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.

A portion of new fencing

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.

Twisted willow stems shine against black fence

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.

Lowering the height of the fence

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.

view from dining table

It gave us an even better sea view from the dining table, but more importantly…

Sea view from sofa

…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.

Screening required from next door

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.

View from the front porch

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.

And before we can continue the run of fencing there is a mature buddleja and climbing rose to dig out. Beyond that gap there is the trellis, and a honeysuckle that has to be cut back before we can even remove the trellis and put fencing in instead. Which will really bring home how much work needs to be done at the very front of the garden:

Viburnum smothering front garden

A viburnum has been neglected long enough to sucker all over a 2m square area. Not to mention the acanthus clump. Clearly I need more than “you can see where I’ve been” in order to stay sane and avoid wrecking my health completely!

So, the plan is get rid of the trellis and cut back the plants so that we can see what we’ve got – and see the view. Then the digging out will happen at a nice slow pace, over months not weeks, while I concentrate on developing the first section of the fence border. Plants will be ordered to go with the ones I am growing from seed. Carpentry will be alternated with planting. And I will take time out to walk on the beach, or along the cliffs. Because after all, this is only the very beginning of the adventure of gardening here, and I must remember that I actually live here too!

Thanks to Helen @ The Patient Gardener for hosting the End of Month View meme, and do check out the links to other people’s gardens at this, the end of Winter here in the norther hemisphere, the beginning of Spring, with all that promise.

52 thoughts on “End of Month View February 2013

  1. We have a house overlooking our back garden and we dealt with that by having a tree with a canopy that blocks our view of their upstairs window so also blocks their view from upstairs of us!

    1. Hi Sue, it works really well, doesn’t it, it’s what I did in our last garden too, though I am rather more limited here due to the enormous number of over head cables…

  2. Janet, first looking back through posts I love your seed conservatory and re the lighting, I have read in books and mags to erect 3 sides around the seeds and cover it with foil, this apparently reflects the light back, I have also read to put a sheet of foil covered cardboard behind seeds on windowsills as then they grow straighter, I have not tried these so just passing on information read.

    I always smile when I see before photos of ‘it was just grass before’ wow how luck are you!!!! is my response, although it must be nice to have the plants you can use and the hard landscaping it is also a lot! of work, take your time, don’t try doing it all at once, very sensible to accept limitations, you have done amazing things in a short time.

    love your twisted willows by the fence, welcome to the gardening club of view, wind and privacy. Frances

    1. Hi Frances, yes, foil – and indeed white paper – works really well, and my seed station does indeed have foil backed cardboard all around it now, I just hadn’t finished it when I took the photos for the post. And yes, it is really nice to have lots of nice plants I can re-use, I just wish there weren’t so many I can’t! or at least, that they were all small… But one step at a time, I really must exercise some patience and enjoy the process rather than getting frustrated at the limitations my health puts on me.

  3. Hi Janet, another lovely update on the progress of your garden! Lots of creative thinking and planning involved there, especially with keeping the lovely views you have as a major consideration, and why not? Living there, it’s nice to be able to enjoy such views in as many angles and opportunities as possible.

    Spacing the work out, and interspersing it with more pleasurable activities (if you may call it that) is the way to go. You’ll get there in the end. Hard work it may be now but it will definitely be worth it in the end :)

    1. Thanks guys, it is rather wonderful uncovering views we didn’t even know we could have, though it wreaks havoc on my planting ideas!! Have just ordered some plants that I can put in the ground without having to remove others first, which should give me a good planting fix…

  4. You are making great progress, and mustn’t beat yourself up. It’s good to recognise now that it’s going to be a longer and slower path than hoped – but so worthwhile a year or two from now when you will look at the bones you have painstakingly created and will be thankful that you didn’t take short cuts.
    You could ‘reward’ yourself in the short term for the hard work by filling one of the ‘easy’ beds or borders, even if with annuals and shrubs given a temporary reprieve from the other beds, so that this year you can shrug and say, “ok there’s still a lot of work to be done, and some areas look like a building site, but if you block all that out, isn’t this area pretty?”…
    I like the thought of a tree planted just right so that you can soften the stark reality of the nearby house. I would be tempted by a crab apple tree, perhaps John Downie, to give wonderful spring blossom, fruits to make jelly later in the year and a blaze of autumn colour. It would also make a great host for a clematis to sprawl up into… I rather like the sound of Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia’ too, though it doesn’t have the edible bonus. Ahh for more space…

    1. I like your thinking Sara, self bribery has much to recommend it! And the great thing about annuals is that they are cheap and easy to grow, so there will be lots of those wafting around this year. And next!

