I really love the End of Month View meme run by Patient Gardener. Quite apart from the way it gives me the chance to nose around other people’s gardens, which is always fun, it has proved to be an excellent way to keep track of changes and record the successes and failures as I tweak and re-plan. Having moved, I suddenly find myself with new spaces to garden in, to the front, back and to both sides of the new house. Since I’ve already posted quite a bit about the front garden, I thought I would use EOMV to introduce you to the back garden, not least because I think it is the area that will see the most changes in the coming months.

I’d love to give you an aerial view, but the conservatory gets in the way, so I will have to pan round and explain things as I go. I should warn you, the back garden is currently in an advanced state of chaos. We are having our roofs re-covered (being waterproof in such a wet are of the UK seemed like a good idea), so we haven’t been able to put the greenhouse up yet, and it has been so windy we have laid it out on the grass. Add the fact that my near manic clearance of the front garden has generated more shredding than even TNG can keep up with, and it is not a pretty sight! Anyway, here goes.

shed and greenhouse

Starting on the left, as you look out of the house, I have inherited an 8′ x 6′ shed and an 8′ x 6′ greenhouse! Both are a little tatty and in need of some tlc, but I am thrilled. The greenhouse, in particular, will need some work. One of the panes in the roof has slipped so it is a little open to the elements – a fact which the cat which has adopted our garden as it’s own takes full advantage of, sunning itself there regularly. It scared itself silly the other day by knocking a box off one of the shelves. Serves it right for trespassing!

overgrown greenhouse
messy greenhouse

Clearing out next door’s “mile a minute” vine and the detritus that had collected on the floor was a good way to spend an hour after dinner one evening. The greenhouse has power running to it, though it seems a little erratic. At some stage, probably next winter, we hope to carefully dismantle it, rub down the wood, and re-stain it, giving it a new lease of life. In the mean time, it has already become a nice space to be, though the wooden staging is at a back-breakingly low level.

tidy greenhouse

Yesterday evening, once the roofers had left, I took a beer out there and split up pots of supermarket thyme and parsley, and sowed some overly optimistic beetroot.

splitting parsley

It would help if I had managed to find the box with all my plant labels in, but hey!

shredding central

Moving on round, there is a large level area next to the greenhouse in front of the oil tank encolusure, currently covered in shredding. The perfect place for cold frames and plants in pots waiting for their new homes.

back left

The area of grass immediately next to the shed and greenhouse is currently intended to be left as grass, more specifically, as a space for tents to be pitched. Our house is small, and we can foresee nephews and nieces, or even friends, camping out back if we already have a house full. Funnily enough, having moved to the seaside seems to have made us quite popular all of a sudden!

I tend to view grass in smallish gardens as a bit of a waste of good planting space, but I have enjoyed walking barefoot on it, and it is full of clover and daisies. I was all set to turn it into a mini meadow, until I realised that if it worked, I would get upset when tents were pitched on top of beautiful wildflowers. So we’ll see, maybe no one will want to camp after all! Given how chilly it has become, I suspect we may have taken the kayak out for the last time this year, and once we have cleared up the garage from the most recent delivery of our worldly possessions, it can stop lolling around on the grass and be put away.

back center

Looking straight out from the conservatory, over the strange “feature”, you can just about see some of the shrubs that featured in my Garden Bloggers Foliage Day post. I find that the gravel area really plays with my perceptions. I always look out and think how shallow the garden is, when in fact it goes back a full 10m from the patio. It just happens to be wider than it is deep, almost twice as wide in fact, and I find that I have to stand on the grass to get a realistic feeling for the size of it.

lots of grass

I knew from the beginning that I was going to want to have a lot of space in the back garden devoted to growing fruit and veg, and my early plans were all based around the idea of separating it out into two separate areas, one for relaxing in and having ornamentals, the other for growing edibles. I’ve completely changed my mind, and now want to mix them all in together, making the majority of the space a kitchen garden, with flowers grown for cutting and pollinators mixed in amongst the beds of edibles. An article in ‘Gardens Illustrates’ about a Tom Stuart-Smith design has me all inspired to go for a very geometric layout of rectangular and square beds, with, at least initially, grass paths between. Relying on the billowing planting to soften the harsh edges might not work, but I remember getting excited about similar ideas from John Brookes, years ago, and since the shed, greenhouse, greenhouse pad, patio, extension, all present lots of strong rectangular shapes, working with them and using them to suggest the layout of the beds seems interesting to me. At the same time I will be attempting to stretch the garden out front to back by using decking that runs perpendicular to the house (when we can afford it) and running long beds in the same direction. I also want to try growing some apples and pears as either cordons or espaliers, which will add height and again draw the eye into the garden and hopefully distract from the width.

