August 2017

First Letter to Paul

The title of this post sounds like one of the biblical epistles, but it isn’t. This is the text of the letter I’m preparing for our new gardener, Paul.

Dear Paul,

The Patio looking Southeast October 2005

These pictures show you what the bamboo looked like when we moved in. It was so small and dainty in those days! Over the years we have expanded the bed, but the design has never been satisfactory and I’d love to get it sorted out.


Virginia Creeper and Bamboo – October 2005

This week we would like you to start work on that flower bed next to the patio.  This is our first experiment as we don’t know how much time you will have or how much can be done in a session.  We’ll have a much better idea after you’re done, so please forgive me if I’ve asked for too much!  If it needs to continue into future sessions, that’s fine.

I’m just going to list some of the thoughts we’ve had about work on the patio bed.

  1. It’s inevitable that some plants that we want to keep will be dug up.  If they can’t be put back right away, please pot them up so we can keep them till we have a space for them. There are plastic pots in the shed and there’s reasonably good compost in the left-hand dalek compost bin near the shed.
  2. Some plants are very spindly or sick.  If you don’t think they are in the right place, feel free to dig them up.  They can be composted or moved depending on whether you think they will survive if they are used elsewhere.
  3. There are the remains of the following perennials which aren’t doing all that well but which might recover if you feel it’s worth it: spiderwort (tradescantia), kaffir lily (schystostylis), osteospermum, michaelmas daisy, sedum, stipa gigantea (getting smaller and more spindly each year), acanthus.  Please look out for them when weeding and see if there’s anything that can be done to make them into a decent display.
  4. Some plants like the phlox, astrantia and the ornamental grasses are doing very well and probably need to be divided and spread about in the bed.  Feel free to do so.
  5. You can remove as much of the following as possible: nettle, dock, sorrel, lawn grass, dead ornamental grasses, purple toadflax, ground elder, centaurea/knapweed, creeping/meadow buttercup, willowherb, nipplewort, dandelion, ragwort and relatives.
  6. Spent foxgloves can go – I’m not sure about first year foxgloves which will bloom next year – I’d like to have a specific area for foxgloves and move them all into it, but I’m not sure where.
  7. Columbines can be cut back and deadheaded
  8. Ox-eye daisies have invaded the lawn edges of the bed – I think they ought to be removed, but am open to suggestion.
  9. Smaller, orange crocosmias can be pulled out if they are in the way.
  10. We want to keep the bamboo, as it provides a lot of shelter and food for the smaller birds.  However, we need to keep it contained, so we’d appreciate it if you could attack all shoots and roots that have escaped into the bed. Thinning and harvesting seems like a good idea too.  We will keep the harvested stems to stake up other plants or make little fences and tripods.
  11. There’s a perennial sweet pea that’s scrambling all over the place.  It should be near something it can climb through – can it be moved? Any suggestions?
  12. I’m happy to leave the following as ground cover where it occurs: speedwell, scarlet pimpernell, self heal, wild strawberry, saxifrage, ajuga. Later on, we’ll try to be kind to the ivy and periwinkle, but I don’t think there’s any in this bed.

Thanks …… Joan

First Letter to Paul Read More »

More help in the garden – hooray!

Next week, our new gardener will be starting.  His name is Paul and he visited us a couple of days ago to discuss the possibility of his working with us.  He has agreed and I’m mightily relieved as we can’t keep up with it.  Perhaps if we worked all day everyday we could get it under control, but there are lots of other things that we want to do, so the help will be much appreciated.

Paul suggested that we do it in small steps rather than trying to tackle everything at once.  He’s completely right and it’s the overwhelming whole that puts me off when I walk around our once-lovely garden.  So next week he’s going to start on the bed beside the back patio.

The pictures above are of that bed.  They are the “befores” and I’ll post some “afters” in a week or so.  The bed hassome interesting plants, but they’ve been overwhelmed by plants that didn’t ought to be there.  I don’t call them weeds because they would be just fine in other parts of the garden, but they’ve seeded themselves about and they’re taking over and smothering the more ornamental things that we have in that bed.

This weekend, we’re working on our first set of instructions for Paul.  I’m writing him an email because, unfortunately, I work at Scrappies on the day he’ll be working here.  My letter will be my next post.

More help in the garden – hooray! Read More »