Driftwood by Sea

New Year, new plans for Driftwood by sea

Can you believe, it’s another new year 2022. The years seem to be flying by, or is it me just getting older, gosh, 69 this year, it doesn’t bear thinking about! So, what are my New Year’s resolutions from a gardening perspective? Well I’ve got lots of projects planned for this season.

Sunken garden

Gardening certainly does not come any easier the older I get. Driftwood has a north facing back garden that slopes up away from the house. With a pair of dodgy knees, that will need replacing before too much longer, last Autumn, I commissioned a local landscaper to bring to life my vision of a more open plan, level, drought resistant area of the garden. This year will see me finish what they started. The back of the house was a haven for hundreds of containers with flowering shrubs and summer annuals. The only problem was that it was so labour/time intensive to keep it at its best. The new area will be planted with drought tolerant shrubs and will be used as a plant theatre for my ever-growing collection of succulents, all over-wintered in the heated greenhouse or house porch. The use of old railway sleepers on end, as opposed to laying horizontally, create much interest in themselves, as well as the stunning Indian sandstone circle with cobbled edge. Watch this space this summer to see the full result.

Automatic watering

I had to lift some of the carefully positioned feed pipes in my automatic garden watering system for the new area to be created. Now that the project is complete, the area is ready to be colonised again, so, this spring I will be aligning the system to the new layout. Automatic watering is a great way to save time and energy providing you have sufficient pressure in the flow from your outdoor tap. My system has been created with 3 separate circuits around the garden that operate alternatively to maximise the pressure. Fortunately, the core half-inch feed simply needs extending or re-routing once the final positions of the new containers are established so that they are each fed by the system. I took great care to plan what I wanted before the redesign, to ensure pipes could be laid under paving if needed.

Plant reutilisation

Driftwood by Sea
Plants and shrubs were dug up and placed in containers to be re-utilised elsewhere. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

In preparing to have the excavation of the sunken garden, it was necessary to dig up many plants and shrubs from the ground, raised beds and large containers. I stacked them all up around the plot and now I have to ensure that I can find homes for them all in the new layout. I’m not keen to lose any. Some of the camellias came with me from my house in London, back in 2004, and I’m keen to make sure they have a new home for 2022. I was very careful when digging them up, trying hard not to damage the roots. I bought some large lightweight containers in which to plant them, temporarily, and to make them easier to move around until they found their forever home again.

Maintaining garden interest

Driftwood by Sea
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

As part of my desire to ease the burden of opening the garden to the public by simplifying the layout and complexity of planting, it still has to have the wow factor. The many containers packed to the gunnels with annuals, creating vast canopies of colour, are taking a back seat. The weather over the last few years has tended to beat them down and there is nothing worse than a soggy petunia!

The challenge this spring will be to create interest from the amazing sculpture in the garden and to create mini vistas that catch visitors’ eye as they wander around. I already have a lot of sculptural rusty metal and it will go so well with the new bank of up-ended railway sleepers.

The use of specimen palms and shrubs that had disappeared into the previous layout will now come into their own and be appreciated. This gorgeous fuchsia, that belonged to my father, has always faded into the mix of other plants, this summer it will look extra special on its own at the top of the garden.

Driftwood by Sea
This fuchsia ‘Empress of Prussia’ will have its own spot at the top of the garden. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Rethinking the pond area

The main area to position my summer annuals this year will be in the containers around the pond. I will probably focus on geraniums as they are more drought tolerant and I plan to use a combination of upright and trailing pelargoniums to create an interwoven tapestry of plants. In previous years I’ve used mainly petunias, calibrachoa and pansies to name but three. They worked really well together, but, as I mentioned above heavy rain just flattens the canopy and they take quite a while to recover, subsequently spoiling the effect. I am hoping that moving over to geraniums will help that and create the required impact as visitors enter the garden.

Driftwood by Sea
The main area for positioning the summer annuals will be around the pond. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Read more of Geoff’s garden at www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk

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