Gardening Magazine

New House, New Garden: Introduction

By David Marsden @anxiousgardener

After a seven month house sale and purchase, we finally moved into our new home in mid January.

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I shall simply ignore Jim’s suggestion of planting a tall, thin Italian cypress between the large yew balls

This is what we bought and how it looked on our first viewing last September.  It’s a flint and brick, terrace cottage; built – according to the estate agent – in the 18th century.

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Neglected, victim to some novel decorating wheezes, horrid 70’s additions and with most of its original, internal features ripped away, we fell for it anyway.

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January

The cottage is tucked up against a hill and the south-facing garden is steeply tiered with six levels.  From kitchen door to rear garden fence is about 80 feet and it’s 33 feet wide.  After our last garden, which was wider and twice as long, this one feels manageable.

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October 2015

The house was let out for the past two or three years and the tenants excelled at growing bindweed, nettle, dandelion and dock.  Actually, I suspect they weren’t awfully keen on gardening.

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January – first things first, put up a bird-feeder

At ground level is a paved terrace (with an annoying corner that puddles after heavy rain)

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Messy builders.  I must sweep those steps

from which brick and flagged steps lead to the first tier;

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and further wooden steps continue to the top lawn.  We quickly discovered the pain of leaving secateurs or a cup of tea on the lowest level when working at the top.  (Doing that four times is 60 feet of climbing – being forgetful is good exercise, at least). The wooden-step ‘treads’ are – badly – lined with weed control fabric and gravel.  Spanish bluebells, Herb-Robert and goose-grass aren’t much bothered by weed control fabric.

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October 2015

At the end of the garden is an old, rickety shed which was mostly hidden by ivy and overhanging branches.

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February

An early task was to cut all that away and prune a pair of canker-ridden apple trees.  We also planned to replace the shed’s decayed timber, fix the leaking roof and give it a lick of paint.  But we made a silly error.   We moved a nest box from one of the apple trees to the shed first.

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And now, of course, the box is home to blue tits and, until the young fledge, the shed must wait.

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We collected all the keepsakes and memorabilia left by the previous owners.

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That took a while.

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Next, I trimmed the Lonicera nitida hedge running down the right-hand boundary.  I say Lonicera hedge but strictly speaking it’s a mixed hedge: a mix of Lonicera, bindweed and bramble.

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With the offcuts and prunings from the hedge and apple trees, as well as Amazonian brambles,

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I spent six or seven hours feeding, and coughing over, an incinerator; sorely missing the big bonfire site at the Priory.

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But most of our time and effort is concentrated on the house.  We’ve never had a conservatory before and were pleased it was wooden rather than uPVC.

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Right up until the moment we discovered that one end was rotten through.  The wood was like a sponge: press it and water dribbled out.

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Jim removed and replaced all the soggy wood – which impressed me no end.  After 23 years, I’m pleased with his progress and think he may now have passed his probationary period.

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February

Indoors, walls and ceilings were all lavishly coated with Artex.  This is our fifth house renovation and, initially, all of them were heavily Artexed.  I hate Artex and we two are on a life-long mission to rid the world of swirly walls and spiralled ceilings.  Downstairs, we’ve made a start and the damnable stuff has disappeared under new plaster. The speed and skill of our plasterers was breathtaking but living in a house with freshly plastered, sopping walls (in February) wasn’t the idyllic, cottage lifestyle I signed up for.  If you’re feeling a little low however, it brings on full-blown depression nicely.

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February

So that’s a short introduction to our new garden and a little of what we’ve done in the house.  I’ll post a follow-up soon with progress since the first garden clearing operation and maybe some more house stuff too.  But with so much of the latter – including painting all that paster – the garden must play second fiddle.  We have a limited budget for the house and our budget for the garden?  A big, fat 0.  We’ll be doing the garden to the beat of one mantra: no money!   Hopefully it’ll look good but this will be a very cheap and simple garden makeover.  And I mean cheap.


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