I’ve lived in this house since 1989, so 29 years. Over that time the garden has undergone several transformations. Initially, it was what you may describe as a “blank canvas” – mostly lawn area, a few elderly fruit trees and some shrubs. The previous owners hadn’t been gardeners and much of what had been stuck into the ground was dying (heathers planted underneath the shade of a large oak tree!)
My first husband was a gardener. He spent a lot of the time we lived together developing the garden – planting various cottage garden plants, extending the flower borders out to magnificent proportions. He was inspired by his love of Gertrude Jekyll and worked for a time in a garden that she had designed alongside an Edward Lutyens house in Sonning-upon-Thames.
Our garden however, was not the same magnificent proportions. The borders were not carefully planted to maximise colour and texture combinations. The flower borders looked colourful from May to July and then everything would die back and there would be nothing until the following year.
When we separated and divorced, I realised that I had to take back responsibility for maintaining the garden. It was a somewhat worrying thought. Especially as at the time, I had a young child at school and was recovering from a serious road traffic accident in which I had sustained a leg injury which was impacting upon my mobility. I’d gained a lot of weight as a result. The furthest thing from my mind was gardening.
I wanted to put my stamp on the garden. So I dreamt up the idea of a large central decked area. Somewhere to sit and survey the garden as the evening sun went down. The decked area covered a large uneven patch of grass and a steep natural bank. Underneath the shade of a mature oak tree. Perfect. So I thought.
I’d overlooked a critical issue. Our oak tree (quite a magnificent specimen) attracts a lot of wild life. Including birds. Many birds. Some of those birds are large birds. The size of… ducks! They are in fact wood pigeons. They like to perch and poo.
And poo they do. They poo for England! By the time the poo has dropped about 20 feet, it manages to splatter over quite a large area.
The decked area became out of bounds. The last place I wanted to sit… with the associated risks.
I dwelled on how to overcome the poo problem for a couple of years and finally came up with a solution! A “poo shade”! It cost us an absolute fortune, but it did the job! Suddenly the decked area became a feature to be proud of, with minimal maintenance.
My new husband did enjoy gardening. His parents were both keen gardeners and had created a stunning garden from scratch set on the edge of the lake district. They enjoyed cultivating a large vegetable garden and had an impressive collection of plants.
The garden of my then boyfriends house was paved, but he grew what he could in grow bags and on his windowsills.
When he visited, we started to plan some ideas for the garden. We grew a few vegetables from seed. I LOVED watching the tiny plants developing. I could sit at a table and repot the seedlings on. Once the vegetables were mature, I loved the amazing flavour of the tomatoes and cucumbers. Supermarket bought salad and vegetables just did not compare.
Our garden developed with our relationship. By the time he moved to live with me, the garden had become a place where we both spent a lot of time together. Gardening became possible for me with his support – lifting bags of compost into places where I could fill pots and plant seeds. We had a greenhouse installed and some vegetable beds. We planned colour schemes for beds and learned together about which plants would work well together.
In the ten years we’ve been together, the garden has come a long way. Of course, it is always a work in progress and there is always plenty of work to be done. We have rigged up hoses which run down the length of the garden so that I can help with watering.
We love visiting gardens for inspiration and ideas. We love eating what we grow. We love (when the weather permits) sitting on our poo free deck and surveying the garden.