The Garden - Planning and making a start

The existing garden was simple and functional but with too much car parking space, a lack of privacy off the main highway, not enough colour (e.g. flowers) and no greenhouse or kitchen garden. There was a small patio area, where we had enjoyed a glass of wine with the previous owners while discussing the house purchase, and a very solid raised brick fish pond with a number of ‘sitting’ tenants.

We had a sort of plan that was really just a list of things we did or did not want in the garden:

(i) The lawn had to go - we are not fans of the greensward.
(ii) A larger patio area suitable for all year round use.
(iii) A fence/gate at the entrance of the property to give some privacy while leaving two car parking spaces.
(iv) The fish pond had to go along with its inhabitants - we really did not want the responsibility of caring for the twenty or more fish which, in any case, were largely invisible most of the time.
(v) The extra land was purchased with the intention of creating a kitchen garden so a small greenhouse was essential for raising plants and harvesting crops such as cucumbers and tomatoes.
(vi) Do something with the small courtyard at the front of the house.

Most of the effort in the first year (2002) was spent clearing the kitchen garden of brambles and weeds then digging out the builder’s rubble to a depth of two to three feet. Soil was sieved to recover as much as possible though it would still be necessary to buy in topsoil for the raised beds. Scaffold boards for the raised beds were ordered from Lincolnshire; the delivery lorry was too large to get down the narrow streets so the boards were carried the last 100 yards to the property. Topsoil was ordered from a local company (Radbournes) and paving bricks for the path from ‘I cannot remember where’.

Unfortunately, we cannot find any photographs of the kitchen garden in its very early years. The picture below was from April 2007 so the kitchen garden had matured a little. It looks like I am in the process of re-laying the paths and the garden is being prepared for the growing season; still some leeks to harvest and the chard/beet has bolted! In the top right-hand corner, the Red Windsor apple tree is coming into blossom along with the crab apple (top centre).

The flower garden had to make do with a cheap and cheerful makeover for the moment. Fortunately, there was a ready supply of house bricks from the kitchen garden excavation, the fish pond demolition and, mysteriously, behind the summer house. These were put to good use as borders to existing beds as well as building a standalone circular flower bed. This photo is from a snowy day in February 2004.

The patio was installed in 2003 by Turfcare Landscapes Ltd. The original lawn has gone; now covered with forest bark, a few added bushes/plants plus the ubiquitous trampoline.  In the background is the ‘summer house’ affectionately known as the ‘bus shelter’. Facing west it was a great place to sit and watch the sunset. The circular brick-bed can be seen in the middle of the picture and on the far wall is the greenhouse we brought from our previous residence. Next to the ‘bus shelter’ a patch of lawn - perhaps better described as a ‘close-woven mat of weeds’ - was brick-lined, the turf cut with a spade and inverted (soil upwards) then sown with wildflower seeds. In later years, it gained various other plants/bushes and doubled as the pets graveyard. 

Moving ahead to April 2007, the garden has developed a bit more character and colour. The new greenhouse (Homebase - top right) was put up in 2004. The ‘bus shelter’ was carefully taken down in 2006 and donated to a friend.  In its place, Andrew built the shed (or more correctly, Art Studio) from scratch and also installed the fence/gate at the side of the property to provide some privacy. 

The only other noteworthy addition to the garden before 2007 was at the front of the house where a not-unattractive wall separated a small concreted front garden from the public highway.

The wall was causing damp ingress into the house so we took the opportunity to rebuild it while incorporating some dampproofing measures. We found a local builder who would include a ‘flower bed’ in the top of the wall. The display in the wall changes with the seasons and from year to year; see examples below:

In the next article charting the development of the garden, we will look at the newly acquired ‘Secret Garden’, expansion of the main flower gardens and the redevelopment of the kitchen garden to include a polytunnel and hot composting facilities.


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