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My Own Garden

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

When I began doing hard core gardening I did it at my childhood home. My own garden had been done for my whole marriage by my husband. We often didn't agree on techniques and plant choice.

During the time that Dad was becoming less and less able, my husband became ill with a life limiting condition. He was no longer able to do the garden. Or the house. I didn't have the time or energy to do everything, including keeping a full time job. The garden and house became neglected as I failed to keep up with everything.

Eventually my husband asked why I was devoting so much energy to my parents garden when I spent no time at all in ours. I replied that I didn't like our garden, it was small and overlooked and not very interesting, so I had never bothered for years.

He suggested I consider making it more to my taste. I did this under agreement that I chose what to do if I was doing the work, with some agreed decision making.

In years gone by my husband bought pots every season and planted them up with colourful annuals and invariably these died of either too much sun or too much water, depending on the time of year. We had the occasional border also planted with annuals. These primarily fed the local snail population or were pooed on by the excessive number of local cats who used our garden as a latrine, us being one of the few houses who did not have a cat.

I never really understood annuals. My Dad used to spend hours and weeks growing annuals from seed and cuttings to make fabulous patterned displays of flowers in the borders, similar to what you saw in public gardens in the 70's and 80's. I remember the year of the silver anniversary for the Queen. Every round about on the roads and public park garden was festooned with silver leaved annuals and red, white and blue patterns, including clocks, crowns and fleur de lys.

Around the eighties he discovered orchids. He then started to plant out perennials, self seeders and bulbs. These may have always been there but the complex garden displays slowly become overtaken by perennials as the room available in the green house became overtaken by orchids.

I prefer the idea of this type of gardening. Plant a plant, feed it, water it to start with then let it get on with it, prune it occasionally to keep it at it's best. However the general philosophy was survival of the fittest. This appealed to me.

Our house is a relatively new build, meaning that when the developers built, they removed the top soil and left. The garden we inherited consisted of clay, and rocks with pockets of sand.

For years our garden consisted of 2-4" puddles throughout quickly becoming mud from October to April and solid, impenetrable clay May to September.

Borders were a challenge, as was grass.

The grass I forked whenever I could get a fork into it. Into the holes I was advised by a local gardener to put whatever I had to break up the clay. In went old compost, new compost, occasional bags of top soil and any sand I had, including the entire contents of my children's sand pit when they outgrew it. The grass is still a challenge but its getting there.

With a garden like this digging is a challenge, available time to dig is short due to nature.

In the front garden where grass wouldn't grow we put down pea gravel. I got bored with this quickly and decided to plant 5 plants. Mainly Heather's and grasses - husbands choice. I then planted a fuscia. I bought a really tiny one, because planting would be difficult. I planted it and put in compost, manure and top soil around it. The first few years it struggled, it was tiny and people were very rude about it. I persevered.

Every year I moved back the gravel and put a handful of top soil or compost around it and a handful of long acting food pellets. I also did this to roses I planted. They are now huge. They can probably never be removed because of the soil they are embedded in but they grow amazingly well.

After my husband asked me to do my garden I decided to plant 2 borders up and plant them in the same way as the fuscia. The plan being, to gradually allow the plants to break up the soil and allow organic matter into it. This means minimal digging.

When we first moved to the house, the only insects we saw were ants. There were very few birds.

Over the years despite my neglect of the garden there are worms, and insects of all types. I decided to plant to sustain wildlife, particularly bees and butterflies but also beetles and worms to help manage the slug population.

There are a number of dark areas with a lot of tree roots from neighbours trees and shrubs making planting a challenge.I needed to plant with robust plants which would cope with poor soils, limited light and changeable water available depending on the time of year.

I'm hopeful what I plant will thrive making the garden a better natural resource and somewhere the family will want to gather. Unfortunately I can't do anything about the overlooked aspect, but possibly the plants might reduce noise pollution a little and provide some privacy. With any look getting more wildlife into the garden will make it a much pleasanter environment.

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