The Evolution Of A Garden
Come And See The Evolution Of A Garden... Whether The Garden Likes It Or Not!
When nature throws down a challenge, who am I to refuse? The evolution of our garden begins here...
This is our back garden. I took this picture from upstairs on a typically rainy day where we live (in the UK). If you look closely you can see a curved line where the lawn meets the earth. That line represents the beginning of my battle and I have fought back from there.
Now imagine hugely overgrown bushes (we're talking nine or ten feet in the air) extending back from that point. That's what the rear 10 metres or so of our garden looked like before I got started. Here's a taste of what I was faced with:
* There was a wildly overgrown forsythia that looked great when it flowered - bright yellow and masses of flowers - but was way too big to ever manage.
* There was a wildly overgrown blackberry bush which produced masses of blackberries (good for homemade wine and for giving to the neighbours, but no so good in terms of cutting it back without getting scratched to bits!).
* There was a huge beech tree, very long and skinny and about twenty feet high at a guess.
* Then there was the Big Unknown, the rear of the garden beyond all this overgrowth, which the previous owners of our house had often used as a dumping ground for whatever you can think of.
So, a challenge indeed. But never say I'm not up for a bit of hard work. This journey in garden planning started 2 years ago, and I intend to update this lens as I go along. This is very much my baby - a hobby that has broken out a real love of gardening in me. Yep, I went up against the Triffid that was the forsythia. I went up against the blackberry bushes and came out bleeding but on top. I even went up against the tree, cutting it down and dropping it onto the lawn before cutting that up in bits. I really wish I had a photo of that. The tree had to be twenty feet tall, and we cut through the trunk and dropped it onto the lawn in less than ten minutes. Wow. Make no mistake, this is garden design like you've never seen it before (and like I've never done it before, which I haven't).
This will be an interesting journey. Fancy joining me?
This lens won a Purple Star award on 7th February 2013. (Heck I really need to keep going with the garden now, don't I? lol)
The Original Overgrowth (With Snow At Night) - Sounds Like A Painting!
This was no masterpiece though. You can now see just how overgrown it was. The snow actually makes it easy to see where the grass met the overgrowth. I wasn't kidding. I can remember standing in front of it for the first time, loppers in hand, a huge roll of binbags at the ready to start bagging up the garden rubbish, wondering where on earth to begin. And how long it would take to complete.
Eventually I went for the 'cut through a branch and pull it' method. Guess it worked. I still can't believe we can now see the rear boundary.
Introducing My Garden Helper
You'll soon notice a white cat has a habit of appearing in some of these pictures. This is Jasper. He's four years old and even though he's completely white (with a few pink bits) he still thinks you can't see him if he 'hides' in the grass. See, if you look really closely here you might just spot him...
His task in the evolution of our garden is to watch the work from afar, and then inspect it up close once I've finished. Occasionally he'll roll in freshly dug earth too. Actually that happens quite a lot. He also features in his own lens, Jasper, the whitest white cat in the world. And he's proud to have been blessed by a SquidAngel :)
Here He Is, Having Helped To Do Some Digging
Looks modest about his achievements, doesn't he? His colour means he often has a VERY dirty nose... He is a little sweetie though and likes coming to see what I've been up to in the garden. Then he rolls in it (or squashes it, depending on what I've been doing). Such is the life when you are owned by a cat.
Here he is again, except this time you can see the extent of the overgrown rear of the garden. You can just see it past the large over-sized bush on the right. More about that in a moment. Also worth noting is the established herb garden. My fledgling tomato plants are on the left hand side, while the greenery on the right belongs to my potatoes :) I've had mixed luck with the potatoes, but every year so far I've managed a great crop of tomatoes - especially the cherry ones. Strangely I don't like cherry tomatoes from the shops, but homegrown ones... boy, they're good!
Before We Begin - The One Essential Item for Garden Clearance Work
As I discovered when the blackberry thorns went straight through my gardening gloves the first time I tried to cut them back, you need more than an average pair of gardening gloves for a gardening job this big. I found a really thick pair that I could still easily grasp branches with, but these rose gardening gloves would have come in even handier. The main benefit is the gauntlet style lower arm covers - I could have saved myself a good few scratches with these.
