Concrete yard or garden?

It’s one of those everyday, standard gardening problems – how to deal with the backyard of the classic Victorian terraced house. Famously, these yards are long (or longish), narrow, rectangular spaces, frequently shaded by taller urban buildings or inappropriately planted, large overgrown trees.

Daylilies, cosmos and ammi visnaga in pots.

My problematic space has been made worse as over three-quarters of the ground has been covered with concrete in one form or another by previous owners. Luckily, when I moved into this house as I was able to bring with me all of my pots from my previous gardens, but sadly none of the old plants that they had contained.

Bronze leaf dahlia and courgettes in pots.

This is now my third summer here and my second where I have been able to get to grips with the ‘garden’ and plant up the pots. They are all now in use and I even have a couple of courgette plants cropping in containers.

I have tried to take a full garden photo in the garden, but without success. However, I have managed to show nearly all the yard from an upstairs window. I would just say that if I had unlimited funds this would not be my solution to the long, narrow backyard problem. To begin with there would definitely be no concrete, however there would be water, a brick path, tall trellises across the narrow space and flowerbeds where plants could be planted directly into the soil.

View from the first floor back bedroom window. Hydrangea and a couple of clematis in pots.

You have probably noticed on the right of the above picture a corner of a slate roof that looks very much the worse for wear. It is the roof of the partially derelict outhouse. The surveyor who produced an extensive (Dickens’ length) report on this house before I bought it, assured me, much to his surprise, that the brickwork was sound. Although he did add that the roof slates were perished and the woodwork was decayed and rotting. I call it the Urban Folly!

The Urban Folly.

Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

8 thoughts on “Concrete yard or garden?”

  1. Your garden interests me, as we have many houses in my area (Philadelphia) with similar properties – here we call them row homes if they are all connected, or twins (2 together). The whole city is built this way, and so I’ve seen lots and lots of small backyards (for one thing, my train commute ran along behind streets and streets of them!) And your garden is to me the apex of what can be done with a yard like yours. Just wow…!!! And it also reminded me of someone I used to work with a long time ago, a woman living in the South Philly rowhome she had inherited from her parents – they had a concrete yard like yours and her father had built raised beds (using concrete blocks stacked up) along the fences at each side, and grew tomatoes in them to make sauce (it was a neighborhood full of Italian immigrants and their descendants and you had your family recipe). My friend continued the tradition though she didn’t make sauce, she brought tomatoes to work for us. Long time since I thought of this – your garden is beautiful to look at and also made me think of some nice memories.

    1. Thank you for your kind and interesting comment. I recently read a book where an Italian American family lived in a rowhouse in South Phllly and I imagined those houses would be a bit like mine. In the story the elderly Nonno kept racing pigeons in his backyard! My garden is like many backyards in this country, we are a nation of keen and undaunted amateur gardeners.

  2. You’ve achieved wonders and seem to me to have a truly desirable space. We lived with concrete for a few years in France, and eventually hacked it up (not half as tough as we’d feared) enabling us to make a couple of raised beds, and gravel the rest to accommodate our pots. But it was a job for two … plus a willing friend or two.

    1. Thank you. It has been a challenging space. I don’t know though, I really wonder about some people’s love affair with concrete. I did lift one of the concrete slabs hoping for a compacted hardcore base, but it was all solid, poured concrete. If I was 10 years younger I might have had a go at it, but not these days.

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