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