In the spring I mentioned that I had a new project in mind. A secret garden. It has taken all summer to create it and it is still not finished. First of all I had to mark it out and then dig up the daffodils.
Actually, I decided that life was too short and my energy too scarce to dig them all up. The job was backbreaking enough without mining for daffodils..
Having dug it out, with the help of my friends, Paul and Julie, I then had to decide what to plant round it to make it a secret hideaway. I thought about planting exuberant tropical plants to make it an exotic garden with a secluded centre and I also toyed with the dramatic use of grasses. In the end, in the interest of economy, I decided to use some of my ‘maids in waiting‘. These are plants that have been sitting in pots for a long time. Some of them are impulse buys and others were grown from seeds or cuttings that I begged, borrowed or stole. For those of you who are looking very po-faced at the latter, have you never got home and found the odd seed has just fallen into your pocket? I usually ask permission if there is somebody about.
The next problem was how I was going to look after the large circle of plants that would surround my secret garden. There would be an enormous area of soil to weed if I removed the turf. On the other hand, the Pianist would mutiny if I expected him to weave in and out of the plants with the lawn mower. He was already deeply suspicious of the whole project, suspecting that it might create work for him. He didn’t need to worry, I knew there was no chance of him getting involved with the wheelbarrow.
It’s all right, I like to preserve our anonymity on this blog and never show faces. I don’t show our bottoms either. Just the bottoms of complete strangers. This is a greetings card which caught my eye. But it is not a scene you are ever likely to see in our garden. The only time the Pianist goes into the orchard, is riding on the mower.
I solved the problem by putting a membrane down and covering it with coir. I made slits to plant in. It has worked brilliantly to keep the plants healthy through this desiccating, dry summer.
I wanted a mixture of foliage plants that would look good all year round and plants with fragrant flowers. I probably planted them too close together, I always do; but I want it to look good soon, not in 10 years time. For evergreens I used the following:
A loquat that I grew from seed found in Greece 3 years ago. It has lovely glossy leaves, it may not survive a really cold winter, but it is worth a try.
I bought this corokia a couple of years ago and it has been living in a pot for far too long, it is breathing a big sigh of relief to find itself planted out. It is planted here to complement the early -flowering yellow Rosa ‘Helen Knight’.
Another very pot-bound plant is Pittospermum tobira ‘Variegata’. This is a lovely shrub with really sweet smelling flowers. I had it in a pot by the door to enjoy in winter, but I often forgot to water the poor thing. It still has its ivy and ajuga skirt. It is looking so much better now it can grow freely.
The dark leaved shrub on the left is not evergreen. It is Clerodendron trichotomum ‘Purple Blaze’. This poor thing was bought a couple of years ago and has been struggling, neglected and forgotten in the tiny space I crammed it into. It is really happy now. It has very sweetly scented flowers followed by turquoise- blue fruit.
For lovely glossy, evergreen foliage and sweet, lemon scented flowers, I planted Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’. It is supposed to be a compact form. I hope it is and I hope it doesn’t mind being trimmed if it gets too big. I bought this last year and wondered where on earth to plant it. It should be fine here as this part of the garden is very sheltered. To the right of it is a lovely double-flowered Philadelphus ‘Snowbelle’ which I grew from a begged cutting. Also near here, is another begged cutting; a young evergreen Escallonia. I am not keen on them, but this is a white one with lovely glossy leaves called Escallonia iveyi.
I love the marbled effect of the leaves of Pittospermum tenuifolium ‘Irene Paterson’ and have wanted one for ages. So I bought one.
Next to it, I have planted another bought plant; the rarely seen Sophora davidii. This is a slow-growing deciduous shrub from China. It has dainty leaves and pea-like flowers.
More free plants were the shrubby honeysuckle; Lonicera tatarica, (I begged a cutting of this because I had never seen it before. If it doesn’t perform well, or gets too big, it will have to go.) Eleagnus angustifolia ‘Quicksliver’ has silvery leaves and very sweetly scented flowers. It can sucker badly and become a nuisance, but mine has an impeccable pedigree, its parent came from Cedric Morris’s garden, via a friend and it doesn’t sucker at all.
