The Berberis Fights Back


Achillea 'Inca Gold' 001 Wm


Achillea ‘Inca Gold’ and Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety’


How did I manage to get so behind? Better a week overdue than not at all, allow me to present the End of Month Plus a Bit View of progress on the Precipitous Bank.

The weather was mostly to blame. That and having been pulled hither and thither by everything else that has been going on. In the interests of total disclosure, and because Mike has recently subscribed to the blog, I must admit to not actually having laid hand upon a wallpaper scraper as yet. But there is still the total reorganisation of living arrangements required by such an epic undertaking, the “can you just take down the landing curtains” and “could you work out how many BTUs the new radiators need to produce” etc etc. Not to mention the supervision/briefing of the merry band of tradesmen who turn up at regular intervals. If we’re lucky that is.

But I digress. As ever. For progress has been made. Oh yes indeedy.


The bank 057 Wm




The bank 058 (2) Wm


Early July


What a difference a bit of rain makes. The early plantings have started to fill out. But the real change is largely hidden from this view. We’ll need to move further up the hill..


The bank 059 Wm


Last month this area was a tangle of stinging nettles and thistles taller than me.

We’ve also dug up another two huge clumps of day lily from here. They were not the tasty little named varieties which add so much to the summer garden. No, these were triffids. They arose to their mammoth proportions in the Spring rains, of which we’ve had plenty this year, and in previous years have bloomed sporadically over a disappointingly short period. As we know, each flower only lasts a day and as such they benefit from frequent deadheading. Did the Head Gardener actually think about this before placing them in what was possibly the most inaccessible location in the whole plot? Of course not. Well at least this year they’ve saved me the trouble by declining to bloom at all. And all that lush foliage had already started to collapse, as it always does, over everything else around it. Enough is enough.

The trio of plants to the right of the Achillea are Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’. There are obviously still gaps more planting opportunities and I want to get some shorter grasses such as Stipa tenuissima. To enable Mike to return to the wallpaper stripping I tackled the berberis in the foreground myself. The results are not pretty, neither my arms nor the plants. I’ll spare you any photos of the former. The vivid red spots bore all the hallmarks of some horribly contagious tropical disease but will no doubt heal in the fullness of time. With a following wind the berberis should sprout back too and my aim now is to curtail their lofty ambitions and keep them to a quarter of their previous height. The idea is to be able to see into the border from the drive. Which as it turns out is rather nice.


Achillea 'Salmon Beauty' 001 Wm


Achillea ‘Salmon Beauty’


I do love Achillea. It hasn’t done so brilliantly for me up to now but I’m hoping that a position on the sunny and well drained bank will suit them better. In the background my favourite Eryngium..


Eryngium x zabelii 'Big Blue' 003 Wm


Eryngium x zabelii ‘Big Blue’

.. which looks just as striking from the other direction with the Cornus ‘Wieting’s Select’.


Of course, being a week late with the progress report means that I’ve now only got three weeks to go before the next one.


The bank 060 Wm


The new front line

And yes, there’s another berberis in there too..


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


Berberis Takes On Arms. Mine.

pin it?

2017-10-27T09:19:14+00:00July 6th, 2016|Tags: |


  1. Bumbleabdme July 6, 2016 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Fab as always! X

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 10:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks Hannah 🙂

  2. Backlane Notebook July 6, 2016 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Well done it’s looking great. I’d rather grapple with berberis than strip wallpaper any day but maybe long sleeves and gloves next time.

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 10:50 pm - Reply

      It’s the way the spines shed themselves all over the place. I will be getting thorns in my fingers for months. And yet what did I find, right up high in the middle of the bush? Two slugs.

  3. kate@barnhouse July 6, 2016 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    Wow, what a transformation. The top of your bank is looking great. So hard earned but the results are inspiring. Know what you mean about the ‘common’ day lilies, but at first anything that covers the ground against weeds is a bonus – if you’ve got to the point where you don’t need such fillers anymore than that’s a sign of real progress.

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      I’d just got fed up with them, more trouble than they are worth. But hopefully that’s the last of them gone. I like the new arrangement so much better!

  4. Brenda July 6, 2016 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Looking good! I love that brilliant purply-blue of the Eryngium. Wallpaper stripping–double ugh.

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 10:56 pm - Reply

      It’s an incredible blue! I do hope they come back next year. Nothing is guaranteed in this rainy part of the world.

