We finished the landscaping in early October 2018, then it was time to get gardening. Even before we started the hard landscaping project, we’d already undertaken some planting, moving the pear tree from the centre of the garden and planting it with four new apple trees close to the eastern fence. And, just after completing the landscape project, I’d planted some grasses and alliums around the new deck area and a few alpines in the rock garden to the front of the summerhouse, but there was much, much more to be done. It now was time to get serious with plants and achieve the vision I’d presented to Fiona in my original designs a couple of years previously.
At the start of the 2019 gardening year, we trawled internet sites, visited garden centres and put together a shopping list of new plants for the garden and, by late April, they were in the ground. After that, we thought all we had to do was wait for nature to take its course. In the coming months, we continued to top up the garden with new plants, but by and large, we thought the main work was over. We were wrong.
At the end of the year, we suspected we might have to rethink the planting scheme. Some of the plants were doing well, but others looked very unhappy. The plants that we’d hoped would grow to fill the garden had yet to do so and there were still large expanses of rock, soil and shingle far too visible. We hoped that this was a result of us undertaking the planting late(ish) in the year and that the plants would flourish the following season, having had time to establish. So we thought we’d wait to see what would happen.
Indeed, in early 2020, things looked hopeful. The fruit trees had blossomed profusely, the border plants were growing strongly, the bog garden was blooming and the alpines in front of the summerhouse were spreading quickly. Then spring faltered, rain ceased and we had a long, hot dry spell (oh, and Covid-19 too). Flowers shrivelled, later flowering plants didn’t get properly started and much of what was once green started turning brown. By the end of summer, our suspicions had been confirmed, our planting ideas had not worked out. Plus, we still had to do something with the area to the east of the pond, which continued to remain a large expanse of shingle, with some unhappy looking apple trees sticking out of it. The gallery below tells the story.
Our attempt at planting had started optimistically enough, but it had ended not so well. And we still hadn’t sorted the problem areas – where the fruit trees were planted and an area of largely bare soil under the birch tree. The garden wasn’t all bad, but there were far too few nice parts and too many plants that did not look happy at all. After a year and a half of endeavour, we felt we had to go back to the drawing board and rethink our planting plans. But what were we to do? We were stumped, so we decided to call in the professionals.
On the recommendation of friends, we contacted a local garden designer, Sarah Morgan (The Garden Creative) and asked her for help. Sarah quickly understood our intentions – to create a drought-tolerant garden that provides interest all year – and she produced a detailed planting plan, that took into account the challenging conditions in our garden (heavy clay soil, beds shaded by neighbours trees, early morning bright spots etc). Sarah took great pains to ensure that we got the right plants, in particular taking time to find exactly the trees we wanted – and keeping us well-informed during the whole process.
Sarah also recommended we got a tree surgeon for the birch tree, as it needed thinning out and re-shaping, allowing more light and air beneath it for the plants that were to go there.
In October 2020 we had a visit from the tree surgeon, sorting the birch tree and getting the garden ready for Sarah and her team to do the soil preparation and planting. The new plants started arriving at the end of November and the main body of the planting project was completed in the first week of December 2020, with some remaining work to be finished early in 2021. A few of the plants we’d put in were retained and the healthy plants that weren’t part of the new plan (including the fruit trees), were removed to a community garden and a friends’ allotment – very little went to waste.
With the new plants in place, it was a matter of watering, watching and waiting and this time around, we were prepared – we had Sarah’s plant care guide to follow.
Here’s year one of our new garden …
What a transformation, if only we’d got an expert in earlier. We could have saved many trips to garden centres, hours of toil and quite a lot of money – not to mention all the poor plants that didn’t survive – and we could have been enjoying the garden a lot sooner. Using a professional garden designer does cost more than us doing the work, but not a lot more, given the amount of time, money and effort we’d already spent and the results speak for themselves.
Many thanks to Sarah and her team, we’re grateful for all their hard work and we’re delighted with the results.
The new garden is now in its second year and it’s looking splendid. New photos of the garden will be added here in due course…