Monday 28 April 2014

Starting to plan

Assuming I don't jinx it, we are very close to getting the builders out of the garden. This will mean that there is the whole summer to get cracking on the design and getting the basics in.  It is scary and a bit hard to think about at the moment as the garden currently looks like this:

View current garage door (pretty much face west).
As you can see it is not just all the builders materials, but the lack of fences plus the whole area around the patio basically being concrete (the joy of builders thinking that simply burying their waste is acceptable). The front garden is not much better and has a skip and another lot of concrete and broken tiles form the roof.  The next stage (fingers and everything else crossed)  is that the builders will remove all their materials and then bring in a mini digger to remove the top layer of soil leaving me with a flat, none concrete base to start from.

View from corner of patio (pretty much due east)
The whole garden project is a two stage process, we have lost a lot of garden in the build and the garage is now taking up valuable garden area.  Not only is it 4m deep, but there is a further 4m behind it that we can not really use.  So stage two is to knock down the old garage and build a smaller wokshop / shed (with a green roof) in the bottom of the garden freeing up a further 4m of space for planting.  So any plans at this stage will have to be done with that in mind.

So in stage one of garden design, there are two main areas I am interested in.  Firstly the little section down the side, which is 3m wide and 7m deep, so big enough to use.

This part of the garden gets the morning sun and depending on the planting along the fence, it will get sun until about 1pm.  We currently have two main ideas for the area; a Mediterranean style courtyard with fruit trees trained along the walls. This would make the most of the fact that one of the walls is south facing and it really holds the heat well. The problem would be that it means we have to use low planting along the fence line, so it may feel quite exposed. The other idea is to make it a more secluded shade garden.  Planting taller screening plants along the fence and then ferns and under-planting in the rest of the area,  creating a more lush place to sit.  This will give us more privacy, but will obscure more light from the rooms.

The second area that will be worked on straight away is the succulent bank I am planning for along the front of the patio and then going down the south facing fence. To give an idea of the size, the patio is 6.5m wide (5.5m available for planting) and it is 7.5m to the garage.

My thoughts here are to build an L shape bank along the wall and fence.  This would start quite sparsely planted by the patio steps, and would end more lushly planted by the current garage door.  If I have enough material I would like to build the bank to the height of the top of the patio wall. I have no doubt that all the agaves, yuccas and cycads will be very happy there.

The next few weeks will be spent doing some sketches and surfing for inspiration.  By which time the garden should be ready for me to start work.  No doubt I'll keep you all updated as my thoughts come together. Until then, keep your fingers crossed, that the builders do actually finally move out!

Monday 21 April 2014

Finally some time in the garden.

With building the extension our lives have been on hold since the start of the year. Everyone told us how hard it would be, but actually up until the start of April it was fine.  Then Spring started properly, the plants woke up, and all I could think about was getting outside to explore. The weather has been amazing this week, and not having a garden to potter in has been really strange.  I hadn't realised how much I use the garden to de-stress and generally mull things over.

So today with no builders around I decided it was time I took back at part of the garden.  Some plants needed to be moved out of the green house, so it seemed like an ideal excuse.  The builders are still occupying the majority of the garden, so it was just about squeezing a bit of space to store some plants.

There were a few offcuts from the patio which allowed the area in-front of the garage to be extended.  This is out of the way and wont interfere with designing and building the garden.

It is a fraction of the pots that need to be out, but is a start.  It also gave me a chance to really look at how they coped with the winter.  The main problem seems to be lack of water, with most of these being in the greenhouse, they got hot and very dried out. I am particularly pleased with how the bowl of echeveria agavoides forms is doing (right hand side of the image.) They have held their colour so well, and should really fill that bowl by the end of this summer.

The echeverias in general have enjoyed the warm start to the year.  The greenhouse is a mass of flowers.

Many of these are in the nursery section, young plants that are now established and will be planted up this year depending on if they have made it to my like list. 

Not to be out-done the cacti are getting into flower as well. This one looks good but every year I remember how disappointing the flowers are. I may need to have a think what to do with it for the future, as currently it isn't standing out in terms of earning a place in the greenhouse.

