Successes, disappointments and surprises in a North-facing courtyard garden over 30 years 

First of all, the soil had to be brought in to create my garden out of a concrete yard – it was a mixture of all sorts from subsoil to clay to leaf mould and anything else that kind guests gave me to get it going. The garden is full of colour now. There are two camellias, ‘Lady Clare’ and ‘Lady Vansittart’, a Berberis darwinii, a Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’, violets and a windowsill vibrant with pots of pink and white cyclamen.

There are two big pots of tulips in bloom, a large Viburnum carlesii in a barrel, covered in white scented flowers and a Skimmia in full bud, a mauve and a red Erysimum, plus other plants and shrubs that will bloom later in the year. I have a really lovely white and green Hydrangea covered in new leaves and a newly established Arum Lily alongside it.

There are four Roses : ‘Iceberg’, ‘Salmon Leap’, ‘Brother Cadfael’ and ‘Compassion’ – the biggest surprise of them all. This had become so rampant and unmanageable that I had my  grandson dig it up – but, lo and behold, eight weeks later there it was, back again, healthy and with all the shoots showing 5 leaves (not 7) so it is the original rose not the rootstock.

Four roses

Two hanging baskets of pink trailing geraniums have survived the winter, so I’ve pruned them back and fed them to encourage a new display later on.

One of the biggest disappointments was a white star Magnolia which just sulked and wouldn’t bloom and then died. Also Choisya ternata which bloomed prolifically for ten years has sadly now died. Many climbers such as honeysuckle and Rosa banksiae became invasive, smothering nearby shrubs, so had to be removed.

I’m really fortunate to have so many things doing well and the garden is just the right size for me to manage. It will become even more welcoming from now on as the sun slowly comes over the rooftops and creeps across the yard. Time to get the folding chairs out and enjoy a cuppa and a quiet read… perhaps even a snooze.

Frances P

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