December 14, 2018

Caroline’s Garden Diaries 8.4.2014: To dig or not to dig?

Had a busy garden week, visiting gardens and then planting out new plants. It’s the time of year that inspires me to do the sort of gardening I like best, walking round with a trowel looking for plants I can divide and put into new places (more primroses!)  It’s a time also when it feels possible to do the work I find daunting, renewing and changing areas that have got out of hand.

Reinvigorating the garden is hard work if you’re digging out things that have been there a long time, although after a lifetime of using a fork, I’ve finally accepted that spades are better. But in changing, you risk losing things; putting in a new day-lily, I stupidly dug up a little group of Love-in-a Mist seedlings self-sown from last year; similarly, I’ve lost potential generations of scillas in one area that I’m unhappy with and keep disturbing. Meanwhile, Anemone blanda is showing what’s possible if you leave things alone – they have spread very satisfyingly because their home hasn’t been disturbed. There’s something very peaceful about a garden that looks as if the plants have always been there.

As always, however, it’s a matter of balance. A garden I visited this week was Beth Chatto’s. Mecca! But something was wrong – although it’s a lovely garden, I wasn’t swooning with delight to be there. Partly, I think, location, location – that part of Essex is not a terrifically beautiful landscape, and the setting for a garden can add a lot. Or was it something more uncomfortable; much of the garden was overrun with Arum “Marmoratum”, Italian lords-and-ladies that I wrote about last year after merrily spreading it around. As a Beth Chatto’s disciple, I worship the natural approach, but nature needed a slap there.

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