Gardening mistakes

by James Alexander-Sinclair

It is a good moment to look back on the triumphs and disasters in our gardens and to make notes so that we do not make the same mistakes again.

Orange Tithonia rotundifolia flowerI'm sorry to have to raise this issue but it is that time of year again. We are in the last few days of high summer as we slip into a mellow September. (Even though you could be forgiven for thinking October had arrived early judging by all the rain last week). It is a good moment to look back on the triumphs and disasters in our gardens and to make notes, so that we do not make the same mistakes again.

Allow me to share a few of my best mess-ups of 2010.

My first is a mistake I did make last year and forgot about ... even though I had written it down. I have a largish group of the musk rose, 'Penelope', which flowers beautifully in June. If you leave it it will set some fine hips for the winter but there will be no more flowers. Last year I vowed to deadhead half of it after flowering so that I would get a second flush around now but got distracted and now it is too late. Oh well, there is always next year.

My second mistake was one of omission: there is an area around my pond consisting of a series of long thin borders (I wrote about its birth about a year and a half ago). Some of the beds have worked really well, I think, like this arrangement of Phlomis amazone and Seseli libanotis. The central part, surrounding a pond, has some wonderful grass called Panicum 'Rehbraun', planted with Cosmos 'Dazzler' and the fabulous Tithonia rotundifolia (pictured, top) that are bushy and wonderful, but I completely forgot to plant anything for spring: no tulips, no alliums, no nothing. As a result I had to live with a big empty space until June. That is not a mistake I will be making again.

My third mistake is due to soft-heartedness. One part of the garden has been colonised by Hesperis matronalis 'Alba', the white flowered, scented sweet rocket, which is a beautiful plant in the right place. The thing about white flowers is that they work very well to lift other plants but tend to wash everything away if there is too much. Hesperis (seen in the background of this picture) has a tendency to self seed and this year there were far too many; I pulled out about half but that was not enough. They smothered the other plants and ruined a whole corner of the garden. This autumn I shall be ruthless and will dig up 90% of the seedlings.

That is probably enough of my garden mistakes otherwise I will completely undermine my own credibility.

PS If you're bored this weekend (4-6 September 2010) then hasten to the National Garden Show at the Bath and West showground. All the usual stuff as well as a vast show run by the National Dahlia Society. If you can get there on Friday then don't miss Jon Wheatley talking about Growing Dahlias. He is a fine and entertaining speaker.

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Gardeners' World Web User 01/09/2010 at 16:47

I made the same mistake with Hesperis matronalis, but found out you can eat the young plants (i eat up to about 10cm high after that I find they are bit hairy and need cooking). So the problem's become supper.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/09/2010 at 17:07

could anyone out there recommend plants that are slug proof, thanks

Gardeners' World Web User 01/09/2010 at 20:24

Hi Ive been trying to find out how to kill ivy. I have been told so far that diesel?! Well seems a bit drastic but it is really a problem for me. My neibourgh loves it and it grows through my fence I have already dug out 4 dead trees as it was left to run riot before I moved in. I am worried that if I grow anything too near to the fence the ivy will kill it. Is there some kind of spray that I can put on the fence to deter it from growing into my garden? some of the trunks of this ivy is over 3 inches thick and I cant help it...I really hate it!!! Anyone please I need some tips. Thank you.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/09/2010 at 22:56

Hi James! I think my biggest mistake is planting stuff that the Japanese Beetle love. Next year we will be debudding all of our roses until after June/July - the beetles ate every bud set this year until they finished mating & died off. And we had busted the budget this year and bought 5 David Allen Roses, so it was a bummer :( We love you James :) Keep the great articles coming, please!

Gardeners' World Web User 02/09/2010 at 19:53

how to grow pinks carnations better

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