Oops…

So…

After the big announcement in my last post about NOT being a garden designer, I’ve got a confession to make. Because I think I might have been a bit hasty.

I’ve just spent the last few hours doing planting plans for my garden. I’ve taken photos, done some sketches, brushed the cobwebs off my CAD design skills, pulled out a few plant guides, and hallelujah…

You know what? I love doing planting plans… I really do. Which is pretty amazing considering that trying to do them as part of the ****ing garden design course I embarked on a couple of years ago nearly finished me off, made me think that I was the most useless person this side of Uselesstown, and turned me into a garden hater.

But it’s amazing what a bit of rest and recuperation can do. I realised things were beginning to turn around when I was able to look through the window at my garden without a feeling of dread; when, after deciding that topiarising my yew hedge into football supporters was a really bad idea, I went out and had a look at the uncut growth and saw Chelsea fans waiting to emerge;

Yew hedge in waiting
Yew hedge in waiting

when I heard my greenhouse calling to me in a welcoming tone, rather than sitting petulantly in the corner of the garden threatening me with all sorts of dire consequences if I didn’t get out there and get going.

The love of my life....
Last summer! The love of my life….

I think it was when Chris (the pruning expert you really need when your climbing plants have gone awol), arrived this morning to give me a hand with rejuvenating the roses and wisteria on the pergola, that I finally knew I was back in business.

Serious pruning
Serious pruning

I was out there in the wind and the rain, loving every minute of it (I KNOW!). And, when it finally got too cold and too wet to carry on, I came in, went straight to my desk, and started plant planningTa-dah!

Ta-dah!

And now I feel like writing about it. So maybe I am a garden designer… Of a sort. I know I said I wasn’t sure if I was going to carry on with this blog. But that was before. And this is now. And writing is what I love doing. And so is gardening.

So…

Watch this space!

Greenhouse geek….

So the weather outside is frightful…. But the fire is so delightful….

Actually there’s no fire but the weather is truly horrendous and I’m sitting here like one of the three little pigs with the wind and the rain doing their best to blow the house down. Hopefully, since we’ve been sensible and built our house out of bricks, we’ll see this stormy weather out. But in the meantime there’s not a whole lot to write about in the garden. Apart that is from….

Big drumroll….

!*!*!MY GREENHOUSE!*!*!*

Is it sad to be so excited about a greenhouse? Yes it probably is…. But I don’t care. This is something I’ve been planning for years. And it’s finally happened. So let me talk you through it….

If you’ve read the page about my garden you’ll know that when we moved into this house the garden was a little lacking in…. well it was a little lacking in anything really. Apart from grass and fence, that is.

Lovely huh....
Lovely huh….

The house nestles at the bottom of a north facing slope, most of which is our field and a section of which was the garden. While the developers had their contractors in shifting earth around for the other properties next door we asked them to level out a section of field on the far side of the fence to give us a flat area to use for….

We're talking about the area on the far side of the fence....
We’re talking about the area on the far side of the fence….

Well we weren’t exactly sure what we wanted to use it for but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Over the years we’ve kept chickens there, put a trampoline up there and then got rid of it when the children grew out of it, (actually before they grew out of it but it had to go because it was so ugly), and we had a marquee for a mega party to celebrate my 50th, my son James’s 21st and Hattie and Emma’s 18th birthdays, which all occurred in the same year (James and my big birthdays on the same day) which was about as good a reason to have a mega party as I can think of….

This is where I planted the yew hedge a few years ago,

Chelsea supporters in waiting....
Chelsea supporters in waiting….

which is coming along nicely – apart from the section I lost to rot last year – and getting ready to be topiarised into Chelsea supporters for Graham. (Which I just love the idea of as you may have gathered from other posts and am ridiculously excited about.)

So a couple of years ago when the veg habit beckoned I (or rather Stuart) dug out some beds and planted some fruit trees as the start of my vegetable garden.

The embryo....
The embryo….

Then everything got left for a couple of years while life got in the way. But now that I’m back and better than ever the grand plans are swinging into action.

So first the greenhouse.

Don't you just love it....
Don’t you just love it….

It went up in the mud and the rain a month ago and at the moment it’s looking a bit stark. But just you wait. I’m showing you the pictures now so that you’ll appreciate that we have a way to go before this part of the garden achieves the effect I’m looking for.

