Some mums ask for slippers, a massage, a dinner, some flowers… whilst all of those things would be nice (although I’m all good for slippers, thanks anyway)… this year I thought outside the box for Mothers Day gifts. I instead asked for a garden bed. A thirty metre long garden bed, no less…
You see, when we built our house yard’s fence in 2010 I had a vision for this western zone of our garden – I dreamed of a herbaceous perennial border, like those I have long admired by Paul Bangay, at Dame Elisabeth’s Cruden Farm, and the ultimate: Hidgate in the Cotwolds (to be murmured in hushed reverence, please). If we go back to the beginnings of our garden, this zone was actually all paddock prior to 2010, the western wall of our house was actually the paddock boundary, with lambs living under our house and rams rubbing the paint off the walls to scratch an itch. Seventeen cypress trees also used to stand in this part of the garden, along with a hodgepodge of a brick greenhouse of sorts and dog kennels. We’ve come a long way.
Gosh, please excuse the state of the lawn. I don’t think you could even really call it lawn! This zone has long been neglected – I am hoping with these new garden beds we might find a little bit more enthusiasm for it. Also excuse the irrigator pipes and tractor and bin trailer! We were harvesting in this paddock when I thought I’d better run out in my pyjamas to take a ‘before’ photo. You can see some other photos of the area in this post here, when we built the arbour, and in this post where I rounded up how our garden looked just at that point in time (I should really do that again…)
First step was to mark out exactly where I wanted the beds, after initially thinking I’d like just straight edges, Matt convinced me to go with the curves to add some interest. My main concern was having enough depth to have two or three plantings to really create that layered effect. Think dwarf lavender in the front, swathes of salvia in the middle and buddleja at the back on the fence.
Although we’ve had the plan to do these garden beds for literally years now, there’s really only a few weeks of the year in Autumn when it’s suitable to actually get it done: when the paddock around our house is being harvested, we have access to both the manitou and loads of top soil. Autumn is a great time to do any major changes like this in the garden – the soil is reasonably easy to dig, if you’ve had a sprinkling of rain since Summer, and if you’re planting trees or roses you can get them bare rooted to plant over Winter. As I’m planting mostly perennials I’m not sure if I will do all of the planting now, or wait until the harsh Winter frosts are behind us. This western side of the garden also cops a lot of wind, so I’ll be interested to see how this garden unfolds – it may be a fair bit of trial and error!
The area near the gate at the northern end of the garden bed (see above), we made that little bit wider, as we plan to plant three upright, weeping variety of silver birches. I’ve always wanted a group planting of silver birches somewhere in the garden, and when Matt’s jacaranda (attempt #4) died in this area of the garden last Winter, I seized the chance to get some prime garden real estate for my silver birches!
After Matt cut in a spade edge for the bed, and dumped top soil from the paddock over the fence (note the piles of spuds everywhere! I think we’ll be pulling out potato plants for awhile out of this bed…) we then set about spreading mulch. We have a ‘Mulch Mountain’ which we got from the tree lopping blokes who did the roads last year, a couple of slabs of beer and I got a couple of truck loads of mulch. Everyone’s a winner. Beer currency always wins. First though we wanted to put some newspaper down to suppress any weeds from coming up – we did the same along the driveway with our native garden. The problem being that this western side of the house/garden is windy at the best of times, and on the day we were trying to lie newspaper down it was blowing a gale. Not ideal. So instead, Matt got up at 6am or some ungodly hour and went out there to do it, when it was still and quiet – working away like the little worker bee he is, bless his cotton socks. We also got some big sheets of cardboard from the packing shed here on the farm, which work just as well as the newspaper and are quicker to lay, but as they’re so big they can be a bit unwieldy! One blew up in the wind and smacked me in the face, my glasses went flying and some choice words were grumbled.
Once all of the mulch had been dumped (rather unceremoniously) over the fence, and spread out over the garden beds – the only thing left to do is plant it out! The fun bit. It is quite the stretch of garden, and bigger can sometimes be daunting, but I have long been daydreaming about just what I would do with this fence line once we had a garden bed done, so that’s hardly a problem. I have a long list jotted down of plants which I’d like to put here, and despite Matt’s penchant for just ‘whacking’ things in willy-nilly with little regard to any formal planning, I am of the other school of thought. A ‘rambling’ country garden doesn’t actually just ‘ramble’ in my experience. The effortlessness of a cottage garden is actually quite premeditated. So, I am quite happy to sit back and ponder for awhile… (Whilst my husband has a conniption about bare patches and has no patience to let things fill out and grow!)
This has been a huge tick off the garden to-do list, one which has been there for the past…eight years. This year was the year though, I put it on top of my #emmas2018 list and was determined to get it done! A few solid days work and I am one happy little Emma. Over the past few years of either being heavily pregnant or with a crawling baby in Autumn, I’ve seen the window of opportunity to get this task done close and sighed a heavy sigh. No longer! Now my head is full of ideas of vebernum snowballs and echium spires and lambs ear ground covers and towering foxglove spikes in Summer. That is the stuff Mothers Day gifts are made of.
Huge props to my long-suffering husband. It’s quite the thing, to be gifted a 30m long garden bed – what a man! He suffers through my random demands for the garden and the house, even when I get so frustrated at him that he can’t see what I mean and throw a tape measure on the ground in a huff and storm off (I don’t know where Eleanor gets it from…) He’s a good egg, and my number one Manitou driver. Harriet, you’re a close second…