On A Wing And A Prairie


The bank 021 Wm[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=


Ahead of the final instalment on tree felling, our customary pause for a breather and the End of Month view.

A different aspect of the Precipitous Bank to start with this month, brought to you courtesy of all the extra light it now enjoys ex-conifer. The epimedium in the foreground may need a new home, the Saxifraga stolonifera too. It’s fortuitous that this new angle also cunningly conceals a bit of wanton destruction, of which more in a moment.


Hints are beginning to emerge of the prairie style planting that I have been aiming for on the hill.


Helenium 002 Wm[1]


Helenium ‘Waltraut’, Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ and Fuchsia (variety unknown)

The heleniums are at their peak


Crocosmia 001 Wm[1]


Thugs both of them, Astilbe and Crocosmia, evicted from the terraces last year. The jury is still out on whether they will get to remain in their new location but for now their sheer numbers give me the look that I want. Anemanthele lessoniana is just visible behind the astilbes.


This month it’s been about hard graft. And not without a little bit of risk..


Chicken wire 001 Wm[2]


Work in progress


I’ve finally taken on the near-vertical front face of the bank. Yes, I’ve been chipping away at the edges for a while now, but if I’m ever going to be rid of the ivy and deep seated weeds the chicken wire had to come off. In total. No messin’. Unfortunately it’s not just the wire and the weeds, a fair amount of soil has come down too. My strategy up to now, to lessen the chance of soil erosion, had not been to clear large areas of the slope but to weed and then plant up small patches at a time. With 6 feet wide sections of chicken wire to contend with, however, this just wasn’t going to work.

After several years in situ the wire is now closely entwined with the vegetation. In some cases the plants have physically grown into the mesh and incorporated it within their structure.


The bank 023 Wm[3]


A fern, now pinned in its place

I am having to clip the wire away strand by strand. Once a whole panel of wire is freed the underlying weeds can come out, when a lot of the soil starts to fall.


The bank 022 Wm[1]


Going back in, ground cover plants. Things that will quickly spread their roots and their top hamper too, to hopefully suppress new weeds. Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’ (I may yet regret this), Ceratostigma plumbaginoides and, just seen bottom right, Erigeron karvinskianus.


We’ve had some torrential showers this week and so far the results are encouraging. Although soil comes down when my feet or fork disturb it, it seems to stay put in the rain. The longer it stays there, the longer the roots have time to take hold.

There are other advantages to removing the chicken wire too..


The bank 020 Wm[1]


Not, for once, a mouse hole. Now I can dig into the face of the bank and create firm footholds.


The bank 019 Wm[1]


July. In a somewhat harsher light than we’ve previously seen.


As well as more bare earth there’s less colour this month. The cornus is over. The day lilies have finished and their foliage has collapsed in a heap. They have tried my patience just a little too far and they’re coming out. The Anemanthele lessoniana is too, it jars. It will be replaced by one of its many offspring but only until that, in its turn, outgrows the space. If I am to fully appreciate the colour from the flowering perennials the grasses could do with being lighter, less lumpish. Although perhaps I do need to give the perennials more time to bulk up. A magenta rose has emerged, like a phoenix at middle right. I’m sure it wasn’t there last year. But it creates an impact, alongside the crocosmia behind it, so it gets to stay.

The bank 016 Wm[1]



Onwards and (ever literally) upwards. Didn’t I say it once before.. Rome wasn’t built in a day.


 Eschscholzia californica 003 Wm[2]


Eschscholzia californica


Linking up with Helen’s End Of Month View (here) at The Patient Gardener’s Weblog. Click through to find out what other gardeners are up to this month.


2017-10-24T19:32:43+00:00July 31st, 2015|Tags: |


  1. Sigrun July 31, 2015 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Your garden looks beautiful! I love your crocosmias, they are not hardy on my hill!
    You have a lot to do in such a big garden, I hope, your back is better than mine. Whish you very nice weekend!


    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      Working on a hill is hard work for bones and muscles. At least it keeps me fit. Thanks Sigrun.

  2. Mark and Gaz July 31, 2015 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Looking wonderful Jessica!

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 7:25 pm - Reply

      Thanks guys. I’m beginning to see how it might end up.

  3. Ann Edwards Photography July 31, 2015 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    gosh, these images show more than ever how sloping your garden is! Many of my blooms are now coming to an end too …

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 7:29 pm - Reply

      It is a serious slope, in places literally vertical. But the end of the chicken wire is in sight. Then hopefully I can get plants in, on irrigation and the worst of this section of it may be over.

  4. Backlane Notebook July 31, 2015 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    I’m ambivalent too when it comes to Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ because it sprawls. But in Devon last week in a NT garden i saw and loved Crocosmia ‘Solfatare’.( I’ll blog the garden next week). It was short (50 cm) and clumping up well and it stays upright and has lovely bronze leaves and soft orange flowers. A friend then gave me a pot full from her garden and it was very easy to pull out of the soil and transplant – a useful propagation technique!!

