Driftwood and a half built chair sitting on an area that I know not what to do with. There are some good places for collecting driftwood along the River Dart and I always seem to manage to bring something back home after taking Bella for a swim. Sme will be used as supports for climbers etc. The Wisteria is adjusting to it's new home. I've painted the back of my neighbour's shed, which is on it's last legs and in fact, looking at this photo, I realize that I had better put a trellis up to support the Wisteria for when it does finally fall apart or is removed.
April 2011 - I'm making a series of short videos on my i-phone in an attempt to try to bring to life the process of the making of an English Cottage Garden. This is the first one made on Easter Sunday 2011. Not much to show yet in terms of the progress but it certainly shows from where I start!
The herbaceous bed looks pretty sparse now at the beginning of April and Alexandra will not be confined! I think I am going to have to keep an eye on her. Her companion, Emmy, only has one eye so is much easier to catch and generally shepherd around the garden. It's time to move the hens again and put their natural tendencies to my advantage. There is a lot of ground in the kitchen garden to clear and Emmy and Alex have done a pretty good job here in their pen in just two or three days.
I have finally managed to get the posts in the ground for this part of the dividing border but with some difficulty as there appears to be the foundations of an exceptionally well made stone and cement wall running underground along the entire width of the garden at the exact spot I am digging this bed! Some of the stones are enormous but eventually I have managed to remove enough of them to get the posts in, some with a pick axe and straps to pull them out. This really is my limit in terms of strength and ability - I shall have to go swimming later to loosen up my aching muscles!
Bella has her attention on something in the field. We've been having visiting badgers at night, on one occasion Bella tried to play with a badger in the over bouncy way Labradors have but fortunately it ran off. I have more posts and intend to move this fence back a few feet as I planted the fruit trees far too close to it, not realising that cattle would be grazing. Cattle who particularly enjoy browsing on young branches. I think I need to change the gate too to something more in keeping with a cottage garden. This is a temporary stop gap, quite literally, picked up from the recycling centre.
I love the 'modern' Le Corbusier style of the houses that William Lescaze designed here at Dartington Hall in the early 1930's, including mine, which is built in the style of a traditional estate workers country cottage. This view shows my neighbours house plus the plot which will be my Kitchen Garden. I'm going to dispense with any idea of raised beds and develop a more traditional allotment style of gardening here, at least until I have the rampant perennial weeds under control. Some tap roots are over a foot long.This photo shows a wider view of the area to be worked on, including what I think may possibly be a young white Mulberry tree up which a Clematis Elizabeth, chosen for being named after my daughter, is attempting to ascend. Next to the Mulberry tree will be a small shed for the lawn mower etc which may resemble a faded beach hut, a newly planted young Cherry tree in the far right corner and a tall fence made of 8' tree stakes, with a wire netting base and then wires at intervals across the gaps and then a twisted old rope that was used to moor a boat on the river estuary looped across the top for the Zéphirine Drouhin roses to climb which will create beauty and fragrance, masses of food for the bees plus a delicate kind of privacy between us and our neighbours.
The old barn is just next door and is not used for anything at present apart from as a residence for swallows and bats. The Swallows are due to return from the Mediterranean any day now! I think we all long for their return wherever we live and envy their freedom, I often think to be reincarnated as a swallow would be no bad thing! The Old Bran also acts as home and as a support for the most wonderfully fragrant rambling rose which I think may possibly be a Bennett's Seedling on the far side. As soon as it comes into flower I shall take it up to Hill House Nursery and get it identified. The next photo gives the idea of how the fence will divide up the two gardens. There will be an arch for two more roses - Zéphirine Drouhin - to scramble over.
And here is Fizz, our world famous cat, who follows me around the garden when he is not curled up on a bed. He has the most remarkable knack of being able to collect vast quantities of soil, grit, dried leaves and seeds in his very long fur by rolling in dry soil and then deposit them on the cream coloured sofas in the sitting room. I'd love to use the word Drawing Room - such an elegant vision but alas, cottages don't have drawing rooms. When we lived in town, where we did indeed have a beautiful drawing room where Fizz would sit on the window seat and look down on the passing people beneath or he would stroll over to pose on the church wall with his huge furry tail twitching occasionally or he would lie on his back along the length of medieval stone guttering along the ramparts and I am certain just wait for tourists to capture him on film. He is definitely not to be touched on his stomach or legs or he will attack with ferocious claws. I met a Japanese girl one day by the Church Wall, she was stroking him and saying that her brother had taken a picture of him the year before which was now on their fridge in Tokyo!
