It is something of a relief this weekend that the festivities have come to an end and we can turn back to the simpler pleasures in life without all the excess that Christmas throws at us. I am not really one for making grand resolutions. Most changes in the garden seem to occur by gradual increment and through a mixture of chance and opportunity. Nevertheless there is a certain logic to taking stock at the start of the year. Not least because the brief period of dormancy in January and February makes the bare bones easier to appreciate ‘warts and all’.
The other factor is that there is less ‘green gardening’ to do just now. There is a little more time for ‘grey gardening’ or landscaping that would inevitably take a back seat when the spring comes. So with all that in mind I have narrowed down a list of six uglier parts of the garden that I think I could realistically change this year. While I am getting my tools out of the shed there is still time for any late suggestions or advice which would be most gratefully received!
This garden diary is one of many that are hosted every week at the ever illuminating propagator blog.
1) The drainpipe dilemma
Near the front door there is a rather unsightly down pipe that emerges from the downstairs toilet into the back of the border. For more than half of the year this is concealed well but just now it is something of an eyesore. The c-shaped twig on the right of the photo is a clematis and the larger bundle of sticks on the left is a sambucus nigra. Both of these are anything but evergreen. At their feet are erysimum bowles mauve. The plan is to move the elder and replace this with a small shrub. The prerequisites are for it to be evergreen, bushy enough to cover the pipe and scented enough to notice by the front door. Possible candidates include a daphne, osmanthus or sarcococca but I am sure there are others. I will also put up a trellis to allow the clematis to a spread a little more thickly than it currently does on the existing wire supports.
2) Old hedge v. new hedge
Last year I undertook a large piece of work in excavating an overgrown and mostly dead 30 metre hedge along the front garden wall that had become completely overwhelmed by ivy. I replaced it with new beech hedging. I left one strip along the side of the front garden. It is a mixture of beech, holy, privet and at least a couple of other species as well as a healthy amount of ivy, nettle and bramble. In some ways it works as a solid evergreen wall that screens the recycling bins and blocks out an easterly wind. It is also a home to a fair number of bird nests in the summer. The downsides are that it is much wider than it needs to be and a smaller new hedge could open up a wider pert of the border. It is also difficult to keep under control and I think when the new hedging settles in it will look a little out of place. If I am going to take it out I will need to do this before birds start looking for nesting sites and while there is still time for bare root plants to take hold.
3) Goodbye decking
At the back of the house there is a large area of decking. I am not averse to decking and in the right place I think it can be quite handy but this is absolutely NOT the right place for decking! It is in shade for several months of the year which means that it becomes very slippy. It is nothing short of a miracle that nobody has broken anything yet after multiple falls. If it were elsewhere in the garden you could simply avoid it during the winter but that isn’t possible when it goes right up to the back door. So it is coming out. Which is going to be fun. I am mulling over what to replace to with. I think I will probably go for gravel but create a border along the far side where the pots are just now and then plant it up to soften the edges and add some colour next to a seating area.
4) The pond
Another rather tricky project that is well overdue. We are very fortunate to have a large pond in the back garden. It is actually two ponds at different levels. Originally it was plumbed so that water was pumped out of the bottom pond into the top pond, through a filtration unit and then trickled back through a pipe in the dividing wall forming a mini waterfall into the bottom pond. The dividing wall was built with a small gap and was planted with a few alpines. It must have looked wonderful at first.
Over time though the mortar has dissolved along the dividing wall which means that water seeps through and the level in the top pond is never high enough to flow through the pipe as intended. It is virtually impossible to weed without falling in the pond (and there are now some grasses and gorse growing in the cracks as a result) and the pump has completely conked out. In short it doesn’t really work. I think a simpler solution will be to tidy up the wall and put some facing stones on the top then to put a new pump in each pond rather than trying to move water between the two.
5) The small shed
The contents of the next photo are so distressing that I have decided to take a photo of the small shed with the door closed. I shall leave it to you to imagine the extent of the clutter within. A couple of years ago we completely cleared out the larger adjacent outhouse shed, put a new roof on, shelved the walls and had lighting wired in and it is now a good working space. The small shed next door has become the ugly sister. There are so many old plant pots in there that they form a tsunami when you open the door. So before the spring I will clear everything out, shelve three of the walls and give it a right good tidy. In more ambitious moments I wonder if I could make a small ‘auricula theatre’ to hang on the brick wall…
6) A well deserved rest
Once all of that is done, the last project will be to create a larger seating area outside the summerhouse at the top of the garden. I think I have an idea for using my rudimentary dry stone dyking skills to create a circular seating area with the firepit at the centre. Hopefully, if most of the other jobs are done it will be ready to sit by the fire on a warm spring evening…
So that is the six things that made it on to the list. In truth there will be hundreds of other jobs that will come along; re-edging the lawn, mulching the borders, building more nesting boxes, adding more beehives….it never stops and the garden is never ‘finished’. Making lists helps to focus the mind but the garden has its own way of guiding your hand…
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