Friday, 26 February 2010

So ........what was I doing?!

You know how there's always one bit of the garden that is either far enough away or tucked round a corner for you to be able to ignore it for some considerable time (or, in our case, lots of bits, ignored for years!)? Well, the time had come that I could no longer ignore the garden beyond the fruit cage.

It all started with the need to build a path to access the back of the tea house without fighting through the plants that I planned to have next to the veranda! I had already previously dealt with the privet-and-spikey-things hedge down the boundary side of the fruit cage and had produced a very nice path about a metre wide that went ............. exactly nowhere!

At the far end of the fruit cage, where I wanted to come out, was an impenetrable wall of dense holly which - on several of the hottest weekends of last summer, I had to tackle. So, whilst Himself was swanning about up a scaffold tower in his shorts and tee shirt, I was in my thickest jeans and sweatshirt doing battle!

Doesn't look too scary from here does it?!

Try the bird's eye view - any scarier?

No? Still not scary? Bring on the drum roll..............!

and, if I ever managed to make it through that lot, I'd still got to deal with - you've guessed it, yet another pile of stones that I had previously dumped here when I had dug the hole for the pond and which were now in the wrong place - again (and had been there for so long that they had got their own little micro-climate thingy going on!)

and, if that wasn't enough, there was the full length of the 'border' to deal with! The whole strip of land I was about to tackle was about 10 feet wide and 50 feet long - another 'little' project fro me to "get me teeth into"!

Rumour had it that, once upon a time, there was an actual flower border and a path under that lot but at some point early on in the 8 years we've lived here, it had somehow morphed into the Derbyshire equivalent of the forest surrounding Sleeping Beauty's palace and no-one knew what lay beyond the greenery...........

There was only one way to find out! Armed with my trusty tools and a step ladder (- on account of the holly hedge being WAY taller than my measly little 5'2"!) I began to do battle. It was very hot, very sweaty, very hard, very prickly work......... I was attacked by midges and flies on account of the salty sweat pouring off me as I laboured. I knocked years-old dusty birds nests onto me and had to fight off spiders of terrifying proportions - it was a jungle in there and I HATE spiders! What I really needed was a young Indiana Jones to fight his way towards me wielding his trusty machete, grinning his lopsided grin, sweeping me into his manly arms ........ sigh!!!
Ooops, wandered into a little fantasy to keep me on task there!

But treasures worthy of Indi' which had lain hidden for many years gradually began to emerge out of the gloom of the undergrowth - metal dustbins with no lids or bottoms, what a find! He'd have been well impressed! Further on in my quest I found what used to be wooden compost bins - at least, I think that's what they were! I also found a path under the outer edges of the vegetation. It hadn't seen the light of day for some considerable time, but cleaned up really well - and made access SO much easier!!!!

Elderberry trees, self-set flowering cherries by the dozen and great long holly branches by the gazillion! I kid you not! Some of these branches were so thick I had to saw them off as my largest loppers wouldn't go round them! Many of them were about 10-12 feet long and closely interwoven with their neighbours ...... they would have got a prize in a French-skipping competition if they'd been in school! They needed heaving and tugging to get them free - all whilst I was balanced precariously up a wobbly pair of steps with sharp-ish equipment. Oh joy! What fun was mine! Oh Indi' save me from this jungle nightmare!

Eventually, after about 5 weekends of long, hard, hot slog I could see ....... Ta Da! The Far End!

I had beaten the holly but, despite being exhausted by my valiant efforts, I still had to face the flowering cherries and elderberry trees!

However, a knight in shining armour appeared just in the nick of time. Not quite Indi', but I didn't complain too much! Calamity arrived, professing boredom, and offered his gardening services! He was rapidly put to work digging up the flowering cherries and lugging the boxes of stones from where I was clearing them across to where I was creating the path.

