I feel as if progress in the front garden has been really slow this month, and am hoping this is merely because (a) there is so very much to do and (b)it is a short month… When I first got my allotment plot a couple of years ago, and started to realize how much work was involved in digging out the couch grass and dandelions so that I could actually grow veg, I sometimes despaired of ever getting anywhere. I could only work up there in short bursts, and always left knowing there was so much still to do, so I developed a metric for success that helped to keep me going – “you can see where I’ve been”. If I left the plot able to discern progress, I would tell myself that I had succeeded. I am using the same mantra now, with the fence border.
And you can – see where we’ve been. I say “we” because this is a team effort, TNG is lending a hand. The fence is easy to construct, and although we are only currently working on the garden side of it I am already pleased with how it is turning out. I think the mini twisted willow hedge is going to look great, though I am going to have to experiment with how frequently to cut it back. The coloured stems look amazing against the black, but as with so many stems with attractive winter colour it is the new growth that looks the most spectacular.
Apart from moving all three willows close together, I have also planted a fatsia and a Euphorbia mellifera, and have some bulbs on order. I want the corner of this border nearest the house to be planted for Spring interest, with a mix of snowdrops, euphorbias, hellebores and hostas. But progress is slow because each section of fence requires a number of mature shrubs to be removed, either to be re-planted elsewhere, like the willows, or passed on to a neighbour. So we haven’t really got very far, because I get exhausted battling with all these plants.
The other complication has been the view. You can see from the photo above that the last completed section of fence finishes one row lower than the rest. This is because I realized that the third horizontal from the top was actually level with the top of most people’s head as they walked down the path to the side of the garden, so we weren’t losing privacy, and because when I am sat in my chair at the dining table I can see the sea alongside that rather beautifully pruned hawthorn. So we thought we would finish the fence at that level. Until we removed the next pair of fence panels and saw the resulting view open up.
It gave us an even better sea view from the dining table, but more importantly…
…it gave us a sea view from the sofa. Not something I ever thought we would have, and once seen, not something we want to lose again. Which means dropping the height of the fence even lower. Which loses us a little privacy, but also opens up the front of the garden in a way that feels really good. However, it also means we can’t keep the mature buddleja and climbing rose, as they would quickly dwarf the lower fence. More digging. And a slight rethink on the planting further up the garden to make sure we don’t lose the view because something grew too high.
It’s funny, given a choice I would have always opted for a garden with a view – who wouldn’t – but I hadn’t appreciated the challenges it adds. There is a complex set of compromises to be made, between openness and privacy, mystery and views. And of course views change, depending on where you stand – or sit. On the other side of the garden I am starting an escallonia hedge to give us screening from people walking down the road. It will take a few years for it to mature, but the little plants are smothered in bright green new growth which is wonderful. The bigger challenge is the house that stands on the opposite side of the road and which over looks our house and garden.
The house isn’t permanently occupied, it is currently a holiday home, but I would love to plant a tree to at least partly screen us. But I have to choose my tree and its placement really carefully, since currently we get a wonderful view out across the bay every time we open the front door or walk round the side of the house.
Even when it isn’t sunny that view boosts my spirits. I don’t in the least mind it being partially screened by a tree, in fact I think that will add to the experience, but there is going to be a lot of playing around with position. Assuming I ever settle on which tree to buy!
If I sound as if I having a bit of a moan, its because I have plans – plans for plants and planting – and yet I seem to be spending most of my time digging things up, sawing and screwing pieces of wood, painting said wood, and there is so much more of the same to come. I am exhausted, but as I see the garden becoming ours, opening up, as I see the ivy that was smothering the ground filling the green bin instead and revealing yet more bulbs, as I refine my plant list, I get excited and want to clear the rest up quickly so that I can get on with planting. For instance, last Autumn I bought a spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus ‘Red Cascade’), which I originally planned to plant in the back garden. Then I got all excited at the idea of seeing it planted against the black fence in the front garden, and it has been waiting for me to get that area clear and ready ever since. But guess what – there is a mature shrub in the way.