Horticultural Rescue


Sanguisorba officinalis 001 Wm


Sanguisorba officinalis


Good grief, where has two weeks gone? I can’t believe it’s that long since I last posted but WordPress doesn’t normally lie. I wish I could tell you that we’ve been soaking up the sun on some exotic beach but that would just be wishful thinking. Nope, it’s been nose to the grindstone as usual. Or at least hands upon the garden fork. Not without some progress though..


The bank 066 Wm


Early August


The bank 067 Wm


End August


The job is getting harder. This piece of land is triangular in shape. Each new strip that I clear is getting longer. Worse still, and this took less time to cotton on, the bank is getting steeper.


The bank 068 Wm


We could hire it out for skiing if the weather gets that cold


Stinging nettles and thistles (vicious but relatively shallow rooted) have given way to brambles. Devon brambles come fully signed up to a ‘No Prisoner’ policy and that doesn’t just apply to my arms.


Miscanthus sinensis 'Ferner Osten' 002 Wm


Miscanthus sinensis ‘Ferner Osten’: ‘a broad, upright, graceful, ornamental silver grass with mounds of narrow foliage turning bright copper and red in autumn. Forms spectacular dark red and pink plumes in August.’ Ummm..

It was barely an inch high when I spotted it beneath all those thorny unforgiving stems but given light and an irrigation drip head it has quadrupled in size already and gained an additional shoot. Maybe next year?


Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki' 014 Wm


Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’

My poor Acer on the other hand appears to be in shock. Clearly it has decided to ditch its leaves early.


Pittosporum 001 Wm



Decision time long since passed and lower leaves had already been shed. Yes, it did have an upper half but a pyramid of growth perched atop metre high naked stems lacks a certain cachet when you’re a bushy shrub. Thus it has found itself in receipt of a renovation prune. It works with most things. Pittosporum? Time will tell.


Anemone japonica 'Little Princess' 001 Wm


Anemone japonica ‘Little Princess’


But it’s not all doom and gloom.

There was a Plant Fair at Rosemoor this past weekend. Perfect timing. Just a minor little hiccup in that they’re rebuilding the venue in which such events are traditionally held and the new marquee is further away from the plant crèche facilities (aka Mike/restaurant/cappuccino/Sunday Papers). Whilst he may put up token resistance the Better Half loves these Fairs really. All household responsibilities cast aside in exchange for a relaxing hour (or so) standing (sitting) guard over a few well behaved plants. And possibly the provision of porterage services if yours truly should purchase more plants overall than she can realistically carry back to the car. (If?)


Rudbeckia 'Summerina Brown' 001 Wm


Rudbeckia ‘Summerina Brown’

Lovely isn’t it? And it wasn’t just me who thought so. I had placed it for safe keeping on a chair at Mike’s table. No sooner had I departed for a second dip into the sale marquee, a clearly discerning horti type (well it was the Royal Horticultural Society after all) approached Mike and asked him what the plant was. Which of course presented something of a dilemma. There was much furtive feeling around inside the bag to see if there might be a label.. and thankfully there was.


Persicaria virginiana 'Painter's Palette' 001 Wm


Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’

A perfect companion to the Rudbeckia


The bank 062 Wm


Early August


The bank 069 Wm


End August


There’s only one thing for it then.

Onwards. Upwards. To the tree, to the tree.. and even more thorns in my fingers.


2017-10-26T10:42:58+00:00August 31st, 2016|Tags: |


  1. woodlandgnome August 31, 2016 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    My goodness you’ve been hard at work! I’m glad to see you have drip lines going for those little guys you want to save. I hope your body will soon get the respite it needs, and that autumn will shine kindly on your garden and all those little plants you’re working to save and encourage. It is still beautiful <3 <3 <3

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 7:38 pm - Reply

      The irrigation might seem a bit of a luxury in rainy England but it’s amazing how quickly the soil dries out. With a large area to keep watered I really don’t know how I would manage without it. If only the mice didn’t keep nibbling the pipes!

  2. Charlie@Seattle Trekker August 31, 2016 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    There are few things that feel better than the time you spend in the garden, even if it is pulling weeds. Your work is producing such amazing results.

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 7:41 pm - Reply

      Thanks Charlie. Pulling weeds can make such a difference to how the garden looks, it is satisfying in its own right.

  3. kate@barnhouse August 31, 2016 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    What a lot of hard work but you are making great progress, as the comparative views show. Just imagine what it will look like next year! Lovely idea for rudbeckia/persicaria combo.