Anwyay, enough, back to the tour, I will probably have changed my mind again by the next EOMV post!

strange feature

That strange feature with the gravel that I mentioned sits immediately beyond the (very tastful!) patio. In the property details the gravel area is surrounded by planters filled with flowers, as is the semi-circle of earth. By the time we got here it was all weeds. I was sitting at the table out there bemoaning the delay in getting veg beds set up when I suddenly realised I had the perfect opportunity to sow some salad leaves and oriental veg right in front of me.

first sowing

A couple of hours – and a full trug – later, I had sown pak choi, mibuna, mizuna, bekana, tsoi sim, and a selction of mustards and cut and come again lettuce leaves. It felt so good to be sowing again. It must have gone to my head, because I sowed it all in a kind of wheel shape, with the salad leaves as the tires and salad onions as the spokes. Two weeks later germination is looking pretty good, and I am hoping that the surrounding gravel will deter the slugs.


The lovely little acer that I have rescued from the clutches of an over enthusiastic lonicera and one of those wretched spotted laurels sits in a strange, curved, gravel-mulched bed. With my new obsession with rectilinear design, I plan to straighten all that out, re-use the gravel elsewhere, remove the weed suppressant membrane, and under plant with spring bulbs and hellebores.


The strange curved bit ends at the sambucus, which I hope to cut hard back next Spring and encourage to become more shrub-like. It should then fill the space better, at least when it is in leaf. Ivy on the trellis behind will give us a little extra privacy, though on the park side it is so dense with brambles that I don’t really think any peeping tom will be loitering.

first planting

One of the plants that TNG managed to load into Cameron when he came up to join me here was a lovely purple hazel. It had been growing in the west facing border of my previous garden, but had become so big that I dug it up and put it in a pot so that I could plant dahlias. At the time I fully expected to be planting it in a new garden within six months. That was almost three years ago, and although it had survived surprisingly well, it was not looking happy. So, I cut it hard back and planted it in the equivalent place in this garden. In doing so I discovered that the soil here is sandy clay, and a joy to dig. So much easier than the heavy clay in my previous garden! I watered it in well and then started watching it for signs of happiness. I was overjoyed when, within 2 weeks, it was clearly sending out new growth all over the place.

new growth

Come Spring, I will cut it back even harder to encourage new straight shoots straight from the base. Hopefully by then the root system will be really well established and it should quickly fill the space. I harbour hopes of being able to use the prunings from coppicing it every few years to make plant supports.

So there you have it. The back garden as it looks at the end of August. You may have noticed the complete lack of any flowering plants? I harbour hopes of bulbs appearing in spring, and I know there are primroses lurking behind the ferns, but I am certainly looking forward to using the shrubby borders as the backdrop for some colourful annuals, and in time, perennials, as well as a productive kitchen garden. I am pricing up materials for raised beds, and hopefully by the end of September we will have managed to get my little greenhouse up and at least one raised bed installed, so that I can plant out the purple sprouting broccoli and spring cabbages I intend to buy as plug plants. Failing that, they will go straight in the ground with lots of manure!

Thanks again to Helen, the Patient Gardener, for hosting EOMV, and do go and check out the posts linked to in the comments on her blog.

55 thoughts on “End of Month View August 2012 – The Back Garden

  1. Hi Janet,

    Very nice to meet your back garden! Btw, I wouldn’t say you have a small garden, trust me I’ve seen, had small gardens (3x3m) and yours looks wonderful especially as it wraps around the house :)

    Good on you for rescuing the Acer from the satanic Laurel (am I going too far?? :) )
    Oh and I was trying not to comment on your fetching patio, but as you commented on its beauty I feel I must agree with you! heehee.