  5. Vera July 6, 2016 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    I should be finishing the painting in the downstairs guest bedroom, but I can’t seem to manage any enthusiasm mostly because I have got to the stage of painting where the white walls meet the terracotta floor times, which means having to lie down to get the straight edge which is never going to be straight because this is an old house and therefore wonky. Lying down is alright, it is the getting up which is the problem!
    Lovely garden, as always you inspire me to work on our gardens.

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 11:01 pm - Reply

      That’s the bit I usually get landed with. The ceiling edge too. Then Mike comes along with the roller and does the easy bit in the middle.

  6. FlowerAlley July 6, 2016 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    Your bank is looking great. I know the work that takes to get on a slope and work. My hills are wearing me out.

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 11:04 pm - Reply

      It is hard going isn’t it. But what’s really the pits is finding you’ve left something crucial at the bottom of the slope and having to go all the way down to retrieve it. Not to mention the climb back up.

  7. Marianne Willburn July 6, 2016 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    Seems to me that getting Mike to subscribe to your feed has got to be high on the list of your accomplishments. My Mike is way too overwhelmed with the work around here and hearing me talk about it incessantly to actually want to read about it too! LOL. The Eryngium is fabulous.

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 11:19 pm - Reply

      I think his motivation is more around damage limitation, now that some of his friends and relations also read!

  8. Sue July 6, 2016 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    As lovely as ever. You can see the hard work that goes into your garden from the photos …. never mind wallpaper scrapers 😉

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 11:25 pm - Reply

      Working on the hill is giving me the willies at the moment. If I face west all that is keeping me up there is a less than sound ankle. If it gives way altitude loss will be rapid.

  9. Sarah Shoesmith July 6, 2016 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Oh your poor arms. I had the misfortune to have a string of lovely strappy frock events just after a major run-in with a teasel in June. I am mid-espalier -Pyracantha prune at the moment, and at last the message to cover up my arms has got through… only a month too late, which is about as bad as being a week late with your end of month view. Good luck with all the works… I honestly think I would rather tackle a daily Berberis than work out BTU values ever again.

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 11:32 pm - Reply

      You’re a brave woman to tackle that pyracantha. Those thorns do not take prisoners. Fortunately for me the only recent social engagements have been with fellow gardeners who are most likely similarly scarred!

  10. Marian St.Clair July 6, 2016 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    I love seeing your progress and am sending up a big cheer, as I know it is hard gained. Big blue is quite spectacular, but if I was planting more of something it would have to be Inca Gold. The weather has gone dry in our neck of the woods and very hot…nearly 100 F every day this week. We simply cannot garden in summer. A couple times a week, I spend an hour or two watering and pulling the occasional weed. Nothing wants to grow in this heat!

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 11:39 pm - Reply

      “Pulling the occasional weed” sounds rather pleasant, but not if everything else is struggling too. At worst I have in the past adopted siesta hours for gardening but haven’t needed to do that for quite some time. 18C is the best we’ve done recently.

  11. Dorothy Borders July 6, 2016 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    That first picture is a stunner. Your garden is looking really good. I am so envious!

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 11:41 pm - Reply

      Thanks Dorothy. That orange/blue combination works so well doesn’t it?

  12. pbmgarden July 6, 2016 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    Great progress you’re making. Achillea ‘Inca Gold’ and Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety’ are an admirable combination. So striking.

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 11:44 pm - Reply

      A match made in heaven!

  13. Kris Peterson July 6, 2016 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    With what you have going on inside, it’s surprising that you have any time for the garden but I can see that you’re making steady progress. I don’t envy you the battle with the Berberis. I hope you’re getting an extended respite from the rains at last.

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 11:48 pm - Reply

      It’s been dry for over a week now but it won’t last, there’s more rain on the way. To be honest, in small doses, that’s good with so many new plants trying to get established. It’s just that when the rain tap opens sometimes it doesn’t know when to stop.

  14. Sol July 6, 2016 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    I love looking at pictures of your garden. I find it really resful.

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 11:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sol. I do feel it’s coming on now but still long for the day when I can relax in it and enjoy it!

  15. Beth @ PlantPostings July 6, 2016 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    Oh, I do like the ‘Salmon Beauty’ Achillea! There’s something about the shade of peachy-salmon that really helps the other colors to pop! ‘Inca Gold’ is also stunning! You are creating an amazing garden on that hill!

    • Jessica July 6, 2016 at 11:56 pm - Reply

      I must admit I fell for ‘Salmon Beauty’ as soon as I saw it. The colour fades quite quickly but there are plenty more flower heads in the offing.