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 7:44 pm - Reply

      Next year I’ll add more of the same where things have worked and start to create bigger blocks a la Hauser and Wirth. I’ve left spaces to be able to do that. And if a plant doesn’t make it through winter then I’ll just have to try something else.

  4. Pauline August 31, 2016 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Amazing, the amount of work that you have done, what a difference it all makes. I look forward to seeing what else you will be planting there.

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      It’s got to the fun part now. Provided I can keep the ground clear then I can play around experimenting with different plants. Next year I also want to try growing more cuttings and seed, it’s really the only way to create impact on a relatively small budget.

  5. pbmgarden August 31, 2016 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    You’ve made lots of progress.. Great looking Rudbeckia.

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Isn’t it lovely? I hope I can keep it going. It’s supposedly a cross between Rudbeckia and Echinacea. The former does sometimes return for me, never the latter. Perhaps this is the way to do it!

  6. Denise August 31, 2016 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    If you are going to do ski-ing, you’ll need a ski lift…

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      Now why didn’t I think of that before. As well as a rack on the back to carry the skis I’ll have a platform for the wheelbarrow. Multi season use. Perfect.

  7. Torrington Tina August 31, 2016 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    More hard work – but it is paying off! So pleased you had a good time at the Rosemoor Plant Fair, love the Rudbeckia. I too have a Pittosporum I am tempted to give a prune but keep backing away from the task – just in case it doesn’t like it!

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      I felt I had nothing to lose because the Pittosporum did look rather silly… I’ll let you know how it goes. It might have been better to wait until Spring but hey.

  8. Torrington Tina August 31, 2016 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    PS Mr TT has a pair of crampons he is not currently using…….

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      Thank you, I’ll remember that! The photos under represent the slope I always think. It seems much steeper in reality?

  9. Jacqueline August 31, 2016 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    You both put in so much work and you will be rewarded next year ……. our David Austin St Swithuns fell over so I had to prune it all back ….. I’m covered in scratches and I’m going to a wedding in a few weeks and am wearing a sleeveless dress ….. the older I get, the longer the scratches take to heal !!!!!! XXXX

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:13 pm - Reply

      Roses are another one.. the garden really does seem out to get us on occasion. Or maybe just before an occasion?

  10. justjilluk August 31, 2016 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    What did we do before being able to take before and after photos. Gave up ! Well done Jessica and Mike.

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      So good to look back and see how much you’ve actually achieved. It’s easy to forget otherwise. Hope you’re still enjoying the new shedudio patio, that was a real transformation.

  11. CJ August 31, 2016 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    Ooh yes, that rudbeckia is lovely. Pretty anemone too. Keep going with that bank, I know you are winning! Pruned my peach tree today. It has been hit by balls so many times it’s really leaning to the side now. Not a peach to be seen. One day, one day… CJ xx

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:21 pm - Reply

      Character in a peach tree is always a good thing.

  12. Jackie August 31, 2016 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    Amazing progress! it is so worth the effort, love that view you have across the fields in the distance. I think your garden is lovely, you have achieved so much this year, you should be proud and borderline exhausted!

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      Only borderline? 😉
      Now I can get down to some serious planting. In a year or two maybe it will be as lush and colourful as your garden! Thanks Jackie.

  13. Freda August 31, 2016 at 11:26 pm - Reply

    I was sure you were in some exotic destination! You are working too hard! (But to great effect…)

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      I am working too hard. Which makes it even more frustrating that I’m not losing any weight!!

  14. Christina August 31, 2016 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    Dear Jessica, you are doing an amazing job in clearing the slope. I can only imagine how hard work that is. We had brambles in our first garden in the US and they were almost not to irradiate and that was a much smaller patch and on flat land.
    Rudbeckia ‘Summerina Brown’ is a good pick, it is really a beautiful variety!
    I so envy you that you can “just go” to a plant fair at Rosemoor. When we were visiting Devonshire three years ago I really loved that garden, being me, especially the rose garden, of course ;-). It is fascinating that the British are so interesting in plants and doing these fantastic plant fairs. That is something that I really miss in the US.
    Warm regards,

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:37 pm - Reply

      They hold the fair twice a year at Rosemoor and it’s a good one with lots of local nurseries attending. Not all of the growers do mail order or open to visitors so it’s the only chance to buy from them. I’m still struggling to find good retailers down this way and online plant shopping has been a disaster so far.