    In general I think your back garden is looking very nice, considering it could be much worse! I think I could live with it happily without feeling I need to rush out and get to work. It isn’t looking too weedy either -except for ivy, but ivy is pretty..

    Btw, I read that some rural areas will get frost tonight!!! Are you kidding me??!!!! Seriously, I can’t believe it. My worst fears are coming true – hard winter arriving early this year???

    1. Hi Liz, I agree, this isn’t a small garden, and no, “satanic” doesn’t go too far ;-) I’m amazed you aren’t jealous of my patio though…

      I do agree that the back garden doesn’t shout “do things with me now”, which is just as well, since the front garden has exactly that effect on me. My main priority is to get some veg beds up and running, otherwise I will take my time. It will be nice to get the greenhouse up though.

      I read about the frost thing too – madness! So much for my Indian summer. No frost here but I did think it was time to fit the chimney balloon to block off the draft until we have had it swept.

      1. Hi Janet,

        Being right next to the coat I doubt very much you will get a frost unless it’s seriously cold! This morning was bitterly cold; not far off freezing here but it’s quickly warmed up to be a nice (late) summer day. The Peacocks have come out in force too with 8 or 9 on my Buddleja. By far the most I’ve seen since I was a child.

        Ok Ok, so I am jealous of your lovely patio, but I need not be jealous of your lovely red stained shed and fence because I have some of that myself :D

        Looking forward to seeing thigs develop… Oh I wish I had a new garden again!

  2. Great to see more of your garden. There is so much potential and I can see that shed with a lick of paint and the greenhouse fixed looking great. Your’e a 2 greenhouse household, you have a camper van and a kayak… jeez I’m green with envy ;) It’s great to share in your excitement about your new garden. I’m going to really enjoy seeing it evolve.

    1. Hi WW, I have a sad tendency to fall asleep debating colours for shed and greenhouse with myself, assuming I am not re-arranging plants out in the front garden… We sat on our camping chairs on the beach yesterday afternoon watching the waves crashing (on shore gale force winds make it interesting), musing about how obscenely fortunate we feel. Now is probably not the time to admit that we also managed to find a little sailing dinghy going for a song on ebay…

  3. So much was covered– wow. Your shed/garden house will be a great place to work. Great work bench. We are quite popular in the family now that we are on the lake. I am glad though, nice to have everyone here.
    That purple hazel is great, glad it is springing back. What a great color.

    1. Hi Janet, I have been so very green about you living right on the lake like that, it is nice to have my own water close at hand! And I agree, it is really nice to be able to live somewhere that people love to visit, having family and friends sharing the beauty of this place is very special.

      I was thrilled to see the lovely purple leaves unfurling on the hazel, I am extraordinarily fond of it.

    1. Originally there was another greenhouse, on the gravel and slab area in front of the shed – they must have taken it down at some point in the 2 years they were trying to sell. It is really great having a second greenhouse to play with, and with power too, but the shed is what I am most thrilled about, so much space, and already organised with lots of things to hang tools on.

  4. Why do I get the sense that you are not going to be bored for even a single minute over the next few months? What a wonderful place to garden in, Janet, full of practical, useful spaces and beautiful, green ones, too. I have to say, I’m beginning to think that curved beds are not all they are cracked up to be. They can come across as a little random, like someone put them in because they thought they had to, because they heard that curved beds were better. (Speaking as someone who has one, for exactly that reason…) Your (current) idea of letting plantings soften rectangular and square beds sounds lovely.

    1. Hi Stacy, you are quite right, no boredom issues for me! When the ME prevents me from being active outside I can be inside dreaming about what to do with all that lovely space and potential.

      Interesting what you say about curved beds. I had lots of curves in my last garden, so maybe I am rebelling, or just wanting to do something different? This garden certainly has some very arbitrary curves, bolted on to the straight lines. Most peculiar.

