Monday 30 April 2018

The new garden

At the end of March, Kevin & I finally moved into our new, and hopefully long-term, home and garden. Yay!

So this is a bit of an introduction to the new garden. It isn't much now, but it has potential. Lots of potential. I'm rather excited!

The house/garden follows an East-West layout, with the front garden being predominantly West-facing, and the back garden being in part East-facing, but with the left hand side getting quite a lot of Southerly sun throughout the year.

Front garden

Currently this is an approximate square, with mixed hedging, lawn, a driveway and concrete next to the house. I share a deciduous beech hedge with my neighbour, of which I'm hoping to reduce the height, but being deciduous, it still allows light through even in the winter months.

I'm going to reduce the height of the mixed hedge, by at least half, if not more, to let in lots more light. Part of me wants to take the whole thing out, because hedges need maintaining. But I'm not going to make any quick decisions just yet. Following permaculture principles, I'm going to observe the space for up to a year before I make that kind of decision.

Being West-facing, the front garden should get quite a lot of light all year around. I've decided to make the front garden my 'hot garden'. By that I mean, I'm going to go with hot colours, reds, yellows and oranges, with some blues and purples, including grasses, to contrast. So lots of bright coloured bulbs in Spring, hardy perennials such as Heleniums and Rudbeckias in summer and autumn, with grasses to give structure all year around. I will also be including a Quince tree in the layout, and possible a bin store.

I'll be getting rid of the grass and having either gravel or shale paths. All plants will need to be hardy and needing limited attention from me.

Back garden

The back garden is approximately 9m x 14 metres. Although the ground it looks flat, it is on a bit of a slope, from the top North-West down to the bottom South-East. I've discovered that the ground near the beech hedge and up to the current path gets quite saturated, so I need add working out drainage into my plan.

I have what looks like a plum tree. I'm going to wait until I taste the fruit before deciding whether it gets to stay. I also have a couple of rhubarb patches. More than I need, so one is going to go. There also seem to be raspberry canes, so again, I'm going to wait to see how they taste before deciding whether to keep them or not.

And then there is the weird vertical apple tree (right), which I've blogged about separately.

The previous people had rabbits and hamsters and have left a pile of straw and droppings under the conifers and on top of what looks like tomato grow bags and interspersed with some tree branches. Ugh. I've looked up rabbit & hamster droppings online and thankfully I can compost them. So though it's a pain to have to sort through this, there will be some upsides. There are also a stack of bricks and  paving stones that, whilst looking messy now, will, I'm sure, come in use in the future, such as building the base for the bin store. There is also a pile of wood (not in picture) that needs sorting. Some of it is useless, but others might be useful for raised beds.

As for the conifers. I'm not madly keen on conifers. There are some I like, but these trees aren't it. They block out lots of light and even the birds don't seem to go into them. So these are going. Yes, a big decision before I even have spent much time observing the garden, but some things you just know. I'm going to re-purpose the trunks into what I'm going to call my 'Acer-Fernery-Stumpery'. Say what, you say? More on that in another blog post :) And though I'll be removing the conifers, I'll be putting in new trees, one I love, such as Acers, and Amelanchier and a couple more fruit trees, as well as adding shrubs and hardy perennials.

The area that might stand out most is the hard standing concrete area on the left, South-facing area of the garden. What might look like a nightmare to some is actually a blessing to me. It's perfect for my eventual greenhouse! Until then, it's going to be filled with pots.

I have lots of ideas for the back garden. Not just the greenhouse, but getting rid of all grass and have a gravel garden and paths, putting in a pergola upon which to grow wisteria and other climbers, putting in raised beds for growing some veg. The soil is good old Sheffield acid-clay. Hence the need for raised beds for growing any vegetables. I'm also going to look at growing more perennial vegetables, sorrel, asparagus, soft fruits, which require less energy to manage.

I also want the garden to be wildlife-friendly, and definitely will be putting in a pond. As the theme in the front will be a 'hot garden', the ornamentals in the back garden will run on a chilling-out pink-purple theme.

The most important thing for both the front and back garden, is designing around my chronic illness (ME, myalgic encephalomyelitis), and the fact it might even get worse. This means I need to make it as low maintenance as possible (hence gravel garden/paths), but at the same time making an attractive space to be in, to relax, as well as potter when I'm well enough.

Managing my illness has to come first, and this was a mistake I made in the last garden. I designed that around assuming I would get well, soonish. As I now better understand the 'chronic' in chronic illness, and seeing how in the last few years the ME has got progressively worse, the garden must be designed with ongoing ill health front and centre.

I think the gardens have lots of potential. I'm quite excited about the ideas I currently have (I have a long list). But I'm tempering my excitement by going back to basic permaculture principles, such as: use small and slow solutions, use edges and value the margins, observe and interact, and of course, design from patterns to details. These should help ground my design around my health, as well as being a smart way to design.

So, excitement and so much potential. Welcome to my new garden.