The following weekend OJ came up and dismantled the remains of the compost bins, carted the burnable wood to the woodpile at the opposite side of the garden, dug up a few random tree stumps from previous clearing work on the grass, then dug up one elderberry tree and did some serious pruning to the other ........

whilst I carried on dealing with the rock pile, building the path and making a toad house for all the dozens of toads and newts I found hiding in the stones. It's just 7 bricks forming an L shape, but it seems to have done the trick. It's evident that the toad house has been in use over winter, which has made me very happy!

The end result?
8 weekends of hard labour produced:


I continue the path from the back of the fruit cage using 'weed-stop' suppressant matting, then all the stones I'd unearthed from the stone mountain went on top. The path continues along the full length of the border just in front of the holly so that I can get to the beastly hedge easily - as I'm fully intending to keep on top of this job in future! It splits to come forward to the left of the remains of the elderberry tree for quick access down to the back of the tea house.
I then transplanted 2 rhubarb plants and a redcurrant bush from inside the fruit cage to just outside it - you can see them at the very far right of the photo if you enlarge it.
The rhubarb didn't need the protection of the cage (it's a roughty-toughty northern rhubarb after all!) and was getting very big. The redcurrant was moved to give more space to the 5 blackcurrant bushes and the 3 gooseberry bushes in the cage in the hope of a better crop this year - although, as I also shifted 3 of the blackcurrant bushes to new positions inside the cage, I'm not holding my breath on this one!.
I didn't want to just get rid of a good healthy bush, so I thought the birds might like it!

What am I going to put in the rest of it? I have NO idea ...... but I'm working on it!
I know I want some perennial, evergreen plants for structure, but I'm not sure what yet, so any ideas for planting in a west facing, fairly dry large, empty area will be very gratefully received!


Anonymous said...

Dear Liz, I cannot believe the time and effort which has gone into this project. It exhausts me just to think about it. But what a fantastic result about which you must feel enormous satisfaction and pleasure. Less determined people would, I feel, even aided with a small JCB, have given up weeks ago.

Now you have the fun part to look forward to: the shopping and the planting. I shall be most interested to learn what you do with your piece of spare ground. You will have much fun planning, I am sure.

And the tea house? I do hope that progress continues to be made.

Liz said...

Hi Liz,

Wow, you were busy! Ha ha, so glad my garden isn't large enough to get quite so overgrown... Although the bramble at the back of the garden is giving me a good run for my money by growing considerably over winter! Going to have to get the leather gloves out to tackle that one me thinks...

At least the hard work was well worth it and you now have a wonderful blank canvas... I personally think I'd like to plant lots of natives, perhaps have a go at a mini meadow style planting... lol :)

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Liz, though the challenges and results are different, this project puts me very much in mind of my buckthorn clearing process. Doesn't it feel good to have it DONE? Also, it's marvelous you have frogs and newts in your garden. The toad house is wonderful... I tend to just sit a saucer upside down on a rock; your accommodations are much more commodious! I'll also email you because I found a bulk food store that sells (wait for it) decent tea!!!!

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

It was scary, indeed! You are a hero!
As for the blackcurrants, I tried to revitalize my three bushes. I needed to look through some books and sites to remind myself how to prune them and how to care for them. I kind of neglected them during last 2-3 years, and they gave me miserable berries. Do you have any magic recipes for growing great blackcurrants?
Happy March to you!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Edith. The thing about a big garden is that just when you think it's safe to relax - another bit of garden shouts pout to be sorted! I spent the weekend chopping up wood that had been 'stored' under the conifer trees at the top of the garden for about 18 months - perfect for firewood now it's all dry!

you're right. I do feel immense satisfaction about the work I do - I particularly love seeing bare soil when I've just sorted it!!!

Progress did indeed continue on the tea house right up to Christmas and we did a bit more this weekend. More posts are in my head to show our progress! :)

Hi Liz - Yep, I've got some roughty-toughty gloves for dealing with brambles too!
I'm planning on planting meadow seeds in the rough grass again as that worked well last year. It's going to be our orchard - ha, there's posh! 5 fruit trees = an orchard!!!
I've made a path along the back of the border to allow access to the holly hedge, so I've got about an 8ft width to play with.I think I need to get some evergreen, perennial structural stuff into that border and work round that. Any ideas?