Lesson learned though - it's well worth spending a decent sum of money on some decent gardening gloves.
Good strong gloves with great reviews. These are the workhorse of all gloves.
A Cautionary Tale
This Is What Happens When You Don't Wear Gardening Gloves
Ouch. Need I say more?
We had a dreadfully wet and windy day yesterday and it looks like it's set in for the week. But there was a break in the weather this morning and I was so eager to get out in the garden for a bit that I forgot to put my gardening gloves on. I lost a sizable piece of skin from my palm when I used my garden fork to aerate the lawn (another job done). Funny how it didn't actually hurt at all until I realised I'd done it, then it stung like you wouldn't believe.
Needless to say I've learned my lesson. A week later and it's pretty much fully healed, except for having slightly baby pink skin colour where I did it. The good news is the aeration went well, the lawn has been fertilised and it's getting greener! Yay!
Do You Wear Gardening Gloves?
Okay, let's all be honest. Do you wear gardening gloves every time you head out into the garden? Or do you prefer really getting your hands dirty (and scraped, and grazed, and skinned...)?
Do you wear gardening gloves?
Yep - wouldn't catch me without a pair!
What Do You Do When You've Got A Big Ugly Bush Right In The Middle Of Your Flowerbed?
I know what you're thinking. Wasn't I supposed to be clearing the end of the garden? You're absolutely right, I was, but sometimes you need to kick back, relax, and dig out a deeply rooted bush elsewhere instead. Why not?
Anyway this was the bush, as seen from the upstairs window. It had suffered from the same malaise the rest of the garden suffered from before I got hold of it. A huge amount of neglect. I did consider trimming it back but the leaves were on the outer 1% of the bush and the inside of the bush turned out to be covered in huge amounts of white stuff. Ugh. It really didn't look well.
It was also overshadowing a gorgeous fuschia that simply wasn't getting enough light or moisture to do anything beyond looking like a stick. And since we didn't want the bush there, we decided to do this...
2 Hours Later... TA DA!!
I can't believe it only took us two hours to get rid of the thing. It almost felt like a triffid by the end, gradually taking over our lives without us even noticing. See the tiny pathetic looking stick like thing in the bottom right hand corner? That's the fuschia! Thankfully it has since bloomed and even now it is resplendent with gorgeous peach and white blooms.
Now We Have An Uninterrupted View Right Down The Garden
Some of you might think we overdid it by getting rid of the bush completely. But after years of it being allowed to outgrow its space (sometimes so much it hung over the path) it was time for it to go. It really was pretty poorly anyway, so I think we made the right decision. It made this part of the garden feel much bigger and more open than it did before.
Just so you get an idea of what our garden is like, this photo was taken from just outside the back door. The main portion of our garden is the width of the house, but since we live in a 200 year old property we have a rear extension that contains the kitchen, the larder and the bathroom right at the back. So this bit of the garden is what we like to call the courtyard. Sounds posh I know, but it really isn't. I'll upload some pics in another section so you'll get a better idea of what it looks like. Anyway this bit is really about half the width of the rest of the garden, so there wasn't really room for a huge bush that wanted to take over everything in its path.
This pic also gives you a nice view of the ongoing work at the bottom of the garden. The newly cut down bush is now on the lawn, and the previously overgrown forsythia has been tamed into submission, although you can see it still managed to sprout some new shoots. We're planning to keep it there and keep it cut back this time!
Got Some Branches To Cut Through? Get Some Garden Loppers
If I had to pick just one thing that has helped me beyond all else in clearing the back of the garden and in cutting down this bush, it wouldn't be the cat. No, it would be my trusty garden loppers. They're not that expensive and they cut through some seriously thick branches like butter. I've got a telescopic pair similar to the third set shown below - sometimes it's good to have that extra reach.
Powerful loppers with longer handles. If you've got some serious garden clearing and cutting back to do, these will make the job far easier.
