My Lockdown Projects Part 2 (Juli)

My own garden having reached saturation point and needing space to grow veg for this year, the solution has been that John, my neighbour has kindly given me the top end of his garden. We made many raised beds and a permanent compost bin and have made it into quite the feature with a raised platform which John has crazy paved and even created a half step to make it easier for me to access.



The whole thing has been made complete by the addition of a wooden pallet that he found, which I made into a planter, it now forms a balustrade side for the compost platform.

The next big venture was to create a green roof garden on top of the sheds. For the last year or so John has been trying to get the Council to sort out the shed roof which was leaking very badly. When it started to impact on my own shed I took over ringing the Council.  Finally, in March the Roofing Department felted the shed and we decided to go ahead with my plan.

Firstly, I laid a pond liner and sealed it in place (after it had time to shape and settle). Followed by two layers of weed suppressant, making a hole in the layers where the drain is. I made a pebble cage to put over the drain hole, which stops the compost mix blocking the down-pipe.

More gravel was placed around the edge of the roof which helps to contain the growing medium We filled a one tonne bag with a 75/25 aggregate/compost mix. The aggregate used included 100 litres each of Perlite and Vermiculite, pebbles and 10mm gravel.

All of the plants had to be carried/lifted up a ladder, to be placed on the roof. I divided the plants into three groups and started at the far end of the roof laying the compost mix in the first third, putting in the plants and then putting a layer of gravel on top.

This process was repeated in the middle, and then the third section of the roof by making sure the corners were done before climbing back on the ladder and finishing the compost and planting from there. I have had to add more of the mix and gravel at this end since as it was not as level as the rest.

It was a surprisingly quick process and I think it’s not bad for a 1st effort!

It was around this time I was told I was needed back at work, so, sadly my garden adventures will be slowing down considerably.  I did complete some tasks indoors as well, but the pull of the garden this time of year with the gorgeous weather we had, is much stronger.

Spring, Summer, Autumn – Garden. The Winter is for indoors!

Looking back over the last three months, it’s no wonder I would fall into bed most nights aching but extremely happy.

A visit to Great Dixter (Vija and Pat)

As you will see from our website What’s On, there are a lot of virtual garden tours now taking place online, but for those members who like to smell the plants and feel the breeze, this isn’t quite the same!  Great excitement then as Pat and I decided to visit Great Dixter – for both of us it was the first garden visit of the year.

We had wondered quite how social distancing would work at Great Dixter, mindful of the narrow paths and tight spaces. However, the one way system in operation and the limitation on the number of visitors at any one time proved very effective. The only area currently out of bounds was the vegetable garden. Covid 19 is a truly devastating disease and it is hard to see any good in the current situationFennel at Great Dixter, but reductions in visitor numbers in galleries and in gardens does mean that you can take your time and appreciate things better.


We marvelled at the huge Fennel, which Fergus Garrett loves, scattered throughout the gardens.

The glory of the varieties of Phlox which seem to be in abundance everywhere. We mourned the loss of the name Aster (now the unpronounceable  Symphyotrichium). I fell in love with the Pelargonium Concolor Lace.Concolor Lace

We discovered a beautifully unusual double burgundy coloured Antirrhinum, but couldn’t find seeds for it. And, of course, we bought some plants! Both Pat and I have gardens already crammed with plants, but have a similar approach to gardening which is that there is always room for one more! In my garden, at least, this results in an undisciplined profusion. I look with envy at spaces which are carefully laid out (like the Chelsea garden below) and where every plant has its place, but this is something I can only aspire to!

Chelsea 2018 calm garden
Chelsea 2018, calm, restful and carefully curated

My Lockdown Projects (Juli) (Part 1)

The most difficult part of writing this piece was deciding where to start! I vaguely remember something about introducing yourself, your subject and to put it in context, back in the days when I used to write essays.

So, introductions, not me so much as my garden, after all that’s what we are interested in. I moved here just under five years ago, my first garden, a well-established one. Too well established – Houseleek the full length of the path, Japanese anemone and Bluebells (Spanish) everywhere in the deep borders. Bracken and a mini forest down the back with two large Camellias and a Lilac which is covered in Jasmine.

