Garden Blog - Blog Post

The Halfway Mark


We’ve just had another Public NGS Open Day and so I slept in til around 10:30am this morning. Five events down, five to go. We’re at the half-way mark and along with several pages of very kind comments written in the guestbook by garden visitors under duress, we have an interesting statistic to pull about about the cake: with 223 visitors to the garden, we’ve served 256 slices of cake. Make of that, what you will.

Interestingly, I’ve had very little time to actually tend to the garden, there is an embarrassing amount of dead-heading that I haven’t managed, the border edges are looking rough, there is staking that is sorely missing and if I’d managed to keep on top of watering in some new perennials, I wouldn’t be worrying about why they’re dying and what I’m going to replace them with.

Looking up at a summer sky from a sun-drenched patio

Part of the problem was that I put my lower back out and was out of action for several days after planting four honeysuckle under beech hedge that runs the length of the garden. The aim is to have such a long mass of flowering scented honeysuckle that in summer, you should be able to smell it from the next village.

The rhododendron hedge needs cutting back too as it’s coming out too far over the pergola and “sitting” heavy on it. I’m hoping my landscaper neighbour will be able to help get rid of the bulk bags of pruning that’s going to generate.

Seating in a shady spot on the lower terrace

Other than those along with some odd-jobs such as extending the wire runners for the jasmine and roses, there’s – dare I say it – not that much in the way of “heavy” work. It’s actually a quiet period, though with all the work for the NGS Open Days, it doesn’t feel like it.

I still find it odd that visitors don’t “see” the work that’s been missed – they certainly don’t comment on it anyway, I expect they’re too kind for that and keep it to themselves. Instead, the number one question I get is, “how do you keep your hostas from being eaten by slugs?” closely followed by, “who is the baker!?”.

When we have private group visits, I give a short talk about the garden where I say the garden is in the “Romantic Style”, which has a strong element of over-abundance in planting, a feeling of the borders tipping out of control and even a sense of neglect or abandonment, like suddenly coming across a “secret” or “forgotten” garden. It’s that last part I’m having trouble accepting.

Armillary sphere (from a distance) in the main border

Gardening in a romantic style still involves a lot of work and maintenance – especially when you have so many plants crammed so close together – but it’s done in a way that doesn’t make it look manicured and pristine. While this is how the garden initially starts each season – especially in the early Spring after the winter clean-up, by mid-July, visitors are already having to brush past plants that are closing in and meeting each other across the grass paths, well-defined border edges are disappearing as plants spill over and the line between what is under control and what isn’t, is distinctly blurred.

Patio pot collection annuals and sedums

Visitors coming later in the remaining Open Days for this season will hopefully be able to see and appreciate this, especially if I think to write a spiel on the elements of a “Romantic Style Garden” to focus their attention on the good bits and distract them away from the jobs that I haven’t managed to get round to doing.

Brushing past plants meeting over the grass paths

If that doesn’t work, well, there’s always cake.

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author & gardener

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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Jean 05/08/2023 - 7:26 pm

Your photos look exuberantly beautiful. My theory is that the excess number of cake slices is explained by couples who, having trouble deciding among so many delicious options, decided to split three (different) slices of cake. I’m glad to know that, when it’s barely possible to beat my way through the plants covering the walkways, I can describe this as “gardening in the romantic style.” 😉

Sunil 08/08/2023 - 10:54 am

Thanks, Jean. I’ve been expecting to put on a great deal of weight personally managing the left-over cake slices, but so far, I’ve just had to stand there and watch them disappear piece by piece until there’s just crumbs left on plates. It’s funny about the plants covering paths, we couldn’t understand why – on one particular Open Day – people kept going down the steps, despite being pointed to go in the other direction – we think it’s because the lemon balm there grew completely over the path and so it looked as though there was no way though. I partly cut it back and that put things back to normal.


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