Beginning to take shape – at last

It is over 18 months since the tree surgeon cut down the overgrown ornamental cherry that had been planted too close to the house and also removed two-thirds of the ‘Victorian shrubbery’ of laurels filling my backyard.

Not long after the tree surgeon’s visit.

With the laurels cleared the residual mess was easier to see and the slow process of sorting and removing other people’s rubbish began. A task that took seven or eight weekends last autumn. I was particularly concerned about some of the unrecognisable lumps and bumps of rubbish that was stuffed into a pair of brimming wheelie bins. It was all rather smelly, but in the end nothing horrific.

Concrete finds from my tiny backyard.

Without the pseudo hedge it was obvious that there wasn’t much of a fence in place either and what remained upright was so rotten it would all need replacing. Scroll forward to this year and with a new fence in place I began to dig over the tiny borders. The fencing guys had commented to me that they’d never done a job with so much buried concrete and it seemed to me that with every thrust of the spade I struck another lump of the stuff. It has been hard physical work. It was dispiriting too, as two pieces were so large and deeply embedded I have had to leave them in the ground and simply mark their position. At some point I will either cover with shallow rooted plants or place a pot on top.

Just maybe, just maybe this urban concrete backyard might become a garden.

Fortunately, over the years I have acquired a number of pots of various sizes which is just as well as there is more cheaply paved patio than plantable ground in this backyard. Over the Easter holiday, during the four days of fine weather, I was able to paint the mismatched fencing all the same colour and plant young climbers to begin to make a garden. It is early days, but a rambling rose, several clematis, jasmine and a fast-growing ceanothus are all in and will eventually cover most of the fencing.

And, there have been blooms. The beautiful perennial oriental poppy ‘Patty’s Plum’, a gift from my sister, has been the first star. These were followed in June by the stately white foxgloves easily grown from the seeds I brought from my last garden.

Finally, with the recent warmth of the July sun the dahlias are coming into flower.

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Canterbury’

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

19 thoughts on “Beginning to take shape – at last”

  1. Oh, I think a small garden, thoughtfully planted with good things is one of life’s joys. I see it’s been back-breaking, but the results show already. It’s lovely.

    1. Yes, I agree with you re life’s joys and I was thinking that maybe smaller might actually suit my reduced time for gardening. Thanks for your positive comment, but I feel it has a long way to go and I certainly can’t afford instant plants not that I would go that route if I could – mmm, well probably not.

  2. Those palm fronds at the back in the first picture look like they belong in an Australian garden. Do you follow DerekJKnight? He just did a post on all the clematises/clematii??? in his wife’s garden. Yours is starting to take shape. Congratulations! Wish I could do something similar, but so far, the one zygocactus continues to thrive all alone on our balcony. Again this year, it bloomed a couple of weeks too early for my birthday. Not meant to do that 😉

    1. Thanks – the palms at the back were trachycarpus fortunei and I think planted about 25 years ago when ‘jungle’ gardens were the height of fashion for a while here. I have kept one of the three and transplanted it into a pot, but I am not sure that it fits with my English cottage style. And, balcony gardening – nightmare if you are on an exposed site as my father is finding out. So far the only thing to survive is a slow-growing dwarf juniper. Hope your zygocactus is coping with your winter weather, though you don’t get frosts do you?

      1. No frost, just salt and coal dust 😀 And Sea “breezes”. (Read, gale). I bought some long pots the other day, thinking I would line the glass balcony surround to act as a windbreak where it is open at the bottom. I was planning to plant dwarf japonica box hedge or something like that. But the gaps between each pot negated the windbreak idea, and the hedge would have grown too high. So I returned the pots and that’s the end of my garden project idea for the time being.

        and that’s the end of my garden project for the moment.

  3. You know, I may be in the minority, but all that concrete makes my fingers itch to stack it or make it into towers or something. Just saying. Now, back to the garden and its plants – I continue to be amazed at your green thumb. What an oasis of color you are creating and your hard work is showing. Just beautiful.

    1. Actually, I did think about keeping some of the concrete especially the rough, randomly knobbly bits and making a small rock garden area, but the space does’t get enough direct sun for long enough for those types of plants to thrive. Plus the biggest problem was the lumps were too big for me to lift and, indeed, the guy who cleared it all came armed with a sledgehammer and split most pieces before carting them off.

      1. I can see your point. You only have so much room and of course the specific site characteristics play into it. And you are so right, concrete is heavy! I was interested because maybe ten-twelve years ago I went through a concrete sculpture phase and made quite a few things – plus items with mosaics in them. I enjoyed it and ever since, concrete is of interest to me.

      2. I think concrete is underrated in garden design because it has been so badly used in the past. I have to say this now the third pale yellow and pink slabs ‘patio’ I have had to cope with.

      3. Yes, we broke up two badly cracked and sinking patios plus our front sidewalk (parts of which listed to the side) – all the concrete work at our house was poorly done. We paid to have this done, it was too big a job for us, and getting it hauled away also needed to be done. Preparing the site for concrete or any paving work is essential and that contributes to ugly concrete years later. Pink and yellow patio. I’m with you. Ugh.

      4. Yes, I hear what you are saying. I must admit I messed up this time with funds for the house and garden. In the past I’ve managed to keep some back for professional hard landscaping, but this old house gobbled up all my contingency almost from the very beginning and has left nothing for outside – sigh, c’est la vie.

      5. Yes, things go in unexpected ways whenever you get into the subject of houses, don’t they? But it sounds to me as if you are accepting the creative challenge. Your garden has a history and you are adding to it, that is what I think.

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