Helen's Garden Renovation Project

Monday 30 January 2012

The start of winter

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 12:38 pm

A few days ago the Met Office stopped dithering between “freezing cold” and “warm but windy”, and decided to give us the freezing cold. Fortunately we haven’t had any snow yet here in Hampshire, and the forecast is for dry weather for the next few days.

Cold and dry weather is excellent for heaving paving stones and rocks about, but I have hurt my left wrist when manhandling the buddleia last week. This means I have difficulty lifting with the palm upwards. I still managed to lift some paving slabs by holding them diagonally against my body, and I positioned the last three slabs of my ten at the left hand side of the garden, but didn’t line them up accurately or get them level. I also did some sawing up of the Leylandi branches that I cut off last year.

I am still dithering about what I need to plant next, but this is not a problem because it would be better to wait for at least a month and thus give the plants a chance to start their new lives under warmer and lighter conditions. The main problem I have is visualising what the effect of the deciduous shrubs will be on the amount of light reaching the spaces around them. The other problem is that there are too many plants I want for the space available.

I thought that now would be a good time to clear away the leaves and weeds from under the trees by the back fence and make it neat and tidy, because I am going to get the fence replaced with a concrete one that will never fall down. I also thought that if I spent too long clearing up leaves or pulling up bittercress, I would get too cold. However, although the thermometer claimed it was below 2 degrees, I felt almost warm in the bright sunshine, scrabbling about for leaves and beech nut cases in a garden that is not quite sure whether it is winter or spring.


Monday 23 January 2012

Winter planting finished

Filed under: Progress — Helen @ 12:01 pm

I have now moved the hibiscus and planted the buddleia near where the hibiscus used to be. This completes my deciduous shrub planting, and now I am at a point where I need to think what to do next.

Buddleia, Magnolia, Hibiscus

Left to right: Buddleia 'Black Knight', Magnolia, Hibiscus syriacus

I now think that I have not enough evergreen shrubs at the end of the lawn, so I need to put some in there. Also I need two more large shrubs to plant down the left hand border, by the fence. I have been noting down shrubs which I like and would like to put in the garden, but I cannot have them all, and also I would like to work out an arrangement which looks good as a whole. So I bought “The complete planting design course” by Hilary Thomas and Steven Wooster so I can learn about designing with plants. Or, even if I don’t learn anything, I can enjoy looking at the pictures when it is too dark/cold/rainy/windy to do any gardening.

Plant design is something I have never thought about before properly and it is very interesting but very obvious when you think about it. You have to consider plant form, like whether the plant sits in a fat complacent mound, or whether it sends out nervous pointy shoots straight up in the air. You also have to look at its texture – does it have lots of tiny little leaves, or great big ones? If you want to make your garden look longer, you should plant tiny-leaved plants, particularly at the back. Naturally you have to consider colour. And then you have to think of the function of the plants – are they there to provide structure or a focal point? Are they use or ornament (or both)? And so on.

I was hoping for a year without much gardening expense, but in the recent winds my back fence has taken a battering and two of the posts are loose. I drilled holes in the loose posts so I could attach wires to give them a bit of support, and the posts were very soft, so I think the fence is at the end of its life after sixteen years. I will get the whole thing replaced as soon as the fencing contractors have finished mending all the other fences that have blown down in the winds.

And finally, I have decided on my gardening New Year’s Resolution. Last year my NYR was to go to Wisley three times, which I did manage. This year my NYR is to water my compost heaps. I am sure that the reason that I am not getting any compost is that the mixture is too dry. The compost bins have lids, so little or no rain gets in. I will also water my leaf mould, but this is not as important because it is kept in open bags.


Thursday 12 January 2012

Planting the magnolia

Filed under: Magnolia,Progress — Helen @ 3:58 pm

I haven’t made any progress for a while because it keeps either being windy or being about to get windy. Today it was slightly windy, but I decided that I was fed up with not planting the magnolia and today I wanted to plant it. There is only one place in the garden where there might possibly be enough room for it, and so I put it there.

The magnolia and me

The magnolia and me

I really struggled to get the magnolia out of its pot. I used gravity by resting the pot on top of a pile of compost bags and pointing the plant at the ground; I used a trowel to dig around the inside of the pot; I even used a hammer and chisel to get a bit deeper than a trowel could go. I thought I would have to saw through the pot, which I didn’t want to do because it is a nice pot. Eventually, after losing quite a lot of soil from its roots and more than a few flower buds, the plant came out.

I have grave doubts about whether it is a good idea to plant a magnolia in such a restricted space, but I think it will be OK there for another five years at least. And although magnolias don’t like being pruned, it doesn’t seem to kill them. So I have made my decision, and we will see how the arrangement develops.