Author: Barbara O'Brien

Garden of Two Halves

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A garden of two halves
Barbara O’Brien

We have just returned from two weeks holiday and the garden, in my opinion, looks wonderful! In the fifteen days since we’ve been away it has transformed itself into a Monet-style impressionist painting.

The lawn is a sea of buttercups and daisies, and the borders filled to bursting with pastel shades of perennials with the odd splash of eye-wateringly bold colour. Not a space to be seen between them as they gently tumble over paths and lawn, cottage-garden style. Geraniums pratense ‘Mrs Kendal Clark’, psilostemon, macrorrhizum x magnificum, and clarkei ‘Kashmir White’ and ‘Kashmir Purple’ are all looking at their very best, with annuals of love-in-a-mist Nigella popping up in between the perennials. The soft grey leaves and pale lemon daisy flowers of Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’ lean up against the pretty Astrantia ‘Roma’ which, in turn, nicely tones in with the burgundy-red pinhead flowers of Knautia macedonica. The peonies too, have all suddenly burst into flower – two whose names I’ve forgotten, a double pink one and a heavenly single with the palest pink tissue-paper petals, red stamens and yellow anthers – not forgetting the double white ‘Duchess of Nemors’ who is looking and smelling gorgeous. But the Best-Peony-in-Show prize goes to ‘Bowl of Beauty’, whose massive blooms are peeping out dramatically between the chocolate filigree leaves of Sambucus ‘Black Lace’.

I say “in my opinion” because my husband has a completely different reaction. “What a mess!” he says with a despairing sigh and out comes the lawnmower even before the suitcase is unpacked.

He and I, blissfully happy in every other respect, are completely incompatible when it comes to gardening. We have totally opposing views on how a garden should look. The words chalk and cheese come to mind. He likes his plants in neat, ordered rows, leaving sufficient space between each to allow for future growth. No plant must lean over the lawn, and flower beds should be cut with straight edges. He favours an annual planting routine of wallflowers and tulips in the spring, followed by a colourful summer display of dahlias, edged with French marigolds, lobelia and alyssum.

So you can see our dilemma. How on earth could we reconcile the irreconcilable?

You’ll be glad to hear that we have worked out the perfect solution thanks to the fact that our garden is shaped like an hour-glass. The answer was obvious. A His-and-Hers garden! And it works beautifully. We divided the garden into two and, with the exception of the greenhouse and a flower bed next to it which are ‘His’ and which I have graciously allowed into my (sunnier) garden area, we each rule the roost in our own bit of gardening heaven.

‘His’ garden features an orchard which produces gorgeous apples, plums, pears and damsons by the bushel. The borders are neat and tidy, with circles of soil around all the specimen plants – large hostas for instance – which are all set a good twelve inches back from the lawn. My garden is crammed full, some would say too full, of perennials and choice shrubs. The plants are allowed to tumble a little bit over the lawn, supported by concealed green plastic-covered wire hoops.

Now that we can each ‘get our own way’ we are able to appreciate the good points of the other’s gardening method. Right now he is able to admire and take pleasure in the fabulous display of bracts on my two Cornus kousa – the pink ‘Satomi’ and the white ‘Kreus Dame’. And when the lawn has been mown (I graciously allow him to cut the lawns and hedges in my garden) I have to agree with him that “it sets the borders off nicely”. And I also must say that I am very grateful for the colourful display in the dahlia bed in July when most of my perennials have kicked the bucket.

First published in the Cheshire Group Newsletter, Autumn 2009
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 27.
© Copyright for this article: Barbara O’Brien

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2011. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.

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