  5. It’s very exciting to ‘meet’ some more of your garden, and watch you start to unfurl your plans and get stuck in. Love your appropriation of the gravel island for some late leaves! That is quite an odd feature indeed, even imagining planters of flowers all around it still leaves an unanswered “why?”… :)
    The TSS garden was really striking, although I suspect maybe a little too strongly structured for you and your space there, perhaps you will find a balance in between. It is probably quite a blessing that the garden is not full of flowering herbaceous plants, but just contains a strong skeleton of mostly good shrubs that you can re-use. Saves you demurring over ripping out flowering plants that just don’t suit, giving you a really blank canvas to start daubing onto…
    Fab to arrive in plenty of time to plant spring flowering bulbs while dreaming up the rest of the garden…

    1. Hi Sara, I agree, and if you could see the picture of that gravel area with the planters in place, you would certainly question the motivation behind its creation. Actually the thing that drives me most nuts is the little two course high brick wall separating it from the patio. When we find out sledgehammer, I will get very active!

      Re the TSS garden, one of the reasons it works so well is the scale, which I certainly don’t have. Plus the veg beds won’t provide the year round fullness that most of his would. Still, it got me thinking differenetly, and that is always good. And I do adore a lot of his planting combinations, the man is a master.

      I’m conflicted on the bulb front! As I don’t know what is already there, I think I will have to limit myself to planting up some pots with basic bulbs and waiting to see what else is around. Oh, and tulips for pots of course… Budget? What budget. Who needs a new boiler anyway, we can always just wear extra jumpers…

  6. Thank you for letting us see your back garden in its ‘before’ state, I think a blank canvas is much easier to plant than trying to re-do someone elses work, it’s good that you don’t have to reorganise perennials that are probably not what you want. I can see loads of seeds starting life in your greenhouse, btw, I raised my staging with bricks underneath, much better now. About your lawn, maybe part could be a meadow (we usually have a circle), you could have a square if you want straight lines, and then leave the rest as mown lawn for visitors tents! Take your time making decisions, I’m so glad we couldn’t do ours all at once, I’m sure I would have changed my mind more than once!

    1. Hi Pauline, we have a friend coming next week who is going to camp, so we will get a feel for how much grass is needed to make that a comfortable experience. I am going to get a couple of veg beds up and running and then take it slowly from there. One of the things we really need to take our time about is working out how large a deck we want/need to make it easy for a large group to sit around eating and drinking. But I do want to get some fruit trees planted this winter…

  7. Hope your energy keeps up with your enthusiasm Janet – lots of lovely potential and plenty of ideas to keep you busy.

    1. Hi Elaine, the energy is sadly lacking for all but day-dreaming and scribbling on paper, with the occasional sowing session thrown in for good measure. Once the other greenhouse is up I can replace the slipped pane in the timber greenhouse and get sowing some plants for the front garden. Visiting fit relatives and friends will be roped in to dig out large shrub roots, while I make tea and wave my arms about explaining my “vision”!!

  8. I think I’m almost as excited as you are with the opportunities offered by your new garden. I think the back garden has lots of potential. I’m not entirely sure about the vegetables being very visible from the house (if I understood you correctly); vegetables aren’t very pretty! Then there’s all the bare earth between crops. Even a cuttings garden has a lot of time when it’s not that full or floriferous. Just a thought. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, I do take your point about bare patches, most of the veg beds will be to one side and then partially screened still by cordon fruit, so that I can net brassicas without having to look at them from the conservatory. However, because the patio is in the middle of the long side of the garden, whatever I do most of the veg will be visible so I will just have to make sure I plant pretty veg! As for the rest, I will gradually major on more perennials than annuals, though still with a focus on being able to cut for the house without worrying, and with birds, bees, butterflies in mind. That’s the theory, anyway, but I will probably change my mind again!!

  9. It’s amazing just how resilient shrubs are. My sister’s magnolia was severely hacked and is now repstouting as was a camellia in my garden.

    The garden is going to give you many many hours of pleasure/work.

    1. Hi Sue, very true, I am always amazed at what you can get away with! Am hoping the pleasure makes the work seem fun, but I must admit I balk at the idea of digging all those shrub roots out where I have (partially) removed ancient plants making a determined takeover bid!