  15. Kris P September 1, 2016 at 4:26 am - Reply

    You’ve made impressive progress, Jessica! I wish I had your diligence about tackling my back slope, which the combination of heat and drought has turned into a horror show. I can only manage brief efforts before darting back up to the garden’s main level and trying my best to forget that the back slope exists. The plant fair (something that, as Christina mentioned, is uncommon here unless it’s focused on succulents) is a well-earned and very appropriate way to reward your diligence – you need those new plants to fill the empty spots you’ve cleared!

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      The slope here is in full view unfortunately, so I can’t avoid it. But I try and kid myself it is getting easier over time. What I must not do is let this section get out of hand, as I have done in the past. Once the weeds get a foothold, especially the brambles, it is starting from scratch all over again.

  16. germac4 September 1, 2016 at 5:58 am - Reply

    I’ve just come in from doing some simple weeding in the garden, and I’m aghast at the thought of planting and weeding on that slope….well done! We have just put in a hedge of Pittosporum …I must remember to be very careful with pruning! I hope autumn brings a few less gardening jobs, and, as Monty Don says, remember to sit down and enjoy the garden occasionally too. (well, maybe not those sloping bits)

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      I think the current patch is the steepest yet, well apart from the near vertical front face of the bank. It is exhausting just climbing up and down it. But weeding is a balancing act, finding the right position to be able to get weight behind the fork.. without toppling over!

  17. Jo September 1, 2016 at 7:27 am - Reply

    Imagine the money you could raise for extra plants from your ski slope! Wonderful progress over the month and as you say – there is always next year x

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      I’m definitely into next year mode now, starting to think about what needs moving around. Spring is such an exciting season, seeing the benefit (or not!) of all our hard labour the previous year.

  18. Vera September 1, 2016 at 7:43 am - Reply

    ….. and the good thing about working on a sloping garden is that your thighs must be getting very trim! And to say that I am terribly ashamed of myself because I have not been out in our front garden at all for weeks, and when I look at the work you are doing on such a difficult terrain then I do really think I should make the effort to get out on our little patch of flat earth which we call our front garden! But I have been very unwell, and it has been very hot here, ….. but no excuses! If Jessica, then I can!

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 8:55 pm - Reply

      It is very hard to garden when it’s hot. Since moving down here there have been very few days when I’ve been operating siesta hours, it just hasn’t been that sort of weather. I do try and do the hard graft in the morning, before it gets too bad, then potter around and do lighter weeding in the afternoon. But I’m very nearly into the woodland now. There it will be cooler at any time of the day.

  19. Sue Garrett September 1, 2016 at 9:12 am - Reply

    Your hard work is really paying off it’s a dramatic difference. It would not just be thorns that was attacking me if I was tackling all that I’d be absolutely covered in insect bites. They seem to really be liking me more than ever this year. As for the plant sale you deserved a treat!

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 9:00 pm - Reply

      I was just thinking about insects when commenting to Vera above about the woodland. The midges will be terrible when I get in there. Otherwise horse flies are the biggest problem. They rather like me too unfortunately.

  20. Chloris September 1, 2016 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Onwards and upwards then, you are doing well. Thistles are so difficult to eradicate. This sort of job is hard work, but so satisfying when you see the result. If only it would stay done though. I love that rudbeckia, I’ ve never seen it before. How lovely to be able to pop into Rosemoor. That is a wonderful reward for hard work.

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      There were thistles taller than me. And docks. And those big cow parsley that I never know if they’re giant hogweed or not. I’ve had so many struggles with those I can only conclude that they’re not. I’m sure I would have felt the effects by now if they were.

  21. Linda September 1, 2016 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    All your work is paying off as the after pix show. And nothing like a plant sale to spur you on.

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 9:08 pm - Reply

      I was having to buy plants in ones or twos that’s the problem. I’d have bought several of the rudbeckia but he only had one. I pounced on it and was lucky to get that. I shall have to see if I can find some smaller ones online and grow them on. Thanks Linda.

  22. Wendy September 1, 2016 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    The rudbeckia is a lovely colour and I do love anemone japonica for looking so fresh at this time of year when everything else is looking a bit tired. It’s good to see the progress you’ve made this month but I know how you feel about the time passing; although the days are still quite long there are just not enough gardening hours in them.