I bought a sunset coloured rose which I have been wanting for ages. It is Rosa ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’. It has a lovely fruity fragrance and is repeat flowering; in fact it is in bloom again now.
I placed it near the wonderful Koelreuteria paniculata ‘Coral Sun’ which I planted last year.
To complete the colour scheme in this corner is an Acer ‘Orange Beauty’ and a little Coprosma ‘Pina Colada’.
Other plants are the yellow-flowered Magnolia ‘Elizabeth and Itea ilicifolia which is evergreen with shiny leaves and very long tassels of green flowers.
To enhance the intimate room-like feel I was looking for, I have a trellis all the way round with four arched entrances. I love the way Paul who made it for me, has arranged the trellis to look like rays of the sun.
The little golden Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’ planted in the grass will be coppiced each year so that it grows enormous leaves.
Two opposing arches have the rose ‘Phyllis Bide’ growing up them. This is a delightful rambler which doesn’t grow too tall and has an abundance of the prettiest flowers which are yellow flushed with salmon. They smell lovely and they are repeat flowering. It is in bloom again now.
The other two arches have wisterias. One of them pink and the other white.
Of course I have to have fragrant climbers. There are two jasmines, one of them is ‘Inverleith’ which has dark pink buds and the other is a golden leaved one called Jasminum officinale ‘Fiona Sunrise’. Next to Fiona’s Sunrise, I have the most fragrant honeysuckle I could find. This one passed the sniff test. It is Lonicera periclemenum Scentsation. It bloomed in June and here it is having another go now.
The other fragrant climber is a Trachelospermum which has the most delicious smelling star-shaped flowers.
It is wonderful to have space for some of my favourite clematis. These include the unusual Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’. The flowers always remind me of passion flowers. It bloomed in June and this is what it looked like.
On the same panel I have C. ‘Miss Bateman’ and Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’. These lovely, double, dusky pink flowers started in July and it goes on and on flowering.
Clematis rehderiana was a favourite of Vita Sackville West and I can see why. It has primrose yellow bell-shape flowers that start blooming in early summer and go on and on. Mine is very new, but I am hoping that next year that it will look like this.
Another new one which I have been waiting anxiously for is Clematis koreana ‘Amber’. This is a new one for 2016 introduced by Taylors and I had my name on the waiting list for it. I will show it to you next year when it blooms. It is very special.
I love Clematis viticella and ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ is a great favourite and is another long-flowering one.
Finally, an impulse buy, I had to have ‘Tie Dye’ when I came across it selling for half price. The flowers are so eye-catching.
I have to have a seat in my secret garden of course. The one I designed and had made by a blacksmith has been hiding in a dark corner of the garden and so here it sits now and I think it has really come into its own.
I decided to edge the paving stones with Lavender ‘Hidcote’.
I also thought the little lead putto which belonged to my parents looks good here.
Until June, he used to spurt water into the pond from his conch shell. Unfortunately, he met with an accident. On our Garden Open Day, I thought the flow of water was a bit sluggish so I poked a pointy stick down the hole and it broke off and jammed. Telling me how silly I was, the Pianist decided to drill it out with his electric drill. The drill bit broke off and got stuck inside. Which I thought was even sillier. Anyway, sadly the putto’s fountain days are over, but I think he looks very nice in my secret garden. I decided to give him some plants to preside over.
The sedum om the left was a present from lovely Christina. As you can see the black membrane still shows round the edges. This will have disappeared next time you see the secret garden. As I said, it is not quite finished off yet.
One of the other plants is the gorgeous grass Pennisetum ‘Red Buttons’.
I aim to have fragrance here all year round and so for summer, lilies are essential. I find that the tall growing Orienpet lilies do not get so badly eaten by lily beetle. I have Lilium ‘Leslie Woodriff’
And the pretty Lilium ‘Beverley’s Dream’
Now I have just about finished the planting I have to be patient and wait. I have spent a lot of time and thought in this part of the garden this summer and it gives me a lot of pleasure. I was a bit crushed when a garden visitor said ‘What are you going to do here?’ a while ago. In my mind’ s eye I have done it; it is already there, fully mature, fragrant and beautiful. But never mind, watching things grow is part of the fun.