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      I look forward to seeing ‘Solfatare’, I need some shorter plants for the area towards the front of the bank and that one sounds lovely.

  5. frayed at the edge July 31, 2015 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    Our astilbe and crocosmia aren’t flowering yet …… you are several weeks ahead of us!! We have had so much rain, our back grass is sodden – I scared to walk on it, in case I sink into it without trace!

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 7:33 pm - Reply

      I know the feeling!

  6. CherryPie July 31, 2015 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    Your garden is looking great 🙂 I too have invasive ivy in my garden, it seems a never ending battle.

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 7:35 pm - Reply

      I will be fighting it for a long time I think. I can’t pull too many of the roots out of the bank because a lot of soil comes out with them. I plan to just keep clipping it out until it gives up!

  7. Angie July 31, 2015 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    You are slowly winning that war Jessica. The bank is looking great, so many lovely plants and as you say, Rome wasn’t built in one day.
    The Heleniums are looking great and best growing in their masses, just as you have them.
    I was half expecting some meerkats poking their snouts out from that clear area of the bank – it looks just like their kind of habitat up there 🙂 Have a good weekend!

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      Ha! I’d happily provide a home to a family of meerkats, they’re great characters, although I don’t suppose they’d give much thought to my plants when they decided where to dig. I know they eat scorpions and bugs, but perhaps they might enjoy slugs? Or mice? We’ve been somewhat adrift of Kalahari temperatures though. They might shiver a bit.

  8. Sam July 31, 2015 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    All looking great – that’s such a big area and difficult terrain, you’ve worked wonders. Can you give me any tips on getting rid of crocosmia?! It’s spread over two of our terraces and there seems to be no stopping it. It’s the common orange one and I want it gone. I love your heleniums and the Eschscholzia.

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      The common orange one, which mine also is, is a true thug. Eventually you will get rid of it, by constantly digging it out. The problem is the odd corm that ends up embedded in another plant. Then they just force their way up through. A bit like Lily if the Valley, I often have to dig up the host plant and painstakingly separate them out.

  9. Kris P July 31, 2015 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    What a job you’ve set for yourself! I like the prairie style you’re creating on the bank – it suits the area well, especially given the reduced shade. My hat’s off to you.

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      Thanks Kris. It’s coming on but it certainly isn’t finished yet. In time I will have fewer varieties and bigger groupings of those that stay. But I have so many failures here. At the moment I’m trying out single specimens, or twos and threes to see what survives then I’ll divide or propagate from those.

  10. Linda P. July 31, 2015 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    You must be pleased that the tree felling went so well. Clipping the chicken wire bit by bit to release it where the vegetation has grown and got entangled in it must be time consuming. The heleniums are lovely. It’s good to see progress being made.

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 7:52 pm - Reply

      It’s time consuming and difficult because often I’m trying to keep balanced on the slope and having to delve deep into the weeds to find chicken wire that has become buried over time. A little bit each day. It looks so much better when each patch is done, it spurs me on to the next one.

  11. homeslip July 31, 2015 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    I don’t think I’d appreciated how steep the bank is until,this post. How on earth do you feel stable enough to work at tugging out plants let alone bending to dig a new planting hole. Jessica you must be made of iron! That said the planting combinations you’ve got going are looking great. I think in this environment you need a few thugs to cover the ground. I can see blue eryngium looking good with the helenium but maybe it’s too wet. Have you looked at Tom Stuart Smith’s prairie planting for the glasshouse borders at Wisley. I think you might like it. It’s prairie ‘light’ compared to say the Sussex prairie garden and is looking good right now.

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      It’s the bare earth that reveals the true nature of the slope I think. When it’s covered in greenery the gradient is disguised. Digging in footholds has helped stability a lot, but it’s not perfect. The most annoying thing is climbing the bank via the footholds only to discover I’ve left fork/secateurs/wire clippers at the bottom! Eryngium is a great idea and I’ll try it. The slope is at least well drained so it might be OK. I’ll see if I can find pictures of Wisley. I happened upon this: http://www.hauserwirthsomerset.com/garden today which I think I shall have to go and see.. soon!

  12. Amy at love made my home July 31, 2015 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    You have done so much!! It really is looking great isn’t it. I am sure that the bank will soon look beautiful with your loving ministrations, after all, the terraces look wonderful now don’t they! xx

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      A garden is never really done. The trouble is whenever I look at it I just see all the things that need to change! Thanks Amy.

  13. Brian Skeys July 31, 2015 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    I do occasionally work on a sloping garden set on the side of the Malvern Hills which I find hard and tiring work. I admire your tenacity and thoughtful approach to creating a garden on your bank.

