Garden blogging

Restoring a Hampshire Garden – Chapter 3

I’ve just realised it’s been 5 weeks since I last wrote an update on my daughter and Son in Law’s Hampshire Garden. The last blog post, Chapter Two, was all about sorting out the heavy duty, overgrown trellis along the side of the garage. It is now festooned with lights and hanging pots, much nicer than overgrown ivy and unkempt honeysuckle.

The Heuchera really picked up after freeing it from the stranglehold of weeds and is looking rather splendid. The spikey plant is a donated impressive lime green Heuchera but had been left in a pot and dried out in the recent hot weather. To revive it I gave it a drastic haircut and it is slowly throwing out new shoots – phew!

The roses have responded well to their untangling and pruning last month. There are a few plants on the shopping list for the trellis to provide an evening floral fragrance, such as Jasmine Officinale.

The ivy covered hedge that divided the garden across the middle has been removed, opening up the garden considerably. Behind the hedge was a very neglected and overgrown area that had a few raised beds and once clearly was a productive fruit and vegetable part of the garden. This has now been cleared and will be laid to lawn with a variety of borders adding shape and interest to the garden, including a hot border with grasses, Rudbekia and Echinacea in the sunniest border.

I have been given the border on the left hand side of the garden as my own, which is really exciting. It is 10 metres long and full of roots from ivy and other shrubs that have been removed. The ivy is still a battle but having a 17 year fight in my Worthing garden I am used to dealing with it!

It is a challenge finding suitable plants for a North-West facing border, with a North facing corner and a large apple tree. Ferns and Hostas will be the order of the day for this far corner under the tree. It is a dry shade, and some careful planting is required – according to the RHS website Pieris Japonica, Skimmia, Viburnum and Sambucus Nigra are ideal shrubs.

The soil is fabulous loam which is not surprising since it was used for growing vegetables and fruit. It was an absolute treat to work after years of heavy clay. Some, and perhaps most, gardeners would dig over the whole border before planting anything but I am digging over one section at a time and getting some plants established as I go.

Today I dug in a couple of large bags of compost to enrich the soil which was dry and then I selected a few plants from the garden centre which all say will tolerate light shade but worryingly according to the RHS website most need full sun. The border does get full sun from mid afternoon so fingers crossed they will be ok:-

CaryopterisHeavenlyBlue‘; Veronica ‘Atomic Red’; Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’; Lobelia ‘Queen Victoria’; Salvia ‘Blue Mandalay’ x2; Geum ‘Sunrise’ x2; plus Dianthus x6, Achemilla Mollis and Campanula to fill in the gaps.

I am not an expert, only an amateur gardener but many years of having my own garden and experienced mistakes with just as many successes, I know that plants are adaptable and provide many surprises. I think I will repeat this planting along the border incorporating shade loving plants as I approach the fern/hosta corner.

Finally, have fallen in love with the very old cedar wood shed. There was electricity in there at one time and the roof is corrugated iron, but it is going to be very useful for pottering in and storing stuff.

Garden blogging

I Have an Allotment!

When faced with an overgrown allotment and not know what to do first, as the song goes: “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”

I finally moved to Emsworth at the end of the day on Friday 20th April after my Buyer’s solicitors took things right up to the wire on completion day.

I met the lady I am caretaking the allotment for on Sunday and started work in earnest on Tuesday. The plot is the one in the left hand corner of the photo with the apple blossom tree. You can see how overgrown it is. It certainly stands out from the others – but not for long.

I know she said her previous helper hadn’t worked on it for while but I wasn’t expecting it to be so overgrown! However, we all know how quickly weeds and grass take hold so it may not have been left that long.

There are five raised beds, and the rest of it is broken up with chipped bark paths, so I decided to break up the work and deal with one segment at a time. My first day was dedicated to clearing one bed, with excellent soil, so that I can start to plant a few veggies. I was very firm with myself and set two hours and tried very hard not to get side tracked doing other things on the plot. It’s amazing what catches your eye when doing one job and before you know it you’ve wandered off to another part to start clearing that patch. You have then done a little bit of this and a little bit of that, walking away at the end of the day looking back and seeing nothing tangible.

There are a lot of hidden gems, with strawberries running everywhere, an apple tree, which I am told has cooking apples, and lots of lovely currant bushes of various types. I will have to start jam making!

What made me chuckle was the ‘shed’. Another allotment holder told me that they all clubbed together with bits and pieces to make this shed, which now sadly has almost collapsed. I did chuckle at the blue ‘Fire door keep shut’ sign.

Now I’m retired, I need some structure in my life so a couple of hours a day will give me something to focus on. Also whilst the plot needs to be returned into working order that may well be enough hard work for the time being. I am on the waiting list for a permanent plot of my own so must be sure not to put in so much effort only to find in a year or two the owner decides to relinquish the plot all together. I suppose that is the risk of caretaking. Meanwhile it is exciting to have an allotment to work on and I’ve always enjoyed a challenge. I have decided to keep one half of the allotment tidy and concentrate on the other half growing vegetables and flowers in the raised beds.

Today (Day 2) I went back, after the torrential rain this morning, with a strimmer and cleared the front of the plot. Someone said to me to follow the National Trust idea of always making sure the first 18″ of a border tidy and weed free as that is what most people will see initially. Good thinking. There appears to be a trough around the plot giving it a sunken effect, and unfortunately it also acts like a moat, so this afternoon it was rather wet around the edges.

My job tomorrow (Thursday) is to tidy up this blackcurrant which has grown wild. Friday I will be back in my daughter’s garden to move some rose bushes to make a new border.

Who needs to pay for exercise classes with an allotment and a garden to work in!!