      I love ‘John Downie’, and also love the rowan tree, but at the moment I wondering about a multi stemmed amelanchier, I think it could provide some great winter interest as well as lovely blossom and Autumn colour. But oh, so hard to pick just one tree!

  5. Hi Janet,

    I think we’d all love to have perfect gardens instantly; but it’s always a work in progress as I am sure you realise. So take it easy and let it develop as you can without pushing yourself too far.
    Plus, even once all this work is done, you’ll find other jobs to do. It’s never ending ;)

    I think you’re doing brilliantly so far, given the fact it is winter after all. Let me tell you how many jobs I’ve done in the past three months…..

    None. I can’t actually think of a single one. It’s been so long since I last dug anything… I think it was autumn bulbs.

    You’ll be fine, and I look forward to seeing things progress :)

    1. Hi Liz, I think I’d be find if I hadn’t run out of energy, after all, this is a great time to be digging things out. Ah well, give me a week or so of taking it easy and I’ll be back, wielding spade and mattock with a vengeance! And thank you for the encouragement – much needed!

  6. Janet – you’ll be feeling like one step forward 2 steps back just now, I know, I was in the same position this time last year. Mind you I didn’t have mature plants to worry about, a view to save and an allotment to organise! Well done thus far, what an incredible difference you have made already.
    That black fence will be the perfect foil for most plants and already doing a grand job with the willow.
    I think that by planning to do this in stages is ideal – I should have considered this. I was sick fed up looking and fencing material after 3 weeks!!
    All the best for the next stage.

    1. Hi Angie, thanks, intellectually I know this is going to take time, and mostly I relish that, as I love being outside. I think its just not being able to get out and do anything at the moment. Its actually worked out really well taking our time with the fence, I’m not sure we’d have realised that we could have more view in time if we’d been rushing through it all, or if we had got someone in to do it. At least I have seeds growing away and plants on order so lots to look forward to.

  7. It seems to be one step forward two steps back for you at the moment – but you are making slow but sure progresss – as long as your energy holds out. I envy you the view Janet – who wouldn’t.

    1. Hi Elaine, the view is amazing, and makes even digging up another shrub pleasurable when I have the energy.

  8. I can definitely relate to that urge to want to plant plant plant but feeling like there’s so much other stuff to do instead. I often spend time in the garden and feel like I haven’t been there at all. I spend more time digging than anything else. It’s hard work and so time consuming. Eventually though all the preparation will pay off.

    1. Hi Marguerite, I keep reminding myself that I need to get the bones right for everything else to work. Besides, once all this is done, I have a lifetime of playing with planting!

  9. I love that saying “you can see where I’ve been”. That is a wonderful way to gauge work on the garden! And I love the view from the sofa! How wonderful to have uncovered that treasure. But, yes, I can imagine that gardening around a view could be a bit tricky. It will all get done – if we just keep at it. That’s what I tell myself!

    1. Absolutely, steady progress and all that! It helps that I can bunk off and go to the beach so easily…

  10. I really do envy you that view of the sea; I think that simply gazing at it would often delay my work in the garden. We’re fortunate that we’re hardly overlooked at the moment; but neighbours change,and trees/hedges can come down, so we sometimes have the debate about “what could happen” and whether we’re prepared for it with our own planting.

    1. Hi Wendy, I do seem to spend quite a bit of time just standing or sitting and staring at the view, but hey, regular rest breaks are important!

  11. Please Janet, don’t try to do too much at once, when we moved here we just did one area at a time, in all it took 13 yrs!!!
    We have a twisted willow, it is now about 20ft tall and forms part of the hedge which is a windbreak. We had a lovely view over rolling countryside, fields, lambs etc but the first winter , the north and east wind burnt any plants that were already planted. I knew, if I wanted to make a garden, then I had to have shelter belts, hence the hedge by the field to filter the freezing winds that we get. We now make do with the view from the upstairs windows!
    You are full of plans and are so enthusiastic but gardens take time to come together, please slow down and take care!

    1. Hi Pauline, excellent advise! I will try to follow it… I was worried about the wind scorching plants, and it still might become an issue, I am keeping an eye on a ceanothus, for instance, but by and large the climate seems kind to plants, which I rather relish. I often looked at gardens with amazing views in magazines and wondered how you balanced view with the need for shelter. At least you still have open views from upstairs – and a beautiful garden to look at.

