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Right plant, right place: THE gardening rule to follow

The uncleared bed, January 3
The uncleared bed, January 3

Blog: A good time to dig up and replant borders…

My plan this winter and spring is to redo part of the long bed that runs along half the length of my garden next to the hedge.

If ever you want to replant areas of your garden, this is a good time to do it. Evergreen and deciduous shrubs, even small trees can be moved successfully in their dormant state, as long as the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged.

The winter’s been mild so far and we’ve been pretty much dry here since Boxing Day, allowing me to get out and get digging.

The problem with the border is that as my largest growing area, any individual plants I’ve trialled over the years have been plonked here, leading to ‘mish-mash’ patchwork effect I’m deeply unhappy with.

Here’s how it’s going so far…

Rescuing an aged clump of daylilies

The previous owner of the house planted what looked like weedy looking grassy leaves under the hedge, in a shady, dry, totally inhospitable spot. They’d been there at least 35 years.

It was only when I rescued another small clump a few years back that I realised they were orange daylilies, only they had never flowered because of their terrible positioning.

As the RHS guide says: “They bring a valuable splash of fiery colour to sunny borders with free-draining soil” – quite the opposite to their shady clay quarters.

I’ve now dug up the rest and potted them up to grow on for a bit and will plant them out in the spring.

Chaenomeles Jet Trail
Chaenomeles Jet Trail won’t be swamped by the ornamental rhubarb any more

Moving badly placed shrubs

I planted a Chaenomeles x superba Jet Trail (Japanese quince) several years ago and its white flowers are lovely but it looks wrong at the front of a border, as it is far too floppy.

After a swift removal, it now lives in a sizeable tub next to bamboo Fargesia Pingwu, forming an honour guard with Chaenomeles japonica, the orange-red flowered variety.

The ornamental plum in 2015
The ornamental plum in 2015

Replacing a dodgy tree

The bed was also home to ‘Vanessa’s tree’, a small purple-leaved ornamental plum planted just after she was born (nearly 28 years ago). It’s never been a healthy specimen (the tree, not Vanessa) and really wasn’t earning its keep.

It proved ridiculously easy to dig out, so I don’t feel too bad in turfing it. I can’t get rid of a tree without planting a new one so that honour goes to Acer Shirasawanum Jordan, the Full Moon Acer.

The foliage emerges with orange edges, changing to bright yellow during the summer with red seeds that push up above the leaves. In autumn, there are brilliant reds and oranges to look forward to, with grey bark in winter.

Drooping Lysimachia and Campanula carpatica
Drooping Lysimachia and Campanula carpatica in a dry spell, July 2013

Getting rid of invasive plants

This whole end of the border was constantly being swamped by the invasive Campanula carpatica and Lysimachia. They’re great for ground cover or if you don’t have much time for gardening but will smother anything weaker than them, so it’s time for them to go.

Despite sieving the soil, any tiny bit left will root, so I’m expecting to go back over it with a fine-tooth comb.

Planning ahead…

The area under the new Acer is very shady so I’ve invested in three ferns, Dryopteris and Asplenium to act as minimalistic ground cover.

I’m keeping the ornamental rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) where it is, as I hurt my wrist so badly dividing it last time, it’s earned its right to that spot!

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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.

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