Major renovations

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Sun, 06/05/2011 - 05:28

Major renovations in the garden! After putting it off as long as I could I have looked more closely at the damage wreaked by this winter on the 'Southern Hemisphere' part of the garden. A lot of plants have been killed which have been happy for many years - Thus Acacia pravissima, Myrtus luma, Pseudopanax ferox (I'm really sad about this, it was some 8 or 9ft high; another species, crassifolius is sprouting new buds all the way up the stem) and Grevillea 'Canberra Gem' (this has been in the garden for probably 20 years and was huge - its going to be uncomfortable to remove). Several Pittosporums have been badly damaged but are sprouting well low down. Pseudowintera colorata I don't think will but I have a soft spot for this very curious plant and saw a lovely form in Hester Forde's garden outside Cork, a much more sensible place to grow it. Crinodendron hookerianum lost all of its leaves but is growing out again well, even right at the tips of the branches. A friend with a plant higher up on the North Downs had no damage and her plant is flowering well. Its relative, the white C. patagua looks OK. Other plants haven't been damaged at all - Azara microphylla, which fills the garden with vanilla scent in late winter, is in rude health and my treasured rather gangly plant of Telopea truncata, the Tasmanian Waratah, has some strong vegetative buds (I think it may need some TLC to encourage it to flower but it grows well at Wakehurst Place, planted originally by Tony Schilling I think).

The piles of weeds and shreddings are growing alarmingly but hopefully at the end there will be lots of new places to replant. The winter was harsh (before Christmas) but didn't seem that much colder than at times we have had before - probably it was the fact that it stayed cold continuously and never warmed up during the day. Hopefully such conditions won't come again for a while!


Submitted by Mark McD on Sun, 06/05/2011 - 06:28

Tim, what are your plans for garden renovation?  A total makeover?  Change course on types of plants being grown?

There have been times, due to life's demands (mostly WORK-related and forever being time-challenged), where parts of the garden have been totally lost to weeds and overgrowth.  It required wholesale uprooting, laboriously dig every square inch to remove invading tree saplings, poison ivy, brambles (wild raspberries and blackberries), piling the cleaned loam in high piles while continuing the salvage operation, finding sprigs of good plants still alive.  When the effort is done, I get to start over, sculpting garden beds and paths from scratch... boy is that the fun part!

While one laments the plants lost, regret is easily overcome by satisfaction and anticipation of a "new garden" started from scratch.  I have a couple such areas in my garden that have become a constant joy, all the while my sensibilities continue to be tested by other areas still in dire need of such an overhaul.

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Sun, 06/05/2011 - 12:43

Mark - we have never had quite so much damage before, but the garden is pretty mature (30 years since we started) and after that time quite a lot of severe clearing is needed at times. I tend, like you, to go into specific areas and work on them really thoroughly, while leaving others to wait their turn. At the moment alpines are getting the attention, but I am also very interested in woodland species and ferns, like those that you grow, and from a nursery perspective these are the plants that generate most interest.

I shall probably replant with Southern Hemisphere species because this section of the garden has a different feel about it and I have always had a strong botanical/biogeographical interest in plants. It is sometimes good though to wield a machete rather than a scalpel!!

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Mon, 07/11/2011 - 16:06

Just to show some progress is being made (!) in another section of the garden, nearer the house and so more urgent, we have been replanting an area where some bottlebrushes and old cistus were badly damaged in the winter. This has provided space for quite a few interesting new plants. The callistemons are growing out from the base but probably won't flower again for a couple of years.

Submitted by Hoy on Thu, 07/28/2011 - 11:59

It seems your garden is tidy compared to mine! The palm makes it look very exotic!

My garden is urgently in need of a major renovation too! I barely can walk in the woodland now, all the paths have disappeared under weed and huge shrubs (mostly rhododendrons).

I tried some southern hemisphere plants but they have all gone - the last two winters put an end to that experiment.

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Fri, 07/29/2011 - 11:44

Trond - the untidy bits are out of view!! We have opened the garden for charity for the past 25 years plus so try to keep the more visible bits looking reasonable (just mowing the lawn makes all the difference!). I have friends with wonderfully overgrown gardens and find them very enjoyable - more like Nature.

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Mon, 08/08/2011 - 05:00

You have to get the bit between your teeth sometimes to really make progress. Parts of the garden out of view in the earlier shots are reverting to wilderness but we are slowly making headway and the shredder (a superb machine based on the American Kemp designs) is in constant service. The incentive is to begin propagating plants and re-opening the nursery next spring. Fortunately we have now had some reasonable rain and the conditions for taking cuttings are good. This is one of the curious features of a garden that one minute you are clearing vigorously with a strimmer and chainsaw, and the next delicately taking alpine cuttings or sowing seed!

Submitted by Lori S. on Mon, 08/08/2011 - 13:19

Yes, I've come to realize that reno's are needed every few years, whether for a major change of purpose or not (and I have many beds that need it!  :rolleyes:)

I envy you the chipper... our composters tend to fill with dry material every spring, when we cut off the perennials (though we can do without by stomping it all down).  It takes a long time for the material to break down here - cold, dry (usually) conditions don't help - plus, I have to admit we are not scientific composters at all (no layering/mixing/monitoring/mucking about).  We just chuck it all in there and let nature take its own slow time.

Will the reopened nursery have a particular focus, or will it be more general?

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Tue, 08/09/2011 - 02:27

Lori - I have always been especially interested in dryland plants which are well suited to our climate, but also a lot of woodland species that do their thing before the dry summer sets in. So we hope to go for mostly alpines and smaller perennials, umbellifers(!), which have generated a lot of interest amongst gardeners in the UK in recent years, and the sort of weird oddities that other gardeners don't grow - ie: new stuff from seed! Alpine nurseries have generally declined in the UK in recent years, but we do have a very fine local Show in the spring, and I think there is scope to renew gardener's interest in these wonderful plants. I have been greatly stimulated to see all your gardens in the States, since the AGS here has been much more Show orientated for a long time.

