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divide .. and conquer

Posted Aug 15 2012 3:40am
It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. In the garden, bare soil is a 'vacuum' that will be filled by weeds if we don't take the initiative and fill the bare ground with useful plants ourselves. At this early stage of developing the Cordwood gardens, beating weed growth has become a waking thought. We have spent most of the summer trying to get back to the sate of orderliness we had achieved in mid July. Of course, this is nothing new and the great William Robinson told us that we should be 'covering the whole surface with free flowing hardy plants and of dwarf Evergreens' (The Wild Garden 1870).  So ground cover is what we need.

At Beth Chatto's garden (as in all good gardens) we saw effective use made of ground cover. Pictured we see a lovely mosaic of foliage with Gunnera prorepens at the centre flanked by Bergenias, marjoram, geraniums and tiarellas. We have bare ground and no budget for landscaping - but nature wants to give us a hand.

Gardeners should always look at what is growing in their locality for inspiration when planting their own gardens.

We have a small, but dense patch of violas that have established themselves beneath Scots Pines. They have dark, purple flowers in spring. Unblemished by slug damage, no weeds can squeeze beneath their tightly growing, erect and glossy leaves. If they can do well in the dry, acid conditions they find beneath the pines, surely they will flourish in other similar areas of the garden and become perfect ground cover plants?

So, as well as lifting and planting these, we also spotted violas (Viola sororia 'Dark Freckles') for sale on our visit to RHS Hyde Hall. £3.99 a pot, but when I took the plants from the pot, I was able to tease out ten plants which have now been planted in small groups in the Woodland Garden.

This 'lift and separate' philosophy has been used with clumps of tiarellas, geraniums, bergenias and symphyums as we have tried to provide an understory of ground cover plants in the developing Cedar walk. We have also been very successful in raising Deschampsia cespitosa grass. All of these have been planted in large drifts having first given the ravenous planting holes a healthy mouthful of well-rotted garden compost.

With luck, the new plants will have a couple of months to establish themselves before autumn sets in.

Rain has been promised for several days. I am hoping that we get the forecast heavy showers today to give them a good watering in.


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