    • Jessica September 1, 2016 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      It’s a bit of a race against time now isn’t it. I want to get one more strip done, then there’s a natural break where the woodland starts. Perhaps that’s enough for this year. It might be better to consolidate what I’ve done and move a few more plants into the larger gaps.

  23. Anna September 1, 2016 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    “Onwards and upwards” was my school’s motto although I think the words floated over my head at the time. That rudbeckia is a fabulous colour – it’s a nice feeling when folk admire your purchases at plant sales. Glad that the label came to Mike’s rescue 🙂

    • Jessica September 3, 2016 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      It’s a stunning colour and the plant looks robust. I hope it’s enough to carry it through winter.

  24. Brian Skeys September 1, 2016 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    ‘Painters Palette’ seems a suitably named plant for you with the decorating to be done. Clearing the bank certainly looks hard work.

    • Jessica September 3, 2016 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      He he. Lucky I didn’t plant it too close to a window or there might be even more white splodges on its leaves.

  25. Sam September 2, 2016 at 8:35 am - Reply

    Gosh I do admire your stamina and motivation, Jessica. We have similar areas that, well, I find overwhelming. You have inspired me to not be such a wimp! That rudbeckia is lovely. I really like the sanguisorba in the first pic, too. I bow down to your fantastic efforts and great progress 🙂 Sam x

    • Jessica September 3, 2016 at 8:49 pm - Reply

      I think I’ve overdone it. The last two days I’ve had no energy at all. Lucky it’s been raining really! Take it a little bit at a time, once you start to see the difference you’re making it’s hard to stop!

  26. Backlane Notebook September 2, 2016 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Gosh that is a challenging project but there’s steady progress. And you have some lovely plants which in my experience here encourages maintenance since it would be awful to loose some of those beauties.

    • Jessica September 3, 2016 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Planting as I’ve gone along has definitely made a difference this time. As well as helping to suppress the weeds it does, as you say, promote a stronger desire to keep up with it. After all the rain we’ve had today I’m going to need it!

  27. Helene September 2, 2016 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    My goodness you have been busy Jessica – looking great! I was pleased to see your irrigation line, I am delving into the issue of irrigation too soon, I can’t keep watering like I do here in my new garden so I will just have to – but this is a new thing for me so have to get clued up on it. Loved the Rudbeckia!

    • Jessica September 3, 2016 at 9:07 pm - Reply

      I don’t know what I would do without irrigation Helene. It’s a huge time saver and it’s effortless. Ours runs from an automatic timer so as long as the batteries don’t run out I can forget about it. It does pay to check that the nozzles are running freely from time to time but if you know your plants you can soon tell if they’re not getting enough water for some reason. It isn’t a cheap option but we’ve built it up over years, gradually extending the network around the garden as funds permit. And like a big meccano set if you change the layout of the garden you just disassemble it and recycle the components to fit the new planting plan.

      • Helene September 4, 2016 at 7:28 pm - Reply

        I think I will go for a soaker hose, but I am dithering about which system to choose – Kärcher or Hozelock, there’s pros and cons with both but Kärcher’s hose seems really lightweight and can be cut with ordinary scissors so perhaps that is what’s going to sway me. I have never used an irrigation system before so I am trying to get clued up. I got the tap sorted and I already got a timer in place – now I just need the rest! Dreading the job of putting it all down though, and all the adjustments when plants wilt or get drowned….or at least I suspect it will be a lot of adjustments in the first year? What type of system and brand do you have?

        • Jessica September 5, 2016 at 10:12 pm - Reply

          We use Gardena drip irrigation. It has the advantage that you can direct water to individual plants and not into the spaces between them where weeds can flourish. There are also two sizes of drip head, handy if you have plants which need more water than others.
          The soaker hose sounds easier to put in place. I don’t envy you the task of setting it all up even so. Mike laid the main hose around the garden perimeter here and I just connect new plants to it as and when I put them in. The timer was the most expensive bit, so if you’ve got that you’re well on your way! And think of all the time and energy it will save you when it’s up and running. Also, because it’s very efficient, you can probably carry on using it even in a drought.. although after three days of almost continuous rain down here such things are hard to envisage!

