It’s strange isn’t it, when you go to do a job, get sidetracked and end up doing something totally different. I was intending to clear out the room where I do all my carving, which also gets used as a general dumping ground, because I want to make room for a desk at one end so that I can go back to painting if I don’t feel strong enough to carve. While clearing I found a photograph album which contained the before and after photos which we took when making the garden here years ago, or , if you like, how we turned , not quite a field, more wall to wall grass, into the garden that we have today. This was before the digital age so I have just photographed the photos and hope they will be ok. This first photo is of one of our neighbours!!
This fence was all that there was between us, he looked as if he could walk straight through, so the first border that I made was here. Also, this garden gets all the north and east wind that blows across the fields in the winter, so the few bushes that the previous people had put in were very wind burnt. I happily planted it up with various shrubs, but the fence only being 4ft high, was no obstacle to the bull and his lady friends, they leant over, said thank you very much and ate the lot!
This is how it looks now, we raised the height of the fence by adding a trellis fence panel along the top which gave the trees and shrubs a chance to grow. The cows now just keep their side trimmed, which is very kind of them, in return , my hedge forms the only shade for them in the field when it’s sunny, its nice when I am on my knees weeding to have a big face looking through almost at ground level and their warm breath being blown at me! The difference in the garden is amazing, it is now sheltered from the winter winds and micro climates have been created for plants that need them.
Still by the field, but looking the other way to where we put the greenhouse on the back of the garage. Two 50 gallon water butts have been added to collect the rain water from the roof and 3 large compost bins placed by the fence.
Later an arch way was added to help hide the water butts, with a climber added and the essential shed. I quickly realised that making this garden was going to cost a fair amount of money, paving slabs, bricks, cement, sand, gravel and wood for various jobs don’t come cheap, never mind the plants, so I approached 3 local colleges and asked them if they would like me to teach woodcarving at night school, thank goodness they all said yes! My husband is pretty good at DIY and he much prefers to do that than gardening so he was happy while I did all the digging for the new borders.Dread to think what it all would have cost if we had had to get someone in to do it all for us, just wouldn’t have been able to do it. The soil here is very heavy clay, could have made pots with it if I had been a potter, so first of all I killed off the grass after having formed the shapes with a hosepipe.Then it was all dug in , compost, ash and grit were added and all mixed together to make nice soil to plant into – gosh I must have been fit in those days, it was really hard work!
In the back garden after the conservatory was put on, what was the original patio, we needed a new sitting area. Plans were drawn up on the back of envelopes and we ended up with a corner arbour covered with honeysuckle.
On the occasion when it gets hot in the summer – when was that I hear you cry – we retreat here with a good book and a long drink of something cold! We cut the lawn back quite a bit so that we could have a gravel area in front while we sat and looked towards the woodland at the back.
I wasn’t happy with the front garden for quite some time, it was nearly all lawn between the house and garage, I tried cutting a circle, but that didn’t look right, eventually one day, looking up at the garage roof, I decided that if we had an octogon, it would match the corners on the roof.
No sooner said than done, got rid of all the grass and made the beds which became the rose beds with box balls on every corner. I must stress that we just did one or two projects each year, not all at once! It was all very hard work but we could see the improvement as one new area joined onto the next. Working all day in the garden and then going out at night time, teaching, to earn the money to finance it all was tough at times, but so worth it, we decided.
The long view from the back door has changed a few times, beds were cut , dug and planted up, but still something wasn’t right. Eventually, by looking at the house and garden together, it dawned on me what was wrong.
The house is so angular and curved beds just didn’t look right with it, so curves were turned into 90 degree corners and bingo, it all looked so much better, they looked as though they belonged together at last. All the reading of garden design books had paid off eventually!
Up near the top of the garden, the previous people had planted quite a few trees and shrubs, but they weren’t looking very happy. I found that the soil in that area never dries out, in fact it is over an underground stream. I managed to move most of the shrubs without losing any, they were used when planting new borders. The Eucalyptus tree that you see here died after a few years, it was far too wet for it.
When planted up with bog plants, it looked so much better and the plants have always been really happy. Two ladies in the village, sisters, told me that their father used to farm this land when it was part of the field next door. When their father had bought his new tractor, when they were little, he wasn’t going to risk it to plough this corner of his field, so out came the old reliable shire horse, that is the sort of soil we had to contend with!
This was the raised pond that the previous people built, but when our first grandson was born we had visions of him as a toddler, climbing the wall and falling in before anyone could do anything to stop him. We dug a new pond, yes ” we”, I started and got half way, then my husband got fed up with how long it was taking me and he finished it in no time at all! We moved the wildlife, the water and the sludge from the bottom of the old pond to the new one. In all, we moved 33 newts, 7 frogs, 1 toad, goodness knows how many shrimp like creatures and anything else that wriggled in the mud ! The new pond is now fenced off so all grandchildren are safe. The old pond is now an alpine scree, the only part of the garden which has fantastic drainage, we filled it half full of rubbish, then a very gritty mixture of soil, getting more and more gritty the higher you got, in effect, it is a huge planter, the plants that are there now seem very happy.
At about this time my mother developed dementia and the decision was made to bring her to live with us for the rest of her life. There were times when it wasn’t easy, especially the days when she didn’t know who I was and said that she had never had a daughter, only a son. Looking back, it was a very special time we had together, she ended up just like a child of about 3 yrs, wandering round after me, holding my hand. She needed constant care, so obviously the garden took a back seat while she was with us and no more projects were done for about 3 yrs.
Back now trying to finish the alterations, finish the new pond area, make the area to the left of the pond and the area that we wanted as the fruit and vegetable garden. This huge mound was our original compost heap, but got moved to the new bins by the garage.
In place of the compost heap, my husband put up a pergola so that we could walk through to the very top of the garden. In the summer this is covered with roses and a variety of clematis. To the left, by the field again, there are a couple of apple trees and a shady bed where I grow some of my Meconopsis.
When we had finally got rid of all the rubbish that we couldn’t compost, it was time to make the raised beds for the vegetables. We decided on raised beds because this is another very wet area in the garden, even though it is the highest point in the garden and we didn’t think the veg would stand a chance otherwise. This was the last area that we altered just at the same time that I retired from teaching at night school – that was lucky !!
We had thought that from now on we would be able to just enjoy the garden with me tweaking the planting from time to time. Little did we know that only 3 yrs later my health would mean that gardening was now so much more difficult. We are obviously hoping that my health will improve soon and we can get back to normal. I have now been for a second opinion to the hospital in Exeter as I am not responding to present treatment, even the consultant there is puzzled by me and wants me to come off all my medication and start again!
At the moment I am having help from one of my former students who has retrained as a gardener / designer, he is now coming once a fortnight and I do little bits in between his visits whenever I feel up to it. I would hate to think that we might have to move and leave the garden that we made together, but it would be very frustrating to see it all go downhill, must remain positive, it might not come to that. I enjoyed the creating of it all, hopefully we will be here for at least another 10 yrs, then by the time we are 80 yrs old, I will be ready for a smaller garden or maybe we could put it all back to grass again, what do you think !!!
Hey ho ! back to work in my carving room, I’ve been sitting here for long enough, reminiscing about creating the garden here, the memories came flooding back, I could even feel the muscles aching in my back !!