Garden Graft gets results!

There are days when I could think of quite a few things to keep me in the house. There are times in the garden when the graftiest of graft can give pretty lean results. There are moments of quiet satisfaction even when its mundane jobs that have been tacked and done.

And there are days when the magic happens, the plan comes together, a changing landscape emerges and the thought that was in your head comes to fruition right in front of your eyes.
And it’s so worth it!

You’ve seen glimpses of it, right at the back by the shed. This time last year it was knee-deep in overgrowth, out-of-control raspberries, ‘Rhu’ the rhubarb fighting for air with various rampant rogues as well as half the estates’ brambles. And now you get to see the transformation.

First I cleared it last summer, moving Rhu and raspberries to new homes and de-weeding in girly style with my trowel.

Then I got serious and unearthed years of broken glass and other debris and let it settle down over the winter covered in weed control fabric. With spring came break through weeds, and where the wind had blown or rips had appeared, out popped the crop of undesirables that you wish had a place at our menu as they grow so easily.

Then with steady thought, plenty of coffee, a new saw, a change of plan, a delivery of wood, came a frame. More weed control, a shake of gravel, some double checking with the spirit level, a bit of screwing and hey ho, I have my unique decking- Amazing!

I went for scaffolding boards in the end for ease and because if we need the wheelchair up that end I thought they would be nice and strong although I have no doubt decking would do the job just as well. I’m liking the effect- A lot. In fact, so much do I like the effect that it galvanised me into action last weekend and a couple of nights after work to clear the last really untackled bit in the back corner, even getting behind the fence and cutting back massive branches that have wanted to be tackled for years. Yes, it created a bit of a logistical problem, two scrawny arms and enough cuttings to bury the garden, but never mind, I’ll cut it up an bag it up over the next couple of weeks. The brambles are in the incinerator waiting for a dry evening. Some of the roots were huge but the whole back fence is clear of them and with the roots out I am hoping life will be scratch free from now on.

With sunshine on the way I’m looking forward to a gentle weekend of contemplation when I can admire progress so far (because there is always more isn’t there) and think about whether it’s a pond, a water feature, a geometric paved feature or a very yummy jammy, sticky cream cake that I need to be getting my teeth into next. I wonder what will win?!

Mrs P

I Didn’t Sleep Out (but I will)

I confess, straight away, that I didn’t do it. (Sounds a bit odd that phrase; can’t see it being said too often in crime dramas!)

We didn’t end up in the garden for the Big Sleep: I’m sorry. I love the concept of it: Warm, balmy evening, jobs all done, nearest and dearest sharing end of day chat and laughter, perfect bliss. But, like many other people on the planet, planning for SleepOut night was slightly overshadowed by the phenomenal opening event of the Olympics the night before. Wow! I had been all set for delinquent animals going AWOL and leaving deposits on the athletics track, but I have to say I was mesmerised by Danny Boyle’s theatre, the scale, the story the, well… the spectacle.
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Mrs. P the Mama Bird’s Story, Part 3

Mrs P - Raised Bed and Solar Light

Good morning Saturday! Blue sky and billowy trees and (as yet) no rain. Although I quite liked rain last weekend, (sorry Jubillee-ers) because it meant I didn’t have to cut the hedge :) It’s 200 feet of rampant, scratchy green stuff that not only needs cut but cleared and bagged up and, I’m sorry, that’s nearly as bad as recurring villain ‘ironing’. And because it looks like it’ll be bright, I’ll have no excuses today. Still, it would be way too rude to get out the noisy machine at the moment (7am) so I will contemplate nature’s changes before I drift out with a cup of coffee and see what’s occurring.

That’s what, as a new new ‘gardener’ I’m kind of getting to like: in the five days of Welsh wind and torrential rain, the garden will have changed without me having set foot in it. Last weekend my first ever carnation opened in the new raised beds. And I know it’s survived this week as I can see it from the living room window. Looks a tad lonely, but hopefully some friends are due to arrive fairly soon.
Mrs P - First Carnation - Raised Bed and Solar Light
When I took the picture I didn’t realise first friend would be the Olympic slug!

