Thursday, 9 February 2012

Some introductions, the story so far and things to come.

In this, my inaugural post, I would like to introduce myself, my garden and my plans for this blog, all good, solid stuff so far.
Starting with me, a quick rundown: I am a garden designer, the author of 10 gardening books and I have written for a number of gardening publications. My design style has been described as quirky and imaginative and my books as hardworking, innovative and packed with no-nonsense, practical advice -I am happy with that. A passion for plants renders me unable to leave a nursery without a bulging car boot and leaves me shamefully vulnerable to impulse buying plants. I have a love of growing my own and the decorated garden. I try to be good to wildlife and refuse to use pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Upcycling, reuse and thrifty solutions give me a kick but I believe quality is worth paying for. I think each person’s garden should be their own, a space that lifts their spirits and as such is beyond the comment of the arbiters of taste. In case that all sounds a tad earnest I should add my ideal garden is one devoted to relaxation, entertaining, play and escape as well as plants.
My garden: My garden is very much ‘in progress’, it has been under my care for just two years and as it stands it has islands of my creating adrift in someone else’s grand plan. Gradually the original is being nibbled away and one day my grand plan will be complete and the garden will be mine. There is a list, an incredibly long list, of projects and problems to be tackled to complete the transformation and then, I suspect, it will be time to start again. Thankfully a good garden is never finished.
The garden is in Devon and covers about an acre. It is looped around the house and set on the side of a hill so changes of level offer interesting design opportunities. I don’t have a gardener, the business of gardening is more important to me than a pristine garden, though on grim days when everything is getting out of hand, I see this is in fact complete madness. My husband pushes the mower, joyfully wields a chainsaw and lifts things and when big stuff needs doing I have a gang of colourful local builders to call upon.


My first project was to build a simple veg patch and fruit garden on a swathe of perfect lawn. I have little time to devote to this enterprise and my approach is shamelessly relaxed, at times unorthodox, but the garden is still amazingly bountiful. I take every short cut available and things, (mostly weeds) get a little out of control but there is still plenty of tasty organic produce and apparently I am a much ‘nicer person’ when I have been ‘pottering’ in the veg patch for 20 minutes. 


When we arrived there was no real link between house and garden, no place to wander out barefoot with a cup of coffee and slump in a chair, nowhere to eat and cook outdoors  and so the second big change  was to create a terrace of deliciously worn and horrendously heavy York stone flags. This took massive machines, robust builders and serious earth moving.  At the same time a large seat designed with a playful nod to the gothic character of the house and known as The Throne was built into one of the banks.


Next came the Top Deck, completed early last summer by the same intrepid crew, much recovered from hefting York Stone. Set at the highest point of the garden this is a place to take in the view across the valley and relax amongst swathes of flowering perennials alive with bees and grasses. The bees are mine by the way; the planting around the deck is designed to look fantastic and provide plenty of bee fodder too. Sadly I can’t find a picture of it at its fabulous, flowery peak...something for this year.





As well as all that there have been loads of trees planted, a small deck for two built near the back door, containers purchased planted, moved, replanted and moved again, new hedges and innumerable plants removed, replanted or re-homed.
 That is the story so far and plenty more is planned : a rose/herb garden, an area dedicated to cut flowers, I can never bring myself to cut them from the garden, a wild flower bank around my bees ( it is pretty wild now, but a tangle of brambles is not quite the same), the transformation of some sad concrete paving into something marvellous ( as yet unknown) and a thorough revamp of the driveway and area at the front of the house plus the long overdue tidy up and replanting of a long bed backed by gargantuan laurels. There are also numerous small fixes needed: something to hide pipes on the wall by the terrace, a spot to be found for a pizza oven, hedges to sort out, an asparagus bed to build, an idea for low maintenance container planting to try and some tree seats to design and build. On top of that there is the rest of the garden to keep chugging along.
This is where the blog comes in, there is going to be an awful lot going on and I hope some of it will be worth sharing. There will be the routine chores in the veg and fruit gardens, the new varieties and tactics I try to report on, successes and failures alike. There will be plenty of talk about plants, plants I love, plants that disappoint (I have no time for prima donnas) and advice on how to create planting schemes. I hope to include practical step by step instructions on how to create decorative features I include in the garden and to show how to carry out practical tasks, like the much feared pruning. While exciting larger construction projects should yield an abundance of inspiring ideas and helpful information to share.  I will add in give-aways of my new books and I reserve the right to a very occasional, cathartic garden rant.
In short I am inviting anyone who cares to join me on a gardening journey, a journey which I hope will provide solid, practical information and small sparks of inspiration to ignite the imagination of those along for the ride.    

My thanks to Clive Nichols for the fabulous images.



 


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