These are a smaller version of the loppers I've got. They're kind of halfway between a good set of pruning shears and the telescopic or long handled loppers.
"Where's my bit of shade gone?"
Need Some Garden Design Inspiration Of Your Own?
We've got one or two superb books on garden design. On those evenings when I've spent all day in the garden and I've had a nice soak in the bath to rid myself of all the dirt, sweat, blood and tears, I settle down with one of the design books and remind myself what this overgrown garden could look like in the future.
Here are some great books that could help you realise your dream for your garden too. Remember, it doesn't matter how big or small your garden is, it could be something amazing. It all starts with a dream, just like our journey did.
One FINISHED Garden Project - Our Herb Garden
This was our first completed garden project, and to be honest we weren't responsible for it. My partner's mum and stepdad made this a few years ago, with sweet peas hidden in the back of the homemade planter, ready to surprise us and grow up the trellis in a few months' time.
The herb garden was given to us a few years ago and it has seen its best days now. The planter is thankfully still perfectly fine to use; it looks a little weather beaten but it all adds to the character. I intend on emptying out the earth, giving the planter a fresh coat of creosote to protect the wood and refilling it with fresh healthy compost and fresh herbs. I have plenty of seed packets to try out, so the whole thing will have a fresh new lease of life.
But didn't it look wonderful in its first incarnation? It also reminds me of Ann, my much missed mother in law, who would be amazed at what I've done to this garden so far. I have a feeling she's looking down on me egging me on all the way :)
Gorgeous Garlic On The Left...
... With Mint And Chives On The Right (And A Stray Moo Cow)
In case you were wondering about the cow, my partner's nickname for me is Moo. The reasons why have long since been lost in the mists of time. That's what I'm sticking to anyway.
Visit Hometalk For Some Garden Inspiration
- Gardening Projects From Inspired Individuals
This is a superb site with a huge section just on gardening ideas. You'll find everything from old doors transformed into potting tables, old tyres repainted and used as planters, and amazing and innovative uses for old and broken terracotta pots. Jo
Sunday Project - 23rd Sept 2012 - Laying A Shed Base
I've finally cleared enough overgrown garden to get a shed base put down.
Here's what Jasper thought of it...
Jasper Inspects Our New Shed Base
As always, he is nothing but a hard worker. As you can see, he is inspecting every square inch of it for flaws. We've got loads of pics taken on Sunday of the shed base going down, so we're just sorting through them and then I'll post some more info.
I'm going to publish another lens dedicated to getting our shed too - everything from laying the shed base to erecting the sheds to (eventually) getting storage for inside them. So watch out for that; I'll provide a link to it when it goes live, and I will be updating that lens regularly as well.
"Hmm, not sure about all this..."
This was the look on Jasper's face as he eventually found the courage (i.e. nosiness) to come and see the new base for the shed. Ears back so not entirely happy! Of course he did eventually get on it and have a good sniff, as you saw before.
By the way, if you want to read more about Jasper, don't forget he has his own lens, called Jasper, the whitest white cat in the world. I'm sure he'd be delighted if you took a look. He's like that - exceptionally modest.
I'm also planning on adding some more lenses to my 'gardening group' of lenses. The first one is about to be launched and it will focus purely on the garden shed. So if you want to find out how Sunday's work REALLY went, head on over to that lens now. It's here - The Evolution of a Garden Shed.
I'll be expanding that lens on a regular basis too, as it will go from clearing the ground to laying the shed base, buying the sheds and getting them put together, and right through to storage for the interiors. As you can guess from the plurals there, we're getting two sheds. Should be fun! If putting one shed up is great fun, just imagine the joy we'll have with two...
"Phew, that was hard work! Time for a break."
Back To Work - Time To Dig A Garden Border
Friday 28th September 2012
Part of our plan for the garden is to have a laurel hedge along the left hand side. The fence is our neighbour's responsibility and it doesn't look that great; also we wanted to soften up the garden a bit with a more appealing hedge rather than just a fence. Apparently November is the best month (in the UK) to put in laurel plants, so that means digging a border along that side. I also wanted to throw some grass seed on the lawn (again, it's the best time of year for it) and give it an autumn fertiliser treatment, so it made sense to dig the border first.
