Saturday 11 February 2017

A pox on those pesky garden makeover shows ...

"Let's have an easy year in the garden", we said at the start of 2017, "no new projects - just consolidation of what we have already done".

So why is it that it only takes one bottle of red and two glasses before one of us utters those words which fill the other with such dread - "I've just had an idea ..." And when those words are followed by " ... you may not like it", then that dread is intensified.

Every garden must have those areas which never really worked, where form or function is unclear, or where they have evolved into something which is, as my grandfather used to say "Neither nowt nor summat".

Our garden, to be fair, has many of these areas, and we bumble along with them from season to season, always meaning to do something about them, but never quite getting round to it. Small scale attempts to improve them can be a bit like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, as problems are ignored and not solved.

I blame 'The Idea' which birthed last last, on those pesky garden makeover shows. We were watching a programme where Monty Don advised rookie garden owners on how to have Kew outside their own back doors, and then they worked 24/7 to get everything completed before he came back to inspect it.

There was something so pristine about these shiny new gardens that was instantly appealing. There were no broken pots behind the shed, or sickly roses receiving intensive care, no wonky benches or half eaten dog toys. No gates held shut with string, or rusty obelisks. Everything was new, clean and sleek, and there were no corners of shame.

In one garden there was something which we both  instantly coveted, shameless consumers that we are .... an outside sofa. A great big beast of a thing that two people could lie down on and read their books and drink their Pimms or have a joint snooze in the heat of the day.

We completely overlooked the fact that in all these years the number of summer afternoons spent reading/ snoozing in the garden can be counted on one hand, as we are always weeding/ mowing/ deadheading. Suddenly it seemed possible that if we only had this wonderful sofa then life would be different.

Further down said bottle of red, we had already metaphorically bought the sofa and now needed a suitable place to put it. That was when 'The Idea' was born, and the suggestion was made by one of us (not me!!)  to totally remodel an area of the garden - involving a shedload of hard work, new planting, trellis, arch, gravel, pots and, of course, the sofa.

We decided to enclose an existing gravelled area of the garden (shown in all the photos), using bamboo and trellis as a screen, so that it is an entity on its own, entered through an arch and left via a gate. This area is defined already to some extent, so it wouldn't need much to complete it, and it is a real south facing sun trap, totally underused at the moment. It is bordered on one side by the greenhouses, and already has mature planting on another side. There are three small, shaped bay trees and a trellis covered in Clematic Armandii and Rosa 'Alberic Barbier'. Although a little, let's say, exuberant at the moment, this could be brought back into line fairly quickly with a sharp pair of secateurs. At the moment, this area is my go-to place for depositing sickly plants, pots that are past their best and bags of compost.

The area has never been quite right, and has never really worked. We have had a little table and chairs there, which have been used only rarely and I'm not quite sure why. There are some pots there, but these include lots of small pots, full of finished bulbs, or cuttings I am growing on, so are not really worthy of display. Our new project is to cut down on the number of pots and just have a few large ones, with 'hot' planting of dahlias, cannas, coleus and Ensete bananas, for example. We want the plants to be large and bold, so that they really make a statement, and to be grouped close together, and tiered to give height. The sofa would be positioned in a very private corner of this area, and a table would turn it into our main sitting and eating area. The area would lend itself well to being made more defined, and enclosed, turning it from somewhere we just go through, to somewhere we would enjoy spending time in.

In the cold light of day, and two aspirins later, we are both keen to go ahead and do it, albeit on a more limited budget. Half of me loves a new project to plan, and the other half is wondering what happened to the 'easy' year we originally planned.