Archive for November, 2020

The Garden Seven Years On

November 30, 2020
The Bright Garden July 2020
The same view, July 2013

We moved to Wharf House in September 2012 and immediately set about renovating the garden. Over the course of the last seven years we have made some pretty big changes, with perhaps the most dramatic being apparent in those areas where we have added entirely new beds and structures. Throughout the process, which is ongoing, our aim has been to create a series of discrete spaces, each with their own distinctive character. Our ambition is that visitors to the garden will wander through the ‘garden rooms’ we have created with a sense of (we hope, pleasant) surprise as they progress from area to area. An important part of creating this feeling of intimacy, is screening parts of the garden, one from the other. The ideal is that, at no time, when in one part of the garden, can one have more than an enticing peek into another.

The photographs above hopefully illustrate the development of these ideas. In the first photograph, taken in July 2013, almost the whole of the largest part of the garden can be seen from one end to the other. In the most recent photograph, snapped in July 2020, the evolution of a distinct garden room is hopefully apparent. The pergola, the top of which can be seen, was only built at Christmas 2019. It does still therefore look a little ‘raw’ but it will soon be clothed in roses and clematis. The new island beds which make-up the ‘Bright Garden’, one of which can be seen here, were dug in 2018 and the planting still has a good way to go before it reaches a satisfying state of maturity. That is part of the pleasure of gardening of course. One can paint with the boldest of strokes, digging entirely new beds and merrily erecting new structures but then one has sit back and wait for the years to pass and for the garden to grow into itself.

Composting Theory Vs. Composting Reality!

November 24, 2020
Adding Wood Ash To Our Compost Heaps

We are enthusiastic composters. We’ve got (and read) a couple of books on how to compost and have a reasonably firm grasp of the principles. We’ve built five compost bays out of wooden pallets. We invested in a ‘Hot Bin’ to compost our kitchen vegetable scraps, because our local council doesn’t collect food waste. But, but, but it’s all still rather unsatisfactory …

We generate a huge amount of compostable material. Far too much to be manageable in fact and what’s worse, it arrives at the wrong time. In the summer, we put a tiny fraction of our grass cuttings onto the compost heap. There’s just far, far too much of it and our heap would rapidly turn into a black sludge if any but a tiny fraction went onto it.

Right now, we’ve just started the winter cut back of our herbaceous plants. Again, we’re generating huge quantities of compostable materials. But in the same way that the summer produces a glut of ‘green’, the winter creates a glut of ‘brown’.

Another problem we have is that the composting process itself is just so darn slow! We turn our heaps probably three times per year. It’s a big job and I really don’t think we could manage it any more frequently. We carefully layer the heap, trying to mix green with brown. We water the heaps when they are dry. We try to keep them in full sun. Even so, we think it takes about two years to move from raw material to usable compost.

Overall then and much to our frustration, we generate far, far less usable compost than we ought and we consequently spend a small fortune each year buying bags of compost from our local garden centre.

How to improve our composting? We probably need huge composting bays, far, far bigger than our wooden-pallet efforts. But even then I can see no way round the slowness of the process, other than by making a significant investment in a shredder. A decent petrol shredder costs at least £1,500 but only by shredding all the material that goes onto the heaps, do I see any way significantly to speed-up our painfully slow composting process.

Winter Jobs

November 18, 2020
Garrya Elliptica providing winter interest

Winter is almost upon us. A couple of frosts last week put an end to our dahlias for this year. We never did get the ‘last cut’ of the lawns done and the time we have for gardening at the weekends, is becoming less and less as the days shorten. And yet there is so much to do.

We’ve spent the whole of the last couple of weekends trying to get the garden ‘winter ready’. For us, that means putting away or covering all the garden furniture and any frost-sensitive statues or ornaments. It also means moving all the tender plants into the greenhouse or polytunnel. Moving the pots is a massive undertaking. So far, we have already moved over 60 pots, with more still to do. Yet more, the biggest ones, need to be bubble-wrapped and fleeced. Only then do we start to dig up the tender plants in the borders themselves and move them to their winter quarters.

Once the tenders plants are safely moved or covered, we start cutting back the herbaceous plants. That will keep us busy until the early Spring. We’re not obsessed about neatness and we certainly don’t go in for ‘putting the garden to bed’ for the winter but cutting back what needs to be cut, will take us weeks, so a start needs to me made.

In between all of this, we must also find time for felling trees and processing the wood which will provide us with enough fuel for the log burners next Winter but that’s another blog …


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