Realism and Rabbit Holes




It didn’t take much to make it feel like autumn. It’s still quite mild in Devon, warm enough to be gardening in a T-shirt, even for a cold blooded creature like me. But shorter daylight hours and decreasing nighttime temperatures have seen bronzy tints appearing in leaves with some even starting to fall.






The bank 069 Wm




I made it to the tree. It may not look much but believe me those brambles took some shifting. And as I’ve probably said many times before, it’s not just the digging, it’s the dragging all the resultant rubbish back up the hill. Not least when it’s wet and slippery as it is now.. the ole’ gardening trousers are, as we speak, in the wash for a second time today. Such were the muddy brown stains on the bum.




The bonfire heap




Hydrangea, astilbes and hardy fuchsias rescued from brambles taller than the plants. The fuchsias have clearly seen better days!






The bank 067 Wm




There are still stumps in the ground from a few scraggy and recently decapitated shrubs but for those I require assistance from He Who Lays Floorboards and his trusty winch. Judging by the squeals of frustration emanating from the house his current task could be going more smoothly and I’m reluctant to create a diversion. The multitude of holes across the bedroom floor does have priority. After all, the foot through the ceiling story we’ve heard before.




Calming Cosmos


Now that it’s so late in the season it may be prudent to revise the way forward with the bank. There’s an 8′ x 8′ section left to do in the latest strip and then as far as further clearing is concerned I’m calling it a day. It makes more sense to spend the time consolidating the work I’ve already done. New weed growth is catching up with me as fast as I move forward and must be knocked on the head before it gets established. Failing to do so was exactly the mistake I made before. Autumn plant sales are upon us too. The more stuff I can get into the ground, the less bare earth. Less space for weeds to grow and less risk of winter erosion.




Hello, hello.. anyone home?




In getting as far as the tree line I’ve also reached a natural break. From this point on the bank becomes increasingly wooded and the nature of the planting will change. It’s really quite exciting. I have dabbled in the shadier parts of the garden before but not with any serious intent. There’s a lot to learn and plenty of time for research during those cold dark winter evenings to come. A re-reading of Beth Chatto’s Woodland Garden will be a good place to start.




Persicaria microcephala ‘Red Dragon’ and Asplenium scolopendrium, the hart’s tongue fern, positively glowing in the low light.




The woodland beyond..

More brambles. Lovely. And beyond them a brand new adversary, Enchanters Nightshade. Circaea lutetiana spreads rapidly via white, cylindrical rhizomes and it’s bloomin’ everywhere. Everything I’ve read suggests it’s easy to uproot but it certainly isn’t here. One thing is clear, if I don’t get out every last bit of brittle root, even the tiniest piece will gleefully resprout.

Oh dear. Oh dear. Does it ever end?


Linking with Helen’s End of Month View at The Patient Gardener.


2017-10-26T10:39:09+00:00September 30th, 2016|Tags: |


  1. karen September 30, 2016 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    Such an exciting challenge. Good luck with your project. I feel like I am right there along side you ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 12:00 pm - Reply

      Thanks Karen. I wish you were here alongside, your knowledge would be gratefully received. Sometimes I wish I’d never started it, it’s a much bigger project than I realised I was taking on. But I have, so the only way is up. Literally!

  2. Diana Studer September 30, 2016 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    weed, plant, yes – it does eventually make a difference!

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 12:07 pm - Reply

      Keeping on top of it is absolutely the key. That and not being overly ambitious. I am trying very hard now to get each new section fully under control before moving on to the next. It means having a planting plan (more or less) so that I can put things in as I go knowing that the end result will work as a whole. Am I confident? No!

  3. justjilluk September 30, 2016 at 9:12 pm - Reply


    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      Cats? To keep the bunnies away do you mean?

  4. wherefivevalleysmeet September 30, 2016 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    The hartโ€™s tongue fern and โ€˜Red Dragonโ€™ compliment one another beautifully – although hard work for you, the bank does appear to be progressing well.

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      The new planting is gradually thickening up but there have been quite a few failures this year too. Paradoxically I’m not sure whether it’s been too wet or too dry. We have had a lot of rain but also part of the irrigation system sprung a leak when the mice nibbled through a pipe so a large section of the bank went without water for a while.

