My Secret Garden

We bought our house so that Beanie and Biggles could have a big garden to play in. It’s their garden and we aren’t planning on doing anything that will spoil it for them. We’ve got a nice patio at the top with a few climbers and tubs but the lawn area is just a huge open space with a tree to run around and a big play kennel.

We fenced off the burn at the bottom of the garden to keep Beanie and Biggles safe (and contained!). There’s a little plot of around 20 metres by 2 metres along the bank of the burn behind the fence. I think there’s a huge amount of scope to turn it into a pretty little secret garden. Unfortunately I’m not a gardner so I’m struggling a bit to figure out where to start! I’ll post up a few pictures here and my rough plans – if anyone can offer any advice it would be very welcome!

Firstly, here are a couple of pictures taken from inside the garden:

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When we moved in during the winter the river bank was just neat, short grass and a single hawthorn tree. In spring I planted a couple of clematis, a rambling rose and a honeysuckle against the fence. I figured it would grow over the fence and look lovely from inside the main garden. Up until mid-May we were strimming the grass behind the fence every time we cut the lawn so it was still nice and neat back there. Take a peak through the gate and see what’s out there now!

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It seems that those lovely pink flowers growing everywhere are in fact a menace that need to be eradicated. It’s called Himalayan Balsam – an annual that crowds out native wildflowers. When it dies back in the winter the ground is left bare and vulnerable to errosion. As it’s growing along the length of the burn there’s not much I can do to erradicate it from my garden…other than pulling it up by hand as it grows again in the spring.

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The little plot of land by the burn is 20 metres wide and between 2 and 2.5 metres wide (the burn winds a little so it’s not a straight edge). Also the burn floods a little in the winter when there’s heavy rainfall. So there’s a lower ‘shelf’ or step down to the burn in the summer. My rough plan is to plant flood tollerant wild flowers on the very edge of the burn, lots of wild flowers either end of the strip of land and a nice mowed area in the middle to sit. Hopefully my climbers are still alive under all that balsam so the fence will be covered in pretty flowers.

I know I can buy wild flower seeds and plugs (small wildflower plants) online. But when to get them? I could clear the ground now and sow seeds, but the problem is that lots of weeds (and the balsam) will come up in the spring and will need pulling. I won’t know the difference between the weeds and my wild flowers. Another option is to cut everything back now and then plant little clusters of plugs – in the spring I can then pull out anything that looks different from my little plants. Or do I cut everything back now and wait for Spring to plant?

And finally, as the Himalyan Balsam is so pretty and so tall would there be any harm in keeping a little bit either side of my little strip of river bank? After all, it’s growing everywhere else so the seeds will be coming into my garden no matter what I do.

A few hundred yards along the burn it flows under the old railway bridge. The railway line has since been turned into a cycle path/footpath. It’s one of our regular dog walks. At this time of year it is absolutely stunning – there must be at least 30 varieties of wildflower growing along side the pathway. Pink, blue, yellow, white, purple, orange – all colours of the rainbow. And ranging in height from several feet to ground hugging flowers. I’ll get some photos tomorrow. If I can recreate that in my little secret garden I’ll be very happy.

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