The Front Line


The bank 057 Wm




The bank 056 Wm




Well you can’t say it hasn’t changed!

It’s full on at the moment and I’m running to catch up after nearly a month out of action at the worst possible time of year. In the top picture, towards the rear, you can see the might of the enemy forces now ranged against me. Weeds. About two feet high. There’s a distinct feeling of déjà vu because we have indeed been here before. The first time I cleared this part of the bank it was equally hard and then I made the fatal mistake of leaving it alone and moving on to something new.


Phlomis russeliana 001 Wm


Phlomis russeliana


This time around it will be different. Stop that sniggering at the back. Yes it will. Because this time as an immediate follow through to the clearing out I am getting on with the planting. Gradually over the summer, I hope, new purchases and specimens shifted from elsewhere will burgeon and do the job of suppressing the weeds. And to give those unwanted invaders even less of a chance I’ve started regular hoeing of the areas where there is still bare earth. Regular as in weekly. Stop those would-be seedlings in their tracks before they even think about peeping up out of the ground.


Briza media 001 Wm


Briza media


At the moment it’s all still very green. With the emphasis on prairie planting this will always be a mid to late summer border. Grasses have gone in, Briza media already bearing its diaphanous arching stems, and Panicum virgatum ‘Squaw’. More will follow. Blooms of blue and white will repeat as highlights with waves of pink, crimson and bronze drifting in and out. As most of the plants are viewed from a distance the colours need to be strong. Eryngium × zabelii ‘Big Blue’, Sanguisorba tenuifolia alba, Heleniums ‘Waltraut’ and ‘Moerheim Beauty’ already feature along with Verbena bonariensis which together with Digitalis ferruginea ‘Gigantea’ will provide some height. Alongside the beautiful Cornus kousa trees, of course. Libertia grandiflora and Chelone obliqua survive from an earlier planting. I shall be dividing and moving Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ up here too. 


Eryngium x zabelii 'Big Blue' 001 Wm


Eryngium x zabelii ‘Big Blue’


Everything is on irrigation. That may seem surprising given all that I complain about the rain. But a south facing slope with clay soil dries rock hard given half a chance once the temperatures start to rise. We’ve gradually extended the pipework around the garden as work has progressed into new areas. There are now six different circuits, timed to run sequentially from a control unit attached to the garden tap. It’s a lifesaver. With all the planting I need to do there is no way I would cope without it.


Mystery tree 001 Wm


Remember the mystery tree from the March End of Month View?

If you look carefully at the base of each spent bloom there is a tiny developing fruit. Past experience suggests they will swell a little more but never get to the point of maturity before they are either snaffled or drop off. Crab apples? Cherries? Did I mention I know nothing about trees?


Spring blossom 001 Wm


A detail of the blossom from a couple of weeks ago. Does anyone have any ideas yet?


Iris sibirica 003 Wm


Iris sibirica


For this upper section of the Precipitous Bank there’s still a lot more work ahead and new plants to add. But it’s a start and at least the fun part now begins.. watching it develop and fill out with maybe a bit of tweaking to get it just right. As Alan Titchmarsh always says, “Grow you buggers, grow!”


Libertia grandiflora 002 Wm


Libertia grandiflora


Cornus kousa 'Wieting's Select' 011 Wm


Cornus kousa ‘Wieting’s Select’. The promise of things to come.


Onwards and interminably upwards.


Linking with Helen’s End of Month View at The Patient Gardener. Click through to see what other gardeners are up to this month.


2017-10-27T09:24:24+00:00May 31st, 2016|Tags: |


  1. Christina May 31, 2016 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    It’s coming on Jessica. You’re right to try to get on top of the weeds and only you can do it while the other plants are small. Do you have thymes and ground-cover Verbena, they both do a reasonable job of suffocating the weeds on my slope.

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      I have planted Verbena rigida in a number of places and it spreads beautifully plus gives colour for months on end. It will become one of the base plants methinks.

  2. Cathy May 31, 2016 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    Looks just lovely – and how wonderful to have an irrigation system. We keep talking about it. I can’t help id your mystery tree I’m afraid, but am curious to know how long your gorgeous eryngiums have been in the ground. I planted the same a few years ago and they just died over the winter – I assumed winter wet and my clay had killed them off. But if you are having success with yours (and I know there are similarities in our situations/soils), I might have another bash. I’m so looking forward to seeing your prairie planting in the future.

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 9:01 pm - Reply

      The eryngiums are part of the recent planting so all of.. four days! Your experience doesn’t sound encouraging, but maybe a few years is good enough. The good thing about the slope is that at least it is free draining. Or as free draining as you can get with clay. Perhaps that will be my saviour!