Hi Monica - yes - I think it was a very similar process to your buckthorn clearing, except you did it in song and I was rather more 'anglo-saxon' in my language at times!!!

My toad house is just 6 old bricks I found. I made an L shape so predators can't get their paws in.Frogs, toads and newts are evrywhere in our garden - just lift a rock!
I'm dead pleased you've found some decent tea! :)

Hi Tatyana. I'd planted my blackcurrants too close togther and then neglected them as well, so I got very low yeilds last year! I've spaced them out more, composted and mulched them and pruned them back hard, so I'm hoping for a good crop this year!
I'll tell you in Autumn how I've got on ;)

nilla|utanpunkt said...

Here's a whole load of applause from Sussex. 8 weeks, you are the star of estamina! And you remind me I have a whole holy tree, with its carpet of little ones that I want to get rid of...perhaps next year.

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

A huge amount of work for you. But with such great results. Amazing what determination and a few hands can do.


Woody Wilbury said...

Crikey, matey. Big respect. That's a massive amount of work, even with your trusty assistants. And it's really made such a difference; mind you, it always does when you let some light in.

I once fell off a stepladder into a holly bush. Not a bundle of fun; air blue!!

healingmagichands said...

Wow. I now feel more sanguine about our honeysuckle problem. Don't you just love it when a big project is done? It looks absolutely beautiful.

As far as growing carrots is concerned, I have found that my carrots germinate a lot better if they are sown very thickly, which means you have to do a lot of thinning when they come up. But the little seeds seem to like company. Also, I plant them around the time my peas are blossoming, they don't germinate when the soil is too hot. It is important to keep the seed bed evenly moist while waiting for germination. They like soil where they don't have to compete with rocks and clay too much, so I have been working sand into my soil for several years now, which has improved my carrot growing success considerably. Maybe this will help.

The Idiot Gardener said...

That can only be described as a Herculean task. It makes my own efforts to rid myself of Hill 49 to seem quite slow and, frankly, tinged with a does of laziness.

Well done!

Di said...

Liz, I am worn out after all of that for I have been there, clearing and chopping and determined. ;) What a task and remarkable do-over, but you knew you could do it. Good job and now I know who to call should I need some assistance. Hope you are having a wonderful week.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Nilla - I didn't have much stamina left at the end..... I was shattered! I'm not adverse to hard work but the very ongoing physicality of this job wore me out. It was sheer bloody-mindedness about finishing the job that got me to the end! :)

Hi Jen. I was VERY glad when the boys turned up - I had definately run out of steam by that pointand would have struggled to demolish the 'compost bins'!

Ey up Woody - ta mate!It was a slog - but I'll make sure it never gets that bad again! I did get a bit anglo-saxon at times when stuff fell on me or crawled on me, but I also resorted to French cusses when the neighbour's young children were in their garden - very therapeutic swearing in a foreign tongue!

Hi HealingMagicHands and thanks for that, I'll give it a go ....but I've warned the carrots that if they don't grow this year that's me and them done! I've also bought a net polytunnel thing to try and keep insects off them - I'll let you know hopw I get on!

Hi TIG. I was kna....well tired at the end (no, about half way through really!)but having started it, I had to complete it. Waking up on yet another Saturday knowing I'd have to do some more was tough too - and the Sundays were worse!!!

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Di. If you need me, just call - but give me a chance to buy some new loppers to replace the ones that didn't quite make it to the end of the job!!
I'm having a great week thanks - and the sun is finally shining too :)

joey said...

By your side on this adventure, I feel as though I need a nap after reading this. You are a never ending bundle of creative energy, Liz! Not only will you have your tea house but have a toad house too! Happy March :)

Pondside said...

Good heavens - what a lot of work!! I'm going to have to follow you because I miss out on your posts, and when I'm not looking you get into chores like this!
I am nurturing along three holly plants - I wonder if they'll ever grow to be as big as yours?