  16. croftgarden July 6, 2016 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    The Eryngium is a real winner and I’m covetous. I admire your multi-tasking ability especially with such a challenging garden.

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:01 am - Reply

      The Eryngium is an incredible colour. It was initially a compromise because I’d been looking for ‘Jos Eijking’, a similar blue. Turns out this one is just as good if not better.

  17. Mark and Gaz July 6, 2016 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    With so much to do, no wonder you’re behind. Looking lovely!!

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:03 am - Reply

      Thanks. Mike is praying for rain, so he gets more help!

  18. Diana Studer July 6, 2016 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    what magnificent pairs of striking colours!

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:06 am - Reply

      On the bank the colours need to be bright to be seen, otherwise from the bottom of the hill it all merges into blandness. A lesson learned the hard way!

  19. Julieanne July 6, 2016 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Looks fabulous to me

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:07 am - Reply

      Thanks Julieanne 🙂

  20. Caro July 6, 2016 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    Excellent progress, Jessica and all looking fab. I’ll have to add that eryngium to my wishlist of plants – is it the light or is it really that bright? Also achilleas, just lovely. I have summer berries but was looking at a salmon pink one next to an orange echinacea at Hampton on Monday; really great combo.

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:13 am - Reply

      The Eryngium really is that bright. In fact I struggled to find a shot that fully captured the colour. This was the closest, taken in evening light. I tried another today, in sun, to get the cornus in sharper focus but in that light the Eryngium just washed out.

  21. smallsunnygarden July 6, 2016 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    So much progress! Isn’t it wonderful when the right plants finally start filling out 🙂 And I love that Eryngium, and of course the Achillea; your colour selections are lovely. Poor you with the Berberis too. I can remember roller skating in mortal terror down our narrow, berberis-lined front walkway as a child 😉 Will be fascinated to see what you discover beneath the wallpaper…!

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:17 am - Reply

      That image of roller skating through berberis doesn’t bear thinking about. Tottering on the hill anywhere near it is bad enough! Underneath the wallpaper photos coming up next..

  22. CJ July 6, 2016 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    It’s looking really good, everything grows so beautifully at this time of year doesn’t it. The Big Blue eryngium is amazing, especially with that lovely cornus behind it. CJ xx

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:22 am - Reply

      After all the rain everything has just exploded into growth. I seem to spend a lot of time running around with emergency link stakes.

  23. Christina July 6, 2016 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    Hi Jessica, that Eryngium x zabelii ‘Big Blue’ is just stunning! The color, the texture just makes me swoon. You didn’t Photoshop it, did you?
    That being said, your bank looks great. You made big progress there last month. I really like the more tidy but not compulsively orderly look that it has right now.
    I had to smile when I read the passage about the daylily. Praised as an easy going plant, I always have trouble with the little buggers. They need more water than is to be expected for plant that is called drought tolerant in our region and they need plenty of fertilizer to bloom well. Oh, and besides that they never bloom in the color indicated on the label. But when you get the right one, daylily ‘Gentle Shepherd’ does it for me, then they are absolutely wonderful!
    Warm regards,

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:28 am - Reply

      Nope, no Photoshopping. What you see is what you get! The day lilies are a real problem to remove as well. It took both of us, one on each side with a garden fork to prise the things out of the ground.

  24. wherefivevalleysmeet July 6, 2016 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    The Eryngium x zabelii ‘Big Blue’ is fabulous – what a pretty shade of blue.

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:30 am - Reply

      It’s almost metallic, really unusual for a bloom. And it certainly stands out in the border!

  25. CherryPie July 6, 2016 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    You have lots of lovely colour including the gorgeous greens 🙂

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:33 am - Reply

      Everything is looking really lush this year isn’t it. We have something to thank the rain for.

  26. Sue Garrett July 6, 2016 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    The berberis will definitely regrow, we have been there.

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:47 am - Reply

      That’s encouraging to know, thanks Sue. The challenge will be to keep this one as short as I need it to be. A lot more pruning.. 🙁

  27. germac4 July 7, 2016 at 12:25 am - Reply

    I absolutely love the Eryngium x zabelii ”Big Blue’! The whole garden is looking great…you are very brave to take on summer gardening and the indoor renovations…good luck!

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 12:52 am - Reply

      There’s no good time for indoor work. In winter the shorter daylight hours inhibit progress and in summer there are too many other jobs to do. Maybe that’s why this house is taking so long!

