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New year, new job, no resolutions

January 7, 2011

As those of you who read my first post will know, I am embarking on a new job – going freelance. It’s been my first week and I think it’s gone OK so far. I’ve even visited my first garden of the year when I went to interview the lovely Ed Ikins at Nymans who was full of knowledge and enthusiasm. I’ve met Ed a couple of times before through mutual friends and it turns out that not only did we both work at Chelsea Physic Garden but we also both did the internship at Savill – it’s a small gardening world. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos on this occasion. My hands were occupied scribbling down notes – that and the freezing on-off rain wasn’t conducive to happy snapping. It’s given me a taste for going back when the magnolias, rhododendrons and camellias are out though.

I don’t make New Year Resolutions but with the flexibility of my new job I am hoping that this year will bring me more time for my garden at home. We’ve been here over a year now and although we made a start we didn’t really get as much done last year as I would have liked. We inherited a typical, uninspired suburban garden – a long rectangular strip of bumpy grass with far-too-narrow borders down either side and random plants plonked in them. I’d quite like to get rid of most of the grass and turn it over to planting but my other half isn’t keen on the idea and I can see his point. So last year we widened the south-facing bed down the right hand side. We used the resulting turf to fill the holes we had created down the centre of the lawn from removing the windy yellow flagstone path. The soil is heavy clay and it hasn’t seen much cultivating or improving. In our first autumn I had about 30 bags of composted manure delivered. The poor guys from the local garden centre had to reverse their big van down the long, narrow access road behind the houses so that they could unload the delivery into our garage at the end of the garden (alas, we have no side access from the front and I wasn’t about to have 30 bags of poo carried through the house and kitchen!). Gradually I’ve been digging the stuff in and mulching when I can.

My back garden - widened bed planted up with herbaceous perennials

This year I want to get our rickety fence replaced down the left hand side and perhaps create a winter border in the shady, boggy-in-winter but dry-in-summer bed at the end nearest the house. I have my eye on some fiery Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’ and bright Hakonechloa macra. I also want to extend the bed we’ve already widened and bring it round to slightly enclose the section of lawn by the house and also so that the eye doesn’t travel immediately down to the end of the garden. On top of all this, I want to get some raised veg beds going in 2011 too. We’re not sure what to do with the decking (or bandstand as our neighbour calls it) at the bottom of the garden. I’d quite like to put a greenhouse there. Well anyway, you get the picture – there’s much to do. At the back of our minds we are also aware that we don’t want to go too mad as we’re not sure how long-term a house this is going to be for us.

I also hope to do more garden/landscape visiting in 2011. I’ve been lucky enough to have ticked quite a few off (ones that stick particularly favourably in my mind include Great Dixter in Sussex, Kiftsgate in Gloucestershire, Iford Manor in Wiltshire and the temple gardens in Japan) but last year scored depressingly low on new gardens visited. My wish list is extensive but top of to-visit in the UK for this year are: Hestercombe, Stourhead, Gibberd Garden, Shaw’s Corner, Red House, Dungeness headland and Sheffield Park this autumn. Before this winter is out I’m going to try and get to Anglesey Abbey or Easton Walled Gardens for the snowdrops.

Visual assault - Great Dixter

The surprising watergarden - Kiftsgate

View down the garden and beyond - Iford Manor

Detailing - Ryoanji

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Martha permalink
    January 7, 2011 10:02 am

    Dude, come and visit MY garden! We’ve got a new fence and everything. And by everything, I mean some sludgy-green paving stones and some sad looking sticks poking out of the “flower beds”. 🙂

    • January 7, 2011 10:12 am

      Don’t worry – you’re not alone, we too have sad looking sticks poking out of beds. Can’t say our garden looks very inspiring right now. Everything is soggy and floppy – ugh!

  2. Kelly permalink
    January 7, 2011 11:28 am

    I’m planning to rip up all that god-awful decking in our garden – so will be looking to you for some advice on what to replace it with!

  3. Sarah Thomas permalink
    January 16, 2011 12:28 pm

    Your list of gardens to visit sounds brilliant- enjoy. Was just looking through your list- I went to Anglesey Abbey in August 2009 with Teddy on way home from visiting Anna in Norwich. It is a lovely place though I got a bit lost and ended up going through a forest that was uneven with a MacLaren buggy- hmmm….

  4. Chris; SHS Services permalink
    January 17, 2011 3:36 pm

    Have just spent the last 40 mins enjoying your website and reading your blogs. They are excellent! I’m no expert, but I think you have a great writing style and a very readable ‘pace’ about what you write. Here’s hoping that your freelance career will really develop and grow.

    Iford Manor. What a great garden. This is how to landscape a slope ah!! I see that Hestercombe and Stourhead are on your list … two of our very favourite places. I’ve been enjoying Stourhead for 22 years now, and have walked round the lake in all seasons and all weathers. You also mention snowdrops. Do you know of Welford Park ? (they have their own website). It’s not far from us at the other westerly end of Berkshire. We try to visit each year in February – a visit always ‘renews’ us, and makes us feel spring is not far away.

    And of course as far as public gardens are concerned, you’re living in ‘garden heaven’! So many NT places in and around Kent. We love Chartwell, Emmetts and of course Sheffield Park. Oh dear; … no I confess to never having visited Great Dixter. It’s on my list for 2011.

    Keep writing. Well done. Just excellent.

    • January 27, 2011 5:31 pm

      Thanks Chris. Your kind words and encouragement are much appreciated! I haven’t heard of Welford Park but I have been to Chartwell and Emmetts. We are indeed spoilt in this part of the country! Looking forward to, hopefully, lots of garden visiting this year.

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