Summer by the Back Door

Nobody except the postman and occasional Jehovah’s Witnesses uses our front door. Everyone comes round to the back and rings on a bell which has “Titanic” ominously engraved on it. I feel slightly guilty that even the milkperson has to traipse round to the back door at 5am. This is where the cat has daily fights, it’s where collared doves flirt, hedgehogs snuffle and an extremely cheeky squirrel eats all the hazel nuts before they are ripe. It’s where guests arrive and depart and get hugged.20150805-DSC_7149

This year I crammed a mini polytunnel between the shed and the greenhouse - very handy for hardening off overwintered tender plants.

This year I crammed a mini polytunnel between the shed and the greenhouse too. A valuable hardening off facility.

Our back yard consists of a sort of dog leg between the house and the garage, ending beneath a massive 160 year old yew tree, which blocks our view of the garden. It is mostly cracked concrete and some scruffy gravel, with a couple of decrepit walls where outhouses were once demolished. From a gardener’s point of view, however, it has more promise than you might think. It has walls facing North,South,East and West, trolleys and barrows are easy to use on the hard ground, there’s an outside tap and I installed several rainwater butts as soon as we moved in. The shed and the greenhouse are nearby and there’s room to hide grotty stuff behind the yew tree. Perfect (almost) place to play with pots! And I do happen to have a few…

Under the yew tree - another useful space for more hardening off and potting on.

Under the yew tree – another useful space for more hardening off and potting on early in the season.

Little car hiding. All the plants in the foreground are in pots.

Little car hiding. All the plants in the foreground are in pots.

Unfortunately this prime gardening space is also a car park. Both of the family cars live back here, encrusted with varying amounts of mud, yew pollen, bird excrement and cat footprints. The little one gets to hide in a ramshackle car port at the back of the garage (which is of course full of junk, not cars), the big one nestles among pots.

Big car in a floral pocket

Big car in a floral pocket

We’re all quite good at turning cars in tight spaces now, our two sons were aware from the start of the L process that I’m not bothered by the odd dent in the car but a three point turn which results in a smashed pot is not acceptable. Most of my terracotta pots are seconds from my old job, they may be cracked or misshapen but I still don’t want to lose any.

A 3-point turn to get out of here involves reversing so that your rear passenger-side lights nearly touch the door

A three-point turn to get out of here involves reversing so that your rear passenger-side lights nearly touch the door. This can make first-time visitors quite nervous.

 

I cram the pots together, partly for their own safety, partly because this means I don’t have to water them so much. Each group knits together eventually and forms a quasi-flowerbed. As in a flowerbed, some plants get overgrown by others, but I like to let plants overflow and fight it out between themselves. Sometimes I move something which is endangered or which just looks wrong, but most of the pots stay pretty much where they were first planted until the end of the season.

Looking down on the backdoor "flowerbed" from an upstairs window

Looking down on the backdoor “flowerbed” from an upstairs window

 

In the course of a year the pots ebb and flow a little:  small waves lap at the edges of the space when replanting happens in late spring/early summer, and high tide occurs in late summer and early autumn, when maximum care is needed by the driver.

Tide begins to turn. The big pots by the garage were wrapped for the winter to protect the salvias, dahlias, fuchsia and eucomis. I've added fresh compost and fertiliser plus a few bedding plants. I've started putting out Agapanthus and succulents. The fig, clematis and hawthor lollipop are growing in the ground.

Summer tide begins to turn, late May. The biggest pots by the garage were wrapped for the winter to protect the salvias, dahlias, fuchsia and eucomis. I’ve added fresh compost and fertiliser plus a few bedding plants. I’ve started putting out Agapanthus and succulents and planting new pots. (The fig, clematis and the hawthorn lollipop are growing in the ground.)

 

July. The rising tide has swept away the bench.

July. The rising tide has swept away the bench.

 

! September, almost high tide. King Canute must hold the pots back or there will be trouble.

1 September, almost high tide. King Canute must hold the pots back or there will be trouble.

20150926-DSC_0367

Instructions for incoming cars:

You come down the short driveway and take a sharp right, behind the house. Not so sharp as to clip the first backdoor pots though.

 

 

 

 

 

20150917-DSC_9706

 

Don’t get distracted by the jungle to your right or the collection of ferns, bright begonias and the strange topiary bird outside the kitchen ahead of you because you need a sharp left.

 

20151008-DSC_1114

 

20150812-DSC_7869

 

 

 

 

 

On turning left you keep as close as you dare beside the garage pots and then swing right to squeeze next to the car park pots.

 

 

 

20150914-DSC_9665

20150918-DSC_9759

Stop (please)  before you hit the pots at the end of the parking space.20150913-DSC_9630

20150913-DSC_9632Try not to hit any pots when you open your door. If you can’t open your door we may  need to back up a little. Or you could climb out of the boot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you get out of the car on the driver’s side you may notice more pots on what used to be a sort of patio outside the utility room.20150915-DSC_9682

Emerging on the passenger side (and squeezing past the car park pots) you may spot more pots under the yew tree.20150917-DSC_9716

You may be thinking by now that your hostess is off her rocker; if you are a tactful, gardeny sort of visitor and make politely interested noises she will bore you rigid with names and details of this year’s favourite plants. So you may want to grab your bag and run to the back door. 20150820-DSC_8070

I know it all looks mad and messy, but that reflects how I felt this summer. Next year I may be chic and stylish. Yeah, right…

If I have time I’ll do another post soon, focusing a bit more closely on the plants which worked well in the summer pots this year – I haven’t quite finished cramming the tender perennials into the greenhouse, polytunnel, house, and garage – yes THAT’s what garages are for!

 

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Summer by the Back Door

    • Hi Brian, well the parking and turning are quite brisk after a few years of practice! In the summer I probably average 1 hour watering every other day. Very few of the pots are in sun all day, being in groups keeps them more humid, and I’m quite careful about putting the right plant in the right place in the right size of pot (though obviously I still make mistakes…

      Like

  1. Some passions are contained, but while in containers, yours is obviously unbounded : ) What a glorious rollicking collection, and with those lovely pots that I have only seen in real life once, and drooled over. Glad I’m not the only one whose family complains about ever-encroaching pots, though mine are nowhere near so well curated. Thanks for sharing…

    Like

  2. I adore your potted plantings. So lush & inviting. It looks amazing in photographs, I can only image how much more wonderful the impact is in reality. It does look like a ‘normal’ bed when looking down from above. I love that the plants & pots take precedence over cars. Rightly so.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s