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Joey - what a lovely description of me, thank you so much! I have to confess that whilst the energy didn't actually run out, it had dipped a bit by the time I got to the end of the holly hedge!
I'm dead chuffed that the toads have been using the toad house :)

Hi Pondside. Thank you for following me - wait until you see what's still to come!!!

Ha ha - I don't nurture holly plants ...they just grow like weeds in this garden! Keep yours trimmed and under control, it's the only way :)

Dorothy said...

Hello and wow, that you have such great patience and drive to accomplish such an endeavor.

It was great to view via photos..thank you.

Dorothy from grammology

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Dorothy. Thank you for popping in and commenting - it's always nice to know who's been to see me!

Thank you too for your kind comments .... but I'm not sure it's patience so much as bloody mindedness sometimes! :)

I'll be popping over to have a look at your blog very soon - see you there!

Shady Gardener said...

Liz, I was about to board an airplane with my weed whacking equipment, padded clothing and work shoes! No... Sir Lancelot I am not. Ms Galliant I may think I am, but I'm only 5' 4" as it is.

I'm so glad it took you all these weekends. I was beginning to feel quite intimidated by your energy! ;-)

It looks Wonderful, by the way!! Yea!

Nutty Gnome said...

Shady - don't change your mind now....get back on that plane!!!

Glad you like it - my plans for that area are slowly coming together :)

Shirley Landis VanScoyk said...

WOW. just WOW.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Shirley. Thank you, just thank you! :)

Kirigalpoththa said...

Very interesting! Hope to see your ga in full bloom soon!!

Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

Hi Liz

Somehow I managed to miss this post, and it's only the one where you discover 'the Lost Gardens of Heligan'!

That's a (((lot))) of work, but the end result looks terrific,

I too had a 'tumbling' old birdnests experience clearing Ivy off the side of one of the houses down the road. It's doing jobs like these that answer lifelong questions such as 'where do insects go during winter?'

All good fun!


Andrea said...

Congratulations for a job well done! I am sure you needed a good massage after all those works.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Kirigalpoththa. I'm glad you like it, thank you - lots of things are begining to shoot up now, so spring will be here properly soon :)

Hi Rob ...ha ha, the Lost Gardens of Helligan?! If only!!! We went there a few years ago and I'd love to go back to see how it's come on.

You are so right about where insects go in winter - except in this case, they all went down my neck!Makes me shudder to think about where they all got stuck!

Hi Andrea. You are SO right about the massage! I had one today and got told off for too much gardening again this weekend! (mind you, she ALWAYS tells me off for that!) ;)

Anonymous said...

thank for share, it is very important . ̄︿ ̄

Nutty Gnome said...

Thank you - I hope you like what we are doing. :)

Kylee from Our Little Acre said...

Liz...geez Louise! I can't even imagine going through all that!! And I whine about trying to get out a honeysuckle bush (that refuses to budge - we need dynamite). I bow in adoration of your energy and persistence. It all looks GREAT! Now go take a nap. You've earned it. LOL.

Jo said...

I've recently discovered your blog and have thoroughly enjoyed looking back at all your posts (especially the one explaining the Yorkshire dialect, I'm born and bred in Leeds). Your tea house project is fascinating, I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product. It seems that your energy knows no bounds, especially with the border you have cleared, I think I would have given up after a weekend. I look forward to following your continuing progress.

Nutty Gnome said...

Hi Kylee - I could lend you calamity and OJ, they're good at grunt work!

I have to say that I've learnt my lesson ...there is NO way I'm going to let that holly get so overgrown again. It was a horrible job in high summer!!! A nap sounds good - is that something to do with 'free time'?! LOL!

Hi Jo - nice to meet a fellow Yorkie! I know Leeds quite well as my sister used to live there (in Chapletown!) and we've got friends in Adel. Yeah, I know -dead posh!

That border was a nightmare! I was holly prickled in places I didn't know I'd got - and the dead birds nests, dust, crud and spiders that fell on me were vile ... makes me shudder to even think about it!

Hope to see you again soon :)