Recently I was cataloguing my gardening photos I noticed how my garden has changed over the years and similarly how the same views change over the seasons.
This got me to thinking of writing a blog about these changes.
Like many gardeners I have strived for many years to improve the visual look of my garden and although I have it pretty much as I want it, I inevitably find that most years I alter it in some way.
The nature of these alterations could just be me moving a structural plant from here to there, or adding new plants and / or adding some new hard landscaping, in fact it could be all of these.
Because of this I am now convinced that I will never reach what I am trying to achieve simply because I do not know what I want to achieve, and it is this uncertainty that makes gardening the pleasure it is.
I took this garden on around forty five years ago and as mentioned above, I have made many changes over the intervening years.
Trouble is in the early years I did not take many pictures of my garden and as a consequence I have very few pictures prior to the year 2000.
The few that I did have were undated prints so I have scanned these and made a guess as to when they were taken in order to create a before and after situation.
Now to the blog.
Firstly a few things about the gardens location and size:
My garden is in West Yorkshire and is situated on the side of one of the Pennine hills at an altitude of around 160m (525ft) above sea level.
The total area of my rectangular plot is around 325 square metres where approximately 225 square metres (70%) is garden.
The garden slopes down approximately 2metres from the back to the front,or put another way from south to north.
The sandy topsoil lies on a bed of Yorkshire grit stone and was initially about 250mm deep, but now after many years of cultivation it is now about 400mm deep.
This additional depth was achieved by forming a series of flatish terraces held back with 5 or 6 low retaining walls.
The following two photos give a panoramic view of the front and back gardens in the year 2015.
As you can see from the pictures my garden is laid out into various areas and these are filled with various annual and perennials.
In writing this 'blog' I thought I would take each area in turn and display both the seasonal and physical changes that have taken place.
In doing so I plan on taking you on a virtual tour from the point of entry at the foot of the drive and taking in the front garden, then move on round to the back garden and do the same.
The Front Garden
The most obvious changes I have made since 1997 was to remove the Pine tree at top of the drive,change the planters, plant a Juniper hedge on the east boundary and a Lonicera hedge on the west boundary plus I inserted an island bed in the lawn.
Click on thumbnails to enlarge
Narrow Borders either side of Drive
As mentioned above I planted a Lonicera hedge on the west boundary, this can be seen in the in the picture dated September 2012.
The snow covered Berberis in the picture dated February 2013 covers the stump of the Pine tree.
Front boundary border
This bed is filled with perennial plants and has pretty much remained the same over the years.
This bed is full of spring bulbs such as Snowdrops, Crocus, Daffodils and tulips which come up annually then are followed by mixed bedding plants which can vary from year to year.
The planters in the front garden are planted out for seasonal effect with Snowdrops, Crocus, Daffodils and Tulips appearing in Spring then in late spring / early summer they are planted up with a mixture of annual bedding plants.
These beds have proved somewhat troublesome over the years simply because they only get a little morning sunshine and spend the remainder of the day in shade.
As with other parts of the garden, I planted these beds out with various spring flowering bulbs, then experimented with things such as Hemerocallis and Iris siberica.
The latter flowered quite well but they seemed to produce a lot of leaves at the expense of flowers so I moved them and filled the bed with perennials that could tolerate shade.
I found summer and winter flowering Heathers, backed with various coloured Hellebores and Hydrangea 'Annabelle' seemed to work quite well, and gave some colour for most of the year round.
That is more or less the story of the Front Garden now onto the Back Garden:
The Back Garden
On entering the back garden you are faced with my Rockery and Patio area.
As mentioned above I have created some retaining walls and one of these affects the rockery.
When I inherited the Rockery it sloped quite steeply and this tended to cause some erosion so reducing the slope was a priority.
When I extended the house this necessitated excavating into the natural slope of the land so I built a retaining wall approximately 600mm (2ft) high right across the width of the garden, including the area occupied by the rockery.
This allowed me to make the area above it much flatter.
This also created a flat area that I paved and used as a sitting area.
Steps up into Garden
The Sitting Area
Over the years this area has changed many times.
In the early years I adorned the area with containerised plants and planters, and on the walls I hung wall baskets.
Nowadays it is an alfresco sitting area.
The rockery was initially planted out with dwarf conifers and heathers, these have now been replaced with seasonal perennials such as spring bulbs and various low growing alpine plants.
My previous neighbour planted a leylandii hedge behind the rockery and this tended to create lots of afternoon shade,thankfully my new neighbour removed the hedge in 2014 and replaced it with a pallisade fence which allows much more light into the rockery, and the sitting area.
This area is somewhat confined but is of sufficient size to decorate with a number of containerised plants that we can view from our conservatory.
Planters & Wallbaskets
Although my containerised plants are generally displayed on my patio I have a couple of chimney pot planters that I periodically move around the back garden, plus I like to display a few wall baskets on walls and fences around the back garden.