  28. homeslip July 7, 2016 at 9:12 am - Reply

    I really dislike Berberis and pyracantha. Both feature as monstrous shrubs in the cottage garden so I just asked the hedge cutter to cut them back as I was already battle scarred from pruning the monstrous roses. But your bank is looking so good and weed-free and the removal of the day lilies will allow for more choice plantings. I grow H. Hyperion which is a lovely clear yellow, smells of lily of the valley and looks good partnered with blue. Seeing your gorgeous Eryngium reminds me there is a big clump of E. Bourgatii (I think) at the cottage which I must find time to slice into and hopefully remove a section of viable root. At this stage it will need intensive care at the allotment but fingers crossed I can get it to grow. At Polesden in the long herbaceous border right now there is a stunning combination of golden yellow achillea, royal blue salvia and bright red poppies. It sounds almost too much but looks perfect. Keep going Jessica, you are making fantastic progress.

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 7:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks. It’s the first real progress in months and cheers me up no end. If only the weather would be kind to me and I can get away with no further injuries I’m quietly confident that I can make a real difference to the bank this summer. Good luck with the eryngium. The Polesden combo sounds fabulous. I’ve found striking colours work much better on the bank, pastels disappear. I might just try it!

  29. Island Threads July 7, 2016 at 9:35 am - Reply

    Jessica if you have eryngium, achillea and can even consider stipa tenuissima your garden is dry compared to mine, I’ve lost most of my eryngium and achillea and wouldn’t even consider stipa tenuissima, it amazes me that you say you have a very wet shady garden but have a lot of plants that like dry sunny habitats,
    the slope is looking very good, taking out thistles and nettles is not an easy task, did you seep some of the nettles for fertiliser? it is said to be very good,and lots of our native butterflies feed on nettles in the caterpillar stage, Red Admirals, I would love a patch of nettles but my soil is too wet and acid, apparently nettles are also a sign of a good garden soil, lucky you,
    don’t criticise Mike for asking ‘can you’ but appreciate how much he is doing, likewise he too should appreciate what you do, imagine how much more work you would have if you had to do it all alone, and I would love to supervise/brief workmen to get much needed work done and afford it, so you see what are problems for one are delights for others, Frances

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 7:36 pm - Reply

      The planting choices may yet come back and bite me Frances. I too have lost Eryngium before and Achillea. I haven’t tried the Stipa here yet. But I’m hoping that the slope, providing better drainage, and its southerly aspect might be enough to swing it. If they fail I won’t try again.
      Rest assured I was not criticising Mike, it was meant in the spirit of light hearted banter. Neither of us could manage this place alone. And nor is there an unlimited budget. I’d love to get people in to do the lot in one go but instead we’ve had to spread it over a number of years and do most of the work ourselves. The bedroom project may have to be different unfortunately. What we’ve uncovered so far is a whole lot worse than the study ever was. It needs specialist expertise.

  30. derrickjknight July 7, 2016 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    I’m sure there will be much filling in in the next three weeks – hopefully not too many weed

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      I have started regular hoeing of the bare earth. It does seem to be working at keeping the weeds down. I do need more plants though. And soon. It was the mistake I made three years ago when I last cleared this border. I didn’t plant quickly enough and the weeds took over again.

  31. alistair cruickshank July 7, 2016 at 5:42 pm - Reply

    In Aberdeen, we had a Berberis some sort of white mildew every year, it looked horrid, but always recovered. Your steep bank is looking really good, love the Eryngium x zabelii ‘Big Blue’. As for our own garden, the plants in our very large central border have grown so very tall, I think I have made an expensive mistake with it.

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 8:04 pm - Reply

      Getting plant heights right is such a challenge. Down here they either die or grow huge, there seems to be no half way house. I’m forever moving things around because they’ve outgrown their space. At the moment I’m looking out of the window at some Verbena bonariensis that are totally out of proportion with the low terraced borders where they’re growing. Last year I bought V.b. ‘Lollipop’, the short variety. But of course when it self seeds, which it appears to do prolifically, it reverts to the normal height of the species. It will offend my eye until I move the lot of them.

  32. New Moons For Old July 7, 2016 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    That ‘Big Blue’ is completely stunning. Do the bees love it?

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      They are absolutely all over it!

  33. frayed at the edge July 7, 2016 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    It’s all looking good!

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks Anne. Getting there, inch by inch.