          • Helene September 6, 2016 at 12:18 am

            I looked into the different systems, and quite frankly, I don’t know what will be best for my garden – but considering I have jam-packed flowerbeds I thought perhaps a soaker hose would be best. Individual irrigation points means something like 6-700 or so, I can’t see how all those lines are going to work in my beds…. So without having tried ANY system, a soaker hose seems most practical. With a soaker hose you can still run individual lines for extra watering if you have need for it although I have no idea how many you can have before the pressure drops too low – all these things would be nice if they explained online but I can’t find much info. I plan to send off some emails to both companies and ask all the questions in advance. I will become a soaker hose expert before this is over 🙂
            There is no restriction on the use of a soaker hose when there is a hosepipe ban in place so I will never have to stop using it for that reason – one of many reasons why I have ended up with it.
            You’ve had 3 days of rain?! I wish it was here, we had a few hours Saturday night, but it didn’t amount to much, and a short drizzle last night. No more rain for the next 2 weeks and 27 degrees expected on Wednesday. I can see on the forecast that we here in the South East corner is like on a different continent at times….I would love 3 days of rain!!

          • Jessica September 6, 2016 at 4:45 pm

            Yes, plenty of rain. When we moved down here I was disappointed with the temperatures at first but I’ve come to realise it’s better for gardening. Further east I was often working siesta hours in summer, very rare down here.

  28. Cathy September 2, 2016 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Is this section going to be like painting the Forth Bridge?

    • Jessica September 3, 2016 at 9:11 pm - Reply

      Feels like it doesn’t it. But unlike the Forth Bridge if I can keep on top of it it does get easier each time. The perennial weeds are by far the worst. I know I’m not getting all the bramble roots out, they just break off. But experience elsewhere suggests that if I keep pulling them out as they return they do get weaker eventually.

  29. Rosie September 3, 2016 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    What a lot of hard work! It’s good to get away for a few hours and look for ideas and new plants for your garden. The Rudbekia is a lovely autumnal colour:)

    • Jessica September 3, 2016 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      It is good to have a break. We managed to see a bit of Rosemoor too whilst we were there. The Hot Garden is looking fabulous at the moment.

  30. Sarah September 3, 2016 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    It does look as if you have been hard at work what a difference that makes! I liked the plants you discovered. We went to Holbrook Gardens this week as we came out I bought some plants. My husband told me the plan hadn’t been to buy any plants! Of course that was his plan not mine! Sarah x

    • Jessica September 3, 2016 at 9:17 pm - Reply

      That’s what I love about garden visiting. I’ve a plan to go to the Garden House down here before the end of the month and they have a good plant centre. Picking up plants in odd twos or threes feels like flying under the radar a bit!

  31. Elaine September 3, 2016 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    Wow wow what a difference a lot of hard work but will be worth it in the end when it all fills out, and of course always an excuse to buy lots of plants.

    • Jessica September 3, 2016 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      I’ve left some gaps for future plantings but I can already see the difference where it is filling out further down the bank. Although I did flush out a rabbit last time I was up there and that is not a good sign!

  32. Spade & Dagger September 4, 2016 at 11:32 am - Reply

    Maybe a few terracing gabions or sleepers could help stabilise your slope & stop it becoming even more precipitous from soil loss in wind & rain. (Grudgingly, brambles, although not elegant, are at least good at anchoring surfaces with their dense network of roots & stems!) Slight terracing of the area might also be a little safer for The Gardener too.
    It’s a good job I don’t live near a RHS plant sale – I just wouldn’t be able to resist..!

    • Jessica September 5, 2016 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      Slight terracing is a possibility and a good idea (tree roots make anything more ambitious a difficult task). What I am starting to think about is creating flat maintenance paths through it. Just enough to give me a stable base for climbing but not enough to disrupt the flow of the planting when seen from below.

  33. Jo September 4, 2016 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    Hard work but your efforts are paying dividends, you can see such a difference.

    • Jessica September 5, 2016 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jo. I always think the area looks so insignificant on photos, it’s actually huge!

  34. snowbird September 4, 2016 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    What a difference! Well worth all that hard work!xxxx

    • Jessica September 5, 2016 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      Thanks. ‘Just’ got to keep it clear now!

  35. Chel @ Sweetbriar Dreams September 5, 2016 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Don’t give up! You have both done such an amazing job and the plants are thanking you (some a little bit too much). Thank you so much for the idea of planting an acorn on your comment on my blog! I am going to Greenwich soon and will be looking for an acorn to take home from there 🙂 xx

    • Jessica September 5, 2016 at 10:15 pm - Reply

      That’s a brilliant idea. Then you’ll have a little piece of somewhere that means a lot right in your own back garden!

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