My first gardening blog
Having pondered on whether or not to get involved in blogging, I’ve decided to give it a go. My real concern with blogging is finding a topic to blog about. After all, a blog about the blogger has a limited appeal. So, the garden seems like a really good topic to cover in a blog.
I’m not a highly informed verging on professional gardener who knows all about soil characteristics, types of fertilizer, pruning regimes, and so on. I’m just a potterer who enjoys trying to translate some incompletely formed ideas about what I would like the garden to look like into tangible form, and learning quite a lot of things not only about gardening, but about Life in General along the way.
The context: we live in a small terrace house in the side of Gravel Hill in Henley-on-Thames which, as its name indicates is in a river valley. We are on the west side of the valley, and our house faces east west, with the garden at the rear, so it receives morning sunshine. The housing estate in which we live was built in the early 1970s on the site of Paradise House, a Georgian mansion of no great architectural merit, but possessing grounds planted with specimen trees, most of which were preserved in the transition to a small housing estate consisting predominantly of terraced houses in a curious melange of suburban ‘Georgian’ and sort of modern styles.
Our terrace of four dwellings is in the middle of the estate (or ‘Close’ to be precise since the estate is a cul de sac so there is no thru traffic). The gardens are roughly 60 feet by 20 feet, and those larger gardens at each end of the terrace contain one of the specimen trees, a pink horse chestnut in the southern one, and a huge copper beech in the northern one. These, and other remaining old trees (they will all be around 200 years old) provide a feeling of maturity to an otherwise characterless housing development.
However, for gardeners, these trees are a mixed blessing. Large trees provide shade ( potentially, an excess of it) and they are water and nutrient hungry. So, gardening in their proximity is a bit of a challenge.
When the estate came onto the market, a number of the original owners (of whom there are about two remaining, one being one of our neighbours) were retiring professionals. And some of these were very keen and knowledgeable gardeners. So, when we moved in here nine years ago, we inherited some mature planting, some of which was either straggly and unkempt, or had really reached the end of its life cycle. Among these was a fine tree peony, of which more another time.
The gardens are fenced, and down the northern fence, there has evolved a miscellaneous mixture of shrubs and ivy (of which more another time, too). The northern side is south facing, and so it’s the only part of the garden which stands much chance of receiving sunshine. It’s also in the lee of the copper beach. The southern side is north facing, so represents a challenge since anything planted there will have to survive on a limited sunshine diet. Again, a gardening challenge.
The middle section is lawn. As I’m not a lawn enthusiast (except when other people are responsible for its upkeep!), this has been left pretty much to look after itself. This is in contrast to the approach of our neighbours. Our northern neighbour, Patrick, has the responsibility for maintaining the protected beech tree. But this same tree means that achieving a thriving lawn is pretty well impossible. Our immediate southern neighbour, Pamela, although quite a keen gardener, had her plot paved over, with space for a pool and a south facing border. So, she is lawnless. Finally. Rumen, the guardian of the pink horse chestnut (‘One of the reasons we bought the house’, he says) is a lawn enthusiast, and has just had a new lawn laid to replace its moss ridden predecessor.
So, that’s the context. More to follow in subsequent blogs
- 10 Jun, 2010
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