Building walls

drive bank wall
Drive bank wall

Finally the drive bank is starting to look like I’ve been working on it (see also here for earlier work).  To any person skilled in the art, it looks like a pile of stones rather than a retaining wall, however, I know I can walk securely on the top layer of stones, so am pretty happy with it.  As a happy consequence of my ineptitude, there will be plenty of planting crevices to squeeze in a few little plants in the wall itself.  As it weathers, and with some planting to soften it, I think it will look well.

The area between the ramp (unfinished – it will have steps) and the sycamore tree should be quite a favoured microclimate.  It faces south west, but is partially sheltered by the workshop on the far side of the drive from the prevailing winds, and I’m also intending to plant some shrubs at the top of the bank behind it.  It should be well drained; being a bank with loose rocks on it’s face, and these rocks will absorb the sun through the day and protect a little from the frost.  It should be shaded first thing in the morning, so any frost can gradually melt rather than having an extreme change of temperature.  I’m therefore hoping that I can try a few things in this bed that are a bit tender.  It should certainly suit some mediterranean herbs like rosemary and lavender, maybe sage.  I have an Atriplex halimus (salt bush) plant that I grew from seed, that may do well there, although it may grow a little big.  If any of my Tropaeolum speciosum seeds germinate this would look stunning clambering up the tree.  In the short term I also have some perennials that I grew from my HPS seed last year.  I’ll have a bit of an audit over the weekend, since I am hoping to go to Portree next week (I need more compost) and can get some more plants if necessary.  I’d quite like this area to be a bit more ornamental in nature, rather than the more unkempt back-to-nature look that most of my garden has!

road bank
Fuchsia root by roadside

I managed to relocate two large lumps of white fuchsia roots to the road side behind the house (the house backs onto the road so our front garden is at the back, and the rear garden is just the road verge and bank).  The dogs like to run along the fence harassing pedestrians and chasing Donnie’s truck and the odd stray sheep.  The ground therefore is challenging for hedge planting, since it is compacted and trampled as well as having almost no wind protection at all.  There may be some forward protection due to the house behind and the spruce trees by the driveway.  At some point in the past it looks like someone attempted to put a second pedestrian access down the bank behind the house.  All that remains is a zigzagging canyon, forming a trip hazard and eyesore.  I have therefore planted the fuchsia roots at the top end of this zigzag, buttressing them with rocks and rubble and backfilling with soil and stones where I have been excavating the second tier retaining wall by the drive.  In my experience, fuchsia are tough plants so I expect the roots to survive both the relocation and the location to thrive.  In the event of them failing, I have got some younger stems covered with soil which I’m intending to stick in the ground to try and take new plants from.

The strawberry plants at the top of the bank by the sycamore, which got covered with soil when I was excavating the fuchsia and the ramp a few weeks ago, seem to be surviving under their blanket.  There are several fresh leaves appearing.  These are running alpine strawberries, which I bought in to try as a ground cover and am hoping will have useful berries (no sign last year).  On the bank below, near the tree, I found a single plant of sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata).  By appearance it could have been a number of things, but the aniseed fragrance is a dead give away.  I suspect that I threw a few seeds around there in the hope that some would sprout.  I didn’t notice the plant last year, but this must be it’s second year judging by the little taproot.  I’ve transplanted this a bit further back near to where I have planted a bladdernut (staphlea pinnata).  I noticed that the good king henry plants, that I planted near the bladdernut last year, seem to be coming back OK.  The other plants that have been growing around the sycamore are……more sycamores.  I’m collecting them up into a little bucket and am considering planting them down in the tree field where the ash aren’t doing so well.  I didn’t plant many sycamore (just some potted seedlings I had been given) mainly because it has the reputation of being a somewhat anti-social tree.  However, I’m now just thinking if it grows….

scyamore bud
And the buds are beautiful

14 thoughts on “Building walls

  1. your drystone wall looks good and if your cilmate is anything like mine it will soon have a reasonable cover of moss on it, and maybe some lichen,
    I used to worry about invasive plants but now I am grateful for anything that grows and can survive the winds and rain! I do relocate small plants to positions better suited for the garden as a whole though, the sycamore buds are lovely, I have norway maples which some people say are invasive and some even don’t think they are attractive, in my garden they are not invasive, infact they have been slow growers, they also have nice buds but their best time is the autumn colours, and if I remember right sycamores have some lovely autumn yellows and golds,
    Frances

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    1. Yes, lichen and mosses, although since this will get quite a bit of sun through the day, not so quick to cover perhaps.
      I’m interested in trying to tap my sycamore for sap, and the seeds may be edible as well (http://www.eattheweeds.com/maples-how-sweet-it-is-2/). The autumn colour is not great on sycamore. Mine tends to get black spotted leaves as they get older as well, however the bees love the flowers: the whole tree hums!

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      1. if the wall gets quite a bit of sun then perhaps some houseleeks would like it, I’m sorry I don’t know the Latin names, the plants often suggested for a living roof,
        the black spot on the sycamore leaves is probably a fungus, the leaves on my poplars go black and I rarely see any autumn colour, I read that it will not kill the trees and clearing the leaves helps reduce the number of over wintering spores, it’s a shame there is not good autumn leaf colour but a humming tree sounds wonderful, some of my heathers can hum 😉
        there was someone on the radio not long ago, I can’t remember which programme but they have a business selling birch sap, they have their own trees, it sounded a bit technical for me, you have to know what you are doing, not the tapping but how you treat the sap before it is a drink,
        and I forgot to say this morning, I know and understand just what you mean about having an ornamental area, that’s what I’ve been doing with my front garden,
        I had a lovely day in the garden today after this weeks downpours, hope you had good weather too, Frances

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      2. Are they sempervivum? Probably not exciting enough for me I think. I may have some sedums struggling elsewhere that would transplant and be a groundcover. I may put in a myrtus ugni. These have really nice fruit in late autumn, but I haven’t managed to achieve any ripe ones yet, although I now have a couple of plants which are otherwise quite happy. Actually by the time I’ve put in the herbs there won’t be much space.
        Yes we had a lovely day today, finished what I wanted (and am now considering the steps) forecast for next week is excellent. Nice for the kids off school.

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      3. yes I think they are sempervivums, I wasn’t talking about planting them in the beds, but in the crevices in the wall, as you don’t think lichens and mosses will do well due to too much sun, however, if you are planting herbs then you could plant thymes in the cervices in the wall, just to add some texture to the wall was what I was thinking about, Frances

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      4. Ah yes, that’s a good suggestion, sempervivums would love it there. I was thinking of trying to transplant some wild thyme, but I may try and get some broader leaved thyme as being a bit easier to harvest.

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  2. Sycamores are one of my friend’s pet hates, though I suspect that has as much to do with her neighbours as anything else.

    Anyway, well done on the wall. It will be interesting to see how your plantings develop.

    Liked by 1 person

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