For many years I have lacked something rather essential. Like a chef with no ingredients or a carpenter with no wood, I have been a garden designer with no garden! This was not only frustrating but also made me feel like the archetypal Emperor with no clothes.
When I say ‘no garden’ I have had a garden of sorts; that is, a north-facing flat rectangle 8m wide by 16m long. When I moved here 4 years ago it had a past-its-best patio, scruffy boundary fences, overgrown uninspiring, un-renovatable shrubs on 2 sides and a solitary hawthorn tree blocking a lovely view. Although we live next to a busy A-road, as you can see below we have great rural views and lots of mature trees and hedgerows nearby.
We actually did make a start in March 2010, fully intending to get it landscaped that spring. I was incredibly excited! We had the hawthorn felled; it was not only blocking a view and light but was touching overhead electricity cables. It made me sad in one sense to see it go and deeply guilty for evicting an almost-fledged wood pigeon baby. But to my great relief, the youngster soon flew off to join its mother in a nearby sycamore.
The rest of the landscaping work was due to start in May 2010 but then there was a totally unexpected and disturbing development. See that lovely space and copse beyond the end of our garden above? Well the farmer owner built and opened a farm shop just to the left of it and put chickens, ducks and pigs on that piece of land. We literally had a pig sty at the end of our garden! There were a lot of other belligerent farmer shenanigans that I won’t bore you with that led to us putting the landscaping on hold to await developments. A particular low point was when there were at least 12 cockerels on said land driving us to distraction with their incessant crowing; not the best when you work from home as we do. Other neighbours of ours complained, the farmer locked them up in a coop and left them there for two weeks; cue the RSPCA. It was a dark time.
Fast forward to May 2011
There is great news! The farmer has realised that pi**ing-off his immediate neighbours isn’t the best idea; the pigs are no more (probably literally I’m afraid) the cockerels were removed (we know not whence – don’t like to think about it) and the chickens and ducks have been moved to another area that has a stream, which is lovely for the duckies. Although the farmer is pumping water from the stream almost certainly without the required licence. He’ s not one for bothering with trifles, like planning permission and all that other annoying red tape. However we are now on friendly speaking terms and he is growing nice quiet well-behaved vegetables on the area beyond our garden. The local rabbit population loves it!
So here we are again about to get our garden landscaped, as soon as my landscaper has finished on my client’s garden in around 7 days. I can’t quite believe it’s going to happen. I have simplified the original plans and specification so that it’s less expensive than it would have been before, just in case it all goes horribly pear- or pig-shaped again.
It’s a simple, symetrical design with central and side axes (kind of celtic cross shaped), with four beds (rectangles with internal angled corners) set in antique-looking brick and gravel paths with a central octagonal area that will have a simple stone bird bath, probably with box hedging planted around it. A new patio area near the house, made from large pieces of reclaimed York stone set in gravel and a bench at the far end flanked either side by stone planters.
I will probably incorporate some arches or other vertical elements but that’s the beauty of doing your own garden; unlike designing for a client you don’t have to visualise the entire thing and decide on everything at once.
And, with apologies in advance to keen grow-your-own’ers, if the worst should come to the worst, I can always join the farmer and just grow veg in it!