Tuesday, 31 August 2010

DIY garden design

August. A time to take a slower pace in life after a rather hectic period doing two RHS shows this year - Chelsea and Hampton Court. A delight to be awarded a Silver and Silver-Gilt medal and, for Hampton Court, the honour of People's Choice Award for Best Show Garden.

My own garden in Cambridgeshire, two thirds of an acre set in heavy gault clay amidst rolling fields, has been well attended in my absence whilst I have been ensconced in London and Surrey during key gardening periods. I took on a gardener, Frank, in April and he has risen to the challenge of helping tame years of well not quite neglect, but probably a time of 'under nourishment' in some areas of the garden.

August has also signified major changes in my life. Apart from my RHS show garden achievements, my personal life has been momentous, too. My son was 21 in June and now has left home (officially!) my daughter was 18 at the end of August and week before this she had achieved the A level results she needed to get into University so in less than four weeks time, I will be faced with an empty nest. In addition, my husband, who suffers from debilitating depression (the last four years have been pretty challenging for both of us) at last seems to have turned a corner thanks to medication and some final ultimations.

It took two hours to remove this old laurel stump
A period of change embraces the chance to mould house, garden and life in general into new horizons. As well as plans inside the house, the garden will also metamorphose into a new plot, shaking off it's well redundant football 'pitch' and the leftover remains of borders implemented by a long gone previous owner. Trees and shrubs have outgrown their needs and there is an overwhelming feeling of wanting to open the garden up. Enough of these garden rooms and enclosed spaces! Its time for the light to flood into the dark corners, to allow the mossy lawn to grow again and have wildflowers. Its time to bring some colour into this delightful space - my garden.

My husband's renewed interest in life extends to the garden and he has been enthusiastic in his work here where, no doubt, the healing properties of gardening are providing great therapy. Together with Frank, old borders of shrubs are gradually dissolving into clear spaces providing a blank canvass for me to plan their replacements. At the weekend, three huge old laurel bushes were removed - it took Frank nearly two hours to take out one stump - and now I can sit in my office and see up to the end of the garden. In my head ideas for new planting are emerging: grasses, colourful tall perennials and my favourite Hydrangea paniculata will make a bold and striking internal 'screen' to our neighbours but not exclude the wonderful views surrounding the garden.