You may not be impressed by the photo above - a mass of green and the starts of autumnal leaf falls but it shows a lot to me. It is one of the shadiest, wettest corners in our garden. Originally there was a scraggy dicentra (bleeding heart) and buttercups - the odd nettle, hawkbit and even a few sedum ice plants but mainly buttercups. There are a fair few in there still but now the newly introduced greenery is fighting back against the ranunculus and the rabbits.
We don't scrape up the leaves, I prefer to leave the leaves. It is more enviromentally friendly, the leaves forma good deep mulch over the plants, the soil is enriched and I am lazy. Mainly the later. Every few years Jiurie gets annoyed by the leaves and scraps them up, bags them and drags to the back. There they break down and are put back on the soil as a mulch, fertilizer etc. In other words it is a lot of work for a purely aestethic "improvement" - plus you lose the winter protection of a good two or three inches of leaf litter.
So back to the picture. I see at least four ongoing successes which have survived all competition this year (and last winter). If they can get through the coming iceage of a winter (all the berry's indicate that this is going to be a bad one) to be truly hardy then we are looking at a year on year improvement in quality of that corner.
Let's start with the easiest to discuss but probably least visible : top left. Just sneaking in (and enlarged below) are the white Meconopsis plants I split and planted last year a.k.a. the himalayan poppies. The white ones are all growing well, but yet to flower, while the blue ones - the normal coolour for meconopsis - have disappeared all together. Strange as I split both in the same way but a few months apart. The blues never took off at all while the whites have struggled along and are approaching flowering size.
Throughout the picture are my 99p bargain bench ferns. All are thriving except for a single Japanese Painted Fern.. The ones at the top next to the meconopsis have over wintered so are hardy while the ones at the bottom are this year's bargains. It will be interesting to see which do get through and bulk up next year. I have always loved to see ferns and I can well understand the Victorian Fern Craze. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pteridomania
I think the fascination comes because I never, ever saw ferns in Grimsby when I was growing up, though there must have been some around, except for a single plant inside a rainwater barrel at my Great Aunt Ethel May's house. Let me relieve my guilt here - I was the one who pulled that fern from the inside of the barrel while I was looking at it. My Great Aunt got a little annoyed/upset but I never fessed up until now. Am I developing a fernery out of not-so-suppressed guilt? Naw - doubt it. I just like ferns for the exotic feel they have or 'otherness'. Paintings of dinosaurs always included loads of tree ferns - they were mystrerious. I still remember the thrill of seeing my first tree fern in Fiji - seeing it in the jungle - actually in the wild before I ever saw one in the botanical gardens. Now you can pick them up at most garden centres for 40 or 50 quid - not so exotic for the youngsters. I haven't invested in any because they would not survive outside here without a massive amout of work and they are too big for an indoor plant unless you have a massive house.
So the ferns are doing well for now.
Also in the fern piccie you can see some lungworts along the bottom - or pulmonaria as they are known to us fancy gardeners. I much prefer them in this setting - mixed in with ferns and greenery - where they mix in with the other plants. Previously I had only seen them as separate plants isolated and surrounded by bare soil. I hate the sight of bare manicured soils (can you tell that from all of our garden photos) as it is unnatural, isolates the plants, and I am too lazy... is that a common theme appearing? Lazy gardening is the way to go.
Anywho the spotted leaves along the bottom of the ferns are our various lungworts. As is ever the case I put a couple of bargain bench plants in for a trial in late spring. lungworts flower and look best in the early spring - one of the first perennials to flower even before the daffodils so they are a common bargain in the spring. I put a couple in and they did okay in that the rabbits didn't destroy them all all instantly. So I then went for a mixed group bargain from the mail order company J Parker - split them where I could and planted them between the drumstick primulas and the ferns. They look good after 5 months so hopeful.
Finally we have the Gunnera below... before we look at that there is also a Solomon's seal behind the Gunnera from Kildrummy castle: one of the Open gardens - but that is now gone with the cold...
The gunnera has established itself and is even flowering. It isn't the giant 6 foot tall, leaves like garden tables, plant that it could grow into but then this is the first year it has been out in the garden so early days. I am fairly certain that it is wet enough, at least this year, as the meadowsweet is spreading wild in that corner. Meadowsweet is a plant of ditches, marshes and river banks like Gunnera so that's a good sign. I now have the meadowsweets and nettles as the big weeds to be pulled out and the buttercups as the lower weeds. Another year or two of good growthy from the ferns, gunnera, solomons seal and pulmonaria and that won't be a problem - they will supress the weeds and make that shady wet corner into a beacon of exotic delights.