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 8:10 pm - Reply

      It is extremely tiring. Balancing on the slope, especially the steepest part of it, really pulls at the calf muscles. I can only stand it for short periods at a time. I only hope that the ground cover I put there will reduce the workload eventually.

  14. mattb325 July 31, 2015 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    Amazing! The abseiling skills you must have 🙂

    One way I’ve tackled precipitous slopes in the past is to use felled tree branches. If the logs and branches from your recently felled conifer are small enough, you could bury them along the slope to create small berms (you’ll need to hold them in place with star-pickets or long metal stakes driven into soil below). This is enough to stop water running away so quickly, gives the plants a very easy way to establish, and then because it is buried rots quickly and feeds the soil in the process.

    The other really good plant to stabilise a slope is agapanthus (which is what is used here in the upper mountains, although it probably doesn’t fit the prairie style); on that fast draining slope, they will be hardy – here they have easily survived frosts of -9C, a week where the temperature never got above 0.5C & deep snow, but in areas with poor drainage the cold gets them. On a slope they have very thick surface roots which stop any erosion.

    I love the heleniums and poppies – they really do add a pop of colour!

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 8:18 pm - Reply

      I like your berms idea. Not from the tree felling (they were all chipped) but there is plenty of other wood lying around. Agapanthus have done really well here this year. I mulched them last autumn and it seems to have paid off. Although I have read a hard winter may be on the cards, our fallout from El Nino. Some of the shorter agapanthus would work near the front of the slope. I need a transition zone between the classic prairie stuff.. heleniums and the like.. and the ground cover on the face of the bank.

  15. Linda from Each Little World August 1, 2015 at 5:50 am - Reply

    These shots show how precipitous that bank really is! My Epimedium are doing well despite the loss of a tree and most of their shade, so don’t assume they will have to go.

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      That’s good news on the epimediums. I’ll leave them alone then and see how they do. Thanks Linda.

  16. croftgarden August 1, 2015 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Stabilising such a steep bank is a real problem and one I do not envy. The obvious solution is to terrace, but you may not have the room and have probably considered this option. Anything with fibrous roots will help or if they’re not an anthema and will tolerate your conditions some of the southern hemisphere grassland plants.

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 8:28 pm - Reply

      I have considered terracing. You’re right, there isn’t enough horizontal distance. I’m also finding massive tree roots as I dig, not too deep either. The bank used to be home to about 30 huge conifers so any attempt at landscaping would be fraught with difficulty. There’s always something isn’t there? I keep thinking of a house we rejected when we were looking.. with a blank canvas 4 acre field. Flat.

  17. Sue Garrett August 1, 2015 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    I am surprised that you didn’t strap a camera to the tree feller’s helmet to obtain some aerial shots 🙂

    • Jessica August 1, 2015 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      Now why, WHY, didn’t I think of that? 🙂

  18. Amy August 1, 2015 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    I love the prairie look you’re developing AND the footholds look great! I can’t help wondering whether the more water-tolerant Agastaches might work on the slope. (I’m in process of losing my second one, and they were such lovely plants so I suppose I’m hoping to recommend them to a milder summer climate!) They’re expected to be rabbit and deer resistant – don’t know about mice and pheasants! Your cluster of California poppies is lovely; I’ll have to try them eventually… That slope really is quite the project!!

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks Amy. I did look at Agastaches and if memory serves they’re listed as short lived perennials here. They are very pretty and I’m in need of more blue, I may well try them.

  19. Donna@Gardens Eye View August 1, 2015 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    It appears I lost my comment but I will try again….lots of hard work but well worth as I am doing tedious unearthing of my garden too….love the Crocosmia and it is beginning here now too. Love this view anytime of year.

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      Thanks Donna. I think scalping the bank will be worth it in the long run. The plants that are going in look happy enough so far, they just need to grow quickly!

  20. Helene August 1, 2015 at 11:46 pm - Reply

    Oh, you really have your work cut out, sorry, couldn’t resist! Cutting that chicken wire is going to be hard work on that slope, good luck!
    I love your prairie style planting, never been able to have those types of plants in my previous garden although crocosmia was happy there.
    I love your heleniums, I tried growing them in my previous garden but without luck, too much shade, but I will try them again here in my new garden. Hope summer have returned for you too, have a good Sunday 🙂

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      It’s cutting me too.. it’s vicious stuff to work with. Some of it is rusty and breaking off. I come away looking like I have been self harming, which I suppose in a way I have. Glutton for punishment me! I’m really impressed with the heleniums, which I only put in a couple of months ago. If they survive the winter I’ll put in more next year.

  21. casa mariposa August 2, 2015 at 3:55 am - Reply

    At least everything didn’t come tumbling down the mountain side with all that rain. Little by little this will all get done and then you’ll be bored. 😉

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 3:43 pm - Reply

      No chance of boredom, I’ve only just started. And if it comes to that I could always move?

