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Now, come out of the back garden for a minute and walk round to the front of the house. You will see that between the house and the road, there is…. I’m sorry… I’m going to have to say it……. a…..


I hate rockeries. No – I really hate rockeries. They’re full of piddly little plants which are lovely when self-seeded naturally into rocky outcrops in the Pyrenées or even, just, growing out of cracks in garden walls (I also have a garden wall in this section with a very fetching little thingy which I will entirely forgive for being there as it’s where it’s meant to be).

But when people start building great towering mounds of rocks and stuff them with little thingies which wouldn’t normally grow in anything like that combination just to show them off in an anorak-ish sort of ‘look what I’ve got!’ way they are guilty not only of being 70s throwbacks in the worst possible sense but also of being insufferably smug, insensitive and – worst of all – unappreciative of what are in fact very beautiful little plants. I don’t know why rockeries should be blamed for their owners’ shortcomings, but there we are.

And besides, they’re a bugger to weed.

There is a flimsy excuse for the existence of this particular rockery: it kind of holds back the lane which would otherwise tip rather disastrously onto our front door. There is a low wall at the front, and a high-up low wall at the back, in between which are lots of rocks and a few rather sorry-looking plants. So the Five Year Plan for this bit is to sweep rocks and such-like away to make way for….

The Herb Garden

I am being a little bit unfair as there are redeeming features. This is the far end (by the drive) and just the other side of that wall and the scrubby-looking shrubs there’s a high-up sort of little lawn. It makes a very pretty spot: I can’t be bothered to mow it (it’s up steps, for goodness’ sake) but it’s a great excuse to plant some chamomile. I once had a chamomile lawn in my first-ever garden, a tiny town garden in Chiswick: it was about four feet by two feet but the scent as I walked on it has haunted me ever since.

And the steps themselves are rather nice: currently housing the poor dislocated plants hoicked out of my previous garden, dumped unceremoniously into containers and now hanging around aimlessly while I get around to finding somewhere to plant them.

I’m thinking lavender, trailing rosemary, and some interesting varieties of mint (in containers, of course, but possibly sunk into the ground either side).

This is an even longer and thinner bit of the garden than usual: about 60ft long, I reckon, by about 10ft from front to back. This is the bit to the right of the steps: no lawn, chamomile or otherwise here yet, but in the interests of symmetry I think all those blimmin’ rocks may well have to make way for one. I could make it a creeping thyme one (Thymus serpyllum) just to ring the changes… though that might be overegging it. I am after all trying to restrain my usual instinct to cram in as many different varieties of plant as possible, in favour of something that looks a bit more, well, nice.

Actually it’s not a very sensible place to have a herb garden, or not at the moment, anyway. That’s because only the front edge, the bit by the house, actually gets any sun. I suspect however that these are the culprits.

Three of them. Honestly: whoever created this garden was almost certainly in the pay of those people who put together those 70s revival programmes on the telly. I suspect this trio of troglodytes were put in as dwarf conifers which, as they tend to do, just carried on growing after reaching their stated 5ft in 10 years. The two on either side are about 40ft high, the one in the middle about 30ft high. Between them they remove not only the light from my would-be herb garden but also most of the light from the house. They are, you will not be surprised to hear, going the way of the rocks.

Just one slightly tricky bit: this is a kind of extra bit of garden which joins the herb garden to the pot-pourri garden (cor get me, you wouldn’t believe it was all an overgrown mass of shrubs and weeds scrapping it out at the moment, would you?)

I have no idea what to put in here. It’s on the shady side, so my collection of scented-leaved pelargoniums aren’t going to like it at all. My instinct is to put something in that’s scented but also has uses for cooking, cosmetics or medicine – so bridging the divide between the two. All suggestions very welcome.

(that’s a very spectacular Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’ on the right, by the way, looking fetchingly ghostly at the moment now it’s lost its powder-blue flowers).

Other redeeming qualities here:

Anyone know what kind of cotoneaster this is? Pretty sure it’s a cotoneaster as it grows just like one – but look at those jewel-like purple berries. Just lovely.

A somewhat faded but pretty hydrangea (of the non-mophead variety: call me a culture snob but I do like my hydrangeas lacecap)

… and red valerian, self-seeded prettily around in the walls.

Oh yes, and this is that little thingy I was talking about; covered in tiny lilac flowers when we arrived and of course entirely un-gardened. Which is just as alpines should be.