Saturday, 17 February 2018

Irreconcilable Differences

Spring in my last garden.

We live a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, mostly due to work.  Our houses've been chosen for us by other folk, all of them people who love beautiful homes but don't really garden.

Remarkably, I've been given some great spaces.

We've never stayed long enough for me to complete my grand vision of the moment.  But then, maybe gardeners never finish their vision.

In spite of these arranged marriages, in spite of whatever lessons & challenges the gardens themselves put in front of me, I loved them all.

Until now.

I first saw our current garden on the day we moved in.  Originally a double lot, its Edwardian designer had been uninspired.  In the 21st century, someone bisected the garden with a fence - house, garage, & surrounds on one side, uninspired beds & paths on the other.  At a later date, they got notions of building the Great Godawful, so put up another fence, with the house & surrounds taking up 2 thirds of the half & the garage part taking up a third.

Don't hurt your brain over my reckless use of fractions.  It'll make more sense in the photos. 

The neighbours defeated the planning permission, but the dissection of the garden remained.

Mlle DoodleFace as a puppy 2 gardens ago.

Needless to say, I was less than thrilled.

Hating my garden is as ill-fitting as hating my dog, a crime against nature.

But because we're moving, because this garden will soon not be mine, I can rend garments, gnash teeth & roar the myriad sins of this place.

Confined to a respectable 6, of course, for my present audience.

1.  A place divided.

Not long after we moved in, my family quietly went behind my back (lest I be disappointed) & asked if, since planning permission had been denied, could we have the whole garden.  The landlord said he'd only lift the fence that separated the house & surrounds from the garage, adding the caveat he could put it back with a month's notice.

Which meant leaving the concrete posts.  I put up an arch to insinuate the post line was intentional, artistic even, then wrapped the concrete in chicken wire to grow sweet peas & the errant self-seeded old man's beard.  

From the house toward the fence.

No amount of sweet pea can cover that much ugly.

From the fence toward the house.

2.  The Forgotten Trio - 2 apples & a cherry

These guys've featured here before - I'd hoped one of you would say this was a quirky British fruit tree technique.  Y'all disappointed me on that one.

In the photo above, you can see how closely they're planted to the post line.  Remember that for later.  

The Trio w/Mr Big Nose in the background.

I suspect these three were heeled in & forgotten.  I sometimes wonder who bought the trees, who heeled them in.  Were they an unwanted gift left to languish or a project abandoned by death or relocation? 

However the Forgotten Trio got here, the solution is obvious.  Fortuitously, as tenant, I'm exempt from killing trees. 

3.  Elder vs Acer

Long before the Trio arrived on scene, someone planted an absolutely gorgeous acer under the yew.  All was well until an elder seeded itself between them.  As the elder grew up, the acer grew horizontally until it joined hands with the Forgotten Trio of fruit trees.

I've been hacking at the elder in stages (CFS, remember), hoping to reduce it to the skinny vertical wands (also remember, hates to kill trees).  Once it wakes up for the summer . . . even if I'd managed to vanquish the elder, it'd take years for the acer to reclaim it's natural form, if indeed that were possible, considering the age of the thing.  The prognosis here is dismal.

Acer under the Elder burden.

4.  Walls do not a home . . .

So, remember how close the Trio is to the sweet pea post?  The marriage of acer & Trio give that part of the garden an 'interior wall'.  The rooms formed by the cement line & the 'interior wall' are each one twelfth the size of the original Edwardian space.  They contain trees & a short hedge.

So, not cosy pub snugs, but cells.

The house & surrounds side of the posts is basically paved pathways, brick outbuildings & small borders.  We have a garden, but not even the dogs want to hang out in it.

O, for the days when Big Nose & I hung out in the orchard 4 gardens ago.

5.  The Wisteria/Apple Tree battle.

Some people are less than fond of (hate) wisteria, but the vines I've lived with were always well behaved, so also well cherished.  And who doesn't love an apple tree?  So, is there a complaint here?

Moriarty & Holmes going over the waterfall.

When we moved in, the wisteria foliage not only smothered the apple tree, its growth whips formed a woven mat across the lawn, up the yew, even squiggling inside the garage windows.  (Those aren't dead limbs on the ground, but wisteria tendrils creeping, creeping, creeping toward me dreaming in my bed.)

I gave it a late pruning & hoped for the best.  Both tree & vine lived & bloomed.  The wisteria got its midsummer pruning, plus we had apples enough for everyone.  But as Fred, a French Gardener pointed out, either the tree or the vine will die first.  What happens to the survivor?

The wisteria got pruned on time this month, but realistically, this is a several year project which I know will not be continued because of the . . . 

6.  Mind boggling neglect.

This garden languishes because no one thought about it for years.  When that happens, this happens:

The Burgeoning Heap.

Taking over such a neglected space, I'd enough brambles et al without battling the Burgeoning Heap on the other side of the fence.  The only time it got my attention was when bits of it lept into my side to throttle my pots.  

In late summer, the Burgeoning Heap produced fruit.  Perhaps other eyes would've caught it sooner, but only then did I realise there was an apple tree inside the BH.

My son chases a much younger Mr BigNose thru 3 gardens ago.
Thus named, six things that defeated me.

This garden, given a blase design & left to flounder, needs things I can't offer it - time, energy, ruthlessness.  Let's hope a better gardener comes its way.

As for me, I blithely skip toward the next garden, shaking the dust of this misbegotten place from the hem of my waterproofs.  

As to you, scamper over to The Propagator where you'll find his more optimistic Six, plus many other blogger links in his comments section.

See you next garden!


  1. It must be really challenging moving from garden to garden, I hope the new one is one that you can love and nurture. Happy moving!

  2. Good luck with your new garden. And bless you for having a sense of humor through all this!

  3. Good luck with your move and I hope you enjoy your new garden. I'm waiting for news about it !
    We won't know if the appel tree or the wisteria will survive... I give 1€ for the wisteria...

  4. Ah, so you're moving again. Have I missed you saying to which part of the world you'll be going? And will you sneak out quietly, leaving son comatose on the sofa dreaming of exotic foliage (in his case, falling slowly from an otherwise scantily clad torso)? If your new place doesn't have a burgeoning heap for you to play with, you can always come and play with mine. Sorry, though, but I won't be able to offer you snow to roll around in.

    1. Never discard a young person if you can help it.
      They're meant for the heavy lifting.

  5. This made me laugh. I guess you just have to learn from each different garden you are in and resolve to do something about the things you can, leaving the rest trailing in your wake. Onwards to horticultural glory!

    1. I may start my first blog in the new place w/that battle cry!