Creating the Cottage Garden

I remember the first time I walked through what would become the Cottage Garden on a bleak January afternoon. It was hard to get a sense of the gardens size. Overgrown with shrubs and trees and split over two terraces, access to parts of the garden had become almost impossible. I remember spending a morning wrestling a huge box privet shrub to access the upper terrace, at the centre of which was an ugly concrete block compost bin and a small dilapidated greenhouse.

Over the past three years, we’ve slowly cleared out trees and shrubs that were either dead or in the way. The greenhouse was beyond repair and was removed. Despite being desperate to start the landscaping, it was pointless until a large chunk of the garden was removed to make way for an extension to our house.

The 1/4 acre garden at the back of the house was dark, overgrown and had a dilapidated greenhouse at its centre
Autumn 2017
We started to clear the garden before a large chunk was removed, making space for an extension to the house
May 2019
Creating new beds and borders, but building works meant there wasn’t much left of the lawn.
March 2020
The ‘view’ up to the first garden terrace from the house shows just how overgrown it was
Starting to clear the lower garden terrace in summer 2019 to make it possible for the diggers to access the section of garden that needed to be removed for the extension.
The section of garden to be removed. Most of the plants were re-located elsewhere
August 2019 the diggers arrive
Removing a 4m x 10m chunk out of the garden
August 2019
The large hole that was once part of the lower garden terrace
The garden looking almost unrecognizable after the digger had done its work
The lower terrace of what was to become the Cottage Garden was looking worse than anticipated

The plan for new flower garden was to keep an island that would sit between the lower and upper lawn terrace. A copper beech, several camellias and rhododendrons, and two rather lovely acers would remain in the island, and would be joined by lush leafy planting reminiscent of SE Asia. New borders that incorporate an existing apple and magnolia tree would be dug around three sides of the garden.

A plan of where the beds will go, drawn with the children’s crayons!
Designing the garden boarders with bamboo
An island bed consisting of several acers, camellias and rhododendrons.
March 2020
The new beds are dug with plenty of mushroom compost
March 2020
Looking towards the south of the garden after the new beds are dug
March 2020
We planted a few new plants in autumn 2019 to provide some colour while developing the garden
The grass border. Planted in autumn 2019, photographed in early April 2020

Digging the new beds started during the Coronavirus lockdown which gave a great sense of purpose and distraction. That being said, it was still tough work. The beds to the southern end of the garden first needed turf removing before digging the soil with a ton of mushroom compost. If I’d have had access to a rotavator I’d have used one!

The beds at the north end of the garden were covered in sub-soil left there by the diggers who excavated our foundations. It’s heavy clay and mud stone (slate like mud) which when the sun dries it, turns as hard as concrete. It’s been dug, top soil added, dug again, mushroom compost worked in. When plants are added there will be a good helping of compost going in too. It’ll take a few years of work and conditioning to get these beds up to a decent standard. In the mean time I’ve planted lots of shrub roses which like the clay. There will also be plenty of plants which tolerate or appreciate poor soil.

The garden in summer 2020. Grass seed has finally taken and the plants are beginning to get established
Lots of colour from the cottage garden plants

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