The Precipitous Bank















We needn’t have bothered with a December shot. Were it not for the bad light in the rush to get it in the can as Storm Frank began his huffing and puffing all around us, you’d be hard pressed to differentiate it from November. In a ‘normal’ year many of the ferns, the deciduous varieties, would have already been felled by frost.




So there we have it. The year of The Precipitous Bank, which I’ve been linking to Helen’s End of Month View (here), has come to an end. This meme has been invaluable. Without the commitment to post a picture at the end of each month, looking as pristine as I can get it, I doubt I’d have had the discipline required to really make a difference to the bank.

It’s a long way from being a done deal. But it’s a start. There are plenty of things in there that still need to be removed. An overpopulation of ferns for one. Now I do love ferns, but when I first started work on the bank, ferns were pretty much all I had. Gradually I’ve been thinning and redistributing them into tasteful clumps which will contrast well with the new drifts of perennials.


The bank 3 Wm


June 2013


Apart from the wild foxgloves (also growing in the roof!) back in 2013 it was too overgrown, too green and much of that was ferns.

Given that we’re on a steep slope, and that Devon gets such a huge amount of rain, I’ve been wary of removing too many at any one time for fear of landslides. Particularly as I’ve taken away the ivy infested covering of chicken wire this year too..


Chicken wire 001 Wm[2]


As I plant new perennials and shrubs more of the old greenery comes out in the hope that the replacement roots will rapidly gain a foothold and re-stabilise the soil.


The bank 033 Wm[1]


The prairie planting scheme really got going as summer progressed and I will be adding to and refining it next year. It works exactly as I hoped it would, taking advantage of the sloping ground to show off each and every plant in its best light. The Anemanthele lessoniana (Pheasant’s tail grass), the large pink mound above, below and in the slideshow was perhaps a step too far given how large they become. I have a new home in mind for it and its siblings where they will be able to spread and create (with luck) a truly dramatic feature.


The bank 029 Wm[1]


The Californian Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) were another success. Once they established themselves, after a slow start, they continued in bloom all summer long.  I intend to seed many more of these come Spring.


The bank 018 Wm[1]


What of next year then? Well, I have a plan. The great benefit of working on the bank so religiously over the year is that it’s now relatively easy to maintain. Of course we will revisit it from time to time, as we have the terraces which formed the focus of the meme in 2014. But it’s time for me to move on and bring the same discipline to bear on another out of control part of the garden. And yes, it’s also on a slope. How could it not be? This is what happens when you start to evolve into a mountain goat. Meh-eh-eh!


The Precipitous Bank

pin it?


With all best wishes for a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2016 to you and yours.

See you next year!


2017-10-24T19:32:42+00:00December 31st, 2015|Tags: |


  1. Pauline December 31, 2015 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Can’t wait to see what the new project will be, you were certainly successful with the Precipitous Bank!
    Wishing you and yours a wonderful New Year full of gardening fun!

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      Thanks Pauline. There’s no shortage of possible contenders, project wise. But a lesson of the past has been to focus on just one at a time, otherwise I take on so much I just can’t keep up as the weeds grow back.

  2. Astrid Bowlby December 31, 2015 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing the evolution of your landscape. It is inspiring and I also learn a lot. I only have room for containers, so seeing how differently things grow when in the ground is fascinating. It also makes me ponder the pluses and challenges of every growing situation. A couple of things I appreciate about containers on a city sidewalk are MUCH less weeds and the ease of rearranging things to create a vignette. As I watch you pull the Precipitous Bank into shape, I feel grateful for these attributes of container gardening and less wistful about not having my own real piece of dirt (but someday!!). Very Happy New Year to you! Regards, Astrid

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks Astrid. There are pros and cons to every form of gardening. I’ve tended to restrict containers here because of all the time it takes to water, on top of everything else, but I do agree with the pleasure to be had in arranging them. Even better if you’ve got somewhere to hide away any that are dormant, then the display can be seasonal and always have something of interest in it.

  3. annincumbria December 31, 2015 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    Happy new year,

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:23 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ann.

  4. Marian St.Clair December 31, 2015 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Looking forward to seeing more in 2016. Happy New Year!