Then there’s the section of mixed hedge to go on the far side of the new raised bed and the replacement for the section of yew hedge that I lost – the away team supporters. At the moment they’re heeled in, waiting for the trench to be dug so we can plant them.

Away team in waiting....
Away team in waiting….

The intention is that the veg garden will be surrounded by hedge so that it is separate from the rest of the garden and has an identity of it’s own. Another room so to speak.

One day it will be beautiful....
One day it will be beautiful….

We’re going to expand the existing beds and edge them with wooden planks, turning them into two large beds rather than four small, and adding another for the perennial veg like asparagus and rhubarb.

I’m thinking of planting a group of silver birch on the near side of the new section of mixed hedge to block off the roof of the greenhouse which will still be visible even when the hedge has established. And I’ve got a mad idea about planting hornbeam and topiarising them into cones in a row along the hedge leading down to the veg garden. Although this may be a step too far.

And then of course there’s the greenhouse itself and what to do with it inside and out.

So much to think about….

If you’re interested I’ll keep you posted….

Just call me Vita….

Work experience…..

Isn’t it that thing that teenagers do in the summer holidays? Go and spend a couple of weeks in an office, filing and photocopying and watching the clock until the end of the day. At my age it it’s the last thing I expect to be doing….

The year’s course at KLC requires us to spend time during the summer break working in a garden or a nursery for a couple of weeks. It’s viewed as an essential part of the experience. I had been allocated two weeks at Great Dixter in July, which I had pulled out of at the last minute when my father in law died. And a week at Long Barn at the beginning of August.

Long Barn is the house that Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson moved to when they were first married. They bought it for £2,500 in 1915. It was Vita’s first home after Knole and, with the help of their friend Lutyens, she and Harold created a garden that would be the precursor to Sissinghurst.

It’s a house with an amazing guest list – visitors included Virginia Woolf, Stephen Spender, Clive Bell, Lytton Strachey, E.M. Forster, Hugh Walpole, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. Oh and Jane King of course….

IMG_0507

The current owners had been kind enough to offer the opportunity for a couple of us to come and spend some time in the garden, so I went to there to make the arrangements earlier in the summer. And was blown away.

Steps and Terraces

But being blown away by a garden and doing hard labour in it are two very different things. And on that Monday morning in early August, having undertaken the eleven hour drive back from Ullapool the previous day, and with my own garden in sore need of some serious attention, I wasn’t exactly champing at the bit to get started.

Shows how wrong you can be.

This garden is pretty close to my idea of perfection. But it’s not open to the public. So to spend a week there in perfect weather, sun shining but not too hot, working from one area to the next, pruning and cutting back, sometimes talking with fellow student Ann and head gardener Richard as we worked, sometimes quietly getting on with it…. let me tell you it doesn’t get much better.

We pruned roses.

Before pruning....
Before pruning….

IMG_1162
During pruning….

After pruning...
After pruning…

We worked in the vegetable garden.

Before....
First you see it….

After....
Now you don’t….

We got up close and personal with some onions.

Before....
Before….

IMG_1218
I could swear there were onions here when I last looked …..

There they are....
There they are….

And finally.... Onion Art
And finally…. Onion Art

And made a lot of trips to the compost heap.

Taking a breather!
I need a break!

There were unexpected bonuses. I got to spend time with lovely Ann, a kindred spirit in the making. And Richard, the head gardener, was friendly and patient and very kind to us novices.

And then of course there was Vita.Vita-Sackville-West3

Yew Trees and StatueI followed her ghost along the side of the majestic yews planted by her husband.

The OrchardWalked beside her through the orchard.

IMG_1157Gazed out with her across the fields and wooded slopes of the Weald.

Trying to see the garden through her eyes – and influenced no doubt by the photos I’d seen from the days when she lived here

Long Barn– I had a moment when I saw the world in black and white.

Glorious TechnicolourSo that when I snapped back into the present it seemed almost unnaturally colourful and bright.

How lucky were we? Ann and I? To spend time in that special place. To work in that unique garden. No doubt I will visit many more wonderful gardens in years to come. But I can’t imagine I will find one to live up to Long Barn.