I think I have already demonstrated that I am more than a tad obsessed with my front garden at the moment, so I doubt it will come as a surprise that I have decided to make it the focus of my End of Month View posts this year. It is the area likely to see the most dramatic changes, and certainly the area I am most keen to get comments and suggestions on. It doesn’t really look much different yet, although the red azaleas are gone from the circle bed, and have been planted out and about in the village by “Cemaes in Bloom”. Oh, and the driveway extension in front of the house is beginning to resemble a mini builder’s yard.
I have begun dismantling the rockery in the side garden so that I can re-use the lovely green stone out the front, and I have – slowly – barrowed the gravel that had been around the acer in the back round to the front, where it can be added to what is already there as part of the landscaping. Oh yes, and as you can probably see, the wind blew one of the fence panels down, thus amply demonstrating that we need a new fence, hence the pile of timber in the foreground…
We are going to build the new fence in sections, with pauses to allow me to move plants out of the way and in to their new homes. We’ve decided to go for an interlap fence rather than re-building a feather board fence. They are stronger, which is probably why you see them all over the Island. Two slight alterations to the design of ours – I am using 4″ (10cm) wide timber rather than the more usual 6″ (15cm), to give a slightly more “delicate” look, and I am going to leave gaps. A solid fence displaces the wind up and over itself, creating potentially damaging eddies. A hedge does a much better job, gently filtering the wind, and paradoxically providing much better shelter, but I didn’t want to lose my privacy while we waited for a hedge to grow to a good height. A fence that is 60% solid is meant to provide the best wind filtering, but would also leave loads of gaps for passing pedestrians to peak through, so I am compromising, and leaving just 2cm between the horizontal boards. We’re actually going to build our side of the fence first, leaving the existing panels (the ones still standing, at any rate) in situ, removing them one at a time as we have the opportunity to complete the “public” side. Hopefully this will mean I can move shrubs while they are still dormant and they will get off to a good start when the weather warms up. I do quite enjoy hard landscaping, but not at the expense of being prevented from doing any planting for months…
The big dumpy bag is full of compost, organic compost, no less, which was to be used to improve the soil in the back garden and be added to the raised beds providing an ideal surface layer to sow seeds and plant in to. Except:
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t really fancy the idea of spreading a mulch full of lumps of polystyrene all over my garden and veg beds! To give them their due, the company who supplied it asked for a photo showing the problem, and immediately refunded my money, including the delivery charge. Can’t say fairer than that. I just need to invest in a riddler with a large enough mesh and will be mulching rather more slowly than I had envisaged…
We’ve lived here for six months now, and as well as obsessing about planting schemes I have developed a fairly clear idea of how I want to change the landscaping of the front garden. Here is a badly stitched together and rather out-of-date panorama to help explain what I am thinking (click on the image for a larger view).
Sitting at the dining room table gazing out across the garden at the sea, the way the brick-edged gravel at the far end seems to shut off that area of the garden really bugs me. It acts as a sort of visual full stop, giving the message “not welcome”. And yet this is the sunniest part of the garden, with some lovely trees and large shrubs at the very far end now that they have been partially rescued from the overwhelming embrace of the viburnum. I say “partially” because although I have cut the viburnum back down to ground level, just to be able to see what was where, it is still there. And very much alive. I am hoping to dig it out and save chunks as it could make some invaluable screening for the back garden.
The other visual full stop is the circle bed. It is less agressive now that all the bedding has been removed, everything that remains is muted in colour, but the stone itself makes a very strong statement, and draws the eye. I don’t want something there in the middle drawing the eye that strongly. It is at this point that I realise that, however many photos I take of the garden, at whatever time of day/year, I never quite have the right photos when I am trying to remember how it looked at a specific point, from a specific view. I never thought I would make a mental note to myself that I needed to take more photos. Anyway, this really quite appalling image is the best I have to illustrate the point.
I want the planting to help funnel the eye down the garden towards the view of the sea, not block it. The other dilemma I had – note the past tense – was whether to keep the small pond and repair the cascade at the far end of the garden, or remove it. In the end the decision was easy. I knew I wanted somewhere to sit, nothing fancy, just space for a couple of chairs, somewhere to drink a mug – or glass – of something and watch the sea. There were two main candidates. The first, the area close to the house, has the advantage that it gets the late evening sun in summer, and on a clear day you can see over the headland to the Irish Sea beyond, all the way out to the Isle of Man on a really clear day. I dragged TNG and some chairs outside to prove this just after Christmas. Yes, he is very long suffering!
I got quite excited about this. Close to the house makes it convenient, and if I built a small pergola over it there would be height, sweet smelling climbers, privacy from the house opposite. Unfortunately there are two major downsides. We can’t afford a small pergola, certainly not for the forseeable (particularly as we defintiely have to rebuild the fence). Perhaps more importantly, to maintain the view I wouldn’t be able to plant anything higher than the wall anywhere to the left of the exisiting hydrangeas. It is the latter that really pulls me up short. I would really like at least the illusion of some privacy when I am gardening out the front. In time, the escallonia I planted to the right of the hydrangeas and the hydrangeas themselves will provide me with some of this. I would really like to continue the high planting further along, mostly for privacy but also to help frame the view of the cliffs and sea from the house. Ho hum. I am going to try and hold off doing anything that precludes this option just in case I go for “both and”, but it rapidly became clear where my favourite postion for a seating area would be. Yep, right where the pond is.
The view is pretty good immediately to the right of the pond, but from where the pond itself is the view would be right across the bay to the cliffs opposite, taking in the large sandy beach (Traeth Mawr). Which is my favourite view, particularly when the tide is almost all the way out, because the waves make wonderful patterns as they come in across the long shallow shelving of the big beach. Add to that the fact that I hate the brick walling around the pond, the cascade needs major repairs, and the pond itself is so small that it will be a constant battle to keep clear, and it has to go.
Deepening the borders on both sides, and creating planting in the middle that leads the eye onwards towards the view, combined with getting rid of the line of brick edging across the end of the garden and the pond with its associated brick walls and general “don’t go further than this”, should open out the space and draw they eye in and on. I hope. Having a seating area at that end will also invite you to walk through the garden, to explore, which has to be good. All of which will be a lot of work and take a long time, and will mean that for much of the coming couple of years large areas of the front garden are likely to resemble a building site more than a garden! I am hoping that by concentrating initially on the right and left hand borders I can at least ensure that larger plants get a good start and that there is something other than mud and half-dismantled brickwork to look at. I am, though, seriously thinking about dismantling the stonework around the circle bed and taking up the lawn sooner rather than later. I want to use the stone in the circle bed to edge the right hand border, and once that has gone mowing around the remaining island will become awkward. Perhaps more to the point, I find it really difficult to envisage the shape of the new planting areas and how deep to make the borders while the circle bed and grass remain in situ. So I am seriously considering taking a leaf out of the Patient Gardener’s book and just jettisoning the grass sooner rather than later and living with the space that creates while I work out how I want that space to look.
So there you have it, more a manifesto, or wishlist, than a description of progress. For more posts on people’s gardens at the end of January check out The Patient Gardener’s End of Month View meme.