Friday, January 20, 2012

Creating A Peaceful Oasis Outdoors

The house we moved into three months ago, despite being about twenty years old, didn’t have much of a garden. There was plenty of lawn, a fair amount of invasive plant, some scrappy, spindly trees which had seen neither water nor pruning shears for a long time, a few dull shrubs (even the word ‘shrub’ is dreary isn’t it?) and many patches of overgrown white Arum lilies (too funereal for me).

Before I could even get my head around how we would make the outdoors here our peaceful oasis, my husband and his Dad went on a spring cleaning spree with chainsaw and weedkiller. It’s not quite as bad as it sounds though, and we now have a lovely blank canvas in which to shape over time. What did survive the cull was a petite lemon tree (yay!), one other tree which I will find out it’s name one day and another citrus, which citrus as yet unknown.

I have also banned weedkiller from here on in. My father-in-law’s answer to a lot of the garden areas in different spots was to, and I quote, ‘cover in concrete’. I love him to bits and he does many little jobs for us but he’s a very practical man.

We have a difference of opinion on companion animals (the politically correct name for pets these days) – I think they are a necessary part of enjoying life and he thinks they are an unnecessary hassle. So it doesn’t surprise me we also have differing views on a garden.

After reading The Palace Diaries by Sarah Goodall and getting to know Prince Charles (he seems a really lovely guy), I was interested to hear a little more about his pride and joy, the garden at his country residence Highgrove (gloriously pictured above). I borrowed a book from the library called The Garden at Highgrove by Candida Lycett Green (a wonderfully English name).

It is such an inspirational tome, even if Highgrove is on a slightly larger scale than our small section. I love the structure, topiary and many different shades of green used. I also really enjoyed the introduction written by Prince Charles himself.

He talks of wanting to heal a countryside decimated in the name of progress although admitted ‘trying to translate a series of rather vague feelings into practical, organic action was considerably more challenging than I thought’. I feel just the same, although sadly I don’t have a staff of gardeners to help me along my way.

One of our old neighbours is a landscape designer and although he said he doesn’t accept money from friends for plans, he is happy to come and have a walk around our property and give us some advice. I just cannot wait for this to happen so that we can start putting some structure into place that I can then fill in over the years.

And even if we didn't have this option, I would be educating myself with gardening books and internet searches. I'll see what style of garden I like and how different plants grow in our climate.

I already have plants in pots that I have taken from cuttings at my Dad’s place – box hedging and hydrangeas. I have visions of a path with hedging, white stone or shell, lavender, lemon, lime and mandarin trees, a Daphne bush for winter fragrance, a herb garden and summer vegetables.

I’ve dabbled in gardens to varying degrees over the years, more when I was a homeowner previous and in pots whilst renting, but am still very much a beginner.

I spent 15 minutes weeding last night before dinner as it was such a beautiful and balmy summer evening. I thought 15 minutes often is a good way to deal with maintenance such as weeding, especially as I have put my foot down and instituted the ‘no poisons on our property’ rule.

And of course I will be doing all this on a small budget, over time, a la Kaizen.

I am cheered on with turning our place into a mini-Highgrove by this quote from Joan Collins (really, how many times would you read of the Prince of Wales and Joan Collins in the same post?):

‘Make plans even if they might be a touch unrealistic. One of the keys to being happy is to believe in a beautiful future. Hope springs eternal.’

From ‘Joan’s Way - Looking Good, Feeling Great’, by Joan Collins


  1. Fiona, how exciting - a garden to plan! I'm hopeless myself (and can kill plants in my sleep!)but I'm really looking forward to hearing, and hopefully seeing what you do. Are you taking photos as you go? x

  2. I love the idea of a blank canvas.
    Sounds like such a fun project.

    If I were to give you a suggestion I'd say join a local garden club. I did when we first moved into our bungalow and I borrowed books from their lending library befriended green thumbs and got lots of free advice and plants.

    Plants grow fast so don't worry about buying the biggest specimen and be wary of invasive growing plants as they can take over and become a nuisance. I know as I have a few of them!

    Take pictures as you plant your garden you'll be surprised when you look back years from now and see mini Highgrove and the blank space!

  3. I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with your garden, I need some ideas too! Glad you have people around to help here and there.

  4. A blank canvas is a lovely place to start and having a professional designer to help is too wonderful for words. Gardening continues to be a mysterious world to me; I'm not big on dirty fingernails or insects. However, I love flowers and the English climate does seem to lend itself to gardening success (far better than the clay soil and extreme weather of Oklahoma or the sandy soil and dessert temperatures of Utah), so I'm trying. We bought lavender and rose plants last autumn. I'm really hoping those will work out, along with about 50 bulbs we put in - OK, Bill put in. We do grow quite a bit of green veg in the back garden and I actually get dirty doing that. Look forward to hearing from you Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? (Did you grow up with that nursery rhyme?)

  5. Oh, you are going to have fun, Fiona. I can imagine the chic-est garden on the block one day soon. We don't use pesticides or weed-killers either. Thankfully, what we have in landscape around the home came with it because a green thumb I have not. Lots of mulch has helped keep the weeds under control...I really only have to weed maybe 2-3 times all season which is really nice. ~~Bliss

  6. Sounds like fun! This may seem obvious, and I'm not sure how extreme the seasonal differences are for you there, but keep in mind the life cycle of different blooms in the garden so that you'll always have something blooming at any given time. Or colorful remains of tall grasses in the wintertime. I think of it as layering. Good luck!

  7. You might like using some native plants.
    They are easy care.

    I know your garden will be lovely.


  8. I so admire people who can garden. My mother is an amateur landscape architect, and she loves nothing more than a big pile of dirt, a shovel, and a trove of plants and trees from the nursery. I'm more content with a few pots of herbs and roses on my patio. I'm very much looking forward to your notes on your progress in implementing your oasis one careful step at a time!

  9. Sulky kitten, you are so funny about killing plants in your sleep, I fear I may be the same way. And yes I will be photo-documenting this process. Let's hope the before and after photos look quite different and people can tell which is which.

    Hostess, your suggestion is fantastic thank you. I appreciate your other tips as well, coming from such a seasoned gardener as yourself.

    LR, thank you.

    Shelley, yes, we had that rhyme as children. We are in a subtropical climate here but I do dream of the verdant beauty of an English country garden. Yours sounds lovely.

    Bliss, lucky you!

    Anonymous, thank you for your wise advice and I will definitely include it in my planning.

    Sheree, thank you. Native plants are a good idea, rather than trying to plant a garden that goes against our climate. I am after easy care too, I don't have hours every day to potter, as nice as that sounds.

    Rebekah, some people find it relaxing and your Mum sounds like one of them. I do too, but there are lots of other things I want to do with my time, so it needs to be an efficient process. I'm hoping once I've set it up, if I have done it right, there will be a small amount of ongoing maintenance. I could just be kidding myself though.

  10. Fiona,
    Love hearing about your garden..Sounds like our home. We moved in a year ago and the to-do list was over-whelming. I love your Kaizen post about doing things over time.

    When I told a decorator friend that I felt like I'd never get to all the projects, she reminded me there is an Asian saying, "Home done, life over."

    I loved that. It made me feel much better and the Kaizen idea seems to fit with that!

    Have a good weekend! Kim:)


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...