The Garden Build

It’s Monday morning and Damien and Lukas arrive early with the boss, James, who is already familiar with my design for the garden having quoted for it last year after Brian passed away. Together, we walk around the garden, consulting and discussing the intricacies of the design. And so work begins.

Week 1:

Within hours, the tired, mossy carpet, which had been masquerading as a lawn is scraped away. The dark, brown earth beneath lies cold and barren.

The mechanical moan of a digger vibrates relentlessly around the empty garden as they ferry their verdant debris to an ever growing mound on the front lawn. Within two days the lawn is gone and a trench around the footprint of the back and side of house is excavated where the paving will be situated. Outside of the dining room doors, a large circular trench representing the position of the new patio is scored into the earth. It rains. Driving, cold rain. Damien and Lukas appear as dark shadows moving slowly around the garden, looking optimistically upwards, silently praying for the rains to cease. Muddy puddles shiver, silently across the dark, exposed soil. The new garden seems light-years away.
The following day brings a slate grey, cloudy sky. But thankfully the rains have ceased. Hard-core is laid and compressed into the trenches to form the basis and foundations for the patio and paving. Suddenly, there is some structure and I can just about imagine the paving in place. Our two cats, Benson and Willow, hide themselves away under the bed as the house rumbles quietly.

Week 2:

The sun is shining in a clear, light blue sky. Slowly, slab by slab, a pathway emerges from around the side of the house. We’ve chosen a mid-grey limestone, in four differing sizes. I’m keen to build and plant a different garden from the last one. For starters, we have a much sunnier, south facing aspect and I’m want to take advantage of this, I’m thinking silver, purple, pink and white, well today, at least. It’ll change tomorrow! Colour themes aside, the grey is a little more contemporary. Is it at all possible that as I approach my mid-fifties I might finally embrace cool, contemporary chic? Probably not!
By mid-week the pathway has travelled along the back of the house and a circular patio is gradually becoming evident.

By the Friday of week two, paving and patio completed around the back of the house and a hard standing cut out in the circular patio for a small summerhouse/office. From this cedar wood building I will write and pursue my artwork. There’s something lovely about working outside and looking at the garden while I work.

Week 3:

A mixed week weather-wise with a selection of scrawly showers, high winds, rain and delightful, watery sunshine. It is February, I guess. This week sees the paving creep slowly to the side gate around the side of the house. This marks the completion of the paving being laid, which is then edged with ‘Silver Haze’ edging blocks. There’s still a long way to go, but the addition of the edging blocks provides a more ‘finished’ look. The circular patio is also cut to size and edged with bricks.

The circular patio is in some respects, at least for now, the focal point of the garden.

Everything runs off this central point; flower borders, paving and lawns. The patio and paving along the back of the house are pointed.

Week 4:

Another great week weather-wise. The guys press on with clearing the corner of the garden at the side of the house where the greenhouse will be sited. This area is thigh-deep with rubbish; old brittle and partly broken plastic garden chairs, old paint pots, shattered terracotta plant pots, plastic bottles and much more. Within hours, the debris is consigned to the back of the open-back lorry. Looks far better there than it did in the corner of the garden. By mid-week the area has been cleared and the concrete base for the greenhouse made. A new retaining wall along the neighbouring boundary is built and in front of that an eight metre close board fence erected. The whole area is transformed.

Week 5:

The first ‘Silver Haze’ edging bricks which will surround a five metre diameter, circular lawn to the right of the circular patio are laid.

If you haven’t already guessed, there’s a touch of a circular theme going on. On the left hand side boundary, upright oak sleepers are cut in half in order to build a one metre retaining wall.

The boundary here slopes upwards towards our neighbours who are at a slightly higher level than we are. Mid-week brings torrential and persistent rain. Within hours the garden is bubbling, cold mud. The guys work on. The rain beats them and they fall wet and weary into the lorry. Who would work outside?!

