Growbag Blog

Tackle your mistakes and eyesores – now!


Now come on, be honest: when did you last take a long critical look at your patch, with a view to sorting out (by which I generally mean GETTING RID OF) some of the eyesores?

When you’ve been looking at a gruesome mistake in your garden for a long time, you end up barely registering it any more; but it’s probably blindingly obvious to visitors seeing it for the first time. This week, we’ve decided to come clean about some of our own mistakes that we’re going to correct very, very soon now, and they may just ring a bell with lots of you too……

Wrong roses/wrong position.  It was such a great plan – we’ll grow gorgeous white roses (R. ‘Claire Austin’) for our daughter’s wedding, then we’ll plant them in a group to grow up a circular arched metal pavilion-thing in our cottage garden.  Lovely! But we bought climbers instead of shrubs, we planted them too close together, and worse of all, the site quickly became too shady from trees round about, for the roses to ever look anything but fairly disgusted with life.  Yards and yards of lanky growth, with some droopy (albeit very pretty) blooms at the end of them. I’ve put up with them for too many years now – this winter they are DEFINITELY coming out.

Rose ‘Claire Austin’ – so pretty and so in the wrong place in my garden!

Wooden raised beds. How attractive some wooden raised beds would look for our small veg garden! None of that ‘easy-maintenance, click-together, plastic raised beds’ idea for us. Let’s go with the ‘high-maintenance, hard-to-put-together, needs-replacing-every-3-years-or-so, wooden boards’ idea……do I need to say more? 

Using wooden planks for raised veg beds seemed a great idea at the time……..

Nettles in a very stupid place. One of the delights of this garden in late July/early August is feasting on the Japanese wineberries (Rubus phoenocolasius) which romp along our very rustic Rosa rugosa hedge.  But every year, we ruefully remember there are nettles a-plenty sneaking up through the hedge: as your arms and hands pick their way through the thorns of rugosa roses and the ornamental bramble in search of fruit, they fall victim to a million stings from the nettles. Never were small raspberries so hard-won.  No more.  I’m going to scrabble around at the bottom of the prickly hedge and dig our every last one of those yellow roots. Today.

Japanese wineberries romping through the rugosa hedge…..and the nettles

When I mentioned to my husband that we were going to be talking this week about getting rid of problems in the garden, he just breathed “molehills” in a darkly menacing tone. That story will run and run……..


Well naturally my garden won’t contain as many misjudgements as Elaine’s, or rookie errors that Caroline might be about to fess up to, but there are some things that definitely need attending to now.

Curbing the self-seeders. Charming as it might be for the first year or two to have some worthy annual or biennial garden plants settling into your garden to the extent that they start popping up all over the place, you can have too much of a good thing.
The main culprit for me is Eryngium ‘Miss Willmott’s Ghost’ so called because the rather eccentric Miss Willmott used to surreptitiously scatter its seed in any garden she visited, thus ensuring a ghostly reminder of her presence would haunt the garden owner forever.
Despite this rather creepy back story, I love them, but mine have got out of hand so the spent plants are being yanked out now before the seed is fully ripe, to try and break the cycle a bit.

Eryngium Miss Willmott’s Ghost
These sea hollies are great for the bees when they’re in flower, but they’re taking over!

Decide what brings you joy Apply a steely Marie Kondo approach to your cluttered flowerbeds. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to oust plants that once brought you joy, but now just bed-block new acquisitions. For me this will involve ripping out clumps of long flowering hardy geraniums (bored by their endless sameness – sorry) and replacing them with the new collection of Benton irises I was thrilled to discover when Louise and I visited the Plant Heritage sale last weekend. I know their moment of glory is brief but it is so exquisite that I’m happier with this than the space-filling mediocrity of the geraniums.

Benton iris rhizomes
Move over geraniums and make room for Benton Judith, Olive, Blue John, Primrose and Strathmore

And whilst Nigel is quietly seething about molehills we are being vexed by another mammalian interloper which really needs to be ejected from the garden pronto …

Why is it that despite a house full of Jack Russells the rabbits think it’s fine to come and graze the Welsh poppies in broad daylight?


I don’t think you can seethe about something as beautiful as a mole or rabbit as long as you’ve got concrete slabs, rotting cold frames and, I’m wincing here, plastic play equipment in your gardens. These all need go to the recycling centre or on Gumtree this weekend. One kitsch garden gnome in an otherwise stunning garden can be considered quirky , an omni-shambles of failed garden experiments and family debris is a different matter and I do know.

Plastic plant pots – these are my current ‘bete noir’. Do they actually have sex at night? They multiply at a vast speed in every corner of my garden despite me being too hard-up to buy new plants (what I tell my husband). Taking them to pot exchanges is all very well but, like a car boot sale, I seem to return with just as many – they’re curiously tempting.

Are they having sex?

Rampant colonisers – please do include plants in this ‘fengshui’ campaign. Perhaps don’t do something as plainly nuts as Laura substituting perfectly healthy hardy geraniums (like our feature pic this week) with the very fleeting charm of irises (and which, in the eyes of my friend, ‘just look like a burst balloon!’), but I would definitely support the removal of incorrigible spreaders which, for me, include Macleaya, Inula hookeri and even Crocosmia, in an effort to regain control.

