A Lion Called Doris

You know what they say about March? In like a lion, out like a lamb. Well, if the last few days are anything to go by, the end of March is a treat in store.

I’ve got to be honest and admit to taking the coward’s option and staying firmly inside while Storm Doris has been doing her thing. And it was with an element of trepidation that I ventured out into the garden when the sun finally dared to show itself. From what I could see the damage was not too great, but the bits of the garden I can’t see from the house include the veg garden, and the amount of timber strewn across the lawn made me a bit anxious that the greenhouse might have suffered a direct hit.

I’ve also been lazy about going out to check the new sowing in the greenhouse, preferring to focus my gardening attention on the indoor window brigade who are shooting up nicely. (Although now I’m worrying that they are going to turn into leggy blondes rather than the nice compact little folk I’m hoping for!)  But once in the garden it was a relief to find everything in reasonable shape, although of course the weeds have not been put off in the slightest by the weather and are having a high old time. I’m already experiencing the onset of the hairy bittercress anxiety that is an inevitable companion to the spring and summer months.

But the Euphorbia wulfenii are unfurling their heads,

A lion called Doris? (Don’t you think it looks like a lion’s head?)

Arnold is delivering big time on his Promise,

Hamamelis Arnold’s Promise

the Tete a Tetes are glowing like lanterns.

Narcissus Tete a Tete

So I decided to ignore the voices in my head telling me to get on with the weeding, and take some time to wander round and have a go at taking photos with a wide angle lens to try and give a sense of the garden at this time of year.

I do struggle with the bigger picture. The natty little close ups of my favourite plants that I’ve been practising seem so much simpler; the wider shots invariably include the bits I don’t want. But I’m going to switch off my critical eye to walk you round the garden.

Starting at the front. We live in what used to be the farmhouse, with a dairy attached on one corner which has been converted into three more homes around a courtyard. The house faces out across the fields to the southwest, with a strip of garden, lined with hornbeam and native hedging separating us from the lane.

View from our window – one glorious night of full moon last summer

When we moved here sixteen years ago the front door was at the end of the house, leading into a very small narrow hallway. Four years ago we moved the front door to the centre of the house, converting what used to be our dining room into a proper entrance hall.

The day we moved in ....
16 years ago









When the door was at the end of the house the front garden was rather under-appreciated; we walked past but rarely into it. One advantage of moving the door was that we now walk through the front garden on a regular basis. So I planned the planting with this in mind.

Front garden from above!

(This photo was taken from an upstairs window a couple of years ago. The rather pale looking viburnum on the right has died and been removed since then. And the other plants have filled out more. But for a space that is difficult to photo as a whole at least it gives some idea of what it looks like.)

I see the front garden as the entrance hall to the entrance hall. I had in mind a garden that you open gates to go into, that feels as if you are leaving the outside world behind as you enter into a separate space. I wanted a more formal feel to it than the back garden, a garden that keeps its character throughout the year, acting as a staging post for the inside of the house. You will see that I’ve kept the emphasis on evergreen shape, shade and texture. There are balls of Buxus and Pittosporum Golf Ball, lollipops of bay and Viburnum Tinus. Clumps of Euphorbia wulfenii define the entrance to the porch and front door, the domed bracts chosen to mirror the evergreen mounds.

The new entrance


Scent is important –  delivered by vase shaped Sarcococca, and tapestries of Trachelospermum jasminoides climbing the walls either side of the porch.

Structure and Form

Hebe rakiensis underscoring the bay trees at the lower level continues the mounded theme with ferns and sword shaped iris for contrast.

By the side of the house another painted gate opens into the back garden. Here I’ve continued the evergreen structure from the front but in a more relaxed style, so that it anchors the planting to give it definition. An intensive edit conducted a couple of years ago meant that I moved and took out and changed a fair bit, trying to achieve year round structure  and harmony. I’m pretty pleased with the way it’s shaping up and can’t wait for the summer to see how the perennial planting I introduced into the centre beds is bulking up.

Through the gate

It’s taken time but I’m finally learning to accept the fact that a big chunk of this garden is more shady than not. We’re at the bottom of a slope that faces northwest, tucked in against a wooded area with very very big trees that cast shadows across the garden even in the height of summer. I’ve wasted a fortune planting sun lovers and praying for them to prosper. Now I’m embracing the shade dwellers and keeping the sun worshippers for the cutting bed.