  22. sustainablemum August 2, 2015 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Your soil must be ok if it is not washing away, something to be thankful for. Gardening sure is hard work and never done but always worth the effort in the end 🙂

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 3:46 pm - Reply

      It maybe because it is not saturated enough yet. Hopefully the plant roots will have time to spread before we get into the worst of the autumn rains. That’s the theory!

  23. woolythymes August 2, 2015 at 9:32 pm - Reply

    you really do have the artist’s eye…..beautiful now; I can only imagine how it will look with the changes. ( I think it’s pretty perfect just the way it is!)

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 3:49 pm - Reply

      It will be much better when the new plants have spread out and established a bit, then they’ll make more of an impact.. I hope!

  24. PlantPostings (@plantpostings) August 2, 2015 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    Hill gardening is incredibly challenging–I commend you. I can only imagine how difficult the slope and the chickent wire have been to deal with. It’s great to see your progress over time. Bravo!

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 3:50 pm - Reply

      I reckon I have about three days’ more work on the chicken wire and then it will be all off. I shall be very glad to see the back of it.

  25. Vera August 3, 2015 at 7:07 am - Reply

    Dearest Jessica, you have a wonderful garden. As for me….I don’t, but might have eventually, but probably in another life time!

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 3:51 pm - Reply

      You will, when there are fewer other things to do. And at least it will be flat!

  26. Caro August 3, 2015 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    Day lilies are a mixed blessing here as well. I love it when they bloom but it’s all over far too quickly. Love the Heleniums, I’ve put a couple into the borders here this year and think now that they may well take over from the Day Lilies. Your antics with the slope have made me appreciate the flatness of the garden here – it all sounds like jolly hard work, especially the tree roots and chicken wire!

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      I was thinking much the same about the day lilies. I may still try one or two of the less vigorous varieties, but I much prefer the heleniums. I only wish I could grow echinacea and rudbeckia too.

  27. Alison August 3, 2015 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    My entire garden seems to be pausing to collect itself at the moment, there are little spots blooming here and there. I didn’t realize till this post how very brave you are to tackle this slope renovation, I would be so afraid of falling. You need those toeholds!

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 3:58 pm - Reply

      I have fallen once or twice so that thought is always in my mind too. The footholds are helping a lot. There are also quite a few sycamore stumps as handholds. They self seeded many years ago and are now too big to remove. I just keep trimming emergent leaves and hoping they will give up, I’d rather not have to resort to Round Up.

  28. Denise August 4, 2015 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Wow! Jessica – can you drop me an e-mail to denisebydesigns at googlemail.dot com I have some exciting news xxx

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 3:58 pm - Reply

      Will do.

  29. suefrombrampton August 4, 2015 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Garden looking good..love Heleniums,but find it hard to get them established as the slugs love them here too! Saw the common crocosmias growing wild in Cornwall last week,but also purchased one named ‘Culzean Pink’ ..an unusual colour that I hadn’t seen before,pinky-orange from a lovely little nursery called ‘The Old Withy’, near Helston. Thought of you when we visited Glendurgan garden…saw Ptolomey 2’s brothers looking fir a home!

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      Ha! I’m tempted to go back for another and have a pair. Hope you enjoyed Glendurgan.
      Your crocosmia sounds lovely, the select varieties are far less invasive I gather so I’m sure it will do well for you. I’ll look out for it.

  30. young at heart August 4, 2015 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    wow….utterly amazing!!

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 4:04 pm - Reply

      One day.. I hope!

  31. snowbird August 4, 2015 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    You certainly are a grafter, and removing that chicken wire is a huge job, but you’re used to those aren’t you!!! It is all looking fab, your hard work is certainly paying off!!!xxx

    • Jessica August 4, 2015 at 10:39 pm - Reply

      I hope so snowbird, thank you. It’s proving to be a much harder job than I thought it would be, sometimes wish I hadn’t started it. But having started it I’ve little choice now but to keep going!

  32. Julieanne August 5, 2015 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Seeing the near vertical section made it clearer just how precipitous that bank is. Quite a feat gardening in it, and despite you saying that this is wrong and that needs changing, I think it’s looking beautiful.

    • Jessica August 5, 2015 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      It’s a very difficult place to work and I can only do it for short periods at a time or my calf muscles seize up. The really tricky place is just over the ridge which requires over-stretching whichever side I work from. That is where the most vigorous ground cover is going to go. I really don’t want to be up there too often. Thanks Julieanne.

  33. bittster August 6, 2015 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    It’s amazing how far you’re coming along and what success you’re having. I hope the toeholds do you well!

    • Jessica August 6, 2015 at 10:22 pm - Reply

      So far so good. The bank is getting riddled with toeholds. I’ve found a couple that the mice have already created for me.

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