Inula hookeri – just a bit too enthusiastic I’m afraid – I don’t want an entire garden of it!

I’d stop short, though, of friends and family. We need to keep these in our gardens. And here I want to say a heartfelt thank you to those who have sent their support on hearing of my breast cancer treatment. I start my radiotherapy next week – everything is going very well and every day I count my blessings for those around me and for the UK’s free healthcare. I’d wish it for everyone in the world. Thank you!

What needs throwing out in YOUR garden? Write and let us know and we’ll compile a handy checklist for everyone to work through whenever they walk out into their own patch and feel even a teeniest bit smug…………………..!

If you want some tips on how to get new roses for free, check out this Growhow column from Elaine.

NB Louise’s great plant this month might also be a self-seeder that some people will hoick out whilst others will be delighted by its arrival. Click on the box below to find out what it is.

More NB If you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

16 replies on “Tackle your mistakes and eyesores – now!”

Many congratulations on your award, well deserved for an interesting informed and lighthearted look at how our gardens grow. Caroline I wish you well with your treatment and recovery.

Margaret thank you so much. It means such a lot to get such positive feedback. Caroline here, so thank you, also, for your best wishes regarding my diagnosis. I’ve had such brilliant care – efficient and from time to time quite humorous which has made the whole episode much less stressful. Again, thank you so much for your support XX

Oh yes, i echo your comment Margaret, may I sincerely wish you well Caroline and continue to busy yourself in the garden and. oh yes … pots and Crocosmia! I adore their colour but help, they’re everywhere this year. Absolutely sisters, I’m also in the process of trying to work out how everything is coming through this year even though I totally re-planned and planted last spring! But it’s ‘fun’ isn’t it – of course it is! Take care you all and lots of love.

Scott thank you so much. Caroline here, yes absolutely, if we just kept our gardens the same every year it wouldn’t be the same fascinating hobby would it? I absolutely agree with you about croscosmia – their whippy little blades are proliferating in my garden but I’ve got much better at ‘tough love’ – out they come! XX

You have motivated me to “edit” my garden and the bonus is a trip to the garden centre. Problem is finding a time when it’s not too wet or too dry to plant up new acquisitions.
Wishing you well Caroline. Surely, having two sisters is a great asset in your recovery.

Lovely hints and tips as usual girls. I wish you a good recovery Caroline, stay positive and let your garden hold you close xxx

Very best wishes, Caroline. Your description of an iris ‘like a burst balloon’ will live in my head forever!

Caroline the best of luck with your cancer treatment…I too have been in that position!! Will be thinking of you…
We will be taking out Crocosmia.. and 6 Cornus out of 9 shrubs..seemed like a good idea at the time…beautiful shining colourful stems against a snowy backdrop!! the rest of the year..absolutely nothing but green leaves..they didn’t even flower!!.the HGs have gone mental this for Rozanne….she is on borrowed did she ever become that popular? far better varieties around…
What possessed us to put in Gunnera Manicata?.in a tiny garden like ours..which is hot and dry in the Summer…(usually)…
Oh the list is endless….Kiftsgate and Bobbie James have been dispatched this week!!

I love reading your blog girls! But I take issue with anyone who dare (?) criticise Cranesbill Geraniums! I love them..and Rozanne is a favourite!
…although we’ve never met I feel fond of you all and will be thinking positive thoughts for your recovery Caroline
Thank you so much for the gardening inspiration and sisterly banter! Sarah B

Thank you for writing in, Sarah. Elaine here, and you are SO right about cranesbills – the range is huge, there is one for every situation, so I think Laura is making a huge mistake in ripping them out in favour of irises. She just won’t be told! Hope you keep enjoying our horticultural chat…..

Very glad to hear all is going in the right direction for your recovery Caroline – gardening is all part of it as well as all the love and warm wishes sent from the Growbag fan club!

My worst plant this year are wild strawberries with which I edged the herb garden – lovely in Spring but ghastly now! My other bête ‘noirs’ are lilies of the valley (which take advantage of my love but move ever increasingly across the lawn,),alchemilla mollis -(‘a friendly’ which wrecks paving), symphora carpis (snowberry),forget-me-nots, violets and the worst; a horrid tiny maroon leafed orange flowered creep which invades the paving (I think ants are the culprits). Finding it impossible to get rid of filipes kifsgate which seeds itself in the most awkward places and grows a foot each day, spearmint and pale pink epilobium (willow herb). There are more but won’t hog the website!

Susie at Overstroud Cottage

Wow, Susie, that is quite a list! Elaine here. I too have all sorts of errr….spreaders, much to Laura’s horror, but most of the time, I am very happy with their ‘generosity of spirit’…… I do agree with you about Alchemilla mollis, for instance, but gosh, WHAT a perfect accompaniment to the season’s first sweetness – couldn’t be without it. I sometimes think that gardening has a lot in common with teaching – 30% training and ‘bringing the little darlings on’, 70% cutting them back and curbing their wilder instincts; the fun is to be had in finding the balance. Happy gardening!

Thank you Mary. I’m discovering radiotherapy has a lot in common with the set of Star Wars – huge machines hovering over you in a rather space age way, but all going jolly well I think! Ever onward xx

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