Compared to this one, which not only looks good, but has more distinctive flowers.  I think it will be planted into a nice pot when I have bit more time and space. It has formed such a lovely clump and so far has no blemishes or marks.

Both of these could learn something on flowers from the next one.  Still looking good after over a week in flower.  

Fingers crossed we have passed the worst on the build and are can not get more of the garden back with each day.  It would be amazing to have the whole thing back for in two weeks, although it would mean I then actually have to do some serious work on designing, building and planting the actual garden.

Monday 14 April 2014

Selecting paint colours the plant lovers way

It has got to the time in our build when we have to select the colour for the outside of the house.  This is never easy and the temptation is to simply select the same colour as everyone else.  Those that do opt for something different most likely paint samples around the place to help them select.

The builder asked that we limit these to the wall to the patio, as the other render is still drying.  This wall will also not be visible once finished as I am planing to build a succulent bank up against it to make the most of the space.  Sadly he chucked away all the rubble from the build which would have been perfect to build the bank up instead of me having to buy tonnes of materials myself.

Once the paint had dried it was time to test it against the slabs to be used on the patio and paths

At this stage the succulent fan kicked in. There are obviously going to be lots of pots around and I will no doubt use the wall as a back-drop for photographing my plants so I thought it would be sensible to test that as well.

It is no surprise that the colur changes every time you place something else next to it. It is lovely in London at the moment, we are having a very early and sunny spring, so the succulents have got into early growth.  Especially given we had almost no winter at all.  The cacti are starting to flower, this is the first to put out a full flower though.

It is a much stronger colour than last year, which could be something to do with the sun and heat I believe. The echeverias are all starting as well, which is actually a bit of a shame.  Because the builders are still in the garden I couldn't take everything out of their winter storage areas, so they are scattered around under tables, benches and anywhere else I thought they would be protected from the builders.  They need to be brought out into full view so they can be enjoyed. Plus it is getting into that time I need to harden them off before the sun gets too strong. 

Hopefully only 3 weeks or so until I get the garden back.

Sunday 6 April 2014

It's been a while

With the extension work and builders blocking the green house and generally trashing the garden, there has not been much to report. Then this last week we got a big step closer as this is now the view from the kitchen / diner.

The patio doors are in and that signals we are into the final stages of the build. It mean I can start to plan for the day they remove the rest of their stuff out of the gardens and the real fun can start. There are currently on-going discussions with my OH about the area in front of the doors, I think it is a perfect plant display area for some of my pots, but she seems to think that we should use it for table and chairs. You would think she would know me better by now.

To celebrate I went on the first plant buying tip of the year, to one of the rare plant fairs they hold around the UK.  It was a spur of the moment decision, as shown by the purchases:

At first this probably looks fine (all be it not very spikie), sadly the back row of plant were bought at the same plant fair last year, the front row, this years.  It does show a certain difference in the attention I pay to the other plants, as I have never bought the same succulent twice by accident. Thankfully there is enough space in the garden for both sets and I guess there will be no waiting for them to form clumps. 

While I have yet to properly start on the design for the front and back, I know they are both going to be more varied than the last garden and while there will be a lot of succulents and gravel sections, there will also be more lush and shade areas.  I am considering using rock gardens as a theme throughout and just swapping the planting medium in the different sections. That lot should all be perfectly happy in different sections.

Another plant I picked up was eremurus 'Oase'.  This is the third variety I have, and want them scattered around the gravel beds.  I'll do another post on these later.  Two different plants that found their way into my car were creeping clematis. I saw these somewhere as different plants to have in an gravel bed.

I want to try and get some different types of plants into the planting and theses looked amazing in the pictures I saw. Time will tell if they cope with my lack of watering and care. A friend who specialises in clematis (but ironically hates these forms) says they should do well in my type of gravel bed. If I can keep them alive I may use them on the green roof and vertical planting areas as well.

Very exciting to be thinking of getting into the garden again, sadly the doors have also highlighted how much closer the garage is to the house (and how ugly it is!).

The next project is to knock it down and build a smaller one in the section that is currently hidden behind it.   Then again maybe I should wait until the current project is actually finished before starting to plan the next one.