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It is when our budding hopes are nipped beyond recovery by some rough wind, that we are the most disposed to picture to ourselves what flowers they might have borne, if they had flourished.
-Dombey & Son

Courtyard Garden: Plant #3

side garden london courtyard

side garden: digging out the lawn

In Courtyard Garden: Plant #2, I’d cut the corners on a rectangular top ‘lawn’ and extended the bedding with shade plants, including the featured Purple-stemmed Sarcococca. By the time I’d turned my attention to the side garden, all signs of grass had disappeared into a smothering carpet of  Soleirolia soleirolii,1 making it an obvious candidate for a dig over.

Design-wise, the narrow strip of side garden was unsatisfactory, resulting in a corridored walkway between basement and patio and a stifling sense of being herded between the two. I decided therefore to mirror the top garden section with the insertion of a gravelled semi-circle, planted up and around the circumference. The two distinct garden areas were thus linked with some degree of  congruence whilst a more spacious feel to the patio area was also created.

courtyard side garden re-design

L to R: weed suppressant membrane for gravel layer; Bombus terrestris vacationed here; the density of Soleirolia soleirolii

Taking my geometry lessons to a new level, I drew a semi-circle with string and sharp stick through the weed infestation, cutting away and overturning the surrounds. In the process of excavating the interior semicircle two dazed and queen-sized Earth bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) emerged from the dense jungle of Soleirolia. Work was temporarily halted until I was certain all bee activity had ceased then the dig was completed and  left to overwinter

The soil here obviously needed improvement in both quality and depth and so the ubiquitous log roll edging proved an affordable and practical solution to the twists and turns of this crescent design. A timely visit from my son meant the border construction was achieved with the speed and manual dexterity of a GroundForce team! Happily, the existing gravel was the common-or-garden pea type so a seamless match was effected with a blend of new and old into the half-moon extension.

stage 3 -courtyard garden redesign

Stage 3: raised bed with gravel half-moon extension

Planting has been a somewhat hasty space-filling endeavour (and is still ongoing) but meets the requirements of  easy to manage shrubs, tolerant of shade to partial sun. Plants with exuberant growth that tier and fill the space, particularly on the vertical, are ideal here. Since Diane wanted Hydrangeas in her courtyard, these have become the anchor plants to hold the design together.

new side garden border

Thoughts: Green and white as dominant colour interspersed with pink. Remove all scarlets and maybe add some greys or even yellows

Plant #3: Over a hundred years ago, the macrophyllia hydrangea ‘Mariesii Perfecta’2 appeared in European gardens, hybridised by Victor Lemoine, and evoking a French “grandeur” that today makes more modern, compact hybrids appear somewhat prissy. Large leaved foliage overlaps into a broad lush framework, supporting the interspersal of frothy florets with their butterfly attachments. A reliable mid to late summer bloomer that continues into Autumn, and if Madame Guillotine the gardener allows, keeps her filigree heads for winter interest.

As with all Macrophyllas, Mariesii Perfecta only lives up to the common epithet of ‘Blue Wave’ on acid soils and manifests in the pink on the alkaline, aluminiumless London soil. The small central fertile flowers are a fizz of deeper colour, attractive to hoverflies.

'Blue Wave' in the pink

According to the literature, this hydrangea may reach anywhere between 4-6  feet, broad as the shrub is tall, so if topping the extremes Mariessii Perfecta will outgrow a welcome here. For the time being this piece of French lace makes a perfect signature  plant for Diane’s courtyard and is this month’s plant portrait pick for the ‘ Dozen for Diana’ meme.

Coming Next: It’s back to the drawing board with the top garden, as with the swiftness of a Napolean, the Corsican curse moved South

1. Soleirolia soleirolii is a midget member of the nettle family and the gardener’s ambivalence is reflected in various common names: baby’s tears, angel’s tears, mind-your-own-business, peace-in-the-home, mother of thousands, the Corsican curse
2. Thanks to Great Plant Picks for the following history: First introduced in 1904, one of three original seedlings of the old Japanese cultivar Mariesii that were raised by the French nurseryman, Lemoine. He called it Hydrangea Mariesii Perfecta, but in the 1950′s, Haworth-Booth renamed it ‘Blue Wave’ to accord with international rules of horticultural nomenclature.
Useful Links:
RHS Award of Garden Merit: Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Mariesii Perfecta’
Gardener’s Voice blog: Help Change the Colour of Hydrangeas
©Copyright 2011 Laura Thomas.
All rights reserved. Content created by Laura Thomas @PatioPatch

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