  10. It must be a very exciting time for you deciding what to do with your garden. The halfmoon plot near the house is very accessible and ideal for salad leaves – and even herbs which always go to waste if they are not on your doorstep to pick!
    I dug up all my lawn years ago but I must admit to a bit of envy when I visit someone else and I get to sit on one in a comfy chair. Grass under your feet has its attractions.
    Lovely that your hazel has got a new lease of life – must be glad to be out of that pot.

    1. I’m sure I could hear the hazel heaving a sigh of relief as I put it in its new home! And yes, all very exciting, lots of ideas spinning through my head.

  11. So exciting a new garden. I remember my parents laughing when I moved here that the first evening I pruned the only rose in the garden rather than unpack boxes!! It will be interesting to see what appears over the coming year. Have fun and thanks for joining in

    1. Hi Helen, I am happy as a pig in the proverbial! I am grateful that the garden has enough good stuff in it that I am not completely starting from scratch, but there is so much scope to play with new ideas too. I didn’t prune anything the first evening I was here, but I did do quite a lot of weeding, and even more exploring… Am hoping for some good bulbs.

  12. There’s a ton of potential there – and that greenhouse is a real bonus. I’m particularly taken with that rather lovely little acer: I’m sure it will benefit from being revealed to the world, and how much nicer than a spotted laurel…

    You have been very busy – I’m really impressed!

    1. Hi Kate, I’m hoping the acer will fill out a lot once it has more space around it. I’m going to try planting some things with Rootgrow around it to give it a boost as it is looking a little tired. Apparently this encourages the fungi to spread to the plant roots around and about, so hopefully it will get a spurt on! Am planning to buy a mattock to tackle the laurel roots…

  13. Janet my creative juices are energized again as I look over your space imagining myself with a greenhouse and space for a cold frame. When I saw the semi-circle gravel bed I was struck with the thought of how wonderful it would look as an herb garden. Even just around the lettuces you planted…all those lavenders, rosemary, thymes and even those that may not be full hardy but could be grown in sunken pots… wow that gave me food for thought as well for my garden….your plans are just wonderful and I was thinking a small planting of meadow plants perhaps even near the cold frame area would be lovely…although I have no idea about the sunlight there…looking forward to more adventures in your garden!

    1. Hi Donna, I have been talking more to TNG about what he wants from the garden, and a meadow area is very much on the cards. In fact, I plan to buy some yellow rattle seed to grow some small plants to pop in the lawn area come spring. We just have to decide which bit of lawn we want to do this with, and how much I can take up and plant things in! Glad you got all inspired, enjoy planning a new herb bed!

  14. hello Janet what a wonderful space you have and buildings and back gound shrubs and as well as the slate in the front garden you have gravel more hard landscaping to play I mean design with, though as you say there are also the unseen roots of cut down shrubs lurking under ground you would also need to be carefully of the roots of plants you want to keep when digging them out, as your veg beds will be seen and you want flowers a nice little potager comes to mind, with a wildflower area near by to bring in the pollinators, looking forward to seeing the changes over the months and years, Frances

    1. Hi Frances, I think you had it right the first time, this definitely feels like play! And I certainly plan to grow plenty of flowers in amongst the veges, for prettiness, cutting and pollinators. And I have found some large rocks I can reclaim and use in the front garden which is exciting!

  15. What is it about greenhouses and cats Janet – we have a feline visitor who regularly kips in ours and who looks at me indignantly if I attempt to enter. Your staging looks good and sturdy – you could always raise it up if it causes you grief. Must be great to be getting your hands dirty again :)

    1. Hi Anna, cats do seem to think they own the places they adopt. I have a bit of sympathy, since no one lived here for two years, she probably thought she had the place to herself! Bricks is a grand idea for the staging, though I am also wondering if I could convert it to swing down to give me even more space for tomato growing…

      I am blissfully happy – back in my rightful state, covered in scratches and with dirt under my nails!

  16. Goodness me I wouldn’t know where to start if it was mine, however I’m sure that it’s going to keep you happily occupied for the foreseeable future.
    Thanks for the look round, all very enjoyable. Flighty xx

    1. Hi Flighty, according to my other half, I am starting in far too many places at once! I keep telling him that it is all very clear in my head, but he doesn’t believe me… I don’t see myself getting bored any time soon. Glad you enjoyed the tour!

