So now we’ve got to that time of year. When we think about moving outside into the garden and for want of a better term, exterior decorating. I like to think of our garden as very much a continuation of the house and a really good indoor/outdoor flow is absolutely vital. In winter I like bringing the garden inside with whatever greenery is still available but once spring arrives it’s time to fling open the doors and let the inside out. Our outdoor areas are very much an extension of the house and I remember my mother in law always told me to think of the garden as a series of different rooms. However, I do always try to have something that connects one area to the next so that you can wander effortlessly along feeling totally at ease, the eye being constantly drawn forward to what lies beyond.
One of the great things about moving to this new house was the garden was already well established with lots of different areas which was a great starting point as it was not at all a blank canvas. Fortunately though it had an air of neglect and was missing enough that we felt we could put our own stamp on it.
Over the past two months we’ve worked endlessly both inside and outside to get the look we want. Let’s start by walking out of the kitchen and into the courtyard. Every room in the garden has a name because it just makes life easier when you’re looking for five children or three dogs and a cat or two to know which room you’re talking about!
So originally, the courtyard garden was literally used as a wide walkway between the house and the barn by the previous owners.
They did have an outside plastic table but it was not a place to linger. However the moment we first viewed the house with the agent we knew what we wanted to do. Both Roddy and I had the same vision of how it could be.
We brought nearly all of the stone from the old house with us which was a backbreaking job. For the first four weeks here I kept roping someone into helping me move the stone around to create the look we wanted. This was actually much harder than it sounds because each large piece of stone takes four of us to move it just a few inches so when I then said that I don’t quite like it there, I would like to move it a foot in one direction or the other it was really a very very big deal and my quest for perfection made me less than popular at times! But eventually we got it exactly as we wanted.
Once we were quite sure we put down a layer of biodegradable organic weed matting with an enormous amount of help from the girls.
Then we ordered 10 tonnes of gravel to be delivered. Spreading the gravel was another back breaking killing job. This was a rigorous bootcamp fitness session every day!
From the courtyard we go through to the south facing terrace of the guest house which we are renovating and for some reason one of our daughters nicknamed this quite delightfully “the fairy garden”. This overlooks the Pool and the garden beyond. We’re waiting for the ‘abri’ (a huge retractable cover on sliders for the entire pool) to be delivered this week as it is a wonderful way to heat the pool by creating a greenhouse effect.
Leaving the pool behind us we head into the orchard garden which is dominated by cherry trees. We’ve done quite a lot of work here to give it some definition because for me it was very much a long rectangle that didn’t really create much interest. Here, for me they had made one of the biggest garden mistakes in my opinion by planting everything on either side and nothing down the middle. All this did was exaggerate the long narrowness. What I wanted to do was lead the eye around so you don’t quite know what you’re going to see next, making you look at the sides and not down the centre. I wanted to create some magic. With this in mind we worked with our neighbour from our old house who is a landscape gardener and we planted a series of semi-mature shrubs in select places to create some curves to make you stop and look at whatever is blooming at the time, which right now is Iris and lilac.
We also had 6 tonnes of topsoil delivered by a local farmer mostly for the new potager beds. However, there was plenty leftover and we put this on top of the spartan grass in many areas around the edges of the garden. Then I have sowed lots of wild meadow flower seeds having carefully chosen the mixtures with what I hope will go with our climate and our soil. I have planted wildflower seeds nonstop for the past five or six years and I have never been successful! I think I know why! Because they’ve always been suffocated by the grass and have never had a chance to germinate and thrive and also I think through lack of water. So this time I am hoping with a bare layer of topsoil and little to no competition and with my diligent watering keeping them moist that this time they might grow! This morning I noticed seedings are emerging everywhere and I am cautiously hopeful.
We have also left the grass under the largest of the cherry tree’s unmown as a natural wildlife habitat for the insects. Leaving so many areas to grow untamed is vital to this garden and I believe the juxtaposition of wild and manicured makes a visually pleasing and more interesting garden.
From here we arrive at the potager which we have built from scratch with raised beds made from old timber we have found lying around. It is now starting to come to life but that is going to be another entirely new post next time when it will be that little bit further forward. But for now I just wanted to show you around and I hope it gives you some inspiration to think that it doesn’t have to be perfect to give you pleasure and that is the most important thing. And of course no garden for me would be complete without a potting shed! I’m still working on it, but for the moment I’m content to stand inside and look out!
This last photo was taken at the weekend, an easy salad lunch out on the terrace right outside the kitchen door, in our newly completed courtyard. Simple perfection and utter bliss.