Retirement four years ago. Time stretched, or I thought it would. The bottom of my garden was an area where rubble collected, unwanted household items had been left and bonfires lit. It was in desperate need of a clear up and a change of use although to what I had no ideas. Nettles and weeds thrived and tall trees belonging to neighbours and the MOD who own the land at the back ensured there was shade for most of the day apart from an hour or so. One year on it remained untouched as there proved too many fun things to do.
A visit to the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden in Surrey spurred me on to make a start.
Much of this magical woodland garden is in shade and shuttlecock ferns were in abundance. I loved their structure and vibrant green. I had not grown ferns before and felt that they at least may like my shady patch. The hard work began.
Picking up the obvious rubbish, carrying it up the garden, through the house, up a steep flight of stairs, into the car, onto the recycling centre – halcyon days! – was just the beginning. When I dug into the ground, I realised there were layers of broken bricks and glass underneath. It was heavy labour and took weeks to clear. The reverse journey, but now from the garden centre, brought in bags of compost, rotted horse manure and chipped bark.
I had no particular vision of the final outcome but by now just wanted to plant something. Half of the area had been dug over. Ferns along with a few other shade tolerant plants such as astrantia and hardy geraniums were planted.
By June 2018 I had dug up the remaining rubble and added more plants – foxgloves, aquilegia, thalictrum delavayi to give height and the nettles were left for butterfly eggs. Other wildflower/ plants that had found there way in and settled were allowed to remain as good for pollinators. I now have a large clump of greater stitchwort (also known as gentlemans shirt buttons – love that name) and cow parsley. Hellebores were put in later that year.
Bronze fennel was planted last year which grew to such a height it needed staking. I found an obelisk which does the trick. As the area is fairly bare in early spring, I had put in loads of aconite bulbs. None of these survived as the local squirrels found them irresistible. A few English bluebells and snowdrops did grow and more will be planted in Autumn.
Time stretches now. I sit and enjoy watching bees, early butterflies, neighbouring cats, toads, ignoring the gaping holes where the fox has squashed the gentlemens’ shirt buttons and hoping the hedgehog recently spotted in a garden two doors away will wander into mine.