Don't you just love to sit under a tree in dappled sunlight for a while? I have a series of old deckchairs but unfortunately they can't manage to take people over a certain weight. Most people are OK but just occasionally!
This one is improving year by year and now has Wisteria and Clematis
scrambling up it's branches. The deckchair is being re canvassed after a
rather large person sat on it!
I have no idea exactly what plant is packed tightly in this lovely old and worn terracotta pot but time, water and sunshine will tell. Actually a rampant weed which has been removed.
Yesterday when I was taking yet more rubbish down to the recycling centre I also found a narrow, rather long, wooden single bed, which I think may be good at the back of the studio in the sheltered garden to lie down on and listen to the birds and relax or even sleep out on the rare occasions that England's weather allows such luxuries. Anyhow, a good scrub with disinfectant and some coats of off-white masonry paint will brighten it up until I decide what exactly to do with it or if I will paint it blue or not.
I also picked up a small bookcase which will again be off white until a colour scheme is decided upon but for now can fit into the cottage in one of its many nooks and crannies and hold a few more of the far too many books I have accumulated over the years.
April 2011 - Finding enough large stones for edging the border has come to a temporary halt whilst I decide how to proceed with the path next to the fence. Alex and Emmy made a really good job of clearing it but it is in shade until mid afternoon so after it's been paved I may make this the site for the woodshed. It could be rather beautiful. I will have to find a climber that enjoys some shade. Perhaps a climbing hydrangea. If only the fence wasn't there!
Last year I brought back a large old fern home in a large black bin liner and it has been sitting in the shade over winter. I now have the perfect place for it where it is practically guaranteed to have 90% shade by the compost heap. Actually it's not a compost heap, more of a heap but I'll make a proper one later on. I need a turf ageing heap, a heap for leaf mould and then this heap where I leave everything until later.
I was born in the village of Grappenhall in Cheshire and remember Grappenhall lavender very well. It grows to 5' so can be made into a hedge. For me, as a very small child, I can recall a tall, fragrant forest of it towering over my head filled with the buzzing of bees. I ordered these three pot online, only because I had not been able to find any locally but they had not been looked after at all well, were very pot bound and rotting from over watering. I have now re-potted them and removed some of their roots and put them in a very sunny position in the hope that they will now thrive. Then I will propagate from them and in time there will be a hedge tall enough for my grandchildren to make similar memories.
I'll have to fence in the whole garden to hopefully stop the foxes and badgers coming in and taking the hens and stop the rabbits from helping themselves to everything else. For now, I am slowly working my way around the kitchen garden. The soil is full of weeds, stones, old electric fence wire and metal poles as well as masses of deep pink synthetic carpet that has not rotted away that someone sometime decided to use as a weed suppressant. It didn't work!
Perhaps there are people who may think that this is going to take ages but it is the only way as the soil here is particularly bad. It doesn't take that long really and it is well worth it in the end. I just sieve a couple of wheelbarrow loads every day in between other jobs and then mix it with compost and some horse manure and replace it in the border again. And then I am going to train thorn-less blackberries and loganberries along the wire netting here and plant a cherry tree at the far end.
The cherry tree has just enough room to eventually hang a hammock between it and the Mulberry Tree.
Four roses to train up the studio walls - Compassion and New Dawn at one end and Rambling Rector and Francis E Lester at the other and I am now anticipating how they will look when they have finally become established!
April 2012 - Slowly becoming established.
April 2011 - This is the second short video highlighting how the garden is developing this April.
April 2011 - I've carefully excavated a deep hole between the roots of the flowering cherry tree and before I water it thoroughly and add horse manure and compost, Alex and Emmy appear from nowhere together with their sixth sense for an extra feast.
April 2012 - I've planted a Wisteria and a Clematis to grow up through the branches so that there will be flowers to look forward to after the Cherry blossoms have faded.
There are some good places for collecting driftwood along the River Dart and someone always manage to bring a few pieces home after taking Bella for a walk there. These are waiting to be made into a garden throne and to be used as supports for plants.
