Work in Progress (a garden review) January 2018

Whenever my mojo wanders off, whether it’s for blogging or gardening or whatever, I find it’s best to step away from it for a while, then come up with a plan. Being organised – or shall we call it ‘being pragmatic’ – is key; it’s important to prioritise. I know I cannot do it all and rather than worrying about everything that needs to be done and isn’t, it’s better to focus on progress. And the great thing about the garden is that there will be progress, whether I’m involved or not. Plants generally get on with the business of growing without much help – they will do their thing and bring much joy in the process.

Following a garden month by month is extremely useful – it acts as an aide memoire and a boot up the bottom – so I’m setting myself the challenge this year. I’ve often thought of joining in with the Helen, The Patient Gardener’s, End of Month View or Sarah’s Through the Garden Gate but I haven’t managed to get my act together to take photos and review the garden at the right time. Until now…

When I went outside earlier to take the photos, I did hesitate. I saw all the full rubble sacks  dotted around the place, all the jobs that need doing, the plants that need cutting back and all the weeds. I usually crop my garden photos to spare you the mess but I’ve decided this should be an honest look at our garden – warts (weeds) and all. On the plus side, there is new growth everywhere. It’s still cold but you can sense the earth turning – beautiful fresh spears of spring bulbs are shooting up, buds are starting to swell and the birds are definitely gearing up for spring.

I don’t think I’ve shown you round the whole garden in one go before. Not that it’s huge – it’s approximately one-third of an acre, with about half in front of the house and half behind (the house sits in the middle). Come with me and let’s see what’s going on…


This is the view from the back door – the beds need clearing to make way for the spring flowers that are shooting up. (That thing covered in green tarpaulin next to the shed is the outdoor table-tennis table.)

To the left of the steps looking up the slope is a long slim bed of a line of Miscanthus and small rose bushes edged by box plants – we planted the box as c.20cm plug plants three years ago this spring and they’re filling out nicely. The rose bushes aren’t very happy though; this whole area is overshadowed by a huge copper beech in our neighbour’s garden and it just doesn’t get enough sunshine in the summer when the tree is in full leaf. We plan to dig them up and move them, and replace them with something that won’t mind the lack of sun. There are loads of Narcissus Actaea planted along here and the sight and scent of them in a couple of months will be, well, fantastic.

At the top of the path is a terraced bed (photo above bottom right) with Acanthus mollis, Bergenia, evergreen Euphorbia, geraniums and osteospermum. And weeds. There are lots of Muscari, too, which edge the wall with their beautiful blue flowers in spring.

Looking down from the path onto the back garden, the lawn looks like it needs a little tlc. Our neighbour’s holm oaks shed their plastic-coated leaves onto this part of the garden and they’re a pain. The beds and lawn underneath don’t like it. The area by the greenhouse needs a good sort out and the raspberry canes should be cut back this month. If you look very closely at the photo on the bottom right above, you’ll see a few raspberries still clinging on! I obviously missed them when I did my final pick last autumn. The above bottom left photo shows the pear (left) and greengage (right) which were already here when we moved in. The greenhouse desperately needs renovating (it leaks and wooden frames are rotting) – that’s on our list of jobs for this year…

Walking round to the front (the sea-facing) garden, this rosemary is romping away. I stuck it in here a couple of years ago because it wasn’t thriving where it was. Top right you can see how hardy and determined Californian poppies can be – these have seeded themselves into the paving cracks. It all adds to the general relaxed feeling of our garden! Above bottom left is one of our lavender hedges (there’s another one in the left-hand photo). It doesn’t look much now but it should look spectacular in the summer when it will be buzzing with drunk bees. I’ve written about it before here.

Down the steps (the Erigeron is having a short rest from flowering) to the tatty looking veg patch on the right (bottom left photo). We had potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and squash growing here last summer (you can see a few remnants that haven’t been cleared!) and there are leeks and purple sprouting broccoli still growing, although the pigeons have helped themselves to the broccoli. Grr. To the left (above bottom right photo; how confusing!) is our experimental perennial/annual bed. It looks a bit of a mess now but it will have daffs and tulips popping up soon, in among the grasses (Stipa tenuissima and Calamagrostis). I’m thinking of giving the Stipa a haircut this year, like they do in Le Jardin Secret in Marrakech (which I spotted on Paradise Gardens the other week). I have high aspirations 🙂  There’s also a small olive tree this end and a plum tree the other end, plus a wigwam (which you can just see) that was covered with sweet peas last year.

On the next level down (the garden is terraced) is the pond area on one side of the steps and the mini-orchard on the other. The apple and pear trees that we planted here last year need to be pruned about now. Another job for the weekend.

Almost at the bottom of the garden and looking back up you get a glimpse of the lower terracing. That’s a cherry tree re-homed from a friend’s garden in Twickenham. David drove it home in the car last year – he had to severely chop it top and bottom to get it in the car; I’m amazed it survived. It could do with reshaping but we’ll let it recover first. You can see the bright-green stems of dreaded crocosmia starting to grow again around the base of the tree which covered this whole area – we’re slowly digging it all out.

