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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)
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…
Dex the digger, brought his mate Luke to work one day saying that he would share his wages with him, but needed, or perhaps he said wanted, someone else to work with, I can’t quite remember. Well, pleased that the work would get done quicker, I insisted that Luke should be paid equal wages too. Seeing two grown men working for half wages did not sit right with me. However, over the next few days, it did seem to be taking a long time to do these last bits of garden. work Then the rain came, and came and came and came, so that when Dex and Luke came to work, they had to take shelter in the shed at frequent intervals. I was away for 3 days and left them to work, as I had done before when Dex worked alone. This time on my return however, there definitely did seem to be less work done than when Dex had been alone. Did I smell a rat? Had it rained that much? Was I getting paranoid? I pondered over the weekend, and decided to ask Dex to come to work early on Monday, without Luke. I would then work with him most of the day myself. I rang on Sunday to arrange this, but couldn’t speak to Dex directly, leaving a message instead. Early Monday came and went. Dex did arrive late morning with Luke, full of apologies. Unfortunately his personal life had fallen apart that weekend and he had to travel from Kent that morning, from where he was now staying. The cost was outrageous and accounted for most of his earnings that day. We all three worked in the garden till early afternoon and got most jobs finished and the place looking tidy. The new turf had taken well and loved all the rain. I had bought just the Cordyline I wanted and found the perfect place for it. But that was the last I saw of Dex and was left feeling very sad for him. I left thinking about the rest of the garden for another time.
I am over the worry of it now and on the downhill stretch. There were enough bricks reclaimed to remake the wall, and it looks great in light yellow colours of the old London Stock bricks that the house is built in. The path beside it we started in the crazy paving that was down before. However, I was using them only because they were there. I don’t really like the look of crazy paving in a Victorian house setting. The Dex came up with a plan. He had only just started and the cement was still wet. It takes quite a time to fit the jigsaw puzzle together and we reasoned that laying concrete was quicker. Dex’s master plan was to inlay white stones in the cement. I was due to rush to Sussex on a school pick up run in an hour, but chose to rush to the local Jewsons to buy more cement and white stones. I couldn’t quite picture the white path, but took a chance that my taste and Dex’s would match. I flew down to Sussex, but had a bad night there imagining the path to look like a long trail from the top of a grave. The next morning a friend commented that that he had never seem a garden makeover with a graveyard theme….that helped.
But it was lovely and I am so pleased. It still has to have a resin coating so I think it will wear well.