Anyone who has lived in a house converted into flats will know that garden issues can arise so easily.
I have lived in the ground floor flat of a Victorian conversion for 15 years. Many conversions have split back gardens, I have the whole of the back garden which is a joy, I can step out of my kitchen door and all I see belongs to me. The front garden, which my lounge looks out on to, belongs to the upstairs flat. When I first moved in it was covered completely with a black membrane topped with bark, it had become a giant cat toilet! When the owners decided to sell, fortunately they laid a lawn with a path around to the back gate. The next owners were not gardeners and as the unkept garden affected my outlook, they were more than happy for me to tend to it. A few years later it was sold to a couple who have been renting it out. I soon learned that the majority of people who rent upstairs flats are not interested in gardens, so over the years I have been lucky, and honored some might say, that the upstairs tenants have been pleased for me to continue as resident gardener. Also as the freeholder I would be able to insist that the front is kept presentable, although it has never come to that.
The lady living upstairs at the moment is into her second summer and has always been amicable for me keeping the front tidy. I don’t spend a lot of time out there and the only plants in the flowerbed are those originally retrieved from under the membrane and cuttings from my back garden. This year she decided she wanted to grow tomatoes in the front bed. It’s her garden, there is nothing I can do or say, and it is unreasonable for me to feel irritated, even to the point I was hoping her tomato plant might die! Sadly when planting the tomato, a lovely rudbeckia and a lot of lysimachia firecracker have gone. The tomato plant is going great guns despite, to the best of my knowledge, not being feed. The front is west facing and gets incredibly dry, so she has been fortunate with the amount of rain we are having. Besides, lots of old English gardens had fruit and vegetables growing amongst flowers so it’s nothing new.
As I said, I do very little in the front apart from weeding, keeping the beds tidy and mowing the lawn. At the moment the lawn is covered in a very pretty purple flower and I am loathe to mow it, so for a while it will become a wild meadow. You will see it is very much a weed filled green patch and doesn’t really live up to being called a lawn. My neighbour and I rarely cross paths so I hope she realizes that I am leaving the ‘lawn’ unmowed on purpose.
My favourite plant in the front is a wonderful orange day lily which is about to burst into colour. It’s been very happy there and I have over the past few years dug up bits of it and put them in the back, although they have never really taken as well as this one has. It must be to do with the baking conditions, when the sun shines!
The low wall between the two houses has cotoneaster growing. It always surprises me that it is so healthy, I have no idea what it is feeding off. This year it is splendid but I wonder at what stage it should be cut back before it weakens the wall and starts lifting the bricks. Maybe I should put my freeholder hat on and contact the owner of upstairs to talk about it.
My other conundrum is the large skimmia growing against the front wall. In past years I have kept it trimmed without asking but this year I feel I should be asking if it’s ok. I’ve been spoilt over the years with my adopted front garden, I tried to buy it once but the owner was advised against selling. It’s tough reminding myself it’s not my garden.