  12. Firstly I think you’re doing very well, and secondly please don’t get impatient. I do know how you feel but I am much happier with the areas I planted in the third year, when I really know what I had to deal with weather-wise and what views etc were important to keep and which could be sacrificed to protect the garden from wind. Enjoy the process not just the end result. So even if you can’t see what you did, if you enjoyed being out in the garden doing something physical then be content. Christina

    1. Sound advice Christina, and I am glad I wasn’t able to do lots of planting when we first moved in. However, patience has never been something that comes easily to me! I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the very end of the front garden took 3 years or more to work out, it is tricky for lots of reasons,I think I am just currently frustrated at not being able to get outside and do anything much at all having over done things. Which is a lesson in itself… At least it is sunny, and there is a lovely beach to go and sit on!

  13. It may take time, but as long as you enjoy the process, Janet – I have come to realise that I probably enjoy the creating more than the actual ‘gardening’, and I sense you do too, despite the frustrations. At least taking it a step at a time means that when something unexpected crops up (like the view) it is easier to change tack to accommodate it. I have got to the stage now where I ‘don’t see’ the houses on the one boundary – just by focussing inwards into our garden, I suppose – but I am eternally grateful that neighbours removed the leylandii which may have altered the view but gave us decent soil and light and moisture (and a fence to plant against)! Not the same as your sea view though…

    1. Hi Cathy, getting rid of large conifers makes a huge difference, doesn’t it. I know some of our neighbours were shocked that we took down the two we had inherited, but despite the open view to the park the area is now throwing up bulbs as fast as I can blink, it feels, so we definitely feel vindicated. I think you may be right about enjoying the creating more than the maintenance, so it is probably just as well there is so much space to play with, it should keep me quiet for years…

  14. I do like your fence, its rather stylish and the colour is great and what a fantastic view to discover.
    You have done far more in your front garden than me this month – I am jealous
    Thanks for joining in again this month

    1. Hi Helen, thanks, I’m really chuffed with how the fence is turning out. And don’t be jealous, I have the benefit of no full time job to contend with!!

    1. Hi b-a-g, it would be pretty awful if we’d got that wrong wouldn’t it! What I really like is that, completely accidentally, it also echoes the horizontal black line that appears on the cliffs on the other side of the bay at low tide!

  15. A wonderfully considered post Janet and I can hardly better the comments already made about taking it step by step. Gardening is all about the journey and you have such a great destination for yours. I am watching the story of your unfolding garden with great interest and trying to learn from your thinking processes.

    1. Thanks Judith, it is such a fun adventure, though it is also somewhat all-consuming, I even dream of plant combinations!!

  16. The twisted willow is gorgeous against the fence. You planned so well. And your list of things to get done in the garden sounds like mine. We need to redo our compost bins and create some paths and stairs…hopefully this year. :)

    1. It can feel really never ending, can’t it – just as well we love being outdoors!

  17. I think you are too hard on yourself with all that you want to accomplish. You have done a lot!!! I think the Red Spindle tree against that fence will be stunning. I know what you mean about a balance with privacy and keeping your view. As for the tree to block your neighbor’s vacation home from your garden, what about something that wouldn’t get too large…like a flowering crab or an ornamental cherry or apricot….spring blooms, a nice foliage in the summer, some fruit of some sort and doesn’t get too large but creates the block….especially in the growing season when I imagine they visit their vacation home more often.

    1. Hi Janet, thank you, sometimes it takes an outside view to give some perspective! I’m feeling a bit better again now so my sense of perspective is returning too. I was wondering about a flowering cherry, though I already have a dwarf one I plan to plant out the front, or a crab apple, at the moment I fancy the idea of trying something new, perhaps Amelanchier. It also has to be something that won’t grow too tall as we also have yet another view from the window on the half landing…

  18. Janet, I easily forget how much hard work is involved when moving. We would love to have a sea view more than any other, in fact the only view which we have is of our garden. I look forward to my fortnightly visits and seeing your progress. I think I recently said I had erected a fence like your one, (wrong) my panels are vertical, I think I prefer the horizontal when I see yours.

    1. Hi Alistair, I have to admit that I hadn’t dared hope I would find myself with sea views, and yet here we are, and it is surpassing all my expectations. And thank you, how lovely that you look forward to catching up with my progress! The horizontal fencing seems to be the vernacular construction, though we have adapted it by using narrower boards as I think it gives a less clunky finish. I really like the vertical version too though, my sister-in-law had it at their old house and I was quite jealous at how smart it was.