  5. Kris P October 1, 2016 at 4:43 am - Reply

    Much as I’d like to see some rain here, I can’t say I’d be excited about working on un-level ground covered by mud. My hat’s off to you! As to reaching the woodland area, that’s very exciting (if also daunting).

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      No, it’s not easy working on a muddy clay slope. I have made quite a mess of part of it, there are skid lanes and compacted earth where I’ve been climbing up and down. But, especially at this time of year, I have to take my opportunities to get outside when I can. The weather forecast for the next week looks good though. Hopefully I’ll be able to make a bit more progress.

  6. Denise October 1, 2016 at 8:08 am - Reply

    But what would you do if it did all end?

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 2:05 pm - Reply

      Read. Knit. Have less backache.

  7. Vera October 1, 2016 at 8:19 am - Reply

    Your efforts with getting that bank into shape always inspires me to get going on our gardens, not that we have many as most is ‘wild’ flowers, grass, veg plots, and grazing land. But as things are changing for us, it is imperative that I get the front garden and drive tidied up, and then there is the courtyard project. which is raised beds for vegetables intermingled with flowers and shrubs, which is a project I am looking forward to starting work on.

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 2:07 pm - Reply

      Your courtyard sounds like a great project! Good to have veggies close to the house. Ours are too far away, sometimes it’s too much of an effort.

  8. Spade & Dagger October 1, 2016 at 10:12 am - Reply

    I was watching Gardeners World (BBC 2 TV Prog) last night about the mature couple who garden a cliff face in Cornwall – often while suspended from climbing ropes – and thought of your ‘precipitous slope’. For anyone who missed this programme, the couple had created a transport system for compost etc through their garden consisting of large pipes through which all the dry goods were poured down the cliff. While on the other hand, waste material was hauled up the cliff in large builders grab-bags carried sherpa style over their back!

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 2:16 pm - Reply

      I watched that too and did smile in sympathy many a time. They would probably face a harder landing than me though, if the worst were to happen. I also spotted the same winch as we use and, like the presenter, it usually seems to be me doing the levering! A fabulous garden and oh those views.

  9. Torrington Tina October 1, 2016 at 11:13 am - Reply

    Brambles and bindweed have had a romping fit in the past few weeks, and the annual weeds have decided to have a go, too. There almost seems too much to do before winter and Mrs TT has been suffering muddy bottom, even without a slope. Still you have managed to get so much done this year you have inspired me to get out there and get a bit more done, right now, while it is not raining. Autumn plant sales! I have just had the email from Woottens, restraint where art thou?

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 2:19 pm - Reply

      I’ve been meaning to check out Woottens, now seems as good a time as any! The weather forecast for next week looks good, hopefully this will be the last of the muddy bottom for a while?

  10. Indie October 1, 2016 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    Wow, that looks like quite the challenge with such a steep slope! Slowly, but surely, right? I love that hartโ€™s tongue fern. Very pretty!

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      The hart’s tongue fern is everywhere here, I’ve tried to keep most of them on the new bit of bank I’ve cleared. No doubt in time some will make way for more varied planting but for the moment at least they help fill the big gap.

  11. Caro October 1, 2016 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Well done for not spraining your ankle on that rabbit hole and good luck with the weeding. I think you’ve timed it absolutely right and, as you say, the autumn sales are now on!! :o)

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 2:26 pm - Reply

      The rabbit may need to do some work to his front door. Sadly there was a partial collapse when I had to dig out a bramble that was growing above it. I’ve tried to scoop out most of the debris but it used to be a more impressive entrance than it is now!

  12. Jayne Hill October 1, 2016 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    New weed growth is catching up with me as fast as I move forward and must be knocked on the head before it gets established. Failing to do so was the mistake I made before.
    Once again you have penned the words which I wish I had written myself – because that is true, or so very true in gardens as large as ours. Duck Towers is looking splendid and I am, as always, full of admiration for the progress you continue to make.

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 2:29 pm - Reply

      Thanks Jayne. When you garden single handed it is very hard to keep up. The abundant rain and mild, even warm, temperatures of this autumn have provided the perfect conditions for weed growth.

  13. Wendy October 1, 2016 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    I love the persicaria and the fern together in the autumn light. Planning for the new woodland area does sound exciting – I look forward to seeing what you plant! I’m actually a little envious reading about your mud – my ground is still hard, dusty and difficult after weeks of drought.