Advertisements

New Beginnings – Part III

So much to be done in the new garden I’m gidd yknowing where to start. Decisions made, I contact the landscaper to ask for the build of the new garden to be rescheduled. Whilst I’m obviously keen to keep the existing design and build the garden as a lasting tribute to our lovely friends, I’ll make the planting areas slightly bigger. Further, around the side of the house, the existing plastic tool shed will be removed and replaced by a bespoke compost area (the lifeblood of any garden) and in front of the existing wooden potting shed, a brick-based, Victorian greenhouse set towards the back of another circular lawn.

Before that, though, the existing shrubs around the garden need some work. Many have been allowed to wander and intertwine, to block vistas and shroud the borrowed landscape beyond. The stunning, columnar bell tower of nearby St Stephen’s church masked by fingers of excitable conifer. And some overgrown, gnarled and woody shrubs, devoid of foliage which have long since passed their ‘sell by’ date will need to be removed. We use a local tree surgeon when we have clients whose needs are bigger than the support we are safely and effectively able to provide. A site visit and in-depth discussion with Jim culminating in a date and plan of attack. We will remove and cut back as much as we are able to ahead of their visit, with the resulting prunings and shrub corpses to be shredded and taken away by them in mid-October.

It’s late September and with a battle-plan drawn up, we take to wrestling the overgrown Fuchsia magellanica shrubs at the front side of the house. These neglected, sorry specimens line the right hand boundary in a small area approximately four metres by two metres where our waste disposal bins are housed on a hard standing. Regular trips to and from the bins require careful negotiation between refuse bins and the twisted fingers of Fuchsia that pull and pick at clothing and bare arms. Within an hour the fuschias are no more. Top growth and root balls consigned to the newly established holding area in a shady corner of the back garden. Within the morning, a tall, bulky conifer and another spindly fuchsia are removed.

Adrenaline and excitement pumping, we head eagerly, tools in hand, into the back garden. The freshly, flattened, front side border continues, albeit over a brick and fence partition. Further fuschias, a near petrified Viburnum and several hebes join the skeletal and tortured remains in the holding area.

The removal of perhaps a dozen or so shrubs around the house has made an immediate impact. Less cluttered, and the line of shrubs like soldiers on parade, that I detest, is broken and less regimented. But, every silver lining has a cloud, and this particular cloud is the exposure of the faded, silvery, bleached larchlap fences that sit atop a ten course brick wall around the west and south borders of the back garden. I’ve already decided that the garden at High Haven will not be a replication of our previous garden. It needs to be different; it needs to reflect all of the lessons I’ve learnt in the last twenty years; it needs to accommodate a revised palette of plants and shrubs; it needs to be more dynamic with slightly less maintenance needs. And so, whilst the fences will not be a feature of the garden, they will, in places form the backdrop to the planting garden. And with a palette of silver, purple, blues and pinks, sprinkled with a dusting of white, we decide upon a mid-grey to adorn the fences.

Hocus Crocus

Springtime is truly magical.

After months of the dismal, dreariness of winter’s grey skies, cold, driving winds and torrential downpours, spring seems long overdue.

The crocus though, with the snowdrop flowering in more or less the same season, is to me at least, always the bridesmaid and never the bride. But I think it’s time to have a closer look at the crocus.

Crocus is a genus of plants from the iris family, of which there are an unbelievable 90 species. They are perennials which grow from a bulb-like organism known as a corm. Many are cultivated for their flowers appearing in winter and spring, with some species flowering in autumn. A jewel box full of colours from rich purples, pale pinks, vibrant oranges to pristine white and creams. Single coloured, bi-coloured and striped, there is so much to choose from. And did you know, the spice saffron is obtained from the stigma of Crocus sativus, one of the autumn flowering crocus?

In their native habitat, crocuses are generally found nestled in woodland settings in central and southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. As such, in a garden setting they look wonderful naturalised in lawns and underneath the canopy of deciduous trees and shrubs.

So scatter some crocus corms in your garden this autumn for a truly magical display next spring.