This area has not always been a shrubbery, prior to its current layout out I treated it as a Spring & Summer garden where I had various types of spring flowering bulbs that were followed by annual bedding plants.
The principle reason for the change was to reduce the labour intensity as was the case when producing bedding plants.
In 2010 I lost about 25% of the bedding plants I had produced due to poor quality potting compost.
Coincidently this was around the time that a lot of emphasis was put on producing / using 'Peat free' or 'Peat Reduced' potting composts.
During the transition from 'Peat based' products to Peat reduced/free products, a lot of what was being sold as 'Potting Compost' left a lot to be desired as producers experimented with new recipes using recycled materials in lieu of peat.
Similarly costs started to escalate so producing my own bedding plants, particularly the amount I produced, became relatively expensive so I considered turn these 'annual' beds into 'perennial' beds, but still keeping the spring bulbs.
When considering this change I made myself a list of potential shrubs that I thought would create all year round interest without growing too large for the area being planted.
I then purchased around a couple of dozen plants that were either flowering, herabaceous or evergreen types, and planted them out.
Generally speaking most of the plants I had planted looked quite well in there designated positions but there were the odd one or two that had to be swapped around to suit the effect I had in mind.
Four years on I think I have the layout pretty much as I want it but as I mentioned in my introduction:
"I am now convinced that I will never reach what I am trying to achieve simply because I do not know what I want to achieve"
Meaning! It would not surprise me if I make some more plant changes in the not too distant future.
Like the shrubbery, this bed has changed from spring bulbs and annuals to a mixture of herbaceous and evergreen shrubs and a few annuals.
The shrubs selected were under planted with spring bulbs to give 'all the year round interest'
I left the two established Apple trees and one Pear tree in place as a backdrop to the bed and to soften the hard visual effect of the pallisade fencing.
Pre - 2007
The lawn has certainly passed the tests of time, it is a place where my children played their rough and tumble games and now my grandchildren are doing the same.
OK it is not of bowling green quality but it is certainly durable, add to this it requires minimal maintenance.
Maintainance generally amounts to regular mowing and a good raking in spring to remove any thatch / moss that may have developed over the winter months.
The Back Border.
This border is situated under the shrubs and trees my neighbours have planted on their property boundaries, this fact in itself is not a problem as the colours and effect they create give a nice backdrop to my garden.
The main problem I have is that these shrubs and trees create a situation where the border apart from a few hours in the morning, is in permanent shade for most of the day.
I have tried many combination of plants over the years to try and develop this border but had minimal success.
I am finding that spring bulbs that bloom in the earlier part of the year work quite well, but for the remainder of the year I feel I will still have to carry on experimenting.
This border is just what it is, a border to demarcate the lawn from the footpath.
This bed is in full sun for most of the day and I have found that Mesembryanthemums are the ideal plant for this bed.
At times when I have grown taller plants I found that the children tended to knock them over when they were playing on the lawn.
A few years ago I relented a little on the height of the plants I grow in this bed and added some dwarf Narcissus and Crocus to give some colour to the bed in Spring.
This electrically heated 3m x 2.4m (10' x 8') greenhouse is primarily used as a propagating house and for over wintering plants that will not tolerate out door temperatures during the winter months.
What I have found is that as with the back border, this area is being shaded by the shrubs and trees in neighbouring gardens.
When I first erected the greenhouse this was not a problem because the trees and shrubs were not quite as high as they are now, but now they have matured to the height the neighbours want them, sadly I have to contend with the situation.
Luckily I have another three greenhouses on my allotment so I grow all my greenhouse crops in these.
A few years after I erected the greenhouse and realising it would never ever be anything else other than a propagating house, I decided to erect a screen so that it could not be viewed from the house.
I then set about planting a few Clematis plants that flowered at different times of the year to give an 'all year round' coloured screen.
I also planted a Magnolia that flowers before the Clematis to extend the screens floral interest over the early part of the year.
I erected a second trellis fence on my other garden boundary in front of my neighbours Leylandii hedge, and here I planted a few climbing plants and shrubs to break up the dull appearance of the Leylandii hedge.
This is another bed I have turned into a 'perennial' bed and it is filled mainly with winter and summer flowering heathers and a few ground cover plants, such as Aubretia and Persicaria to hang over the concrete kerb, a few dark leafed Heuchera and Ophiopogon to add a little contrast, plus a Dierama to give a little height to the bed.
Because of the amount of propagating I had to do in the past I had to invest in a few coldframes to harden the plants off prior to planting out.
May Pre 2007
Views from my back door
A thing I like to do on a regular basis is to either stand in the doorway of the house or sit in the conservatory and survey my back garden choose what the weather is, as you can see here:
...............and that concludes your virtual tour around my garden over the last eight or more years.