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Wednesday
Oct032007

Garden motivation

I'm feeling the need to outline what I want from our garden, along with what we're doing and why. Hopefully the why should intersect with the "what I want" bits quite well, but we'll see!

Main wants (needs?) from the garden:

  1. Something pretty to look at.
  2. Something interesting to watch.
  3. Privacy.
  4. Somewhere to sit.
  5. Stress relief

Long term aims:

  1. Some food production
  2. The garden should not require a lot of on-going maintenance.
  3. It shouldn't cost much.
  4. Limited bare soil.
cat and birdtableThe first two wants initially appear the same, but I have quite different things in mind. The first one is to create a nice static view - some good looking plants, colour for most of the year, interesting shapes. The second is about the actors and movement. Something that I can look out at and be entertained. The wildlife aspect, although currently next-door's cat is providing much of it and while he does hiss when you startle him he's not particularly wild. The two obviously tie together, because the wildlife is going to be attracted by food and shelter, which in turn can be provided by the beautiful plants. Currently I'm packing out the back garden with plants like honeysuckle, sedum, rudbeckia, alyssum for necter for insects, and pyracantha for berries for the birds. I'm growing some big shrubs (euonymus and skimmia rubella) in a shady spot for birds to hide in and there's the birdtable. Out front there's the herb bed, lavender, Russian sage, Michaelmas daisies amoungst others, with viburnum, forsythia, ceanothus and berberis for the height.

tree 02Privacy is an interesting one. We live in an ex council house, all hemmed in. Our garden (and house) at the back is overlooked by our neighbours, the people who back onto our garden, and some more houses down one side. There are two large trees that block out some of the houses backing on, but others can see straight in and we can see straight to them. Although the slopes mean we're not smack on the same level as anyone, it'd still be nice to block off a few more. The compromise here is light. The back garden is sort of West-North-West. In winter the fence already keeps a large chunk of the garden in full shade, and it's only 5ft tall. So i want tall plants only to block specific views, and preferably not block a lot of anything in winter. I've not really got there with this one yet. The euonymous is evergreen, and is growing rapidly to provide some cover. I'll have to trim it at some point I think. I've also planted an acid green conifer that I used to have in a tub. I think it needs more sunlight, but it's doing ok at the moment and will be happier once it gets taller than the fence. In between the two is still very bare and needs thinking about quite carefully.

At the front privacy is again key, although we're less overlooked by other houses. The front garden has such a change in height that the road goes past pretty much at first floor level with double-decker buses every 20 minutes or so, so it would be nice to be able to block people's view in. The obvious answer is to let the hedge grow, which we're doing, but that's a bit solid for me. I'm considering a couple of small fruit trees as well, although the wind may be a problem for them. In my head though they would also provide quite a nice place to sit under in the summer!

californian poppy

Which leads nicely into the 4th need. Somewhere to sit, admire the garden, and generally be outside. The front garden gets the sun from morning until about 5.00 in summer, and maybe 2.00 in winter. The back garden in midsummer starts getting sun at 8.30 with the whole thing in sun from about 3.00, and the back of the house gets sunset all year round. There are probably 3 places I find myself sitting at the moment: halfway up the steps in the front (anytime), on the concrete near the shed at the back (between 10 and 3ish), and on the bench at the back of the house (from 3ish until dark). Without really meaning to I've found spots I like. Next job is to make them more pleasant to sit in! The bench is great, and if I can find the right tall plant to block the view it will be perfect for after work. The bit near the shed we have grand plans for, with an L or C shaped raised bed on the concrete and a bench nestled against it. This is going to take time and money, both of which are generally in short supply, so may take a while. Still, it's a long term thing this gardening. It's the spot out front I haven't really considered properly. Although the plants I've put down one side of the path will reduce the cold North winds that get through and should make it a bit more private from that side, I haven't really considered the South side at all. It would be better not to sit on the steps, and the terracing up and the path through the veg patch will make the grass more accessible so that could do with some thought.

Dig it

And finally stress relief. Well, I think that ties in with everything else. Somewhere quiet outside to sit and watch the wildlife with a cup of tea? Perfect. Something lovely to look at every time we glance outside? Brilliant. Hiding away from the rest of the world? Definitely. On top of that, growing things from seed is a kick. And digging. Yes.

This feels pretty long already. I think maybe I'll look at how we're trying to reach our longterm aims another day.

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