What with the shop and hot, dry weather, the garden has been a little ignored since the Centenary weekend.
So now it’s time to put a bit of effort back, particularly in reinvigorating the veggie garden with Christmas imminent. The grass has been shabby and crisp with dry weather but recent rains meant it became a rampant lush mess – taking a solid and exhausting hot day to mow.
The massacred privet also had taken off, which is good – I just didn’t factor it coming back so fast. It’s now had it’s first haircut and I’m sure will look great in future – just will now always require frequent hard pruning.
The tired annuals are already coming out to be replaced with new plants that are seeding themselves. In the meantime, seeds are being collected from the old plants for next year. The colorbond fence bed is benefitting from the build up of old foliage.
That’s pretty much clean-up. Then it’s on to reforestation – with refreshing and replanting the veg beds. Next on the agenda.
The privet has been an ongoing saga since I first arrived here. It was towering, leggy, unattractive and hardly an environmental asset – bound for a Council edict. The initial plan, after inspiration from locals who pointed out that it was once a well-ordered and regularly trimmed hedge, was to see if I could cut it back dramatically and get it to regrow neatly after maybe 40 years of neglect.
After tackling a number of bushes with a branch saw over a year ago and getting great results, the rest of the hedge came down in July with the help of chainsaws. The old fence – high galvanised iron with hardwood posts – has a rustic charm of its own which I have now come to love, after originally plotting its downfall. I am now adding rambling roses behind the privets to add another layer of interest and take advantage of a sound structure.
Whilst the privet bases will be slightly “leggy” and the ground before it is a bit rough, I’ve edged it with timbers and backfilled with pine bark mulch, planted out with Kurume Azaleas, Helebores and Japanese Windflowers (Anenome x Hybrida). The privets are now all beginning to show signs of new growth and should thicken into a hedge over the next year. Planting of the edge border has begun in earnest, so this side of the garden is now taking on a far more formal appearance, which I was hoping for.
So far this is very raw, but I’m hoping over the next few years this will become a more structured part of the garden and add substantially more interest. I should be a major improvement given it was the biggest eyesore and so environmentally unfriendly.
A year on, I expect the photos to look vastly different.
I’ve been away the last week and during that time the privet has come down- at least to the base stumps that will strike and turn back into the neat, disciplined privet hedge it once was rather than the tangled rangy mess it had become.
It looks bare at the moment but now gives me the space to fill in behind with the rose climbers and ramblers and soften the front. A bit of a shock, but just what the garden needed. I also have access to a new corner to plant in – just the spot for some of the many plants I’ve come back with.
Now it’s Winter, I’ve been tidying up around the garden and planning next steps. Somehow these seem so much harder than my previous plans. I guess I’ve done the obvious. The garden was a blank canvas, so I’ve made beds around the property and filled in some obvious spaces, but now I need much more discipline and planning to go to the next level, with form and structure, rather than just ad hoc plantings.
This has set me back a little as the stakes are now getting higher. I’d like at some point for the gardens to participate in the Open Garden scheme and know that I’ll be metaphorically standing alongside magnificent and inspiring gardens. I don’t want major structural overhauls of the garden but want to plan out a garden that has structure, form and interest whilst looking like it belongs to the Convent.
I’m happy with the beds I’ve put in place, and I think the smaller backyard is in good shape. But it’s a big block with a sparse front yard and a large, imposing and somewhat stark building at present.
I know how I work and am unlikely to have a grand concept for the entire property (remembering I still have an untouched paddock next door), so am working in sections. I’d like a few areas that are clearly structured and identifiable. The privet is due to come down this week and that will make a world of difference to the property – tidying it up, opening up areas for planning, but also making it even more bare and stark. The privet experiment has proven that it will adapt back to being a neat trimmed hedge along the old galvanised fence, providing a level of formality that was once evident but has been sadly lacking for decades. It will also provide the framework for planting big old ramblers and climbers over the character timber and galvanised fence. And I’ll soften the front of the hedge with low plantings.
The other area to be adapted is the front left corner, which I intend to turn into a small grove, giving me a shaded corner in an otherwise expansive and exposed front garden. My current thought is to put in a small grove of maybe five silver birches, mulched underneath and planted out with white hellebores. I’m gradually expanding the right side fence bed, so with all those plans, I think this will keep me occupied for a while – and give visitors something new to see when the garden is again open to the public.
It will still leave me with the challenge that the garden is still calling for more internal garden beds, rather than fringing the property, but I’ll get the other sections established first …
At present I’m devouring gardening books and looking at as many gardens as possible – determining what I like and why and what I don’t think will work so well, being particularly mindful of my climate. It’s rewarding and fun but also a not insignificant challenge.
All along one side of my property, next to the old high galvanised iron fence, is overgrown privet. It’s seriously overgrown and in some places almost reaches the power lines.
I was surprised when a local told me it was once a neatly trimmed hedge regularly maintained by the school boys as part of their gardening duties. I suppose it stopped being trimmed when the nuns moved out in the ’70’s and now has become an unattractive leggy mass of shrubbery.
The fence would be very bare with it removed and I’m not sure how tough I would need to be to kill privet that is so established. I’m sure I’d need masses of weed/plant killer to have any impact. I also know that it provides protection for birds and lizards (particularly the bluesy) so am keen to retain some of their environment. Instead, I’ve been experimenting to see if I can pull it back to something like its original design, with enough success to tempt me to take it further.
Last summer I had a bit of a trim of one section and cut it down heavily. It has now reshot with gusto and after a few trims looks like it will happily go back to being a more structured hedge. This weekend I’ve decided to abandon the lopping saw for the local handyman and a chainsaw. One of the biggest headaches is also removing the branches so a trailer helps here. I’m betting more than the two estimated trips will be required!
I’m not brave enough to see it all go at once, but I think we should make inroads to at least a third for now.