  19. Hi Janet, I’m very fond of corkscrew willow and have planted two at the Priory. They are so quick for one thing; none of this two or three inches of growth per year. I can see why you’re treading so carefully with those sea views – they are very precious. Dave

    1. Hi Dave, I confess I was rather discombobulated by the sight of three corkscrew willows when we arrived, I had visions of twisting house foundations, but then I realised that the rather older and very large native willows in the park next door were just as close, and since there were no cracks, I should probably just get on and enjoy them! They are so much more attractive than the contorted hazels, as the leaves are pretty too. I definitely prefer my hazels untwisted… As to the views, hopefully given time I will learn how to enhance them with planting rather than just being paranoid about losing them to foliage, but in the mean time I am just enjoying uncovering new angles!

  20. I think that you’re doing really well, especially considering the time of year.
    A sea view is a definite bonus, and is something that I’m sure will change and evolve. Clearly there’s lots more to do but the coming moths will , I’m sure, prove to be not only busy but interesting for you.
    Thanks for another enjoyable, and informative, post. xx

    1. Hi Flighty, we tackled the rest of the battered trellis today, revealing yet more view – and generating another enormous heap of plant material to process in to firewood and mulch! I am indeed fascinated by the whole process, the way the garden’s character changes as the role of the view expands.

  21. It can be frustrating when other things get in the way of the good bit – the planting. It felt like that when we took on the allotment and I spent so long putting in the paths. I love those twisted willows. I don’t think I’ve come across them before and in the light they look stunning. You seem to be doing so much and once the weather improves and we have longer days you’ll soon have the garden looking more how you want it. It can be so frustrating when you have plans that need to be changed to fit all those things like neighbouring houses, fences, old plants etc. We have a few old tree stumps we can’t get out and they make it difficult to replant in that area. That is one of my challenges for this year. To find something that will fit in the spot.

    Oh to have a sea view. :) We’re off for a few days in Cornwall soon so we can get our fix of the sea. We have a sea view from the cottage’s bedroom. Can’t wait.

    1. I’d never come across twisted willows before either, they are lovely. I’ve grown contorted hazel before but always hated the leaves. The willow, by contrast, has lovely leaves too. I know it is worth getting the basic structure right before getting on with the fun bits, and it is good seeing the fence gradually take shape, but best of all is seeing the views expand as we remove trellis and cut back over grown plants. It totally changes the character of the garden too. As to stumps, they always seem to be in exactly the wrong place. Some I think I can dig out, others I view with something approaching despair! I found myself wondering how much a mini digger would be to hire the other day… I hope you find something beautiful to plant around your stumps. Enjoy Cornwall – how could you not! And hopefully one day you will be getting up every morning to a sea view of your own. After all, I never really thought it could happen to me and look at us now…

  22. How wonderful that you can see the sea. The house I grew up in had a sea view and I really miss it! I love the colour of your fence : )

    1. Hi Anna, goodness, you must really miss the sea views having grown up with them. Our views make e smile every day, whatever the weather, I love it. Glad you like the fence – I am so pleased, it works exactly like I thought it would, and I was a little nervous when I started, wondering if I should have just stayed with the nice safe dark brown. So glad I didn’t.

  23. Janet I waited until I had sufficient time to read your post slowly and imagine all the work going on…I envy you the work and the view….you are making such progress and your slow going is making for even better plans as new ideas and challenges arise.

    1. Hi Donna, you are quite right, doing things slowly is working out really well, ideas are gradually coalescing as time passes, and the over riding feeling is one of fun. And excitement. OK, so that’s two, but you get my drift! And I have been meaning to email you to say thank you very much the book arrived just before the weekend. I’ve only had time to dip in to it so far, and already intrigued by the differences between British gardening books and those intended for a US readership.

  24. For those of us who are sitting at our computers and watching your garden develop, it is easy to see where you’ve been. No wonder you’re exhausted! You must be delighted with the discovery of your new viewing point. You will have fun positioning a tree to hide/frame a view. I have asked a surprising number of people to pretend to be a tree for me while I mess around with views. On the upside, not one of them has ever been convincing enough to fool a passing dog ;-)

    1. I am fortunate to have several very tall relatives who will definitely find themselves being directed to stand around the garden in various spots being trees… So glad I am not alone in that particular lunacy… And if they demur, I will reassure them on the dog front! The ever changing views are a constant source of delight (!), I am a very lucky gardener.

  25. I would trade a little privacy and couple of shrubs for a sea view any day. No question, you are making the right choice.

    1. Thanks Les, it seems lunacy to do anything else, particularly as we are in a very quiet part of the village and most visitors never get as far as our local beach, let alone our little road. Can’t wait for the first storm, the view will be spectacular, but I will have to factor in the wind chill factor when picking plants.

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