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Sun, 08/14/2011 - 02:43

We are steadily working to clear and reopen the nursery here, and I have to say I have found the NARGS and SRGC forums very stimulating and encouraging in an indirect way. Small scale specialist nurseries rely very much on other inspiring gardeners (not just to sell plants too!). There is quite a way to go but a few pictures.

The long raised bed is earmarked for a tufa garden - it was the original alpine bed some 25 years ago(!). Will post pictures of our progress as we go (especially for anyone with similar intentions!).

Submitted by RickR on Sun, 08/14/2011 - 18:26

Love the little tabletop propagation houses in the last pic.  Is that a soil heating element control in the foreground one?  I imagine the houses are in the shade when in use...

Submitted by Hoy on Mon, 08/15/2011 - 01:16

I am planning a major renovation in my garden too - I have to remove a lot of oversized trees and shrubs, and a lot of weeds! But I do not know when I get the time!
Do the reticulated leaves in the first picture belong to Eriobotrya japonica?

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Mon, 08/15/2011 - 02:42

Rick - the greenhouse is one we built when we started the garden over 30 years ago. The propagator is a simple but nice one with bottom heat, mostly for the winter. We have never used more sophisticated techniques like Mist, but usually the time tested frames and prop boxes that work well for alpines and smaller woody plants, but also seed which I find most stimulating of all (nothing like pricking out seedlings!). We have some silver woven shading material which allows ca. 50% light transmission which will shade the south end of the greenhouse.

Trond - yes the leaves are Eriobotyra. Further along, out of view, is a large plant of Lyonothamnus. Our incentive is that we have always opened the garden but there has always, inevitably, also been a tension between the garden side and the nursery. For me though they are completely complementary too and I wouldn't be without either of them! I don't mind a bit of wilderness around me!!

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Sat, 01/14/2012 - 10:44

We are lucky this winter in having very mild weather and a good bit of sun and it has enabled us to keep weeding and renovating the garden. The pictures show this in progress but don't show some of the undergrowth before we started, particularly the spreading shoots of brambles and nettles. (Some parts of the garden had been neglected for several years!). Things are now coming together a little, though there is still much to do. Always nice at this time are the beds full of woodland plants, starting with the snowdrops and hellebores, which are just starting to flower and will soon make quite a show. Anemones, eryrthroniums, trilliums and so on will follow. These beds we top dress with good well broken down compost as can be seen around the group of snowdrops. A little different to the more detailed cultivation of alpines! But very satisfying seeing the garden come to life early in the year.

Submitted by RickR on Sat, 01/14/2012 - 11:14

It will be 3 to 4 months before our gardens here are at that stage!

Tim, you certainly have a lot of evergreen perennials.  They really add to the winter and early spring vista.  Good luck with your continuing "battle"!

Submitted by Lina Hesseling on Sat, 01/14/2012 - 11:21

Tim, it is great to hear you're making progress. The pictures show this. Are you still planning to open the nursery in spring? Did I understand it well, there was a nursery before? What is the name of the nursery?


Submitted by Tim Ingram on Sat, 01/14/2012 - 14:15

Lina - we ran a small specialist nursery with the garden from the mid-1980's, growing many drought tolerant plants, alpines and woodland perennials. We aim to go back to this but on a smaller scale and concentrating especially on alpines and more choice perennials. Alpines in particular are being grown by fewer and fewer nurseries in the UK, and this must have a knock on effect on the number of gardeners likely to grow them. The nursery is just under my name.

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Fri, 01/20/2012 - 07:48

This bed in the middle of the garden is full of bulbs and every few years gets a new topdressing with gravel. This tends to stimulate activity nearby in the garden too and the woodland, which is full of hellebores and snowdrops in particular has also had a good tidy up. Unfortunately our garden is rather large so other areas don't look quite so good, but working steadily like this can have a big impact and it's great to see plants beginning to grow away (for example Helleborus thibetanus is just starting now elsewhere in the garden, and it is pleasing when such a special plant is establishing well).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/20/2012 - 10:45

Tim,  Do you put any barrier under your gravel beds to prevent the gravel from sinking into the soil?

Submitted by Hoy on Fri, 01/20/2012 - 14:08

Tim wrote:

This bed in the middle of the garden is full of bulbs and every few years gets a new topdressing with gravel. This tends to stimulate activity nearby in the garden too and the woodland, which is full of hellebores and snowdrops in particular has also had a good tidy up. Unfortunately our garden is rather large so other areas don't look quite so good, but working steadily like this can have a big impact and it's great to see plants beginning to grow away (for example Helleborus thibetanus is just starting now elsewhere in the garden, and it is pleasing when such a special plant is establishing well).

Seems you make great progress in the renovation!
But to say "unfortunately" of a large (and great) garden :o In my opinion a "garden" can't be huge enough - I would let it develop to a woodland tending itself if I had a larger garden ;)

Submitted by Tim Ingram on Fri, 01/20/2012 - 14:59

James - no I haven't used any membrane because I want the gravel to be slowly incorporated into the soil and improve the surface drainage. It gradually disappears and so after a few years I heavily topdress with more. I know that some growers with sand beds put in a barrier to keep the sand free of soil, though I haven't done this elsewhere in the garden. It may have been wise to do it because worms and ants are steadily bringing up a lot of soil. I will probably do this next time.

Trond - I always used to think myself fortunate until parts of the garden began to revert to wilderness! Much of the garden is fairly intensively planted (ie: I like plants too much!), and some does need to go back to more naturalistic and wild woodland planting, which tends to happen by default.