Sunday, 24 March 2013

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The recent change in the temperature has put a crimp in things, but the first weeks of March got the garden juices flowing in me. Following An Incident involving ovines, I decided that whatever damage the Scrapper could do if shut in the house on his own would be far less than he could wreak  on forays from the garden (which cannot be made secure), and found to my delight, after four days of a couple of hours or more gardening, that he had not chewed a single thing in protest or despair, while the effect on my spirits of  just getting my hands in the ground and doing something was singularly salutary.

And, my oh my, there's plenty to do. There's several pots of heritage sweet peas growing in the garden room (formerly Chip's study and craft room – I'm sure she would have approved), while all the beds have to be stripped of grass, moss and tap-root perennials, some of the furniture has to be moved around, and some large climbing roses need to have some support built for them. To this end (and others), I have been over the local green, bundling up the willow wands cut in the annual coppice and hauling them home to create basketwork trellises, as well as repairing the edging to various beds and marking out the new ones.

The fresh-cut willow from the Millennium Green, woven basket-style, is great for separating bark from beds, but not so hot at keeping out grasses.

The ‘new ones’ as yet don't exist, but the plan is to get rid of most of the grass paths between the beds, as they are too difficult to mow and no particular ornament when overgrown, and tend to invade the beds. When we first moved in, the largest part of the garden (behind the house, rather than at the front or side), was basically a grassy slope with a patch of – gah! – sedge, and some slightly less ghastly, but no less intrusively placed, pampas grass. Both of these have now gone, and so, soon, will be almost all of the grass, save for strips separating the beds from the western and northern boundary hedges.

All of the grass in this picture, save for a little in the foreground, is to come up to make more room for plants.
If you're not into sport or sheep, there's no point to swathes of grass in a garden.
rt of the problem with doing this sort of work is where to put the turves. When I first excavated the ponds, I made some loam piles, which I have since used up, or created new raised beds, but I'm fast running out of space to build a new one, so this time I'm going to extend the platform I made in the north-west corner so that I can put a seat on it, having extended the willow structure up which a Clematis montana is scrambling in order to create a scented bower, and to level up the grassy path in another part of the garden.

When I excavated the south-west corner of the garden, the turves I had taken up had a great deal of sand and gravel attached, so I stacked them to form a loam pile then edged it
with some double Roman tiles from an architectural reclamation yard and made a well-drained bed.

The new paths are to be made with bark chippings spread over a weed-suppressing membrane, and since I will no longer have to attempt to manhandle a lawnmower down them, they can be narrower, perhaps more sinuous, and I can increase the size of the beds accordingly.

The only bummer so far is that I slipped and fell while fetching the bird feeders to be recharged. No harm done to me, but not only were the two feeders bent out of shape, but I also managed to knock a large terracotta flowerpot full of iris bulbs off a wall so that it fell, earth side down, on the top of another pot on the ground, breaking both of them; we're not talking small pots either, both 12" in diameter and costing a good £50 to replace, although I won't be bothering – we aren't short of terracotta, although the frosting can be brutal.