Thursday, 11 May 2017

State of change

Things have been somewhat quiet, blog wise for the past year.
However, beyond the virtual world it has been anything but.

My own patch has been cultivated by me for coming up on ten summers, over that time it has gone through a few changes in look but the exotic style was always the general theme.
We were never meant to be there as long as we were, it was to be a stopgap, but with one thing and another it ended up being a more long term (but very happy) home.

We'd outgrown what we had though, both with the house and garden and wanted desperately to have more scope, more space, and more light both inside and out.

Around September  2016 we managed to buy a new house, with a moderately larger garden. It's south facing (those are magic words to us plant geeks) and with little in the way of existing planting, pretty much a blank canvas.

Many of the pictures are, I'm afraid, not great. But most were taken quickly, mid work, as a visual documentation of what I was at, so aesthetics were a second thought.

So we went from this, enclosed sheltered garden:

To one that's much more open, very exposed in fact, with the cold continental winds of wibter blowing from the east are  able to rush over the low fence to the left and buffet anything  growing here.
There's four shaggy Leyland in marching down the edge, looking like a row of green Cousin Itt clones....They're taking up quite a bit of ground space.
These pervious owners liked building things with wood, sheds, three of them. Decks, two of them, one beside the other and a half finished seating area.
All must go.

Come late November we had our hands on the keys and so I was able to start the process of moving plants. 
You see, we didn't move far, literally around the corner from the old place. So I was able to, with help, dig up an entire garden and, using a trusty wheelbarrow, shift everything from one property to the other. 

Size was to be no object, so 25ft tall Borindas were dug.

Some were split, using that trusty garden tools, the saw.

What what little daylight hours there were at that dark time of year were consumed with digging and barrowing. 

At the same time I also had to start deconstruction of many structures in the new place. Those wooden decks were the first to fall foul of my clear out.

First one, then the other, I did mention that they liked decks didn't I??

One down, another to go. A sledge hammer, chainsaw and electric screwdriver all payed their part in removal.

Himself, always ready to lend a hand, surveys the ongoing work.

A few of the larger plants were heeled in to allow time. Time to look, to watch, to think where they should be placed.
Normally when starting a garden you get the design right then consider what plants you're going to use, but I was in a different position. Building a garden around loved plants that I'd had for many years, everything starts from that point and grows from there.

Leylandii were the first  plant casualties of the cull. Two came down and immediately the sense of increased light and air could be felt.

Those two wooden decks gone and some existing planting chopped, I then turned my attention to a large job that I had been avoiding, the shed. It was enormous and had been built on site. Everything was screwed to everything else. It was a tornado proof structure, apart from some rot setting in at the base.
Despite being a lengthy and involved process it felt cathartic when the roof finally came down.
After the clear up of debris, I could step back and really gain a sense of how much horizontal and vertical space had been lost by the presence of this wooden behemoth.

It was a good feeling.

The space behind a shed is apparently also useful place for hiding all manner of junk....Tyres, rusted broken office chairs, plastic, pieces of wood and metal....a seemingly endless list of treasures were uncovered.

The soil, that poor, poor soil was in a sad state. Compacted, airless, stale. It needed help. 
I imported as much horse manure as I could get my hands on and dug it in...but it wasn't enough. Then I discovered my local authority were giving away free compost. We have recycling bins that can take all forms of organic waste, both from the garden and also food waste. I collected as much as they were willing to give me, it was awesome stuff, dark and smelled earthy. This was also incorporated. The soil literally swallowed any organic matter thrown at it, seeming to almost dissappear, but anything dug in will help. The whole time I was working I didn't come across a single earthworm, the soil was so inhospitable, but now, it should be much more to their taste.
I'm looking forward to seeing them arrive and work their magic.

As I dug closer to the house the amount of archaeological items I found increased greatly, plastic, blocks and bricks, lumps of concrete, it was all hidden down there and made spade work a real pleasure. Not.

This lot was unearthed from about 1.5meters square.

As the soil appears to be quite heavy clay prone to wetness in winter I decided to create rated planting beds, the idea being that the improved conditions would encourage a healthy aerated root zone but with access to damper conditions underneath for those plants whose roots wish to delve into the depths.

Numerous trips to collect rocks were made (and continue) to pick stone of the right shape and varying sizes to build edging that would form the raised beds. 
In Ireland, as in many rocky parts of the world, stone walls built from rock collected from the fields feature strongly. They enclose fields and homesteads, containing or excluding livestock. Making use of what's available locally, using a waste item to create something useful. 
I wanted to reflect this tradition.

Building walls continues apace, I build a section, finding the correct sized and shaped piece of rock, turning, rotating and substituting one for another until a strong and well interconnected structure is formed.
It's necessary to stand back, assess what you've completed, view from different angles until you're happy with the overall look.
If chosen well, the rocks will lock together and form a stable wall.

I'm almost at the exciting stage where planting can begin in ernest, but I want to enjoy the whole process. I'm not rushing, it has to be right.