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:25 pm - Reply

      Thanks Marian.

  5. Brian Skeys December 31, 2015 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    The bank has developed with plenty of colour during the year, I do like the pink sheen of the pheasant tail grass. Do you comb out the seed heads and dead stems in the spring, I find it helps to keep it more compact.
    Happy New Year, Jessica.

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      I’ve done it already Brian. I couldn’t bear it any longer, they were sprawling all over the place and they’re so easy to pull out. It’s waiting its time until March now, when I’ll chop it right back and then move it.

  6. M. L. Kappa December 31, 2015 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    It’s all looking lovely! Best wishes for 2016!

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks M. At the moment it’s all looking very wet and windswept.

  7. Sue Garrett December 31, 2015 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    You really have worked hard on the banka nd it has paid off. Hopefully the California poppies will self seed profusely. I look forward ti seeing what you intend to tackle next year.

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      Having never tried them before I’m not sure how they’re supposed to look, but they seem to be growing away quite happily at the moment. I’ve still got half a seed packet left so I’ll sprinkle those around in Spring to help things along.

  8. Donna@Gardens Eye View December 31, 2015 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    I absolutely adore your Bank and all the work you have done…it is a stunning garden! here’s to a wonderful garden year in 2016!

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks Donna. There are still plenty of gaps to fill with new plants in Spring, so I hope it will look a little more abundant next year. Plus the plants I put in this year will hopefully increase too.

  9. Rick Nelson December 31, 2015 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    Can’t wait to see what you have in store rd, have you found that you have one leg longer than the other now?:-)
    Wishing you All the Best for 2016.

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:44 pm - Reply

      Exactly Rick! Of course that means I can only traverse the bank in one direction..

  10. Jacqueline December 31, 2015 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Nothing is ever over or completed in the garden is it Jessica ? ….. a never-ending toil …… but, we love it !!
    Our garden is nowhere near as demanding as yours but it still takes a great deal of our time to keep under control so I really do admire you and Mike and how well you have tackled many very difficult problems.The saving grace is how beautiful it all looks in the Spring/Summer and Autumn months and the fruition of all of your hard work shows in the riot of colour.
    A very happy 2016 to you both and I wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year ….. see you on the other side !!! XXXX

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:47 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jackie. And this year colour in winter too… there are now two roses coming into bloom on the bank. They’re miniature ones though, so hard to spot on the December photo.

  11. finlaygray December 31, 2015 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    Happy New year old bean , hoping 2016 will be a cracker xxxxxxx

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:50 pm - Reply

      Thanks John. But less of the old if you please x

  12. Backlane Notebook December 31, 2015 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    I love the prairie planting- that certainly has worked well and great to have another project planned for 2016. Wishing you a happy New Year and happy gardening.

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      I know prairie planting is a bit of a current fad, but I do like it. And planting densely like this at least helps in my constant battle against the weeds.

  13. rachel December 31, 2015 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    Meh-eh-eh to you too. And a Happy New Year to you.

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 3:54 pm - Reply

      I always did have a soft spot for goats 🙂

  14. Amy at love made my home December 31, 2015 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    It has been a wonderful year of gardening and great changes! Happy New Year! Here’s to a good 2016! xx

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 4:00 pm - Reply

      Huge change. I had a vague idea in my minds eye how it was all going to look, with the trees removed and everything, but the reality of it has surprised me nevertheless.

  15. Sheila December 31, 2015 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    A never ending project, and really, isn’t that part of the fun. I think I like October best..xx

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 4:08 pm - Reply

      October was certainly the most colourful month. Foliage can make an even better display than flowers sometimes!

  16. Island Threads December 31, 2015 at 8:12 pm - Reply

    Jessica you have done well with the slope, you have some large swaths of plants on it, I wish I had a problem of something useful like native ferns, happy new year to you and Mike, Frances

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 4:11 pm - Reply

      I used to save each and every one of them and transplant them elsewhere in the garden. But there are so many ferns now, new ones popping up all the time, I fear many now get composted. They’ve even found their way inside.. they’re growing in the houseplants!

