In life, it is always interesting to get a different perspective on something.

Recently I was able to get a view of my garden from one of the readers of this blog when Bobbie and Ron Gratz, whose garden is featured in the Dogs and their Gardens section of the site, came to visit.

Some of Bobbie’s photos are quite similar to ones that I have taken, but it was really interesting to see what caught her eye as she wandered around on a November morning.

I love this picture of the trellis around the pond with the rose and clematis that adorn it starting to change colour.  The blue of the post works so well with the blue sky, but this is a picture I would never have thought to take.

I love these frogs playing leapfrog – although some visitors are not always sure what they are doing – it depends on the angle they are viewed from.  I bought them in US and have never seen anything similar in UK.   I love the moss growing between the slabs that form the seat around the edge of the raised pond that is now their home.  I usually get rid of the moss whenever I pressure wash, despite wondering on many occasions whether I should leave it.  Maybe next time I will see if I can get the slabs clean whilst preserving the moss.

When I looked at this photo, I was really flummoxed.  I couldn’t think of where it could be – I don’t have a wooden bench anywhere in the garden.  I looked at the picture again and again and then I noticed the trellis in the background.  There is only one place in the garden where I have that sort of trellis.  I suddenly realised where the photo was taken.  Turned through 90°, the picture is a sideways on view of one of my Trachelospermum growing to create a green window.

We had to have a photo with one of the dogs.  Here, Bobby has managed to get a feel of the garden from their perspective .  There is no doubt that this photo is taken outdoors and yet the garden is almost irrelevant to the story.  Far more important is the mission that Ruby is on – if only we could read her mind.

Thank you, Bobby, for introducing me to a new perspective on my garden.  Through your fresh eyes, I now have a whole new view of my outdoor space.

Hi Finuala

I’m getting hung up on wanting the fence to be broken up in winter by something evergreen.

The climbing shrubs from the RHS plant finder I like are:

Mutisia decurrens
Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’
Holboellia coriacea

Do any of these make you want to run away screaming?! I also remember you mentioned some listed as evergreen weren’t true evergreens but can’t remember which.

I am seriously liking bamboo, and some of the grasses. I’ve never grown either before. The bamboos seem to have large spreads. Do you have any? Do you think I could manage the spread of bamboo given my narrow planting width?



Hi Debbie

The Mutisia decurrens may be hard to get hold of as the Plant Finder says it was last listed in 2005 :(.  The Lonicera looks v nice, but I thought you didn’t like Honeysuckle :).  I love the look of Holboellia coriacea, I think I may have to try that myself – now where can I put it ???

What I was trying to say about evergreens is that although they keep their leaves in the winter, the leaves have to drop off at some point.  This means that particularly the ones with larger leaves can look a bit scruffy during the year as each leaf slowly dies off – make sense?

Yep, the problem with bamboos is the spread.  I don’t have any, but I have thought about them.  That planting width isn’t that narrow really and they could, in time, make a real jungle along there.  They would certainly hide the fence, but might make the area feel a little claustrophobic in time.  What you could do is put a barrier in the ground to try to control their spread.  This site seems to have some good advice on them.  Also, bamboos seem to suffer from wind damage – how windy is it down that side of the conservatory?  Another thing to consider is aspect – this page  seems to suggest that they need sun.


Now I had Debbie’s brief and pictures of the garden, we needed to talk.  We spent a very happy hour chatting about the garden.

The first job that Debbie has to do is get a soil testing kit and determine whether her soil is acidic or alkaline as this will have a great impact on the sorts of plants she will be able to grow.  Unfortunately she couldn’t think of any plants in the neighbourhood that would give us a quick indication (like hydrangeas which, despite the variety, tend to be blue in acidic soil and pink in alkaline.  The good news is that she lives in an agricultural area and the ground is very fertile, with a clay base.

Area A

Area A

The area by the conservatory is the first one that Debbie wants to work on.  It has changed slightly since the photo was taken as the ground between the fence and the path now has been covered with top soil. 

I felt that the first thing that we had to discuss was Debbie’s comment that she didn’t like climbers as that fence is just crying out to be covered with plants.   I tend not to like bare fences at the best of times, but in this case it is so close to the conservatory that the fence really has to provide an interesting view.

It turned out that Debbie’s key dislike was for plants such as ivy, honeysuckle and clematis, so I suggested that she might want to consider wall shrubs instead.  The one that immediately came to mind for a north facing situation like this was Chaenomeles (the Japanese Quince).  I have previously fan trained these on a fence and they have such pretty flowers in late winter or early spring when we all need cheering up, and then in the summer their deep green leaves provide a lovely backdrop for other plants.  Debbie liked this plant, and as it turned out, had previously contemplated fan training an apple tree.

Now that we had established that Debbie was happy to consider plants on the fence, we had to look at a few other options.  For this, we went to the RHS Plant Selector.  You are able to select a wide variety of features that you want.  As we were looking for plants that would take a north facing aspect, we didn’t make too many selections as not many plants are happy in such a location and we didn’t want to restrict our options too much.  

Once Debbie had an idea of wall shrubs, we moved on to take a look at giving the bed structure.  Whilst the wall shrubs would provide a backdrop, there needs to be more interest at different heights.  To get her thinking, I suggested Miscanthus to give height and winter interest and hardy Geraniums which are the most wonderful robust plants (perfect for dog lovers).

Next, we turned our attention to the short bit of the “L” at the back of the conservatory.  I felt that unless Debbie put some interest into that area, it could quite easily become a wasted space  with no reason to go there.  However since it will be easily seen from the conservatory, it needs to provide interest.  Debbie’s mention of herbs in her original mail made me think of a herb garden here.  I plant my herbs in pots to avoid any “dog contamination”, but Debbie has the space here to put in raised beds if she wants.  We also realised that the fence at the back of this little sun trap is south facing and could be very suitable for some fruit, maybe peaches or apricots.  Since it is so close to the house, it would be very easy to pop out at night and protect the fruit if a frost were forcast.

The more we talked, the more I could feel Debbie becoming like a child in a sweet shop – she just wanted to go exploring the plants :).  But there was one other tool that I wanted to introduce Debbie to and that was the RHS Plant Finder.  Rather than going to your local garden center and having a small selection of any type of plant, why not use a specialist nursery.  The Plant Finder helps you track down growers all over the country and also provides details of mail order suppliers – a wonderful resource.

So now I will wait for the next installment from Debbie as to how she gets on with her garden.