We did a huge amount of clearing and wall rebuilding down here last year and  we planted 15 white Himalayan birch whips (Betula utilis Jaquemontii) (you may be able to make out their slender, stick-like proportions among the Miscanthus). The plan is that they will eventually form a drift of white-barked gorgeousness, interspersed with grasses and pops of colour throughout the year from various bulbs and perennials. The photo above bottom right shows the wildflower area that was cut back at the end of the year. This has primroses and narcissus dotted throughout (no flowers yet) and will be full of wildflowers in summer.

Finally, a couple of close-ups of plants that obviously don’t realise that it’s January and they should be taking a break – marguerites and osteospermums, take a bow:

So, that’s the garden at acoastalplot at the end of January/start of February.

I hope all’s well with you and the first month of the year has been good to you. More soon…

Oh, yes! The snowdrops are coming… Hurrah!

35 thoughts on “Work in Progress (a garden review) January 2018

  1. As always, I bow to anyone who actually has a real garden, because it’s totally beyond my skill set. How fun to see the view you see every day! It always amazes me to hear about the flowers and plants that bloom so un-seasonally in England – it’s something I’ve read about a number of times. It must feel so hopeful. Everything here is so stark and brown all winter. Thanks for the tour!

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  2. It’s lovely to see a garden at the start of a year and then see it progress through the seasons. You are lucky to have a variety of locations for planting and a gorgeous sea view. It no doubt keeps you very busy :). B x

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  3. It’s good to see the uncropped version – sometimes I read blogs and think I must be the only one with a less than lovely bit. I thought how brave you are to start in January, when everything can look a bit dull and dismal and then saw the marguerites and osteospermums and realised your garden isn’t all doom and gloom 🙂

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  4. What a gorgeous space you have to work with. I loved seeing everything and not just the well-groomed bits. It looks like your little orchard is doing well. I’m hoping that all of mine survive the winter.

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  5. Thank you so much for the unexpected garden walk! What a treat.
    It’s good to be able to live vicariously when my temperature in Ontario is minus 15C and waves of snow are weaving all around!
    But I rescued some pots of succulents last fall — and they’re alive and looking out windows with hope!

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  6. Great time see your garden in detail Sam. Putting this sort of post together is some work so well done. I think it’s so interesting with all the different levels and different themed areas and I can see how your taste and style is emerging. The birch wood especially looks wonderful. How do you move stuff around? Do you have strategically placed boards to create ramps between the levels? Here’s to another happy year in the garden. Sarah x

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    1. There’s a slope by the hedge on one side of the garden so we can push the wheelbarrow up and hang on to it for dear life as we go down! We put scaffolding boards from one side to the other over the steps. Other than that, we scramble…


  7. I do love your erigeron steps and your lovely greenhouse. The garden seems so far away from summer at this time of year doesn’t it. But no doubt everything will be on the move soon. We had a frog sunning itself in the pond the other day and great tits checking out the nest box. Lovely to see round your plot, it all looks in pretty good shape to me, although I know there are always things to do. I have a long, long list. I keep trying to co-opt people into helping but they always seem to be busy… Wishing you a good weekend. Rain here tomorrow, so no gardening yet. CJ xx

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    1. No gardening here, either – too flipping cold, and now it’s pouring with rain (no snow). I’m itching to get out there and tidy up for spring!


  8. What a lovely garden! The photos are beautiful and I look forward to seeing pictures of later in the season, too. My favorite photo is the galanthus coming up in the lawn. I love when bulbs are planted like that. I don’t see that often where I live. The steps are gorgeous, too. I’m glad I stumbled onto your site.

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  9. My garden knowledge is, frankly, minimal but I love looking at people’s gardens, listening to all they know, admiring their photos. What a wonderful spot you have and I shall enjoy the monthly follow-ups! The words ‘sea-facing’ bought out a gasp of delight!

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  10. How exciting it was to have a taste of ALL of your garden, Sam – and you’re among friends here so don’t worry about the warts… I suspect we all have those and I certainly have! Is the huge wall your neighbour’s? Look forward to seeing more of your garden in future posts.

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  11. It’s lovely for you to join in ‘ Through the Garden Gate’, apologies for taking so long to acknowledge it here. It was wonderful to have a tour around your garden, I didn’t realise how much of it was on a slope. I’m amazed how the marguerites are still flowering! Sarah x

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    1. There are three plants of marguerites that have grown huge and taken over that bed – I need to dig them up and space them out. That might keep them in check!


  12. Thank you for all the photos of your very interesting garden – a fun tour. I’m intrigued by the Himalayan birch, something I doubt would grow here in Virginia. Are there stands of them near where you live? What gave you the idea? I’m enjoying your blog!

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