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 2:33 pm - Reply

      It will be quite significant moving into the woodland. The vast majority of our land is covered by trees and will stay much as it is for the benefit of the wildlife. But I want to create a transition zone to better integrate the garden into the whole.

  14. Linda aka Crafty Gardener October 1, 2016 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    Autumn looks wonderful at Rusty Duck.

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 2:34 pm - Reply

      The leaves are on the turn, the best of the colour is still to come! Thanks Linda.

  15. Chloris October 2, 2016 at 9:04 am - Reply

    Well, there’ s clearly no end to it as you are intent on gardening your way across Devon. And what fun you are having, muddy bottom and all. There is no chance of muddy bottoms here, with no proper rain for weeks. You need a pickaxe to do any gardening.

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 3:39 pm - Reply

      It seems incredible that across the relatively short distance of the width of England we can have such different weather conditions. We have a week of dry weather forecast now. Given the heat still in the sun it should only take a couple of days to dry out. Then I shall be calling to borrow your pickaxe.

  16. Brenda October 2, 2016 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Of course, it never ends! Well, you may have one day, perhaps, of feeling, “it’s all done,” but then it starts again. Better than being dead. I love the hart’s tongue fern.

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      It will never be done. I change my mind too much. Or see a picture in a magazine and instantly want the garden to look just like that. Better than being bored too.

  17. Virginia October 2, 2016 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    You are making progress, aren’t you! We are “over here” (from New Zealand) and going to Greenway tomorrow, taking the ferry across with the car – carpark booked, and super excited! We hope to manage a cruise up the Dart too, but that might push the timing just a tad. We are doing Coleton Fishacre the next day! Thank you for your suggestions.

    • Jessica October 2, 2016 at 6:31 pm - Reply

      Whoo hoo! I remember you saying a long time ago that you were planning this trip. I’m glad it came off. Have a great time. The weather is supposed to be good this week too (for us!).

  18. stephanie young October 2, 2016 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    nope! it really never does end!!!

    • Jessica October 3, 2016 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      At least the ‘done’ bits will get easier? Let’s hope.

  19. CherryPie October 3, 2016 at 12:12 am - Reply

    It is looking good ๐Ÿ™‚

    We were working on our more modest garden improvements earlier today…

    • Jessica October 3, 2016 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks. It is good when you feel you’re achieving something isn’t it?

  20. Linda from Each Little World October 3, 2016 at 3:18 am - Reply

    It ends; it’s just that something new always arises to take its place!

    • Jessica October 3, 2016 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      Too true!

  21. germac4 October 4, 2016 at 7:29 am - Reply

    Well, what a lot of progress you’ve made, and considering you are doing a mountain of work inside and out! I hope you can celebrate by going out and buying more plants!
    I don’t seem to get your blog posts by email at the moment, but luckily I picked it up on FB….I’ll re-subscribe.

    • Jessica October 7, 2016 at 7:07 pm - Reply

      No need to resubscribe Gerrie, there’s a glitch with WordPress. Much to my surprise though the latest post notifications did go out.. hopefully it is working again now ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Pam October 4, 2016 at 7:36 am - Reply

    A real challenge, I can see that, but oh the joy of having such a wonderful garden! Shame about the brambles but I know you’ll win in the end xx

    • Jessica October 7, 2016 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      Sometimes a (too) big garden is more of a millstone than a joy. There are plenty more brambles to come but I’ve called a halt for this year. My fingers need time to recover!

  23. Hoe hoe grow October 4, 2016 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Intrepid as always Jessica! I love to read about your ongoing battles with Mother Nature – only one winner there, as every gardener knows! Your Persicaria really is glowing very beautifully, and what a gorgeous plant it is. It is my first year growing it and I have really enjoyed it. I also have ‘Painter’s Palette’ which is cream/ red/ green and very lovely too.

    • Jessica October 7, 2016 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      Perhaps I should only whisper it but Persicaria does seem to be an almost can’t fail plant. Nothing seems to eat it and as long as it gets enough water it comes back robustly every year. Maybe even too robustly. I bought ‘Painter’s Palette’ just this year, it is lovely.

