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