia, begonias and catanache, I also split the Astilbe, I divided each one in half yet still managed to end up with an odd number of plants. These are planted in a large group underneath the Golden Elderberry at the end of Fruit Avenue. It is particularly risky dividing Astilbe because they need a very damp soil and some shade. We have those conditions – kind of – but the Elderberry shrub hasn’t spread out far enough yet to provide the shade for the astilbe that face south.
Elsewhere I’ve been critically looking at gaps in the borders and there are many. My mind is on plants at the moment as I’m desperately trying to grow a sufficient number of them to fill the large (and final) border in the garden and so I’m noticing all the gaps elsewhere. They bothered me before but I was too busy working on other parts of the garden; now I need to think of what I can use to fill the gap. I know that buying just one of something from the garden centre might not just cut it and so I’ll have to try things from seed, or perhaps go for plants that can be easily divided or take well from cuttings.
I don’t mean for it to sound like a chore, as growing things from seed and making cuttings and divisions is a very satisfying way of getting a lot for almost nothing. I still have my meat cleaver, which has produced more free plants through division than I care to count. I’m also having a lot of fun going through seed catalogues and making lists of plant seeds to try. The borders are far from capacity and I know I can stuff a lot more in. The challenge will be in picking the right plants that are suited to the conditions and can tolerate the other plants trying to muscle in to these spaces.