New Beginnings – Part III

So much to be done in the new garden I’m giddy not knowing where to start. Decisions made, I contact the landscaper to ask for the build of the new garden to be rescheduled. Whilst I’m obviously keen to keep the existing design and build the garden as a lasting tribute to our lovely friends, I’ll make the planting areas slightly bigger. Further, around the side of the house, the existing plastic tool shed will be removed and replaced by a bespoke compost area (the lifeblood of any garden) and in front of the existing wooden potting shed, a brick-based, Victorian greenhouse set towards the back of another circular lawn.

Before that, though, the existing shrubs around the garden need some work. Many have been allowed to wander and intertwine, to block vistas and shroud the borrowed landscape beyond. The stunning, columnar bell tower of nearby St Stephen’s church masked by fingers of excitable conifer. And some overgrown, gnarled and woody shrubs, devoid of foliage which have long since passed their ‘sell by’ date will need to be removed. We use a local tree surgeon when we have clients whose needs are bigger than the support we are safely and effectively able to provide. A site visit and in-depth discussion with Jim culminating in a date and plan of attack. We will remove and cut back as much as we are able to ahead of their visit, with the resulting prunings and shrub corpses to be shredded and taken away by them in mid-October.
It’s late September and with a battle-plan drawn up, we take to wrestling the overgrown Fuchsia magellanica shrubs at the front side of the house. These neglected, sorry specimens line the right hand boundary in a small area approximately four metres by two metres where our waste disposal bins are housed on a hard standing. Regular trips to and from the bins require careful negotiation between refuse bins and the twisted fingers of fuchsia that pull and pick at clothing and bare arms. Within an hour the fuschias are no more. Top growth and root balls consigned to the newly established holding area in a shady corner of the back garden. Within the morning, a tall, bulky conifer and another spindly fuchsia are removed.
Adrenaline and excitement pumping, we head eagerly, tools in hand, into the back garden. The freshly, flattened, front side border continues, albeit over a brick and fence partition. Further fuschias, a near petrified Viburnum and several hebes join the skeletal and tortured remains in the holding area.
The removal of perhaps a dozen or so shrubs around the house has made an immediate impact. Less cluttered, and the line of shrubs like soldiers on parade, that I detest, is broken and less regimented. But, every silver lining has a cloud, and this particular cloud is the exposure of the faded, silvery, bleached larchlap fences that sit atop a ten course brick wall around the west and south borders of the back garden. I’ve already decided that the garden at High Haven will not be a replication of our previous garden. It needs to be different; it needs to reflect all of the lessons I’ve learnt in the last twenty years; it needs to accommodate a revised palette of plants and shrubs; it needs to be more dynamic with slightly less maintenance needs. And so, whilst the fences will not be a feature of the garden, they will, in places form the backdrop to the planting garden. And with a palette of silver, purple, blues and pinks, sprinkled with a dusting of white, we decide upon a mid-grey to adorn the fences.


From October until December I paint twenty three fence panels, twice. The paint sucked up immediately by the dry, thirsty timbers.

And then, after a brief phone call to the landscaper, I’m advised that the garden build has been scheduled to begin 15 January. Damien and Lukas arrive, early on a mild, cloudy Monday morning.

It’s Hellebore time.

Who can resist these little beauties. Their exquisite faces lowered coquettishly in the winter garden, beckoning passers-by to gently lift their eyes up towards the azure skies.

I love the dark, moody plums and aubergines. And then tomorrow, I’ll be waxing lyrical about creams, or pinks.

Patio perfection

Well I feel like progress is definitely being made. The central circular patio is nearing completion. There’ll be a summerhouse at the back looking back to the house. The missing slab was purely to mark out the circle and will be replaced.

Dithering about heathers?

Heath relates to the Erica genus while Heather relates to the Calluna genus. Both belong to the Ericaceae family, but are botanically different. … The main differences between these species are winter hardiness and foliage (heaths have needle-like leaves while heathers have flat, scalelike leaves)