  17. It sounds as if you have been very busy, Janet, and will be for some time. Your garden has so much potential, and I know it’s going to be beautiful when you complete all the projects you have in mind. I do envy you that greenhouse and potting shed–oh, how I would love to have either one! Maybe you can put some of those guests to work digging in the garden in return for a free campsite:)

    1. Hi Rose, you read my mind – we have a friend coming on Friday who is fit and strong, so I am hoping he will do a little digging for his supper and rid me of some of the pesky roots… I was always envious of people who had room for a large shed in their garden, so I am thrilled to have one of my own. And to wind up with two greenhouses is pure bliss!

  18. Your plans sound exciting, and I think you’re right about keeping the straight lines and softening edges with planting. The curves you have inherited just don’t seem to fit the garden. I had to laugh a bit about your overly optimistic beetroot, though! Well, no one wants their beetroot to be depressed, do they?

    1. Hi Lyn, thanks for visiting – my first beetroot seedlings have popped up, so I guess they are optimistic after all! I can always eat them as salad leaves if they don’t mature now that the light levels are decreasing. Glad you see what I am getting at re the curves, I am looking forward to straightening them out.

  19. Creating a new garden that reflects you instead of the previous owners will be so much fun. A small patch of grass can be very calming in the middle of a garden. It’s a great visual resting spot. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this garden develops.

    1. Funny you saying that about the grass, TNG and I had that conversation just the other day, and guess what – the plans changed again!

  20. Janet, I am going to take a lot of pleasure in watching your new garden grow. Your wooden greenhouse looks very much like an Alton one made with Cedar, very tough. The roof panes on my one are slipping, I think the whole structure has been sinking gradually over the years. Spotted Laurel, raising its head ones more, I have a draft saved which I will post at some time and dedicate it to your good self, teasing!! (Liz, satanic Laurel indeed)

    1. Hi Alistair, will look forward to your post on spotted laurel!! And good catch on the greenhouse, it is indeed made by Alton, I am hoping they can help me work out how best to rejuvenated it, several important timbers seem to be completely rotten and the glazing is held in place in a very odd fashion…

  21. what a pleasure starting to see and know your new back garden, Janet. I think I like clearing and tidying more than anything so the greenhouse job looked like a pleasant task, with beer for succour. The veggie seed wheel was inspirational and reflects the fact that you are on the move!
    p.s. many thanks for stopping by my picture posts :)

    1. Hi Laura, I really enjoy your picture posts, so no thanks necessary! Like the wheel comment. Just hope we don’t end up putting decking over it before I get to eat the salad onions, they have germinated amazingly well!

  22. So many ideas, I know what you mean how they can change quickly. Nice you have inherited the structures to add to the garden. They are great to add to any space.

    1. Hi Donna, it is really good to have the shed and greenhouse, they are already invaluable, though both need some remedial work. I enjoy the evolution of ideas, particularly the way they change in response to other people’s perspective, other gardens, articles etc. It is heady, all this space and freedom. I’m loving it.

  23. I was very excited to see another update on your new garden. What a find this place is. Loved that you put some veggies into that little half circle. The perfect spot, very close to the house for picking just a bit of this or that.

    1. Hi Marguerite, I think the trick will be picking the leaves before the slugs find them! One or two are already looking a little nibbled… I am still pinching myself, I can’t quite believe we got this place, can’t quite believe we were apparently the only people who wanted it!!

    1. I hope you get a greenhouse, the are invaluable for sowing and growing new plants for the garden, not to mention tomatoes. I foresee a seed sowing frenzy come next Spring…

  24. I hadn’t realised until I was talking to Karen the other day that you have ended up in Anglesey! You are only about an hour away from me so really hope we can meet. It is fascinating to take over a garden. I am intrigued by your idea of the mixed productive and flowering garden. I think it quite difficult to do well but you might have seen the programme where Alys Fowler showed her garden which mixed veg and flowers rather beautifully. It wasn’t a straight lines garden though! It will be so interesting to follow your progress.

  25. What a lovely place to live … I have just spent a week there as my son is a pilot at RAF Valley. It must be so exciting to have a new garden to work on. It looks good already but I look forward to seeing it grow.

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