It’s amazing how six and a half month’s neglect over winter can turn a garden into a wasteland. Today was the first sunny day that I’ve been able to get out there and I was, frankly, appalled and ashamed.
I spent a good couple of hours with a yard broom sweeping up the leaf mould and general tree-related detritus from the massive ash that overlooks the space. Then I hosed down all the garden furniture and stripped off all the covers from the garden cushions and washed them, whilst leaving the cushions to bleach in the sun.
Now I’ve just got to work out what I’m going to do with the space – last summer I was still settling into the house so I wasn’t focussed on much beyond a table and chairs, and it was far too late to sow any seeds or vegetables.
Above: the outdoor cooking area
This was created by the previous tenants and I just ignored it last summer in favour of getting an outdoor working and eating space ready. Now I’ve got time to prep it before the heat hits and I really can’t decide what I’d like. I’m lucky that space isn’t a problem, but I can’t decide whether I want a gas unit, like this Weber, or something fun like an outdoor pizza oven – Argos sell one here. Or just an old school charcoal set up like this…
Or a grilling fire pit for toasting marshmallows…Argos again.
The internet is a very beguiling place. Even Marks & Spencer’s have got in on the act this summer with an entire new outdoor cooking selection.
That was a really lovely, flourishing box hedge. Then, over a single weekend last August, bastard Box Moth caterpillars ate their way through the entire thing. I thought I must be imagining things until I saw the telltale webs. Little f*ckers.
So the dead box is all coming out. The old vegetable bed (above) is being cleared, we’re going to transplant the Japanese Maple in the far corner, which is all leggy and desperately needs a prune, into another bed, and I’m going to put in two raised beds over the old soil, because I suspect that every cat in north London has been poo-ing in there.
The raised beds will be filled with lovely fresh compost. I was going to have one big square bed until I realised that I’d need to access the produce I’m intending to grow without compacting the soil with my big feet. These rectangular ones from B&Q look perfect – I rent so I’m not looking for anything too fancy. (Otherwise I’d go down the railway sleeper route with these ones from Homebase.)
There will be one bed for cutting flowers, and one for vegetables – I fancy runner beans and courgettes. I think I’m also going to net the whole thing to stop squirrels and pigeons banqueting, and to avoid the local cats turning it into a feline toilet.
Once we’ve got rid of all the dandelions and their pesky feet long tap roots, I’m going to plant Heartsease and thyme in the cracks between the flagstones. I particularly love the smell of thyme crushed under bare feet on long hot summer days.
(My windowsills have both shade and light so that’s where my culinary herbs are going – I can fling up the sash window in the kitchen and cut herbs when I need them. I’m tempted to do a whole window box of Heartsease to use as edible flowers too.)
This is the back raised patio area. It needs a good weed, and the ivy stripping off the back wall. In a perfect world I’d paint the wall white and project movies or Wimbledon onto it. But I suspect that probably will not happen as I’ve just seen how much a projector costs. I’ll probably just put a wooden table and chairs up there instead.
This side bed is in near complete shade all day. I think I might just plant hellebores in there.
This bed on the opposite gets lots of lovely sun all day until 4pm, so we’re going to dig it over, and refresh the soil with compost. There’s nothing in it at present bar weeds and three rose bushes. Because there is no edging to the bed, I’m thinking lovely lime green Alchemilla Mollis all along the front which will hopefully rampantly seed itself everywhere. It’s also wonderful for cutting too. A bushy Thyme would be good here too.
I’d like silvery-grey Lamb’s Ears too because they provide an excellent weed-suppressing carpet for much of the year and can cope with sun, drought and basic neglect. As always, I’m also looking covetously at the David Austin catalogue. I fell in love with the heavily-fragranced Desdemona rose last summer so one of those might go in there too.
So that the garden smells heavenly at night I’m planning on adding in Nicotiana (Lime Green and Grandiflora), Phlox (Rembrandt) and Night-Scented Stocks (Matthiola longipetala). A honeysuckle would be wonderful too along the back trellis by the vegetable beds.
This lounger is hands down the best thing I bought last year. Okay – maybe it’s level pegging with my grey velvet sofa. (You may remember my writing about my long hunt for the perfect double chaise/sunlounger which, until I found this, didn’t seem to exist.)
Anyway, it’s weathered the winter immaculately – it literally looks as good as new. Most impressively, I’m afraid I left the cushions out ALL winter with just a plastic cloth covering them and I was fully prepared for mildew city. I was astonished to discover not a single mark on the covers, and that the foam pads inside were pristine. Whatever water repellent is on them works like a dream. I’ve just popped them in the washing machine and they look brand new.
They’ve gone up a couple of quid since last year – the double chaise and two pale grey water repellent cushions is £124.
The other thing that has over-wintered way better than expected is the John Lewis Croft Collection Islay bench (below and at the very top image) which my mother gave me as a house-warming present. It was fairly exposed to the elements for the past six months and, again, looks as good as new.
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