At this time of year I spend most of my working hours in the Woodland Garden. This is an area of large sycamore trees, through which I have laid a curving bark path that links the greenhouse to the orchard. It is in a relatively dry and sheltered position in the winter, so a nice place to work on cold days.
In the open ground just before the start of the trees I am planting up a large shrub border, underplanted with spring bulbs and hellebores. I love my vision for the border: three varieties of dogwood, prunus serrula, saracocca, viburnums bodnantense Dawn, opulus sterile and tinus, spirea and ceanothus all underplanted with helleborus niger, fushia hawkshead, dicentra alba and swathes of spring bulbs,primroses and ground covering perennials.
The reality of the border has, however, been something of a disaster. Until moving here I had always gardened in mature plots.. This is the first garden I have had to create and lesson number one is that uncultivated land is full of millions of weed seeds! Every time you disturb the ground hordes of weeds germinate and repopulate the area. Last year the young shrubs disappeared under blankets of nettles, docks and thistles and other thugs.
This year I am determined to get on top of things. Having researched lots of articles on weed control I have devised a plan. Weed mats are out as I like to plant lots of bulbs and ground covering perennials under shrubs. Chemicals are also out of the question. My buzzword this year is going to be mulch. Throughout the winter I have spent any dry days teasing out the roots of perennial weeds, whilst being careful to disturb the topsoil as little as possible. I have then mulched with the leaf mould I made last year. I am hoping that by restricting the light available to the seeds I have exposed, I might be better able to keep on top of this border. I know it is early days, but annual weeds are germinating in other areas and this border is fairly clear of weed seedlings. Keep your fingers crossed for me and I will keep you posted.