Mention of the cutting bed happily leads me to the field garden, named the field garden because it used to be… yes, you’ve guessed it… the field. When the field garden was more field than garden it was pretty boring. Now – although it’s still very much work in progress – it’s one of my favourite areas.

More field than garden!

I’ve planted yew to define the lawn and disguise an unattractive bank. I’ve separated the sloping orchard, vegetable and cutting garden with wings of yew and mixed native hedging. A couple of years ago I planted three hornbeams, (getting ready to be cut into boxes on sticks when they fill out), to lead the eye to a seating area under a newly planted prunus. At the same time as planting the hornbeams I planted three Malus Everest either side of the path up to the gate. It’s an area that can become very soggy when there is heavy rain as water runs this way off the field so I’m hoping they are going to survive. Last year I planted narcissus and camassias on the banks and under the hornbeams.

Hornbeams in training!


The veg garden and greenhouse are my favourite bit of all. Here is my sunny space, the place where I go to enjoy warmth when the rest of the garden is still stuck in winter. Here rhubarb is accelerating, tulips are showing and the Hesperis matronalis and Matthiola incana that I’ve been shielding from the bunnies for as long as possible in the cold-frame are waiting for transfer to their final position. The espaliered apples I planted to act as a backdrop to the beds a few years ago have reached to the ends of the wires. Next door’s garden waits to be hidden by the mixed native and beech hedging I planted a couple of years ago. Annoyingly I lost a Victoria Plum tree last year. It had been carefully positioned to go with the apples and pear and leaves a hole I can’t fill as I would like because of the risk of the same thing happening. So I’ve got to rethink a bit before I replant.

In case you’re wondering, we’re the bit on the left!

The last view to show you is from the top of the bank where I can look back across the garden to the downs.

Across to the Downs

It won’t be long before this all looks very different. It’s one of the great joys of a garden, isn’t it? That it’s constantly changing. So maybe I will aim to do the same thing through the seasons.


16 thoughts on “A Lion Called Doris

    1. Thanks so much for commenting. It’s great to hear from you. And I’m glad you like the front garden. There’s something about its structure that I find very satisfying. And I always wanted espaliered fruit trees so they went in almost before anything else.


  1. I really enjoyed seeing the wider picture; your garden is lovely especially the vegetable garden and greenhouse. I always think that the garden is about the whole picture rather than individual plants but that’s the designer part of me talking! I love your horn beams and the espaliered fruit trees.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Christina, thanks for your comment. I so agree with you about the bigger picture – when I started it never occurred to me that a garden was about more than what was in it! Glad you can see the potential in the hornbeams!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. smallsunnygarden

    I love your Euphorbia “lion” 🙂 and the wider shots of the garden; it took me two years and a friend’s meme to get me to post any of the borders as they’re still filling in… 😉 The effect of the Euphorbia in amongst your clipped shrubs is wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Amy, as you can probably see I am a big Euphorbia fan – love the structure and how well it contrasts with other plants. And I am intrigued by the whole meme thing! What is a meme? I can see I’m going to have to look into it!!


    1. smallsunnygarden

      I think I am using the term correctly… 😉 They are regularly scheduled, themed posts, hosted by one blogger, which anyone can join by posting on the same theme. One links to and from the host post in the comments as a rule. Most hosts leave very nice instructions within their posts since some do it one way, some another.
      Favorites include In a Vase on Monday at https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/ (weekly), Tuesday View at https://wordsandherbs.com/ (weekly, but dormant over winter!), Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day at http://www.maydreamsgardens.com/ (monthly), Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day with Christina at https://myhesperidesgarden.wordpress.com/ (monthly), End of the Month View at https://patientgardener.wordpress.com/ (monthly) and others…!
      I hope you don’t mind the link-littered comment! I just thought I would list a few as they often add pleasure in posting (for me, at least) as well as being a very useful way of connecting with other bloggers! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Steve, much appreciation for your comment. And lovely to come and visit you at your garden – which looks sensational! I shall look forward to following you with interest – I can see that I am going to learn a lot!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I love my front garden too! And actually it’s pretty easy to look after – just have to give everything a trim once or twice a year. The back is another matter!! I do find it a bit daunting but I do have help one morning a week.


  4. Hi Jane
    Thank you for the guided tour of your garden. it has given me a much better idea of the layout and I will follow your future posts with interest and a greater appreciation of the space you are describing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Helen, great to get your comment- I really enjoy getting a feel for other people’s gardens from the bigger as well as the smaller point of view, so I’m glad it worked for you 😊


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