The Back Garden

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The back garden is a sloping site on three levels with retaining walls and steps, facing north east, but the majority is in full sun during the summer, as the sun is high enough to shine between the houses.  The garden backs onto the embankment of an old railway line, now a mini nature reserve and consists of several borders, two patios, paths, a small camomile lawn, a herb garden and an alpine scree.  The scree follows the natural slope of the garden and is planted with Saxifraga, Primula, bulbs etc., and some of my wild collected thymes.  Most of the Satureja Collection is planted at the top of the scree, where the plants grow very happily despite being in shade for part of the day, an area where thyme does not thrive.  The Hyssopus Collection is planted in the herb garden.

Lavandula pedunculata subsp. pedunculata Borago officinalis Satureja parnassica Satureja spinosa

The long border stretches the length of the garden.  Nearest the house it is planted with shade loving plants, Galanthus, Anenome nemorosa, ferns, Hosta, Pulmonaria, Helleborus, and old primrose cultivars.  These plants look beautiful in the spring and in the summer their cool shades of green are a contrast to the hotter shades further down the border.

In late spring early summer the soft colours of Geranium phaeum cultivars and Allium predominate, together with naturalised Aquilegia vulgaris in pale cream, blues, pink, maroon and dark purple.

The succession of colour continues through the summer with Paeonia officinalis, Allium, hardy Geranium, Lilium, Salvia forsskaolii and Astilbe chinensis var. taquetii 'Purpurlanze', which despite my well drained soil, grows vigorously with regular watering and a thick mulch of compost!

Paeonia officinalis Allium amethystinum Geranium x oxonianum 'Katherine Adele' Geranium 'Elke'

For late summer into autumn there are Penstemon cultivars, Anemone hybrida cultivars and autumn flowering grasses, such as Hystrix patula and Miscanthus sinensis.  At the far end Rosa 'Prosperity' grows with Anthemis tinctoria 'Sauce Hollandaise'.  The fence is covered with several Clematis, ivies and climbing roses.

The middle level is the largest section of the garden and is made up of several small borders, the largest of which is the greenhouse border, predominantly planted with hardy Geranium, Aquilegia, Allium, Lilium, Penstemon, Rosa and Aster.  At the far end of the border is an archway beside the retaining wall with Clematis 'Betty Corning', which conceals the bottom of the garden from view and thereby creates a feeling of more space.

A pathway planted with thyme leads to a decorative stone circle and was featured in the book Spring in the Garden by Steven Bradley.  Beside the stone circle is another border planted with Aquilegia, hardy Geranium, Nectaroscordum siculum, Penstemon, Miscanthus sinensis and other grasses.  The retaining wall on the opposite side of this border matches the wall at the end of the greenhouse border.

The lower thyme beds at the far end of the garden are planted with the majority of my National Plant Collection® of Thymus.  It is a series of beds with paths and looks like a glorious patchwork quilt.  It is in full sun and as my soil is very stony the conditions are ideal for thyme.  The bed beside the fence is planted with Clematis growing up posts, mainly viticella cultivars.  Thyme and Clematis make ideal partners; I grow them to give height and more interest to the thyme beds, but for gardeners wondering what to plant at the base of a Clematis to keep its roots happy, I would recommend thyme!

Updated March 2010

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