I put plenty in, I just don’t have any idea what the full bloom effect will look like. Well, I sort of do… There will be pink carnations sitting beside multi-coloured lupins (which will always make me smile because my Mum had them in the gravely bit between her and next door and I did a project about them in school). There are some other things planted at equal space on the other side with quite big velvety leaves but I can’t remember what they are. I know they are not hostas because I’m steering clear of them after one of them decided to eat my front garden. If my kids had grown that quickly they’d have been in the Guinness Book of World Records. I’m afraid I don’t like plants that are so confident they dominate your garden in a couple of seasons but I suppose once I get to grips with what plants are what (!) and how I’m supposed to tame them, I might change my mind.

Anyway, the mixed arrangement next to the carnation plant is likely to be a splendid multi coloured surprise given my inability to retain things like plant names, but still, much better than the riot of weeds, brambles and horrible things that were there last year. It is going to look mega fab when the gravel goes down there. Hopefully this weekend or next depending on whether I eat my Weetabix, and get myself down to order the stuff. I’ve got an aerial pre gravel picture so you can see what you think when I get it done.
Mrs P - Aerial Shot

My garden renovation is coming along well. The only dilemma is ‘Rhu’. The garden was sparkly splendid after lots of rain. Clearly I hadn’t knocked enough holes in some of the planters and I had to de-waterlog the one with honeysuckle in. Everything else looks charmingly healthy, bursting with enthusiasm after the right royal rain. Indeed the hedge, who will not be given an affectionate name because I still begrudge the achy hours of cutting it, looks perkier than ever and perfectly pleased at growing so quickly in such a short time. Grrr.
Mrs P - 'Rhu' the Rhubarb
And Rhu was today’s big smile: I moved Rhu in the great liberation of the far back in the first sunshine of this spring. Rhu was not too charmed as she was already producing chunky stems of fruit, but no, she couldn’t stay so she got uprooted to a new home approximately six feet away. At first she looked ok but then had a major wilt and I was quite worried about her. Thankfully though, she has enjoyed the weather and there are eight or nine shoots that weren’t there last week. Lucky she delivered actually, because the six foot move wasn’t properly thought out and I did consider further relocation. New shoots, she wins, no hard feelings.

I’m sorry– I didn’t cut the hedge. It rained again. And I this is all so much fun … Jasmine, the newest addition to the newly emerging garden has obviously been planted in exactly the right place… two plants, one either side of the best branch wigwam in the west. Made by my niece and nephew from the rudest, hardest to cut, balance on whatever you can balance on to reach the branch, branch (and hedges shouldn’t even have branches, should they?) The wigwam was built by the three of us in the last light of a Saturday afternoon. It seemed like a properly aunt-y thing to do, especially as they never know what to expect with me (which means they are rarely disappointed). I wanted to keep the wigwam because, for me, it’s a kind of spontaneous art feature.

Mrs P's Twig Teepee
There isn’t a lot of wiggle space in it which is a bit disappointing but I want it to be around for a while as a happy memory. It looks crooked and wonky as natural things should. And Jasmine just loves it! She has started sprouting new shoots which she is starting to wrap round the legs of it. I added a small string of dragonfly solar lights and it does exactly what I wanted, makes me smile :)

Mrs P.

Mrs. P the Mama Bird’s Story, Part 2

Mrs P - Aerial Shot

It’s the little things sometimes, isn’t it? I’ve been so pleased with progress so far in renovating my garden and sifting through all the ideas that keep drifting into my head, that I sometimes forget that it is the maintenance things that give the full effect. So I cut the grass! It’s getting easier now because the garden’s divided and some of it is barked and gravelled, so the whole task is much more manageable. It helps too when the strimmer behaves, which following the usual groan and burp noises that signify ‘the nylon broke’, strimmer and I settled down to re-nyloning the spindle. The little raised arrows gave me a clue and I’m happy to report that no more unpleasant noises were emitted.

