Home My garden Gardening quick fixes: hiding disaster areas

Gardening quick fixes: hiding disaster areas

geranium Echium
Pink scented geranium Clorinda along the path edge with large collapsing Echium in background

Mandy, stop being so bloody melodramatic

Always a drama queen…

Once we get into the second half of August, I always develop a wistful air that summer’s on the way out. There’s something bittersweet about watching the landscape change.

With our house perched halfway up the hill in Gateshead looking west, I can see over the Team Valley to the fields and woods of the Ravensworth Estate beyond, watching the fields get progressively yellower as harvest approaches.

Doing a Bobby Charlton – canna hiding a bald spot

Every year, after these thoughts, I give myself an almighty rhetorical slap. It’s as if the gardening journey’s more important to me than sitting looking at the end result.

Late August shows up bad planning in the garden or earlier summer disasters. That’s why I’m such a fan of growing dramatic plants in large pots. It’s the equivalent of the ‘gardening comb-over’ – hide any bald patches with geraniums, cannas, etc.

A large canna is at the moment sitting in the hole where giant hosta Empress Wu should be if she hadn’t been mauled to shreds by snails.

Scented geraniums are good in so many ways and will tolerate more shade than zonals or the ivy-leaved type. There’s a couple of pots filling gaps next to the path opposite the huge lavender, so you get a double burst of fragrance when you brush past.

Greenhouse tomatoes
Greenhouse tomatoes

Also on the bright side, the greenhouse tomatoes are starting to ripen and we’re in for a glut.

The conservatory plants are always first and we’ve had a steady stream of fruit from them, the best-tasting being Suncherry Smile and Sunchocola.

It’s time to say goodbye to the last flowering Echium pininana Blue Steeple, which has kept going for over two months. Of course, it’s set seeds everywhere, but considering how I used to mollycoddle them, that’s no bad thing.

This year’s babies, well, aren’t babies anymore. E. wildpretii, E. fastuosum, E. fastuosum Blue Dwarf and E. Red Rocket are whoppers already – I’ve had to repot some that were already in small tubs.

Repotting rampant Echiums

The real problem patch this year (and one which I’ll be tackling in autumn/winter) is the fruit/veg raised beds and the opposite apple tree bed.

It’s my own fault – I squeezed in three 2x1m beds when I should have had two, leaving myself no room to get alongside them – or reach the water butt on the other side.

One bed is overflowing with strawberries and gooseberries and they need to be thinned and replanted.

Raised beds
Shambolic raised beds with no space between them – learn from my mistakes, folks

My basic plan is to double the height of the beds, but move them so they’re easier to access. Hard work but straightforward.

The bigger problem is the apple tree. It’s beyond redemption and needs to come down, along with the collapsed rambling rose arch next to it.

It will, however, open up that area, which has never been a great success.

It’s going to be a busy ‘off season’…

Previous articleChelsea pensioners name sweet pea
Next articleOnline gardening course with Piet Oudolf
Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.