“So” said my green-fingered friend as we lingered over plates of baked fish (her) and ragu (me). “What are we looking for for your garden?”
My friend had kindly offered to accompany me to a nursery (or two) on the hunt for plants to fill the still-empty beds…an exercise we had embarked upon once before at a previous property with huge success.
“Ah.” I said as I pulled my bag towards me and began to rummage. “Funny you should ask. Here’s something I made earlier….” and out came a set of pictures of Garden-As-Is ….cut and taped together to replicate each side of the garden to include our problematic back wall. Although my friend lives only minutes away, three chunky steps currently prohibit access to her seeing our garden with her own eyes….a situation we hope to one day remedy with the employment of a couple of burly men and a manual wheelchair. So for now her creative expertise relies solely on photos and the merest glance she can catch through the front door. Rest assured, though, the lady knows her stuff so Design-By-Photo (and sometimes by incorrect measurements supplied by me) has yielded some excellent results thus far.
Smoothing the pictures out on the table I began to talk her through how far we had got.
“This,” I said “is one side of the garden. We’ve a camellia, an apple tree and a pear tree….and lots of fence. This is the other…”
“I don’t think you need to worry about the fences.” she said taking a sip of wine. “I’ve been thinking evergreen jasmine, clematis, honeysuckle….and in a year or two they’ll be gone.”
“That’s what I’d love” I said. “To cover them up”
“The scent, if you go for a honeysuckle, will be wonderful” she promised. “And you could always put a few interesting pots up this side” she indicated towards the right hand fence ” just to break up the line of the lawn there a bit. You can always move them around then as you like.”
I swapped the pictures.
“This is a view of the whole garden from the kitchen with the doors open” I explained “…..excuse our washing…..”
“Washing?! Horror of horrors. Ok, let’s see…” as she pored over the image I reached for another collage, this time of various close ups of the back wall.
“And I really need your help with this” I said. “See this breeze block wall? It’s still painted that horrid lilacy/white….”
“That is pretty bright…”
“I’ve been thinking I’d paint it in the Down Pipe and hang these huge old mirrors we’ve got on it. But then we also have this brick wall which although is prettier in itself, along side the block wall ….well….it all just feels a bit of a mess. I don’t quite know how to tie it all together”
She nodded thoughtfully for a moment.
“You know darlin’, I’ve been thinking about that wall. I know you mentioned mirrors but I think you could do something really creative there. I’ve seen someone use drinks bottles filled with soil and then planted up….they become invisible once they have trailing plants in them. You could paint a mural….or you could use that guttering idea where they are zigzagged as planters for lettuces….I just think you could be a bit inventive. It could be your creative wall …instead of just this eyesore.”
I nodded pensively feeling simultaneously inspired and overwhelmed. She continued.
“And the mirror idea….that wall, if you go for a playhouse, will be mostly covered up. So why not put a mirror in line with your steps, on the back brick wall? Even better….put a gate in front of it. My brother has done that in his garden and it gives the illusion of there being somewhere beyond. In fact, I’ll admit, from where I sat it fooled me.”
“I like that….”
“Now. This playhouse. I have to say…if you go with one you are going to have to be really careful that it doesn’t look like you have two great edifices in your garden. If you really want one I think we are going to have to lose the shed. Cover it up with greenery to make it invisible.”
“I know…” I sighed “I know.”
It had been a problem troubling me for some time. Do we put one on the left, between the shed and apple tree or would that create a one sided ‘heaviness’? Or on the other side to balance it out and maybe hide the vegetable patch at the same time which I can’t, with my limited grow-your-own knowledge, promise will look attractive all year round. In fact…whilst it admittedly looks very green right now the laced caulis and feral tomatoes are already beginning to look pretty unkempt.
That all said we have at present no firm plans to buy O’s much coveted house. A stilted version was ordered and then cancelled when the delivery date kept changing and S started to suspect skulduggery and a new order hasn’t yet replaced it. The merest mention of ‘will we or won’t we?’ is being avoided at present by us both as we battle a combo of guilt….we promised O…..and rational thinking….it costs a silly fortune.
“I’m not sure if we are getting one or not” I explained to my friend “but this week I found some ‘build your own’ plans and S seemed quite taken with them. One had a tyre swing and a climbing wall and I’m fairly sure they could be built for less if not the same as the shop bought.”
“It would mean the world to O if he saw his Dad building it” my friend nodded her agreement “but……”
I looked up, fork in hand.
“if he’s going to make one then I think you really need to think of an alternative shape. Just something a bit less square….a pyramid, a cone… He can build it with panels but if its square you’ll end up with these two big blocks”
At this point pen and paper came out whilst we both Kevin McClouded our very own mini yet still very Grand Design. Even the pudding menu was pushed aside whilst we sketched. We were rather pleased with the result …..a half hexagon with interior mezzanine and a green roof.
“Think a Quality Street tin” prompted my friend. “Cut in half. Grass on top.”
Surely not hard to build? S has made a bench before, after all……
On the ride home she turned to me conspiratorially.
“Now don’t go telling S we’ve designed the playhouse else he’ll never let you come out with this woman again.”
I nodded. Bide my time…I thought.
The next morning, sat in bed with O sandwiched between us each with a book I turned to S.
“We had some great ideas last night…..about the playhouse…..”
“Yeah. I’m reading pet. Really great article this…can’t hear you I’m afraid.”