But with the sun out you just can’t keep ignoring stuff, can you? Ironing, car washing, more ironing and cleaning the oven just don’t even scratch the surface compared to washing the fascias out the back. Suffice to say I did not iron, wash the car or clean the oven, I treated myself to a sponge wash up a step ladder to make the plastic trim shine again. I am just such an exciting person. It worked though, the garden needs a back drop that doesn’t irritate you when you sit down after doing your jobs or when you are just admiring nature’s work.
Solar post lights
Call me even sad but I then realised, with prompting, that rather than uprooting, re-digging and cementing a new washing line in, that I could revitalise the ones I’ve got with a tin of Hammerite. A very pleasing hours work with instant results and, unlike after fascia washing, I was not soaking wet. The neighbours probably think I’m sad too. I decided to put solar lights in the top of each washing line post so that at night it looks like I have two streetlights in the garden :)

To be continued…
Mrs. P

Mrs. P the Mama Bird’s Story, Part 1

Oh, I do wish I had taken some pictures of the old garden! Way back last year when I suddenly found myself in the nest alone after 25 years of worm-catching for baby birds (now strapping great lads), looking at the space that had been a football pitch, a water bomb arena, a wake up and take breakfast outside space, I discovered the garden was not just a place of frustrating chores and endless struggle, but a blank canvas of interest and plans and thoughts that chill me out and amuse me. I started on a journey that as a busy mum, I simply couldn’t have imagined…


With lot of clearing and a new fence, the transformation is underway!

In the worm-catching years I struggled with countless lawnmowers – a ‘lawn’ that would not weather the scrutiny of any trade description, blessed as it is with random lumps and bumps, half a metal scrap yard (now safely dug up and recycled), some horrid bionic leaves that grow bulbs on bulbs and the most rampant hedge you wouldn’t wish for. Many hours of my life that I’ll never get back were invested in keeping the garden ‘under control’ and a fair bit of money spent on the odd plant (but I gave up after the Eric Cantona’s prodigy beheaded the rhododendron in two hours flat). It had truly been a love-hate relationship!

But last year I used some of the time once invested in motherhood to harness some energy, engage a bit of brain and try to liberate the garden. It was never going to be a quick fix because there is so much of it. And despite harnessing and engagement, the grass and hedge still demand a degree of attention that frankly I could live without. Still, by the end of the summer I was committed to never having my nails manicured (wasn’t going to anyway) and happily puddling ‘round, ‘digging’ with a trowel because I am way too delicate to jangle all my bones hitting buried junk with a spade.

And, if I do say so myself, decent progress was made. The weediest weedy bit was cleared and covered with weed control. Bark was unceremoniously dumped on it and a couple of lavender plants plonked in.

Wow! They are so happy there — they have doubled in size. But the main bulk of my work (with my trowel) was the lumpiest bit of garden that the ‘horrible plants’ had overtaken. No word of a lie, their bulbs grow one on top of the other and form a ridiculous mat of impenetrable stuff. Still, I picked a good time when the soil was damp but not soaking to have a go at them and slowly but surely they got green recycled out of my garden.

And then a Eureka moment! My biggest ‘Grrr’ in the garden is not so much the work but the difficulty of doing it alone. Silly branches just out of reach necessitating some sort of acrobatic endeavour to reach and cut them, all sorts of wonderful fencing that would require more acrobatics and the firm belief that no one could YouTube me fighting with them, lovely paving stones that just shout at me to leave them in the shop because I can’t lift them and I love my toes. You know the stuff, the list goes on.

And then the question of the technical know-how and the skill to make things out of bricks or stones and concrete, Ewwww. My two will tell you that you could artex a ceiling with the semolina I make because of the lumps, so there was no way Mrs. Weedy-arms was going to try her hand at mixing stuff that is dusty and goes all sorts of random, wrong places. No, sir.

But I did fall upon the idea of raised beds. You can’t build them wrong because they’re made of sleepers. (OK, I did cheat and have a little bit of help with moving and screwing together. In my defence I bought ones I could lift the second time although I have to concede that I ended up in casualty when one landed on my foot. Only me…)

The whole principle of the sleeper worked because they are straight and natural, provide natural divides in the wonky garden and can also host a flourish of colour when you plant things in them. Eureka! The garden is now sort of divided into four areas and while only three of them are de-bumped and level, there is a space that is flat and gravelled.

It’s modest but it’s mine. This space is fab late afternoon and into the evening with some candle pots and good company!

Working at a modest pace, with a very small tool and being prepared to be the tortoise not the hare helped the process. So did working out what I could manage on my own in my non technical, not strong but prepared to try, enthusiasm. Somehow that Eureka transformed my view of the garden, from a place of thankless graft to a place of exciting manageable plans, albeit with a hearty helping of hard graft. I don’t mind that, but I wish I had taken some picture before I started.

To be continued…
Mrs. P