In the cause of scientific research, my youngest son leaned across his sister and opened the car window. This could be seen as being pretty unremarkable, except that we were going through a car-wash at the time. The findings of the experiment were: a. that bedraggled sisters pack a surprisingly hard punch and b. angry dads can affect ones finances by withholding pocket money.
It must be in the genes. My own experiments, this time in the seemingly safe environs of the garden, have sometimes proved to be equally disastrous. I feel strongly that the long list of rules the 'experts' compile are there to be tested. The garden is a personal art project and to be told that certain colours only work with certain other colour, or that, due to the current fashion, a particular plant is not to be used because its out of favour, is a bit of an imposition. You only need to look at how nature ignores all the rules in the countryside and comes up with stunning effects.
We had a bare patch of wall immediately next to the front door and I felt the front of the house would be improved if the hardness of the brickwork were to be relieved by some greenery. With this in mind, I set to and broke out a rectangle of concrete path to create a small bed against the wall. This was then planted with Virginia creeper ( Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Veitchii'). It didn't require any trellis for support because the plant climbs like Spiderman, with little suckers which will stick to anything, including glass. This worked really well: in the summer the greenery did its job and was then followed by fiery autumn colour. The limitation, as I saw it, was that it is a deciduous plant, losing all its leaves in winter and leaving the wall looking as boring as it did originally. To remedy this, I planted a variegated ivy (Hedera helix 'Goldheart') about a foot away from the creeper. My idea was that, when the Parthenocissus lost its leaves, the brightness of the evergreen ivy would give the wall interest throughout the winter.
"You can't do that", said my sage gardening friends, as a man, "one of 'em 'll out compete the other for water and nutrients, leading to the weakest snuffing it".
However, in some ways, this experiment was a resounding success. Both plants grew with a competitive vigour that surprised us all. Unfortunately, they didn't know where to stop: a visit into the loft showed how ivy is happy to grow in extremely poor light conditions, while the creeper made its way round the front of the house and demonstrated its expertise in clinging to glass by colonising the bedroom window. Impervious to my argument that this could do away with the need for curtains and all the messing about they entail, my wife insisted I do something about it by 'cutting the damn things back." This, I think, is why there are more men scientists than women. Anyway, I climbed the ladder and cut it back to about two thirds up the wall. Unfortunately this became an annual necessity and, as I'm not keen on ladders and my wife is relentless when it comes to curtain substitutes, I eventually dug the whole lot out. On the positive side, I'd proved the experts wrong.
At our previous house, there was an unsightly telegraph pole actually touching our garden wall. I decided to test the properties claimed for Russian vine in being good at hiding eyesores, by planting one at the base of it. Again, this worked wonderfully, quickly and completely masking the pole. However, I began to worry when it decided the pole wasn't enough and started to explore the potential of the wires emanating from it. As we were always telling the children, 'it's knowing when to stop'. The road was beginning to take on the look and feel of the Amazon rain forest when I solved that one. We moved.