You can just about see the string I've put in place so I know where the line is for the front of the border. Once the grass has grown and the lawn has thickened up a bit (she says hopefully), I'll dig out a slightly curved border to get a better edge.
Using The Lawn Edger
Here I have started moving along the line of the string with my lawn edger. This is where I was thankful for two straight days of heavy rain, as the soil was so easy to cut through. Having the right tool does help though.
Halfway Through Creating The New Garden Border
It took roughly an hour to get this far, although this was the easy end of the garden. As I got closer to where the new shed base is, I had more weeds to contend with, not to mention some ivy roots. I've got rid of lots of ivy this week and I took pictures of that too, so I may have another update to share with you soon.
The Garden Border... And Jasper's Tail!
This made me laugh. I took this pic on my iPhone and I wasn't quite quick enough to get all of him in! Couldn't resist sharing it though.
You can just see the border making its way up the garden on the left hand side; the strip of earth in the middle, not far from Jasper's tail, is where I took up the concrete slabs that are now part of the shed base. We didn't want a boring path there anyway and I have now re-seeded it and covered it with netting so Jasper isn't tempted to 'play' in it.
Re-seeding, Fertilising And Awaiting Some Laurel
That's what's happening here at the moment. I've re-seeded the bits of lawn that needed it (after aerating it for the first time in years) and put down a fertiliser. It said on the packet you should notice a difference in your lawn in just 3 days. I was sceptical but I have to say it was definitely greener after that period of time. Now, two or three weeks later, it looks much healthier. I've taken a picture so I just need to upload it to share it with you.
We have also taken the plunge and ordered some laurel bushes for the new border, to make things look cosier and more appealing there. They should be delivered in November... all 50 of them. Eek! We're hoping it's not a pallet delivery as we live in a terraced house right on the street. That should be a fun delivery... especially since we can't even put them in the hall temporarily, as that's where the two flat packed sheds are currently living. Yep, we ordered them... and ever since we've either had no time or bad weather to scupper our plans to put them up. So it's been interesting, and we know we have to get the laurel bushes in soon after they arrive.
So.... we have a busy eBay business (November is our busiest month, owing to a little celebration that takes place on December 25th each year...), we have two sheds patiently waiting to be erected, and we have 50 (count 'em, 50!) laurel bushes waiting to be delivered to be put in next month. Oh, and I write for a living too, so to say we have a lot going on is an understatement! We're loving it though, and I'm looking forward to posting lots of pictures about the laurel planting when we get to do it.
The Newly Planted Laurel Plants
Here they are - this was taken shortly after they were planted, so maybe towards the end of November. They've been showing signs of growth despite some grim weather. I'll take some updated pics soon so you can see how they're progressing.
They do look good though and I'm really pleased with the result so far. Once they start to establish themselves I'll have the joy of pruning and managing them. Not that I mind - hopefully they'll look fab!
More Updates Coming Soon
Whew! Time for a break. While Jasper catches some ZZZs in the flower bed (sans bush), I'm busy taking more photos and unearthing some old ones we took of the garden a few years back, so you can get an idea of the scale of what I'm doing. So I will have plenty more to share with you in the near future. Stay tuned!
STOP PRESS: We had a few inches of snow the other Sunday, and I managed to zoom in and get some pics of my poor old laurel (young laurel really I suppose) getting battered in the cold weather. It's still ok though! Haven't lost any plants yet.
New grass, growing laurel and a new Christmas present...
Yes there's plenty more to update you with soon. The laurel (I still have to post some pics) is starting to show signs of growth, which is good news. Also the old path has been replaced with grass seed and it's now growing nicely and blending in with the rest of the lawn. My wonderful partner also bought me a mini growhouse for Christmas. I just need to give it an extra coat of stain as well as tidying the little courtyard bit outside the back door, and then it can go outside. Yay!
If you have any inspiration, ideas or input you'd like to share regarding your own garden, or my craziness in biting off way more than I can chew in our garden, do leave a comment here. I read them all!