  17. Diana Studer December 31, 2015 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    today I noticed how the Californian poppies shed gazillions of seeds.
    No shortage of plants here.

    The slope does make an effective showcase.
    Happy New Year!

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      I hope they do shed a lot of seed. I first saw them on Christina’s (Hesperides) slope and thought how wonderful they looked. I’d love to create a similar effect here in the fullness of time.

  18. pbmgarden December 31, 2015 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    I love seeing the time sequence of your bank. You’ve made so much progress. Happy gardening in the upcoming year.

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 4:15 pm - Reply

      I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes back this year, that will be the telling thing. The plants will have had to put up with an awful lot of winter rain, even if it does run off, and now the cooler weather that we’re forecast.

  19. wherefivevalleysmeet January 1, 2016 at 12:33 am - Reply

    Wishing you and Mike a very happy 2016, and may all of your plants flourish regardless of the wildlife – californian poppies are a great success story once established and I delight in their many different shades from cream to pink to the brilliant orange.

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks Rosemary. Wow, it would be great to get different colours. Given how wet it’s been though I’ll be very glad just to see them rebloom in the first instance, whatever the colour.

  20. Virginia January 1, 2016 at 1:16 am - Reply

    Happy New Year to you both. I got exhausted just looking at those photos! You have done an amazing job, and the photos really show the transformation beautifully. I love viewing you blog (must admit, the squirrel twirler is my very favourite still!) and thank you for taking us along on your jaunts to National Trust sites too.

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 4:36 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much Virginia. Many more jaunts to come I hope. Are you still planning on coming over this year?

  21. Amy January 1, 2016 at 2:17 am - Reply

    You’ve done a splendid job, Jessica! The slide show allows a better grasp of the scale of the changes you’ve made, which have really lightened the whole area.
    If you need a smaller but perhaps equally striking grass, you might try Muhlenbergia capillaris “Regal Mist” (or any other form). Mine has been in the ground for a year now, and it’s been nothing but wonderful. I’m seeing different sizes given for it, anywhere from 1 to 2 m wide, but it seems to stay around 1 m tall or thereabouts, even in flower. Hardy to -25 C or so. Pardon the effusions; it’s still beautifully in bloom… I very much look forward to seeing your next slope!

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 4:39 pm - Reply

      I’ve seen that grass a lot on American blogs and always admired it. But I’ve always assumed it to be tender so it’s good to know that’s not the case. I shall look out for it now. Having never seen it for sale it might need hunting out from one of the specialist nurseries.

  22. Joanne January 1, 2016 at 7:34 am - Reply

    It’s always good to see what your garden brings, all the best for 2016 xx

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 4:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks Joanne. I hope you have a quieter year and a bit more time for gardening too.

  23. Cathy January 1, 2016 at 7:59 am - Reply

    What a result! Helen’s meme has really been inspiring for so many people it seems … I loved the pheasant’s tail grass particularly (although it’s due for a move!) Wish I could grow Californian poppies. All the best for 2016 and looking forward to seeing your next project. (I seem to remember a complaint from you about how small the Cornus looked in situ – it’s huge in your photos now!)

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 4:49 pm - Reply

      When I find a plant that is suited to the conditions it seems to grow huge. It’s hard to imagine now that we brought a few of those specimen trees here in the back of a van!

  24. derrickjknight January 1, 2016 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Beautiful progress. I’m past tackling that slope, now; but I will enjoy your efforts

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 4:53 pm - Reply

      There are days when I feel past it Derrick. Too many days as it happens. But as the plants grow and spread hopefully they’ll exclude the weeds and my work will ease.

  25. Sol January 1, 2016 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    Such a lot of work has gone into it all. And look at the progress, you really have worked a marvel on it.

    I am wondering, as it is so pretty like its own set of fireworks, could you put the pheasants tail into a pot or trug to try and stop it from spreading and getting any bigger. it adds such a nice interest to that area. A little frothy, a little wispy and a little whimsy?

    Best wishes for an amazing new year!

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 5:03 pm - Reply

      You might be on to something there and worth experimenting as there are many many offspring. I was going to replace it with something that gives a similar frothy, wispy effect but is maybe more upright. It’s the way the pheasants grass smothers everything around it that has been the problem in a mixed planting.