From this description I’m guessing you are thinking that it is quite a large plot. I have a friend who says I acquire enough plants to fill up the grounds of a manor house. I have recently been forced to admit that it might be reaching capacity.  So, my garden is, actually, around 30 feet by 18 feet, with a brick shed in one corner. It is fully south facing and seems not only to have its own micro-climate, but also its own definition of time:  I nip into the garden for 10 minutes and go back indoors an hour later.

Just before Lockdown I had ordered some supplies for a gardening project from Wickes. While waiting for the supplies and suddenly finding myself having an unexpected staycation – I brought my Mum (94) to stay with me so that I could ‘shield’ her better – I started on the ‘must get to that’ jobs.

First, I painted the trellis and gate that forms the boundary between my garden and that of my next-door neighbour. I don’t know if you have ever painted trellis which is already in situ, but I can assure you it is not a quick job. Especially when it is 6ft + and you are a touch over 5ft. There are still bits of snagging that need attention which I have managed to ignore so far. 2

The ‘finishing’ of this project was followed by the completion of a – what turned out to be thoroughly unsuccessful – bird table which I attached to the top of the gate. The wood pigeons throw the seed everywhere, tease the dog and poop on the gate. I no longer put feed on it and have adorned it with a rather splendid peacock instead..



While I had the paint brushes out I decided to smarten up the weather vane. He was plain black and my neighbour had told me he was getting a bit of rust. I am most chuffed with the result, particularly when he was put back up.

Earlier in the year my Mum’s oldest friend had died, they had known each other for 88 years. I wanted to do something in her memory and that of her older sister who passed a few years ago. The stories that May & Mary would tell you about the three of them and what they got up to during the war were a must-hear!

As it was getting close to May’s birthday I decided to dedicate the back of my garden to the sisters. My neighbour made a bench seat which he decided would be the perfect size for my Mum, and I thought it would be ideal for the newly named ‘Mary & May Plaza’. So, painting the bench was my next job. May’s birthday was coming up on 1st May and I wanted the project I had in mind finished so that we could sit there with a G & T (her favourite drink) and have a toast to the two sisters.

4I set to and started the lengthy process of making a sign post – I  planed the edges from the wooden post, cut and shaped my signs. Painted the whole thing including the wording and the acorn on the top which looked more like an egg and cup in it’s plain wood state.





I am pleased to say that everything was finished and in place for 1st May and we had a, not so quiet, drink to celebrate. Petra, the dog had most of the G & T in the end!


More to come on my other Lockdown Projects – a green roof and a pond are just two of them!

Calming Colours (Vija)

In his gardening column, Allan Jenkins has recently written about the colours he is using in his garden this summer, which he calls ‘candy colours’. He describes petunias and pelargoniums brightly clashing. ‘In these fearful, difficult days it seems I am cheered by childish colours’. By contrast, a friend has said that she is using a lot of white in her garden this summer, which she feels is calming in these uncertain times. I too am using a lot of pastels this summer, mainly in pots, as later in the year the dahlias will be providing bright splashes of colour.

VV Clematis Fleuri and Bijou
Trailing Clematis Fleuri and Bijou in a pot
VVPetunia Lime Green
Petunia Lime Green, and a scented Lupin

Colour is a funny thing as I have written before. Dahlias were considered ‘vulgar’ by some people at one time, but are enjoying a renaissance as they are promoted by Monty Don, Sarah Raven and of course Christopher Lloyd and Fergus Garrett who have been using them to great effect at Great Dixter for many years. Nothing can match that eye-popping brightness of these fabulous plants. CABAHS members, Alex and Joe had some lovely colour clashes in their front garden last year!

But this year, for me, a limited palette will suit. I remember one year at the Chelsea Flower Show the overwhelming impression from a large number of the show gardens was that green was the dominant colour. It was remarkably soothing.

VV Green at Chelsea
Andy Sturgeon’s Chelsea garden, all the greens