  24. sadasilva October 4, 2016 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    A labour of love. And…like painting the Sydney Harbour bridge when you are finished it will be time to begin again..????
    Our garden is miniscule in comparison to yours, and I struggle with staying ahead of the weeds etc. I admire your fortitude..xx

    • Jessica October 7, 2016 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      Staying ahead of the weeds is a full time job in any garden. I took to hoeing this year and it worked really well, for the annual weeds anyway. The resprouting brambles are quite another story!

  25. annie_h October 5, 2016 at 9:40 am - Reply

    Going to be a nice autumn/winter researching the woodland planting for your garden. You are winning the battle with your brambles, I love the shiny ferns such a feature of Devon as well. Enjoy the rest of this autumn sunshine.

    • Jessica October 7, 2016 at 7:21 pm - Reply

      It is going to be fun researching woodland plants, a whole new area for me really. But I’ve planted up most of the sunny areas now, so nowhere else to go!

  26. smallsunnygarden October 5, 2016 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    It’s going to be exciting to have a Real Woodland to garden in – challenging, no doubt, but what’s new…? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Your August to September pictures are quite impressive. Speaking of which, I must get out to the tumbleweed patch and do some clearing… Looking forward to hearing about the floorboards ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jessica October 7, 2016 at 7:25 pm - Reply

      Thanks Amy. I’m intrigued by the tumbleweed patch!

  27. Sarah October 6, 2016 at 7:00 am - Reply

    It can be hard work dealing with rambles without the slope too! You have made amazing progress. It is quite different gardening in deeper shade, some plants which usually take over just won’t grow there. That is a beautiful combination of plants the red and green in the autumn light looks amazing! Sarah x

    • Jessica October 7, 2016 at 7:28 pm - Reply

      It’s interesting how the nature of the things that grow does change in deep shade, even the weeds. Enchanter’s nightshade seems only to thrive deep in the woodland and there’s a clear line over which it does not pass.

  28. Seagull Suzie October 6, 2016 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Love the Red Admiral image-we had a few last weekend, but with all this bad weather, everything has gone to ground.

    • Jessica October 7, 2016 at 7:31 pm - Reply

      Yes, same here. Amazing how quickly Autumn has arrived over this last week. The jumpers and fleeces are out again.

  29. Sue October 7, 2016 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    It never ends does it.

    We have yet to venture into our woodland …. I have the feeling we will wait for the pigs and goats to do much of the work for us, and just claim a little bit near the house as ours to manage properly ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jessica October 7, 2016 at 7:34 pm - Reply

      The pigs and goats will make short work of it I’m sure. I watched a pair of Gloucester Old Spot clear a field of brambles while we were renting that cottage on a farm.. they left absolutely nothing behind!

  30. Island Threads October 9, 2016 at 9:01 am - Reply

    sorry but all I could think when I saw your second photo was ‘oh how lucky/lovely all those wonderful self sown harts tongue ferns, one reward you seen to have after your hard work of clearing is that there are at least some nice plants there too, they give a sort of backbone for you to work from, you couldn’t plant that lovely natural self seeded distribution of ferns, I have been struggling to keep just one alive, and it might be of interest to you when choosing accompanying plants that I found out on researching harts tongue that unlike most ferns which prefer an acid damp soil, harts tongue prefers neutral to alkaline (which is why mine has struggled) and a drier soil (again why mine has struggled), which gives you a very broad selection of plants to chose from, oh happy times, it is such a wonderful feeling when you eventually clear a piece of ground and can chose plants,

    did you get to Beth Chattos? if not her woodland is on low flat ground more like down near your river/stream, her sloping areas (and there aren’t many) are short slopes in full sun, so quite different from your slope, just thought I say so you can consider this when reading, thank for your message on my blog, much appreciated, Frances x

    • Jessica October 9, 2016 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      In theory the harts tongue fern shouldn’t do so well here then either. Soil is on the acid side of neutral. But on the hill, in summer, the soil does get very dry between the rain showers so maybe that’s it. I shall be thinning them out a bit as I plant, have already started, as I don’t want a monoculture. But groups of them scattered about do look good. The large bright leaves provide good contrast to other perennials, especially the purple leaved ones like the Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’.
      I’ve never seen Beth Chatto’s garden, it’s so far away. But if we are ever that far east it will be top of my list.

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