  3. hoehoegrow May 31, 2016 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    Loving your planting plan Jessica – it is going to be fantastic ! If only those dastardly weeds would stop growing! I swear mine grow as soon as I turn my back.
    Mind you, I was at Chelsea last week and some of their gardens had very carefully positioned designer weeds, so maybe I am at the forefront of a gardening trend!

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 9:05 pm - Reply

      Ahh, it is good to know we are trendy. There are things like red campion growing on the slope which I leave if they’re in an appropriate place and pull if they’re not. There are trillions of foxgloves but those I do have to pull, else they seed in the roof!

  4. kate@barnhouse May 31, 2016 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    I agree the planting plan for the treacherous slope sounds fabulous,.I’m sure all your hard work will pay off and that your choice of plants will out compete the worst of the dastardly weeds. You seem to have a good plan to get them established under irrigation – watering in new plantings over large areas can be such a challenge.

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      It’s the large area and the relative inaccessibility of much of it. There is neither the time nor the energy. It’s taken a while to get the watering system established, but it was so worth it. The other advantage is that the water is directed through individual drip heads, to the plants and not the weeds.

  5. jannaschreier May 31, 2016 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    I reckon your mystery tree could well be a crab apple. They don’t look very cherryie leaves to me. But so many different crab apples it’s hard to get a definite ID. We’ll just have to watch and see! Love your Briza; it brings back Nick Bailey’s Mathematics garden to me. His Briza looked equally amazing in the morning light having just been (very delicately) watered. It seems I need to plant some.

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      Don’t buy it, I’ll happily give you some when you’re down here. Be aware though… once you have it, it seeds for England and Australia combined! It amazes me the price nurseries charge for plants that are borderline invasive. Anemanthele lessoniana is another case in point. I saw it for £8.99 a pot yesterday and I have more than I know what to do with.

  6. CJ May 31, 2016 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    The blossom looks appley to me, rather than cherryish. Love the eryngium, it’s such a striking looking thing. Irrigation is a great idea, watering can take hours otherwise. CJ xx

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks CJ, I had always assumed it was apple but then last year these little fruits appeared that looked more like cherries. I shall continue to record its progress as the year goes on.

  7. Jim Stephens May 31, 2016 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Crab apple almost certainly, but it’s odd that the fruit don’t develop. Do you have any other Malus, fruiting or ornamental, flowering at the same time? I wonder if it’s not getting pollinated.
    I don’t really envy you your slope, flat as my own garden is. Really effective weed smothering ground cover is hard to achieve and it’ll always be a challenge to weed a slope like that. Sounds like you have a plan and I wish you every success with it.

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      Hi Jim and welcome.
      There are two trees side by side which look identical. Do crab apples need a male and female tree, like holly?

  8. Jacqueline May 31, 2016 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Beautiful photographs Jessica and so much emerging ….. this is just the best time of the year in the garden, isn’t it ?
    ….. I’ll send some of our rain over to you …… I have to say that it is really needed as the lawn is in need of a good soaking. I just can’t get out to do anything though!!!! ….. but we are supposedly in for a heatwave next week ! I’ll believe that when I see it !! I have to say that your home and garden are both beautiful and a tribute to your hard work. XXXX

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      It’s been hot down here today. I think I may have caught a bit of sunburn. Serves me right for wrestling with a large rootball at high noon. It seems unbelievable that it’s been dry down here for so long. Must surely be unheard of.

  9. snowbird May 31, 2016 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    Goodness, I salute you re that slope!!! It would have defeated me many moons ago, but hey, you’re winning!!! I think your tree is a crab apple, I have a self-seeded one in the front garden, every year the flowers withered and no fruit appeared, then last year ….gosh….it was full to overflowing with crab apples and looked lovely. It was probably six by then. Hope yours displays too…xxx

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:01 pm - Reply

      I have no idea how old this one is. We rescued it from the middle of the mass of conifers growing on the slope when we took on the place. It was a pathetic looking specimen and leaning badly, it’s now pulled vertical courtesy of a rope attached to the nearest tree stump!

  10. Caro June 1, 2016 at 12:29 am - Reply

    Crikey, you’ve created a task for yourself! You’re either going to be planting very quickly or else have Popeye biceps from all that hoeing. I’m super impressed by the plan and send lots of virtual energy your way to keep going! Love the choice of plants, I’ve got a thing for irises this year as mine has flowered for the first time and, having recently seen several established Libertia grandiflora in my brother’s garden, I’m now lusting after a few of those as well. Btw, your blossom is definitely apple (possibly crab) and I agree that it’s probably lack of cross-pollination if the fruit isn’t developing. Good luck with the war on weeds!

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:07 pm - Reply

      The Libertia is a great plant for filling up space quickly. It also seeds freely so volunteers pop up all over the place. I’m digging them up and spreading them around anywhere I need to cover some earth. There’s no way any weeds are going to get through it either. Maybe short-lived, but you’ll never want for replacements.

