We moved into our house in March 2018.
Amidst the carnage of cardboard boxes, flat-pack furniture and a very confused cat, I didn’t have much of a chance to look at the garden.
Truth be told, I wasn’t very interested, because it wasn’t very interesting: two small borders - one of which, a sunny spot that had been used for growing runner beans, was devoid of any plants - an expanse of concrete, and an enormous, leaky shed.
It was difficult to see the potential, and we had plenty of other things to keep us busy - a new house, crazy jobs that kept us away for most of the week, and we were getting married in June. The garden would have to wait.
When everything had settled down, we began to work on the garden.
Over the next 6 months, we dismantled the shed, dug out a border, and covered the concrete with garden furniture and pots.
Borders were filled with random purchases from the supermarket, or anything we could scavenge from my parents’ beautiful gardens (many of the pots were “donations” from my folks), with little consideration for sun or soil.
Random purchases and scavenged “donations”
There was no rhyme or rhythm to our approach - we just wanted a garden full of plants.
Inevitably, results were mixed.
Whilst some of our purchases did well - the lavendar, ceanothus and rambling Rosa Seagull were rampant - others struggled. Many died. Many, many died.
I often found myself thinking back to our honeymoon in Madeira, and a day spent in the tropical gardens - why hadn’t I created a subtropical paradise (in Yorkshire)? Why wasn’t the garden right? (I’m starting to realise that there’s no such thing as a ‘right’ garden.)
I couldn’t help but feel some sense of failure and disappointment.
When time and funds allowed, rather than the random, scatter-dash approach we had initially adopted, we researched and brought-in plants that were suited to the space, alongside plants that reminded us of Madeira.
I did my homework: I trawled the internet; I drew rudimentary plans; I even made a collage (awful).
It worked, to some extent, and we were happier. Not happy, but happier. And, more importantly, the plants were happy. Most of them, anyway – the least said about the oleander, the better…
It always felt, however, like we were fighting a losing battle against the concrete, which covered half of the plot.
We set about smashing-out the concrete and limestone bedrock. Or, rather, some nice lads jack-hammered it to smithereens in half a day. Amazing what you can do when you have the right tools for the job.
6 tonnes of top soil were ‘barrowed in. This disappeared into the 25m2 space, so we ordered another 2 tonnes, along with a mountain of manure.
8 tonnes of topsoil, and a mountain of manure
Plants were laid-out where we thought they would work, and then they were moved, and moved again. And again. (And I wonder why things die…)
That’s where we are now - still experimenting, moving things, making mistakes. Lots of mistakes. I’ve learnt that mistakes are an inevitable part of the process (for me, anyway).
The garden is starting to take shape. It’s not perfect - never will be. I can’t wait to make more mistakes in the spring.