  26. jenhumm116 January 1, 2016 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    Congratulations on all you’ve achieved. I’d think a pat on the back and feet up might be called for, but sounds like you have other ideas. Can’t wait to see!
    All the very best for 2016.

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks. Feet up for a few days longer at least!

  27. bittster January 1, 2016 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    The bank really has a presence throughout the year now, what a change! So much better than the sea of green or the gloomy conifer bank.
    Can’t wait to see the terrace changes in 2016 🙂

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 5:21 pm - Reply

      The terraces will be interesting to watch too. They will have more light and moisture this season, now that the huge spruce tree has gone. Hopefully it will extend the range of choice plants.

  28. Helen Johnstone January 1, 2016 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    The photo with you in really gives you a sense of scale. Your slope is so much larger and steeper than mine. Looking forward to seeing the area you choose to feature in 2016

    • Jessica January 1, 2016 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      Hi Helen. That bank is probably the steepest bit of the garden, in some places almost vertical, and it will always be a challenge. But I’m really pleased that I’ve at least made a start on it so thank you for giving me the incentive!

  29. threadspider January 1, 2016 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    Happy New Year and happy mountaineering in 2016. You’ve made a brilliant impact on the garden so far. Can’t wait to see next years projects.

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 1:38 pm - Reply

      And a very Happy New Year to you too.
      I had been thinking that the Precipitous Bank was the steepest part of the garden.. but I’ve just thought of an even worse bit 🙁 Mountaineering it will be.

  30. Charlie@Seattle Trekker January 1, 2016 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    It looks like a really gorgeous spring is coming…Have a wonderful 2016.

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 1:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks Charlie. I hate to wish the months away, but I am so looking forward to Spring.

  31. Chloris January 1, 2016 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    What a lot of hard work you put into your bank and it has really paid off, well done, it looks great. I am very impressed with your changing slide show, I can’ t imagine how you do that.
    Happy New Year Jessica, I am looking forward to reading about next year’ s project.

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 1:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks Chloris. The slideshow is easy now I’ve done a few. The first one did take a bit of working out!

  32. steph January 1, 2016 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    I honestly can’t say which month is my favorite…’ve done an amazing job.

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 1:45 pm - Reply

      September was mine I think, but only because the new plants took a while to get going. Next year may be different again. Thanks Steph.

  33. Linda January 2, 2016 at 12:01 am - Reply

    Looking forward to following your next project. Happy New Year!

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks Linda, it always feels good to be setting about something new.

  34. willisjw January 2, 2016 at 3:21 am - Reply

    What a great way to track a garden through the season. I’ve started and stopped such a project many times, but now I’m inspired to do the same. I like the inclusion of a person in one your pictures too. It gives a sense of scale. It’s an admirable effort you’ve been involved in…

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      The worst is now over.. I hope. If I can just keep the bank weed free, and plant up the remaining gaps, it should be a lot more self sufficient this coming year.

  35. casa mariposa January 2, 2016 at 4:00 am - Reply

    I’m surprised you don’t need rappelling gear to get up that bank!! But it’s a beauty and all your hard work has paid off. 🙂

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 1:52 pm - Reply

      I’ve thought of it many times. At least it keeps me fit!

  36. Kris P January 2, 2016 at 4:36 am - Reply

    It was lovely to see the bank evolve month-to-month in your slideshow. You’ve made huge changes. Any time you want to come to California, I’ll gladly put you to work on my sloppy slope. However, as the drought may necessitate the introduction of more succulents, you’d need add protective clothing in addition to those spiked shoes…

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 1:58 pm - Reply

      Kris, I’d love to come to California. You won’t get much work out of me though, I’d be too busy watching the goings on in the harbour.

  37. Julieanne January 2, 2016 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    It’s great to see how it’s developed and changed throughout the year. I love Anemanthele lessoniana and think it looks great, but you are right that it might look better in smaller clumps. I can tell you that it’s also happy in a pot against a north-facing wall with high winds 🙂 I’ve enjoyed visiting the bank each month and look forward to seeing the focus of 2016’s meme. Happy 2016 Jessica

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 2:03 pm - Reply

      I have set myself quite an ambitious target for next year, possibly over ambitious, we shall see. I will try the Anemanthele in a pot, it might restrict it a bit. Thanks Julieanne.

