Immersed as we are within humbling countryside …mountains majestically towering above and tarns glistening below…. I have, perhaps unsurprisingly, found my mind detouring away from interiors…and have begun, instead, to contemplate our garden….
It’s some way away from being tackled…admittedly…with the list of priorities being the obvious 1) inside followed then and only then (promise…) by 2) the garden and finally 3) the front of the house which is likely to include the replacement of the hard standing with greenery (of some sort) along with the removal of our now infamous pebbledash. The problem is that ideas for items 2 and 3 have been up until now a bit thin on the ground. Whilst I am (overly?) enthusiastic when it comes to interiors having ratcheted up over the years some previous (though admittedly amateur) experience on which to base the somewhat lofty opinions I have taken to airing on a daily, now twice weekly, basis…when it comes to gardens I’m starting from almost zero. The only garden spaces I’ve previously owned have been a concrete roof terrace upon which I grew nothing but grasses for fear of messing with my grey, sleek, minimalist interior and a deck which came as part of the package along with my boyfriend and his tomato plants (would he kill me if I were to confess that he referred to them in those early days as ‘his boys’….?) into whose maisonette flat I moved and whom I fairly quickly married. Couldn’t let him get away….
A love of gardening developed nonetheless following the acquisition of an allotment. S and I, armed with a spanking new set of professional tools sent by a fellow allotment holder…S’s dad…and with the help of friends with whom we suggested splitting the plot, set about trying to turn a piece of field into a productive vegetable garden. Neighbouring allotmenteers looked on pityingly as we attempted to tame it and offered both seedlings and nuggets of advice – the main drift of which being to tackle it bit by bit. We were furnished with similar advice on moving into the Pebbledashed Pad and we acted upon it in a similar way. By stubbornly doing the opposite. Why tackle a task sensibly when you can throw your life overwhelmingly into turmoil in one foul swoop?
Whilst I still think we did the right thing in overhauling the entire house in one go….try as we might I think we would have discovered that each task was interlinked anyway…. we might have fared better on our plot in hindsight by listening to those with more experience. With a growing tummy having falling pregnant with O, my inability to work the plot allowed weeds the surprisingly tiny window they needed to very quickly return it to the wildly overgrown state in which it was found. In the meantime and despite our numerous failures, piles of books were enthusiastically consumed and magazines devoured and in doing so I quickly went from someone who would regularly deposit plants in a friends care as a form of horticultural hospitalisation …returned to me only when they had fully recovered from dehydration-related ailments….to someone so distraught at the prospect of my trays of seedlings not surviving our two week pre-O babymoon that I hoodwinked a friend into turning a spare room into ‘kennels’ and deposited tray upon tray of vegetable seedlings with her…..accompanied by the grossly unfair and unduly pressured farewell of “look after them. Imagine I have just left my bump in your care…..”
(They were thriving when I returned but after O was born I became otherwise distracted and most of them died shortly after…..)
So…having established that inspiration is most certainly needed I can confirm that thankfully it has come, on this holiday, in several forms.
The first being the greeting received on entering our little cabin. The eye is pulled almost immediately to the back of the house…past the hallway, the bedroom and the bathroom….where wooden windows frame a picture perfect view of a babbling brook, slate bank and abundantly leafy green trees. Whilst I realise it will be kind of hard to recreate that exact look back at our urban postage stamp, it occurred to me that an element of it can be borrowed…… the creation of a welcoming green view to replace the immediate widescreen eyeful of The House That Jack Built. HTJB, our hulk of a shed aged somewhere between thirty and forty is day by day leaning farther and farther to the left, buckling under the weight of a collapsing roof which threatens to expose to the elements all of the junk (from here on in to be known as the far more superior ‘junque’, see photo below….) we have stored within it. HTJB’s replacement was contemplated and abandoned recently following a conversation going something like:
“I really want to get that snug cleared out and in use as soon as possible.”
“How best to do it? If we empty the bedroom stuff into the snug then…”
“No no, snug stuff into the bedroom…”
“But we need the bedroom….so…..snug stuff into hallway”
“Yes, then bedroom stuff into hallway…”
“Then stuff into loft…”
“Loft is full”
“Into the shed then”
“Shed is falling down”
“So is the first thing to do to buy a new shed?”
“Maybe..but where would we put the stuff from the shed?”
“Bugger it” (unanimous)
When we can finally figure out a sequence of stuff-shifting which will enable the demolition of HTJB it will be promptly replaced with a sturdily upright version positioned with its widest face pointing towards our neighbours fence, its narrowest end masked by something climbing…honeysuckle perhaps. Beds either side of the earth-retaining patio-step wall will then curve back towards the fence in deep arcs and will be filled, I’m imagining, with a mass of foliage and planting….the exact specimens to be chosen, I’m hoping, alongside the kennel-providing friend who is far more experienced than me at putting together a planting scheme.
I have criteria though.
Density being first ….I don’t want to see the garden beyond our patio but rather want those ascending the steps to discover it as a second ‘room’.
Then contrast . ..a deeply hued smoke bush and purple Japanese Acer seen on our walk yesterday looking amazing next to brighter green leaves.
Scent might be next though perhaps not necessarily within those particular beds ….perhaps by way of a kitchen herb garden planted around the perimeter of the patio instead?
Finally structure….with pots containing architecturally striking plants such as hostas, inspired by the lush specimens encountered here, dotted about the patio itself.
That said, the mere mention of hostas…. plants I have not yet managed to grow without feeling like the provider of some kind of slime-through fast food outlet… throws up a potentially problematic issue we have a-brewing chez Pebbledash.
To crush or not to crush a crustacean?
Renowned internationally for being slow moving they have in the past made surprisingly short work of annihilating my salad trays and so my take on them is largely one of intolerance. By contrast O’s nursery think differently….encouraging compassion and love for All Creatures Great And Small by the adoption of two giant specimens as pets. Coupled with Monday’s Lakeland activity of snail racing, part of a National Trust initiative entitled 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4’s, where four stickered recruits were watched animatedly by a a pair of coming-up-two-year-old beady eyes as they edged their way towards their finish line and suddenly I find myself in an awkward predicament. Do we allow snails to reside unchallenged under the protection of an O-inspired Pebbledashed Pad Snail Conservation Law or do we continue the preventative methods adopted by this novice gardener thus far and resume the practice of snail stomping? The jury is still out.
But back to the garden…..beyond the beds the next section will probably be lawn …the grass taken right to the edges of our 5 metre wide plot to give S and O as much football playing ground as possible. To facilitate this some more culling may need to take place….gardening it would appear is not for the fainthearted…..as we may need to sacrifice the raging rose sporting ferocious finger-pricking thorns on the one side and some gnarled and diseased fruit trees on the other. A glossy leaved Camellia will remain, a reminder for me of one we had in a childhood garden laden with blousy pink flowers (ours are cream) as will, I hope, a newly discovered rhododendron (identified as such only upon finding the Lakes abundant with flowers I recognised as identical to the blossoming mystery bush at the end of our garden.) Finally, right at at the back, we shall resurrect a vegetable plot. This time manageable.
Now all I need is that stuff cleared from the snug to make space for the boxes to be brought down from the loft… so I can retrieve those gardening books….