  34. jannaschreier July 7, 2016 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    It’s looking great, Jessica! What a lot of work. I smiled when I saw some fuzzy blue behind the A. ‘Salmon Beauty’. I would say ‘Big Blue’ was the star of the Hampton Court Show this year; so many gardens had it popping up. But the really incredible news from your post is that your husband has subscribed to your blog? Goodness me. I had assumed there was an automatic husband blocker installed in WordPress; Paul has certainly been nowhere near mine!

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      Goodness, I’m in vogue. How often does that happen! You may see ‘Big Blue’ again at Rosemoor, as that’s where I bought it.
      The subscription thing is funny. At least if there is a problem with a post I’ll know about it quickly!

  35. Denise July 7, 2016 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    Gardening: the primroses you kindly sent are safely planted. Thank you! Then I left the hens out of their run for a while and Primrose immediately dug up a primrose. I told her this was very bad form and banished her back to the run and the primrose back to its hole. All is well.

    And I, too, am discovering the joys of decorating a wonky walled period cottage!

    • Jessica July 7, 2016 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      Naughty Primrose!
      I hope you haven’t had Andy up a ladder with his arm in a sling. But if you would like any help with interior design schemes you only need to let me know. 😉

  36. Peter/Outlaw July 8, 2016 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    It’s looking very good! That eryngium is my favorite as well, even the stems are blue! Sorry about your berberis wrestling scars. The care you’re giving your home is a good example to sloths like us whose old home problems just get (mostly) ignored.

    • Jessica July 9, 2016 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      We just got into extreme decorating. In a big way. I can tell you there is much to be said for being a sloth.

  37. Sarah July 8, 2016 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    It looks so different and the colour combinations in the first picture are stunning! I do love Berberis but it is awful to prune, I’m afraid it was excluded from our new garden! Sarah x

    • Jessica July 9, 2016 at 10:25 pm - Reply

      I don’t blame you Sarah. There are several berberis shrubs here and I would have got rid of all of them had it not been for the fact that they hold the bank up in some places. But if I can keep them short now I’ve chopped them back it will be a good compromise. Some of my previous victims even flowered this year, even though they are kept to a third of their original size.

  38. Lucio Bovolini July 9, 2016 at 8:34 am - Reply

    This is amazing really!! So happy to see this beauty. Thanks for this.

    • Jessica July 9, 2016 at 10:25 pm - Reply

      Thank you Lucio, you’re welcome.

  39. Wendy July 9, 2016 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    I can see the progress – it all looks great. I love achillea and of course eryngium which I’ve planted here, too. I’ve moved my day lilies once and after that I’ve promised myself they’ll stay in their new location for good! Hope everything is going well ‘indoors’.

    • Jessica July 9, 2016 at 10:29 pm - Reply

      Moving day lilies is definitely not for the faint hearted. I’m not convinced we got all the roots either so it may be a long haul. We shall see. ‘Indoors’ is proving quite a challenge too. I have a backlog of posts, but update tomorrow hopefully.

  40. bittster July 10, 2016 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    Things look so well tended and under control, I can hardly believe it was never always so!
    Does the open soil invite more weeds? I can barely keep a few spots clear let alone such an expanse. It seems the only plant group which grows with any vigor here are the weeds and I need to mulch every square inch in order to stand half a chance.

    • Jessica July 12, 2016 at 6:11 am - Reply

      The weeds are a nightmare, especially this year with all the rain. There is more planting to come but I haven’t yet found the right things to go in. It needs some thought too because I want some flowering interest in Spring as well. In the meantime I have tried hoeing, an increasingly demanding job as I clear more land but it does seem to be working.

  41. Brian Skeys July 10, 2016 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    The Eryngium is a stunning blue, I removed the Berberis from our garden, too many thorns in fingers!

    • Jessica July 12, 2016 at 6:45 am - Reply

      I don’t blame you Brian. I tackled what I hope is the last one yesterday. Just light trimming now to keep them in check. A couple of them look to be holding the bank up, otherwise I’d have them out too.

  42. Cathy July 15, 2016 at 12:16 pm - Reply

    You have made huge progress on the PB Jessica – definitely worth temporarily bearing the hallmarks of some horribly contagious tropical disease for! Well done you 🙂

    • Jessica July 16, 2016 at 6:58 pm - Reply

      There are even more red spots now and some horrendous scratches, but I think I’ve done the last of the berberis. Higher up the bank it’s just brambles.. 🙁

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