When a solution resolves two problems at the same time

or how I came to finally love my front garden.

or 'be careful what you wish for'

or when you start a garden project and it unleashes nearly as many problems as Pandora's pithos.

I shall start at the beginning.  I moved into this house five years ago (2007), at this point the front garden looked like this:
It was quite nice and neat really and certainly easy to maintain.  Everyone cut across the grass rather than sticking to the path and whilst this in itself did not worry me too much, it was a bit irritating.  So I hatched a grand plan, I decided to dig up the main front lawn and create a knot garden.
Much digging later and it looked like this (Winter 2008).  A knot garden needs some precision, so I set out the pattern quite carefully to ensure it was not too wiggly or unbalanced.  So far (apart from shocking back ache when I was removing the lawn), so good.
I then planted lots of tiny little box cuttings.  I had not taken the cuttings myself, but I had to buy small as I needed so many.  Still, it was going well and I was happy with it.
It snowed in the Spring, I thought it looked really good.

Then my love affair with the front garden started to go wrong.  the central knot garden bit I have been fairly pleased with.  It has taken a few attempts to get the planting right but now it is a fairly simple mix of Phlox in four of the triangles, pink dianthus in the central square with Rosa Susan Williams-Ellis in the centre.  The outer four triangles now contain a white dianthus and some species tulips, plus obelisks that usually contain sweet peas.  You will have to take my word for all this, as I have no photographs of it.  I have demonstrated my displeasure for the front garden by steadfastly (and largely unconsciously) not taking photographs of it.

It is the bandit country that has caused me the most issues.  This is the strip of ground between the lavender edging (which I like a lot) and the central knot garden.  I planted it up with various things and that was the problem;  I had planted it up with various things and it looked a scruffy, mixed up mess.
One of the biggest issues I have had with this garden has been the lack of decent soil and the horrendous perennial lawn weeds.  It is really difficult to weed this garden as the soil is so poor and rock hard most of the year.  It became an incredible chore to keep it looking half-decent and most of the time I was just ashamed of it.

I was also completely at a loss what to do about it.  I tried a variety of tweaks, but they failed miserably.  Earlier this year I was weeding this garden and thinking about how unhappy it made me; I was pretty much in tears because I just could not see a way to make it how I wanted it to be.  In my fit of pique I threatened to weedkiller the whole thing and start again.  In this angry threat I realised there was some value, I did have to take drastic action.

So I did, I cleared the bandit country; I removed all the plants, some were relocated to the back garden, others were just discarded.  Then when it was fairly clear I started glyphosating it (yes I know its not good stuff, but I had to kill off as much as I could).  I reapplied the weedkiller about three times over a period of several weeks.

I also realised a further problem.  There are some rose bushes in the front garden including a large and very beautiful Rosa 'Claire Austin' that was right opposite the front door.  It was a gorgeous rose and after the first sweep of plant removal I left it there in all its glory.
This is not a great photograph of it, but it was a lovely rose, but I realised as I looked at the largely clear bandit country, it was in the wrong place.  It had to go.  So I dug it up, this took some time and it cut me quite badly with its thorns, it did not want to move.  I cut it back quite hard and planted it in the back garden in a better location for it.
and yes, oh dear, I do wonder if it will live.  I inspect it regularly but as yet there are no signs of new growth.  The stems remain green though and I hopeful that in the Spring it will be alright.
So, the bandit country was clear and now it needed a filling.  At first I thought bark mulch, easy to maintain and a nice clear look.  Then I had an epiphany, on my driveway for the last four or so years there has been a large bag of gravel, it was purchased to do a variety of things with which did not take as much gravel as was purchased.  Much of it is in the pond but there was a lot left and it was ugly.
Why was I thinking of buying more big bags of mulch, that to be honest would cost more than I could really spend at this moment in time, when I had a huge bag of gravel just sitting there annoying me everyday?
So I started spreading the gravel, I liked it, I liked it alot.
and then it was done, (well, not quite done, I ran out of gravel so I need to get some more) but it is pretty much complete and I keep looking at it and smiling.  That is something I am not used to doing when looking at the front garden.  The big bag of gravel is gone too so the garden and house has improved and progressed considerably this weekend.  It turns out that what I wanted most of all was my garden to be like my house, I wanted it to smell nice and be clean.  Once the clutter was removed suddenly it was good.

So ends my tale of two problems and the one very nice solution.


  1. Hoorah - I was worried about your front garden and in particular if you would rip out the knot garden after all that work. It looks fab - so obvious when you think about it. You can put some pots with seasonal interest in as well.

    I bet you are really cuffed - I would be.

    1. Thanks, yes I am pleased with it. There was a moment when I did consider ripping the whole lot up and starting again, but for now the knot garden is safe.

  2. Hmm, no chance of gravel in our front garden (we've got some paving slabs that are broken and could do with replacing) as it's used a fair amount as a toilet by the neighbours' cats. Which is why it's a forest of sharp stakes! ;-)

    1. I am a bit worried that it might prove attractive for my cats, but then if I had used mulch I know for certain they would have used that as a loo - only time will tell!

  3. Amazing how often one often gets answers to their own questions just by letting time do it's thing. Fascinating to see how you started and all the problems and dilemmas encountered along the way, now it looks good! The gravel has set off the planting really well and the front looks very smart.

    Very nice Alison! :)

    1. Thanks - now I just have to keep the cats out of the gravel! :)

  4. Brilliant! Some kind of mysterious underground creative thing going on with you there, bringing you to triumphant arrival.. I wonder how that works? It's such a joy when it does.

    1. Thanks - no idea, but it's taken it a while to arrive :)

  5. How refreshing to see such honesty about how you arrived at your solution! Haven't those box plants grown well?

    1. Thanks - yes the box has begun to thicken up well now - I just clip the sides a couple of times a year as I want some more height from it


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