  11. Kris Peterson June 1, 2016 at 1:13 am - Reply

    The one benefit of drought is that weeds are fewer and slower to develop and spread. Still, I wouldn’t wish a drought on you – the slow and steady approach to conquering the invaders is still the best one. Be careful working on that slope!

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:11 pm - Reply

      The slow and steady approach does work. Previous areas of the garden I’ve struggled with have gradually come round to being relatively easy to maintain as a result of persistent hand weeding and dense planting. The trick is to get one section properly established before moving on to the next.

  12. Beth @ PlantPostings June 1, 2016 at 3:48 am - Reply

    Beautiful, beautiful! What a magical place is your garden this time of year!

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      Thanks Beth. It’s getting there.. slowly!

  13. Linnae June 1, 2016 at 5:33 am - Reply

    Oh, the grasses! I have not figured out how to put grasses in yet–anywhere, really. Not counting the weed grass that proliferates naturally on my back slope. I really like the idea of grasses, though. Maybe I should start planting pretty ones in amongst the weedy variety…Hmm…needs further consideration!

    Looking lovely out there!

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:18 pm - Reply

      I have plenty of weed grass too. The difficulty can be telling it apart from the ornamental grasses when they first start to grow in Spring. I have wild grass growing around the Briza and it is only now that the foliage is starting to take on a different colour and I can successfully weed out one from the other.

  14. Mark and Gaz June 1, 2016 at 6:21 am - Reply

    Impressed with the plans Jessica!

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:19 pm - Reply

      Thanks. Hope it all works when the plans turn into reality!

  15. Jayne Hill June 1, 2016 at 9:20 am - Reply

    then I made the fatal mistake of leaving it alone and moving on to something new
    I feel your pain having done exactly the same thing on more than one occasion in the last eight years as we continue our parallel struggle to create a garden here.
    Currently the two largest beds in my Cottage Garden are almost completely feral and it will take most of the summer to recover, perennials are now far too far on to move (like you, missed the opportunity earlier in the year) and the weeds are taking over. My hands ‘lost’ the struggle with 2 foot high nettles yesterday, ough :-0}

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      Nettles are the pits. Those roots can run such a long way and usually right under the stuff you want to keep. My arms are still stinging from today’s efforts. Or maybe that’s down to the thistles.

  16. Sam June 1, 2016 at 10:59 am - Reply

    It’s hard to keep on top of everything, especially in May. The patch we started clearing a few weeks ago, then left for a while, is covered again… It’s like painting the Forth Bridge! Your plans sound lovely. I’m a huge fan of prairie planting with grasses and low-maintenance perennials. I would say that blossom is apple – it looks just like our apple blossom. Could be crab apple, but I’d go for plain apple. But it might need a companion to pollinate? Sam

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      There are two trees but I’m not sure if it needs a separate male and female tree? Your patch sounds a lot like here, an area which has been left rough for a while will have countless weed seeds in it. One year’s seeding, seven years’ weeding. Sad but true.

  17. Linda Brazill June 1, 2016 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    Ah, weeds. Nothing grows as well, alas. I was sick for much of May and sympathize with how quickly things get ahead of one. But the banke is coming along and I love knowing enough about plants that I could picture what you were talking about. It’s going to look terrific. I think crab apple flowers.

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks Linda. I wish everything I planted grew as enthusiastically as a weed. I also wish I knew why all the nibbling things around here avoid the weeds entirely and always go for my plants.

  18. Backlane Notebook June 1, 2016 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Ah what a lovely project and once it’s established it will be pleasurable and manageable. Crab apple is my guess xx

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:34 pm - Reply

      I think the hoeing is working, although I may suffer from RSI to the back. As for the rest of the weeds, I’m wondering if I could sign up Poldark and his scythe 🙂

  19. Brenda June 1, 2016 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    I envy your irrigation system. We’re hoping to get one in next year, but in the meantime, it’s incredibly dry here. I’m thinking of a rain dance. Your plans for the slope sound wonderful. Good luck keeping up with the weeding. At least your ankle is feeling better!

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:39 pm - Reply

      If the rain dance works you must let me know. The area we shifted the rhododendrons to is not on irrigation. I decided it wasn’t worth it as shrubs will look after themselves once established. I reckoned without the almost unheard of dry Spring..

  20. Angie June 2, 2016 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    I am having trouble commenting and I don’t know if it’s me or you. I’ll try again and if it doesn’t work this time I’ll investigate my end.

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:43 pm - Reply

      It looks like it’s me Angie, judging from Sue’s comment and Chloris on a previous post. We’ve raised a support ticket. Thanks for persisting and for letting me know.

