Re-Doing Fruit Avenue in Desperation

Deciding to re-do an entire border one year before a potential NGS opening is not very sensible.

Sensibilities are the first thing to go out the window when there is desperation.

The state of Fruit Avenue was desperate.

Part-way through clearing Fruit Avenue: barren, weedy and ugly

I’ve had my eye on Fruit Avenue for some time. It’s stocked with fruit trees that don’t fruit (or that do fruit and get eaten before they ripen). Anaemic blueberries, wilting rhubarb, currant bushes that have truly miserable yields (that the hedge sparrows help themselves to) and many other, “has it died yet?” fruit bushes.

Rather, it was stocked with these. At this point in time, it is no longer and you should imagine a large “Under New Management, Reopening Soon” floating above this border, perhaps a few orange cones for added effect.

Renovated half of Fruit Avenue with moved rhubarb and new additions

Fruit Avenue declined over several years and I tried to compensate using the, “throw plants at it to see what sticks” method. I realise now that it does not work in a large border. This is a border that is over fifteen metres long a a couple wide. It bulges out at one end, pinned by a dark-leaved Phormium and Judas tree above it. After admitting to myself that the piecemeal approach wasn’t working, I bit the bullet to redo the whole border.

I spent some last year and this Spring to take the border right back to the bare-bones structure, so the fruit trees are still there as is the Phormium and a few other plants that do well (like the wineberry and blackberry). The rest was all on the table to be either moved or taken out for replacement.

Something needed to fill the gap in front of the tree-round (marked with bamboo sticks)

The red currant bushes have all gone (all nine of them), random, sporadically planted, “test” plants have all been lifted and moved elsewhere. I’ve clumped disparate plants together to make planting blocks. I admitted defeat on the fruit and came up with a new plan.

One of the main reasons Fruit Avenue failed (aside from the ravenous wildlife) was because of the fruit trees themselves (ironically). As they grew larger and their canopy spread, they shaded out the fruit bushes growing underneath. The heavy, wet clay soil – often waterlogged in the winter – didn’t help either.

A single epimedium clump split into around fifteen for a planting swathe

Instead of rushing off to the garden centre and buying a whole load of replacement plants, I took a good hard look at the new border conditions and decided to abandon the emphasis on fruit and go for a woodland look instead. There are nine trees in this border and they’ve made over half the area partial to deep shade. I needed to choose plants that would be happy with the reduced light.

I worked on the bulbous end of the border first: the rhubarb were all moved out of full sun that fell on one side of the border, to the opposite side where they are in shade. The blueberry bushes moved the other way. A lone Actaea and Heuchera were temporarily evicted and there were several other changes and “edits” to better position existing plants according to the light conditions.

At the garden centre, I bought:

  1. Bleeding Hearts (we lost all our existing plants due to changing conditions as the garden matured)
  2. Epimediums – the “go-to” plant for dry shade. We already had one large clump that I lifted and divided into many, many new plants.
  3. That’s it (sorry, I thought there were more)

I moved in some lupins (grown from seed) and marked out a row for Zinnias along the sunny side to add a healthy dose of gaudy colour to off-set the cool woodland pastel hues, later in the summer.

I have space for one woodland shrub (yet to buy) and there’s a small blank patch that I need to put “something” in (not yet decided). That completes half the border and while the “woodland feel” is going to need a bit of imagination, it has some time to develop before it all goes on show next year. I’ll look to see how this part of the border turns out before adding in other woodland plants and bulbs.

Room for a woodland shrub needed to block this view

After this rather frantic and desperate piece of work, I’m much happier with the renovated part of the border. The plants are much better suited to the conditions and they’ll hopefully grow much better for it.

I still have the other half of Fruit Avenue to renovate but that’s already well in-progress. I can’t wait to complete the remaining half and then sit back to watch this border, “version 2.0”, mature.

It will need a new border name.

4 Comments


  1. Sunil, I think you were wise to study the situation and slowly as opposed to rushing out to get new stuff. We all know a garden is a work in progress. I have finally realized what works here and stopped trying to replicate things from my Maryland garden. Only took me 5 years to figure it out 🙂

    Reply

    1. Thanks, Lynn, the lesson took years to learn though. Old habits are hard to break out of aren’t they?

      Reply

  2. Sunil, This struck a chord; I’ve begun a similar reckoning process with my “Serenity Garden,” in which most of the plants look more pathetic each year — hardly conducive to feelings of serenity. I made this my project at a series of garden design classes I took this spring so that I could think it through carefully (and with the added benefit of other sets of eyes to help) rather than just throwing plants at it and seeing what might survive. I don’t have the pressure of a coming open garden day to up the ante, so I’ll work on testing and amending the soil this year and plan on redoing the planting next year. I’ll be excited to see how yours comes along.

    Reply

    1. Hello Jean, I wish you well in your re-doing of this border. For me, admitting there was a problem to begin with was a bigger hurdle than it should have been, but once I did, everything get better from there. The failure of individual plants is inconvenient at worst but easy to get over, it’s very different when the scale is a whole border.

      Reply

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