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We first came to this southwest facing approximately quarter acre acid soil garden just over eighteen years ago. Although in a mature area, the garden had been altered by the previous owners to provide a badminton lawn, vegetable plot and two interconnecting fishponds together with new fencing on the rear boundary. Although we would like to have grown vegetables, the shape of the garden did not lend itself easily especially with the overhanging trees, three of which have since been removed over the years. We laid the vegetable plot with turf and created the dry stonewalls for the back border. The dry stonewalling, in the back and front gardens, was laid by myself by utilising the original stone drive and path to the front door. The badminton lawn was left as a much-used short tennis lawn. Many shrubs and plants were brought from our previous small garden but soon disappeared into one small border. There were very few mature plants left except the large rhododendrons and hydrangea by the large arch and one on the rear boundary, the lilac tree, two apple and one plum tree, (removed but past their sell-by for swimming pool, as well as large confer hedge on lower boundary), a few large heathers, old roses, the wisteria and boston ivy and the cherry trees and large conifer in the front garden. The weeping birch was a mere twig and look at it now !
Trees and evergreen shrubs were planted over the next few years to cover the bare fences and the garden was primarily designed with children in mind. As the need for play space diminished then the horticulturist emerged!
One of the fishponds was filled in to house the pond filtration system and carp introduced to the remaining pond. We sadly lost three of the larger carp in May 1998 because of the unusually humid weather. Planting in and around took place to soften the edges of the stonework.
The extension was built in 1989/90 and climbing roses planted in the planters and evergreens in the semi-circular bed. The swimming pool was built in 1992 and brick-edge borders were formed and again planted to soften the new building. Many enjoyable forays have been made to garden centres, nurseries and many National Garden Scheme gardens to obtain a wide variety of plants but many plants have also been obtained from DIY stores and supermarkets and also received as presents over the years (especially from my late mum). Many, many cuttings have been produced from these original plants and in most cases where plant duplicates can be found, then these are all cuttings, some of which are now very large plants such as the cherry laurels, viburnams and aucubas.
Late in 1996 the wildlife pond was formed when the short tennis court was finally put to rest. The pond was formed because of the natural settling in the lawn and therefore created a more natural habitat for the wildlife. The pond is very much enjoyed by the birds, frogs, newts and toads. The birds use this pond and the stream for bathing as well as the three bird baths. Many birds visit the garden including blackbirds, sparrows (although not as many as there used to be), robins, blue-tits, coal tits, great-tits, long-tailed tits, dunnocks, wrens, tree creepers, nuthatches, spotted, greater spotted and green woodpeckers and collared doves. A sparrow hawk, redwings and goldcrests appear in the winter. Many of the common birds build nests in and around the garden including blackbirds, robins, dunnocks, wrens, various tits and the collared doves. We are also privileged to have song thrushes - there is normally a new brood of three or four song thrushes each year !
At the same time the herbaceous border was formed and the original borders enlarged so that yet more plants could be introduced. The many gravel areas have been added over the years and are wonderful ‘automatic seed trays’ for self-seeding producing many new plants. Many of the larger plants in these areas have self-seeded themselves.
Late in 1997 a new rear fence was erected and upon clearing the ground we decided to make a narrow shrub walk and shade area. At the same time the cold nursery was built to over-winter hardier plants and to harden off the seedlings and cuttings.
All the hard landscaping e.g. various arches, trellis, brick planters, brick steps and water features that have been introduced over the years are all courtesy of ‘the other ‘arf’ Obviously in this fairly small garden, we have to do much pruning and dividing of plants to keep the overall balance. Most of the plants for the baskets and containers are cuttings over wintered in the frost free greenhouse.
Late in 1998 early 1999 (in a particularly cold spell) the small stream, waterfall and bridge were formed using the now weathered stone that was extricated from under various shrubs throughout the garden. Plants around the wildlife pond were divided and incorporated around the new water feature. By the first open day in 1999 we could not believe how well established the stream area had become and visitors could not believe it was so ‘new’. A small brick-edge central path was formed in February 1999 from the shrub walk to make access easier and add another interest.
At Easter 1999 another water feature was added - the old pot shed. Early in 2002-2003 trellis was added and old-fashioned scented roses and more clematis were planted.
The dramatic waterfall was added at Easter 2004. This was an area that was persistently dark and damp and a ‘difficult’ area so the waterfall was formed, ‘im in doors’ was the technician (as in all the water features) and ‘er in doors’ was the labourer!
In spring 2005 I decided to alter the semi-circular border abutting the large patio. This had been planted with mainly conifers, evergreen shrubs and a phormium cookianum, most of which had become too large for their allotted space. So, out came the loppers and the conifers were no more. The variegated shrubs were given a severe pruning and that left a lot of planting space for the sun-loving perennials which I find difficult to grow in this shady garden. I was delighted with the result in such a short time for the summer of 2005, except for the red poppy which should have been white, spoiling the blue, white and pink theme. Ah well that's gardening for you - delightful in its unpredictability!
Another slight alteration took place in autumn 2005. We had inherited a deep pink camelia which had to be pruned constantly and as I am not a lover of camelias owing to their untidy fading blooms, I decided it had to go. This border near the steps to the large patio had always been a problem overrun with vinca major and was previously designed, I presume to be a rockery. I removed all the original stone and broke them up into smaller, more manageable pieces and made a dry stone wall, backfilled with new soil and have planted this border with the salvias and more sun-loving, free-draining plants to give a continued floriferous theme. Several climbers have been planted, including more clematis, to give some colour to the evergreen of the ivy.
Only the barest minimum of chemicals are used in the garden because of the wildlife element preferring nature to take its own course and rely on the frogs, toads, song thrushes (and yours truly – for some unknown reason we have never had hedgehogs) to combat the snails and slugs. Wild flower planting and grasses have been increased to encourage more wildlife.
Spread throughout the garden there are many of my favourite plants - around 40 hardy geraniums and 70 clematis (especially viticellas).
We entered the Southampton in Bloom competition in 2003 and we were thrilled to win Best Overall Garden and in 2004 I was honoured to be asked to be a judge and found this to be a very rewarding experience.
We have been opening the garden for charity for seven or so years now and although a lot of hard work is involved, gives us all great pleasure to welcome old and new visitors, chat, give guidance and have happy, contented visitors (and their friends and relatives) who return year after year.
In Spring 2006 (bit of a rush to complete before garden opening!) I decided to design something new for a small area of garden heavy with shrubs which had always been difficult to prune and far too shady for most perennials to flourish. We pruned, almost to the ground a very large viburnam, removed some perennials to put aside for later re-use to form a small paved and gravel path to the edge of the stone wall and then Chris formed a raised deck area with built-in seat. Now visitors can sit here and view the garden on two different levels. The new perennials either side of the path are now flourishing with the added light and airiness.
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