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The great mixed border cleanup

border tasks

I ask a lot of questions in the garden. What is this? How do I take care of it? Do I have the right tools for this task? Will this space ever stop looking horribly amateur? Even as I’m doing good work, like clearing overgrowth or carrying out badly-needed pruning, I still can’t help but feel like I’m wrecking what was built from years of passion and nurturing and turning it into a junk heap. And since every section of the garden is a work in progress, they all feel like junk heaps. Dear self, it gets worse before it gets better.

This evergreen mixed border in the back is the most landscaped section of our yard. The idea behind a mixed border is to bring in variations in form, texture, colour and blooming times, so that the area retains visual interest year-round. The local Botanic Gardens has a beautiful, elaborate one. I’m so glad that there’s some established plants to work with here, like the camellias, but with room to shape it further.

So I’ve just been cleaning up all the overgrowth, transplanting plants to and from different areas of the yard, adding a few plants to fill in the gaps and tearing out as much English ivy as I can. Knocking off one small job at a time.

border cleanout

And now it’s a blank slate, of sorts.

I should probably mention that limbed conifer. That poor tree. Some idiot – that is, me, I am an idiot – hacked off the bottom branches, thinking it could be pruned into shape. I didn’t realise just how bare it was until too late. Guess what: conifers don’t regrow from old wood. It’s gonna stay breezy round the base of this tree, and I’m really, really hoping that some nearby plantings will make it look better. I think it will! Time will only tell.

But other than that, everything’s looking real tidy. No more English ivy! It’s declared a noxious, invasive weed, so I jumped in there and started cleaning house. The entire floor of that bed was one big tangle of vines. Horrible.

junglejungle cleared

LOOK AT ALL THAT SPACE! This little jungle took some serious bushwhacking. The ivy had matured and filled in the space, to the point where it had grown into a shrub. I know it looks pretty and lush, but the ivy had crept into the other plants and was starting to strangle them. No good.

ivy takeover

Pro tip, don’t plant English ivy unless you like having your other plants choked out.

lemonwood cleared

Another before and after: the base of the pittosporum. There was an ancient, mostly-dead fuchsia in here, which also had to go. I gave the euphorbia a good prune, because it’ll definitely come back and then some.

banksia cleared

This banksia came out of our front yard, and it’s finally looking happy and settled.


For now, I’ve just mulched everything. I rather like having a bit of breathing room between plants. Other people like the extra-crowded cottage garden look, but in my own yard it was giving me an eye twitch. I want to be able to spot weeds and other potential problems, and it’s also nice to let certain plants be standouts.

That said, I’ve begun to add a few plants here and there, just to fill it in more evenly. Some groundcovers will also be good. Looks like I’m due for another trip to the native nursery!

5 thoughts on “The great mixed border cleanup”

  1. I’m inspired now! There are some overgrown spots in our back yard that need a hard cut back and clean up. It’s always hard to get into it, but once you do it is rewarding!

    Keep up the great work!

  2. I despise English Ivy and can’t understand why it is still legal to sell it. I’ve got an 8,000 sq ft lot in Northern CA, that is buried under it. I have been working it by hand but really need a goat to get a good start. Ugh!

  3. Pingback: Reasons for removing established plants | Saltbush Avenue

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