  38. Annie Cholewa January 2, 2016 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    I’ve just throughly enjoyed a proper catch up with your recent posts and your past year. Happy New Year to you and Mike x

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 2:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks Annie. I do hope you have a much easier year. Take care.

  39. Freda January 2, 2016 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    As Helen commented, the photo with you in it gives us a sense of the scale – I had no idea that area was so large! It makes your achievement all the greater. Heroic I would call it!

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 2:09 pm - Reply

      Yes, it’s huge. Tottering about on the steepest parts of the bank is quite dizzying. Especially at the moment because it’s so slippery. This is really not a garden to be worked on in adverse conditions.

  40. snowbird January 2, 2016 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    The girl certainly did good! All the very best for 2016!xxx

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks snowbird.

  41. Cathy January 3, 2016 at 8:06 am - Reply

    Yes, all the effort has clearly been worth it when you see it at its peak this summer – well done! This is my first year for Californian poppies and I too have been really impressed with their performance

    • Jessica January 3, 2016 at 2:12 pm - Reply

      I hope they self seed for you. The foliage is still looking really fresh here, almost as if they could bloom again in Spring. I guess it depends on what the weather has in store for us next!

  42. CherryPie January 3, 2016 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    That is a big transformation, it is looking good 🙂

    • Jessica January 4, 2016 at 11:06 pm - Reply

      I hope it will fill out a bit more next year, some of the plants are still quite small. But it has looked different and that’s a start! Thanks Cherie.

  43. homeslip January 3, 2016 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    You have worked so hard on the bank and it shows. It must be so satisfying to look back and see the difference you’ve made. Looking forward to reading about your 2016 challenges – you make me feel I can do it too, thank you Jessica!

    • Jessica January 4, 2016 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      What a kind thing to say, but of course you can do it! Most of it is just plugging away, endless weeding and then filling the gaps with something more desirable. A lot of trial and error. Despite what the books may say, not everything likes the conditions here. I try twice and then give up and move on to something else.

  44. Indie January 3, 2016 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    It’s looking gorgeous! I love what you’ve done with it, especially with all the color now it it! I wish you and your family a wonderful New Year!

    • Jessica January 4, 2016 at 11:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks Indie. I may need to rationalise the colours a bit, there are some clashes, but it is so much better than it was when it was all green.

  45. Alexandra Campbell January 5, 2016 at 11:45 am - Reply

    The bank looks fab done prairie-style. Really suits it and I love the colours.

    • Jessica January 5, 2016 at 3:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks Alexandra. It needed to be relatively informal to blend into the surroundings. It’s a sort of transition area between the garden proper and the woods. And a dense planting scheme will hopefully hide the weeds so I don’t need to get up there quite so often!

  46. Linda P. January 5, 2016 at 11:46 am - Reply

    Thank you for your good wishes. Your greetings came up on my email alert for my latest blog post just as I was reading and catching up with your blog and news. Then my computer crashed – nothing to do with you, of course! Just a note then to say I hope you both have a wonderful 2016 whatever you’re doing out and about, at home or in the garden. Take care during these Winter months and on The Precipitous Bank!

    • Jessica January 5, 2016 at 3:47 pm - Reply

      Thanks Linda. It’s way too slippery up there at the moment. The Precipitous Bank can now wait until Spring!

  47. Jill Anderson January 6, 2016 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Lovely to see your progress!

    • Jessica January 6, 2016 at 3:00 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jill. This year will be exciting.. seeing it all come back. Or not..

  48. Jayne Hill January 16, 2016 at 8:13 am - Reply

    What a fabulous way of showing a 12 month progression. Well done to both photographer and programmer :-}

    Good luck in 2016 in the garden.

    • Jessica January 16, 2016 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      Getting the photograph in the same place each month is the hard bit. Much, much harder than it looks. Thanks Jayne.

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