  21. Angie June 2, 2016 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    It was a case of third time lucky – here’s the gist of what I was trying to say.
    With a garden the size of yours it must be difficult keeping up with the more mundane gardening jobs but it seems as if you are managing just fine Jessica. I too am no good at trees so am unable to offer a suggestion for an ID. Keep up the good work – it’s beginning to come together

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:46 pm - Reply

      I’ve discovered the trick is not to take on too much in one go. Eventually I do defeat the weeds and it does become manageable, that’s the time to move on to the next bit.

  22. Susan Garrett June 2, 2016 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    I am having trouble commenting too I have trued several times – here goes again.

    The trouble is that we have to keep running to stay still but the problem is that the weeds can run faster.
    I agree that the tree is probably a crab apple.

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:50 pm - Reply

      I’m sorry Sue, I know how frustrating it is when commenting doesn’t work. Thanks for letting me know though, until today I hadn’t realised how much of a problem it was. Hopefully it’ll get sorted now but it seems to be one of those tricky intermittent things.

  23. Jo June 2, 2016 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    I’m putting my money of an apple of some kind, though I don’t know much about trees either. How is it that weeds will grow whatever the conditions yet even when we nurture a plant, it doesn’t always survive?

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 10:57 pm - Reply

      I suppose the plants we call weeds have been around long enough to become properly adapted to the places they grow, unlike the plants we choose to introduce. Having said that ragged robin failed for me (twice) and it’s supposed to grow wild all over Britain.

  24. Rick Nelson June 2, 2016 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Looking really well rd, Eryngiums are one of my favourites, particularly ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’ and the story surrounding its origin. When you talk about irrigation, I have connections to service my poly-tunnel but I am also seriously thinking of laying down trickle feeds into my “woodland” area as the trees dry things out and there isn’t a sufficient mat of decayed matter to give a proper woodland soil.

    • Jessica June 2, 2016 at 11:07 pm - Reply

      I shall definitely be adding ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’. She could have turned up here with a handful of seed anytime. Dry shade is so tricky, especially when there are trees.

  25. Donna@Gardens Eye View June 3, 2016 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    Lots of things growing there….and yes I would say it is a Crabapple tree…highly prized by birds which is why they don’t even ripen or last.

    • Jessica June 4, 2016 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      That’s useful information Donna, thank you. I shall be keeping a closer watch on the tree this year, to see what if any fruit we do get.

  26. Julieanne June 6, 2016 at 9:31 am - Reply

    Tried leaving a comment but I think it got lost. Trying one more time. Just be careful Jessica, you don’t want another fall, and that bank looks precarious! Looking forward to seeing the bank in flower.

    • Jessica June 6, 2016 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      I hope I’ve solved the comment problem today, thank you for persisting. It’s tough going on the bank, the photos really don’t show just how steep it is. If anything I’m being over cautious now. It’s so frustrating when there’s so much to do and you just can’t do it. A feeling I know you’re more than familiar with.

  27. CherryPie June 10, 2016 at 12:11 am - Reply

    Your garden is looking good. I would be quite daunted by having to look after such a large space

    • Jessica June 12, 2016 at 8:27 pm - Reply

      It’s like eating an elephant. Best to tackle it a bit at a time.
      Thanks Cherie.

  28. Diana Studer June 10, 2016 at 12:13 am - Reply

    I do find that once the enthusiatic plants are in ,,, the weeds shuffle off in a huff.

    • Jessica June 12, 2016 at 8:28 pm - Reply

      I’m hoping that will indeed be the case. Deer, rabbits etc. permitting!

  29. hb June 11, 2016 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    I know how difficult slope gardening is, having several of my own–keep at it. It will happen, but stay safe on the treacherous slope. Tough on the ankles.

    The Briza photo is just perfect.

    • Jessica June 12, 2016 at 8:55 pm - Reply

      The Briza photo was a bit jammy. There was quite a breeze. Amazing really that I managed to get any part of it in focus at all.

  30. Island Threads June 12, 2016 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    you are right to keep on top of those weeds Jessica, I can’t imagine how you mange to hoe such a slope! don’t fall off doing it, it is looking good and lots of nice plants, love the iris, Frances

    • Jessica June 12, 2016 at 9:06 pm - Reply

      It’s hard going, the hoeing, but it is working so far. I’m trying to hone a technique which will exercise the waist muscles, a bit like scything. Win win!

  31. Linda P. June 16, 2016 at 9:57 am - Reply

    Glad to catch up on your news and hear that you’re back to your gardening and able to work on the slope again. Love the lyrical description of your planting plan and the wonderful photos with helpful names of the plants. The irrigation system sounds like a good one in the circumstances with your particular soil and terrain. (Our little plot, especially the narrow front garden with its raised bed in the middle suddenly looks lush, but overfull from the days of rain we’ve been having).

    • Jessica June 16, 2016 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      In the last week we’ve had some torrential rain too, I won’t need the irrigation system for a day or two! But I now have a very small window of opportunity before it all bakes solid again. Clay soil is so difficult. Take care Linda.

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