20 May 2010
under lions and unicorns
St Georges Church, Bloomsbury, has a spire draped with a lion and a golden horned unicorn. Luckily this attracts the attention upwards so it was easy to miss the sad state the hard winter had left the planters in (if you were a passer-by). For Nicolette, working in the office, it was all too obvious and she got in touch to see if we could help.
Last year the church had new planters installed and these were filled with a range of summer flowering perennials edged with small box plants. The box plants had established well but the perennials had proved not to be and a fine crop of Sticky Willy and nettles had taken their place, their seeds lying in wait in the topsoil used to fill the planters. Nicolette informed me that most of the previous plants had been brightly coloured sun-worshippers such as gaillardias, so it isn't surprising that the combination of a cold winter, a shady position and claggy topsoil had done for them. It only gets an hour or so of sun here and is open to the public, suffering from the usual West End silliness, so the replacement planting was chosen to be tough, reliable in shade and give a quick bit of colour for the summer ahead.
The Clean Sweep Group usually works in the garden on Wednesdays but with the garden still full well after lunch ("ain't you got jobs to go to?!") it made sense for us to work off site at the church. Doug and Zoe first cleared out the weeds, roots and all, and gave the soil a good trowelling to loosen it. The large concrete trough holding a large clump of crocosmias, these rapidly increase and starve themselves into non-flowering, was weeded, dug over and most of the crocosmia were removed. The box hedge was given a trim to tidy it and encourage it to thicken - it will - box is tough. A dead rose was removed and then the new plants went in.
The rose was replaced with a Winter Box, Sarcoccocca, an evergreen shrub with great winter fragrance.
The perennial plants chosen for the containers were;
Geranium macrorrhizum - scented leaves, pink flowers,
Anemone hupuhensis Praecox - good foliage, pink flowers,
Euphorbia robbiae - evergreen leaves, green flowers,
Phalaris arundinacea Feesey - bright white variegated grass,
Stipa arundinacea - clumping grass, orange in winter,
and to give colour this summer fuschias and busy lizzies were inter-planted - these both do better in bright shade than in sun and will keep going to the frosts of autumn. A few Mirablis roots were tucked in, these prefer sun but should manage to give something even here - but only after four o'clock.
In the concrete planter the crocosmias still dominate their end but the new additions are all vigorous and will soon claim their spaces. With a feed the crocosmias should return to flowering but if not the foliage will still contribute and contrast well with the euphorbia's glossy rosettes, the geranium's cut leaves, the big 'hands' of the anemone and the bright white striped elegance of the phalaris.
It looks a bit sparse at the moment and the plants have that shocked look of the newly planted but given a big cheer they will soon pick themselves up, fill out and brighten this corner. So if you are passing...