A Garden from (almost) scatch
As I told you in my intro. we inherited a Leylandi hedge when we moved into our house about 5 years ago. Now if there is one plant I cannot tolerate in a small garden it is a monster, and in my view Leylandi are monsters. My garden is not small, as in the pocket handkerchief size that comes with most modern Barratt type houses, but it’s not the rolling acres size either. Our little plot is approximatey 50m long X 25m wide, with an extension up to house about 7m wide X 20m long.
Most of the large end of the garden was laid down to lawn (or rather moss and clover) with an established conifer bed on the right, a beautiful Taxus baccata (yew) in the far right corner. In between, down the right hand side of the ‘lawn’ was an ‘extensive’ herbacious bed all of 12 inches wide and 30 m long. It’s one saving grace was a mature Ceanothus, the type with the striking bright blue flowers not the boring dull grey blue dust trap.
At the far end of the garden the original owner (the house was built in 1973) had dug a pond and (horror of horrors) had piled the sub soil on top of the existing top soil to form a raised bank at the back and sides of the pond. The pond is concrete, so options are limited. Then, all the way down the left hand side of the garden, 55 meters of it, was the Leylandi hedge. When we arrived it was about 30 feet high and 3 m wide at the base. The soil was so dry and impoverished over a further 5m that even clover and moss would not grow and the grass was fighting a losing battle.
We moved in in November 2002. For 3 years we debated what to do about it. We fed the lawn; we aerated the lawn and raked in grit and potting compost; we re-seeded the lawn. We lopped about 20 feet off the top of the Leylandi. It still took 2 days to trim it three times a year to keep it under control and produced enough trimmings to require 3 trips to the tip in the family car.
We considered cutting them down and erecting a fence on the boundary. But neither of us wanted acres of bare fencing while the plants were establishing, only to be knocked back every couple of years when we painted the fence with preservative. We didn’t really want to remove the hedge because there was so many wild birds in it.
So my dear wife Zina came up with the idea of cutting off the green bits, adding a bit of trellis between the now dead tree trunks and growing a green fence with all the climbers we liked.
So in the summer of 2006 we took the chainsaw to the Leylandi and gave them a short back and sides. I then constructed a trellis with about 600 feet of roofing laths. We burnt all the brash on site and added the ashes to the farmyard manure. In the autumn of 2006 we traced out a new mixed bed in front of our stark new ‘fence’. The soil was so compacted, impoverished and dry it almost needed a road breaker to turn it over. And I double dug it and added umpteen barrow loads of farmyard manure that had been festering away for a year at the bottom of the garden.
Late last autumn we started to plant.
I had fortuitously bought most of the stock from a small nursery from a neighbour, who was liquidating the assets of a deceased reative, for the princley sum of £25. Most of the plants were conifers (NOT Leylandi) and many were infested with vine weevil.
I spent a really filthy week washing all the old compost from the plants, disinfecting the roots with a pesticide for vine weevil, and repotting in new compost, in summer of 2005.
But it paid dividends. When we started planting we had very few other plants to purchase, so I was able to concentrate on buying prime specimen plants. Must not forget the soil. We live on land in the East/North East Derbyshire coal measures. The soil pH is fairly even over the site at about 6.5. So we are slightly acidic. The land was formerly farm land, the home farm paddock judging by the deed plans, so we have a deep silty, loamy soil, over a reddish yellow clay. Depth of topsoil ranges from 200 to 500mm. So it’s great stuff to grow carrots on.
In the bulk lot I had a beautiful Hibiscus syriacus “Diane”, an Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’ , an Aucuba japonica ‘Marbled White’, several Lonicera, several Magnolia, several each of Berberis, Pyracantha, Vitis, Euonymous, Elaeagnus, Cotoneaster, Forsythia, Cornus, Parthenocissus, and more.
I bought a Ribes odoratum, Arbutus unedo, Drymis winteri, several Clematis and lots of narcisus bulbs.
Planting went on until first frost last winter and I started again early March this year.
That’s the background of what’s gone on to date. In future blogs I’ll keep updating how things progress.
- 30 Nov, 2007
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