Outside the Backdoor

Observing what can happen in your own garden even in suburbia!


Leave a comment

My how you’ve grown!

We’ve lived here for almost exactly 17 years and on the anniversary of our moving in, I delved into the bookshelves to find the scrap book that I’d made of our house move and the first year or so of living here.  Yes, a scrap book, really!  Remember the days of print photographs?!  Whilst the house has changed a great deal, the difference in the garden is just fascinating.

To begin with, what struck me was what was missing – no pond, no veg bed, no greenhouse, no lighting.  On the other hand, there was a long list of things that had been removed – brick barbecue, strange box like structure in the border and many, many weeds!

Having just replaced the pergola, these early photos go to show how new the original one must have been when we moved here.  And what a shame that the willow tree succumbed to drought very early on.

34380349975_7db180226b_k

The old pergola, Summer 2000

On reflection, having a willow tree shedding its leaves into the pond every autumn would have been a nuisance.  Now we have the benefit of sitting by the pond, enjoying

33204901124_228fcb979b_z

Clematis Alpina

the early spring sunshine and watching the tadpoles and newts floating around.  And the tiny Clematis Alpina attached to that stick at the front is now a thing of beauty despite many squirrel attempts to defeat it.

33137929254_4baf83135f_k

New pergola at dusk, Spring 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other major area of transformation has been what we generally refer to as ‘down the far end’ or, on a more aspirational day, the ‘woodland garden’!  It is not inaccurate to describe it as a woodland garden.  It is, after all, an area of planting underneath some very large trees, only one of which is actually rooted in our garden.  When we originally viewed the house in early February, the area looked very innocent; just a large slightly weedy, muddy patch.  However, by the time we moved in at the end of April, it had become a complete jungle of weeds that took the best part of a year to clear!

33529433833_bcec01a708_k

The ‘woodland garden’!  Summer 2000

As we worked our way through the bramble and greenery, our weed identification skills improved somewhat!  Meanwhile, the mound we created of rubbish would grow and grow.  We’d then leave it for a week or so to rot down and then start adding again the following weekend.  Eventually we revealed what might have been an attempt to create a herb garden at some time in the past.  We also uncovered a range of intriguing objects, not least of all the original grate from the house fireplace that appeared to have been buried here!

Realising that this was never, ever going to be suitable for a herb garden (too shady for one thing), we went about adding to the woodland feel by planting two Camelias – one deep rosy pink and the other pure white.  Here you can just about see them against the fence.

33570117603_c3cabae550_k

New planting in the ‘woodland garden’, Spring 2001?

My how they have grown!  Sixteen years down the line and they are at least six feet tall and both have been pruned on several occasions!  They have even reached sideways to join up with each other!

34380350775_29cd1fcd14_k

Camelias, Spring 2017

If there is a lesson to be learned from these photos, then it must be ‘read the plant label carefully’!  Don’t be fooled by the innocent little stick of a plant, you may well be given home to a giant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Spring – a time of renewal

Throughout 2016 we kept promising ourselves that we must do x or y – decorate the hall and stairs and spare bedroom and replace the carpet, decorate the lounge / dining room, replace the leaning garden pergola, renew the fence down the far end and dig a new flower border.  I can’t explain it, but none of this got done – 2016 just seemed to fly by in a flash!  So we approached 2017 with a very long list of things to do both indoors and outside the backdoor and, so far, I’m pleased to say that we are really motoring through that list and, now that Spring is here, the tasks outside the backdoor are either being or are about to be tackled.

The pergola was erected in our garden by the previous owners who were keen to tell us that it was positioned to catch the last of the evening sun which they clearly thought was a major selli9013535219_f07946fce7_mng point.  The fact that this was on a cold, dark February evening meant that it didn’t really mean much to us at the time.  We may never have thought to build a pergola ourselves but it is an attractive feature and we have consequently planned things around it.  For example, the pond was deliberately sited adjacent to it so that you can sit and look over the water, watching the various insects darting around.  We have also planted a selection of things to scramble over it – a rather lovely white climbing rose and a pink clematis alpina.  The hard lines of the wood have been softened over the years by the lilac growing around it and the ivy entwining itself.

This all sounds 31937101185_5b9443dd71_mvery idyllic but about two years ago the pergola began to lean.  Almost unperceptively at first, but by last autumn it was probably a good thirty-degree angle!  The horizontal wooden struts were also rotten.  The cats love climbing up the pergola but we were beginning to fear for their safety.  Norwegian Forest cats are not lightweights and 6.5 kilos of Bryggen or Roly was beginning to look rather precarious!  So what to do?

As with any project ‘do nothing’ was an option but we quickly ruled that out.  Do away with the pergola altogether was another possibility but that would have left us with a well-established rose with nowhere to climb.  We also quite liked the fact that the cats could climb up it to get a better view or to sunbathe in the corner.  So early in the new year we started exploring the options available to us.

As with so many things these days, you can have just about any size, shape or material you want if you’re prepared to pay for someone to design it for you.  However, once you start looking for relatively simple and cost-effective solutions, the options quickly narrow down.  Whilst there might be hundreds of suppliers of garden pergolas on the internet, many of them offer exactly the same products and, after about an hour of searching, you begin to realise that you are seeing the same thing over and over again.  In the end we decided to be extremely boring and to order exactly the same pergola kit as before.  We agreed that if the new one lasted as long as the old one, we would be perfectly happy and 32976296360_3c3f6b8996_mslotting this in would mean relatively little disturbance as far as the plants were concerned.  The only thing we really wanted to change was underfoot – to banish the decking!  Not only was the wooden decking now rotting away but in the winter it can become very slippery.  So we’ve asked the builder to supply some stones to match our other garden paving.  As I write, these are on order so the pergola is sitting there looking very new but not quite finished.

33358831385_93db446288_mHaving got the ball rolling, we’ve also had the fence at the far end replaced.  This separates us from railway land and goodness knows what in the way of wildlife!  We have chosen concrete gravel boards as means of trying to prevent fox damage but we are already taking bets on how long it will be before a fox takes a chunk out of the fence!

From our long ‘to do’ list, this leaves us with ‘dig a new border’ yet to be tackled.  At present we cram all our flowering planting into one section of the garden and beyond that we have a bank of greenery for most of the year.  The choisya flowers in the spring and that sits next to an acuba which provides some bright lime green variation in leaf colour and then a lot of green lilac.  My plan is to dig out in front of this and use it as a backdrop to some late summer colour.  The area is very sunny and I think the hot colours will work here.  It is also in direct view from the house so will have visual impact.  I already have a few plants stashed away in pots ready to plant out here so all we have to do now is start digging before the ground begins to harden. You know how we’ll be spending our Easter bank holiday weekend!