End of Month review – August

The garden hasn’t actually changed very much since the end of month review in July.  The plants just survive (or don’t) the heat and the hot winds during most of July and August.  So I thought I would consider a part of the garden that is waiting until mid September to be planted.  Tt is a steep bank; so I also thought it would be interesting to compare thought processes with Helen who hosts the end of month reviews.

The shaping of the island beds began in December 2009 after a new drive position had been established.  I worked out the shapes using hosepipes.  Usually I design on paper but as there is a very steep slope it was actually much easier to lay out the hosepipe and run up stairs to look down on the shape from the top window and walk around the paths that were formed.  It is the first time I’ve worked in this way and I am very happy with the result.

Looking down on the site

I will write about the other island beds another time, today I will concentrate on the thought processes for what I call the drive border – actually I refer to it (at least in my head) as the upper drive border and the lower drive border.  The division between the two areas is a planting of Quercus ilex, Viburnum tinus, Oleanda and Arbutus which act as a shelter belt to protect the garden from the wind or at least to create a microclimate without wind.  These were actually planted in spring 2008 before the pergola and terrace around the house were built and before the drive was repositioned.  I have since learnt that spring planting is not a good idea here as the plants especially if they are large specimens suffer during their first summer and need constant watering, whereas planting in autumn means they can establish during the rains of winter and be ready to face their first summer with their roots already expanding out into the soil and so can be watered about once a week instead of every day.

Looking from the edge of the formal parterre across the builders rubble to the ‘shelter belt’

During late winter and spring of 2009 the persistent weeds were removed and the upper area dug to remove all the roots of the ’gramigna’ (a couch –type grass with long roots like convolvulus).  I broke my own rules and did plant some things that I hadn’t been able to resist buying during the previous year and that were already suffering in their pots, plus some Verbena bonariensis that had self seeded.

The main planting of the upper drive bed was completed in September/October 2009.

Upper drive border, planted

Now to the point of this post – the slope (bank).  It was impossible to dig here as there is virtually no soil and it is too steep.  It as been sprayed with glysophate in and attempt to remove and ‘gramigna’ and other weeds have been pulled out as soon as they grow.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' on LHS of lower slope

The Panicums and Perovskia with the Calamagrostis in the back ground, a month later

Now to the point of this post – the slope (bank).  It was impossible to dig here as there is virtually no soil and it is too steep.  It as been sprayed with glysophate in and attempt to remove and ‘gramigna’ and other weeds have been pulled out as soon as they grow.

So here is the lower drive border that was planted in spring 2009, plus a few additions to the shelter belt plants, including Teucrium, Oleander, Philadelphus and Cotinus.

My initial thoughts were grasses, maybe only grasses as they move so beautifully in the wind and those planted in the garden already ‘do’ very well. Obviously the plants will need to be draught tolerant as there is little soil, though the tuffo (volcanic rock) does hold water at a deeper level.  I don’t want to irrigate as most of the water would be likely to run off anyway, plus I want the ground covered as it will become even more difficult to access this area to weed when the plants have grown.  I kike the idea of ‘rivers’ of plants flowing down the bank, I don’t want a gradation of heights from the top to drive level but would like some low growing species flowing down from the top creating different views, depending on where the viewer is.

This is my almost blank palette, the very old bitter cherry will have to go as it is suffering from the fact that it is planted over a void (I think there is an Etruscan tomb under it.

The bank at the edge of the drive

Bank, to the right hand side of image above

Like Helen I had thought of a wild flower meadow, but the period when there is very little interest is too long and uncut long grass is a fire hazard here in summer. I also like prairie planting as a style and I think that would work here; Panicum sp., Stipa tenuissima, Pennisetum sp., thrive in these conditions.  I may add more Perovskia because I have many seedlings and it flowers for a very long period and I like repetition, for the same reason I may plant more Festuca glauca.  Gaura also has a very long flowering period and thrives with very little water.  I haven’t yet thought what low growing species might work – I need them to be evergreen so maybe even a mass of sempervirens would work or in another direction altogether I have a low growing Ceonothus which gives me a lot of pleasure when it flowers at the same time as a pale blue iris. So I must decide and order the plants I need if I’m to be able to plant this autumn;  mid September to end of October would be the ideal time to plant.

The size of this wedge shaped area is 16 m x 20 m (edge of drive) x 7 m (very steep slope).

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9 thoughts on “End of Month review – August

  1. I love the idea of grasses flowing down the slope. Would prostrate rosemary be a plant you could use?Also a prostrate juniper with blue green foliage- dont know the name mine was a gift. Poor bitter cherry, imagine growing in a tomb!

    • Actually I already have 5 or 6 prostate rosemary flowing down the slope, I forgot to mention them, I like the idea of a juniper, maybe planted quite near the base of a cypress. good ideas, thanks

  2. What a truly fabulous landscape to garden in, and on what a scale! Your one large sloping area is larger than my whole plot, and I find it hard to work out what to do in my little space! Is it easier or harder, I wonder, to garden in such a large space. On the plus side I guess you can do large groups of things and still have space elsewhere to try something completely different. I always start off with ideas of limiting myself to a small palette of plants and then can’t bear not try whatever new thing I have just come across and fallen in love with. I end up relying on repeated colours and perhaps form to tie it all together. I love the idea of large drifts of repeated plantings, I think they can look wonderfully soothing. And re low growing plants, how about combining more ceanothus with some prostrate rosemary and thyme? Should give you waves of lovely colour, a lot of happy insects, and some wonderful scent.

    • Thanks Janet. Actually I forgot to mention that I already have some prostrate rosemary; there is also thyme in other parts of the garden, I hadn’t thought about putting some on the slope, but I think you’re right it could work really well and give me that low ground cover I was looking for. Christina

  3. Interesting to see someone else working with a slope, glad I dont have an Eustcean tomb to contend with.

    Have bought some asters today from a local nursery to add to my slope.

    • Hi Helen. Though I knew I wanted to plant the slope this autumn, I was putting off thinking about it, so I’m really grateful to you for inspiring me to put pen to paper, so to speak, so thank you. Asters will give you a long season of colour late summer into autumn. I need to add some to my garden too.

  4. It’s just beautiful there! I’d love to have so much space. It’ll be interesting to see what you plant. You’ve planted the other area so nicely I’m sure it will look just as good.
    I learned that planting in the fall here is much better too. Everything I planted last fall did great and needed no extra water even on the hot days. The shrubs I planted this summer got burned and wilty as soon as it was warm.

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