The soil around the edge of the kitchen garden to be is full of perennial weeds, clay and stones. All in all I think it's probably better to lift off the top sods and stack them and then dig in loam from last years stack. Sieving the soil, removes any small pieces of couch grass, dandelion roots, dock, nettle and assorted bits of iron ware etc. It's a slow job and I only have time to do about six feet of border a day, unfortunately. Should have it done by the end of April! ZéphirineDrouhin roses are to go along the fence at the back of the kitchen garden. They'll provide beauty, fragrance and privacy plus help to keep the hens in and the fox out. They will also take an age to grow!
The bed, now painted, will eventually go into the cottage but not until after the summer. It has an old magnetic mattress on it so is marvelous for taking forty winks every now and then.
This is the back of my neighbour's shed. I have given it some coats of wood preservative and the masonry paint. I use up odd half full pots of paint that I find at the recycling centre and mix and match colours as I go along.
Everything in the garden is in constant flux, it moves around until it finds a home. The pea sticks are waiting for peas to be planted but also to be made into hazel latices to support the delphiniums.
I had a rather large plastic pot which I planted up with lilies and daffodils and as I could not find anywhere to put it I decided to more or less bury it. I think I will put it in a little deeper and then plant grass seed in between the stones.
I have never tried this method of weed control before but having looked under the edges, I think the ground will be easier to work but the weeds are definitely still growing. The lawn mower comes back from it's overhaul tomorrow so at least I will be able to chop it back before digging. I think it looks as though I will be spending almost every day digging this summer.
As April moves towards its close, there are at least some parts of the garden that we can enjoy more than others. I have now collected six assorted old chairs that do very well in the garden and my old work table from the Kitchen Garden which will now be used for alfresco dining until something better comes along. I really like it, it is the kind of table that I remember from Christmas and summer fairs at school and the same kind of table that was used in village halls for jumble sales. Yes, it's very rough and ready but it works really well for now. We have had some wonderful times eating around it already and look forward to a summer of impromptu gatherings of friends and sharing of at least homegrown salads, chutneys and jams. Plus of course - omelets!
The Wisteria is settling in to its new home. I will let it bathe in sunshine this year and put on some growth before I train it to grow across, up and over the back of the cottage. Mean while I can turn my attention to dovecotes.
There is still a lot to do on the shed! I'm toying with the idea of putting wooden shingles on the roof and perhaps a skylight or two. After which, I will start on insulating the inside walls and roof.
Somewhere in my garden I am going to create the water lily pond as close as possible to the one that Margaret Tarrant illustrated and that has inspired me since childhood.
had not recalled the fairies! Throughout my childhood, books appeared
as if by magic in my bedroom and often with beautiful illustrations by
Margaret Tarrant. There was also a poem called " Fairies" by Rose Fyleman that I used to know
by heart after my mother had recited it so many times as we walked down
the garden path. We had a beautiful path made of crazy paving and a very beautiful
garden too, which led to the garden shed and indeed to another very
mysterious garden beyond that held shadows, tall trees, old brick walls
and winding pathways. So here it is as I remember it -
Fairies by Rose Fyleman
There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
And it’s not so very, very far away.
You just pass the gardener’s shed and you just keep straight ahead.
I do so hope they’ve really come to stay.
There’s a little wood with moss in it and beetles!
And a little stream that's quietly running through.
You wouldn’t think they’d dare to come a merrymaking there.
Well, they do!
There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
They often have a dance on summer nights.
The butterflies and bees make a lovely little breeze
And the rabbits stand about and hold the lights.
And did you know that they could sit upon the moonbeams?
And pick a little star to make a fan?
And dance away up there in the middle of the air?
Well, they can!
There are fairies at the bottom of our garden!
You cannot think how beautiful they are.
They all stand up and sing when the Fairy Queen and King come gently floating down upon the air.
The King is very proud and very handsome.
The Queen – now you can guess who that could be?
She’s a little girl all day but at night she steals away.
Well, it’s me!
For me gardening is all about creating beauty and a kind of magic, one that will hopefully bring inspiration, contentment and peace as well as exercise, health and of course food. It is a place to share with friends and family and now by the wonder of social net-working - a place to share with you too.