I know you guys will have been itching to hear how work in the garden has progressed, considering Part 1 was posted a whole 3 months ago! To re-cap, we’d gone from a fairly open plan rubbish tip of a garden, to a larger, and flatter, field of mud during the first summer of living here;
When we moved in / Once we’d discovered the extent of the garden / End of Part 1
So, fun times up until then. We did lots of digging, lots of burning of stuff and lots of fencing!
In terms of where we’ve gone from here, it is miles better, but still not complete. Both of us loved the idea of pretty garden full of flowers, but in reality, we can’t seem to keep much alive…
Plants can be so pricey, and to fill a border is way out of budget at the moment, and definitely considered as ‘non essential’ in Husband’s book. Considering we know so little, and the combination we have of not a lot of sun and quite a clay type soil, the last thing we want to do is to spend hundreds on stuff that looks great for a week, then just peters out when it realises it doesn’t like where its been stuck.
So, instead, we have concentrated more on the landscaping side of things, so if we want to add more flora, we can, or when we move, the new owners don’t have to worry about the major stuff – they can just prettify the space to their liking. Last Summer, we got things where we wanted them.
We knew we wanted a patio at the end of the garden; as we’re East facing, this is where it’s sunniest for longest – on a good Summer day, we have sun on the patio until about 6pm which is lovely.
Burning my shins in some after-work sunshine a couple of weeks ago!…
I also wanted to keep things fairly simple and geometric, to fit with the aesthetic inside the house, but also because it’s not a huge space and we didn’t want to complicate things. We built a small wall out of wooden sleepers to divide the lawn area from the patio, and to create a visual break. I painted the side fences a light grey, and the bottom fence a mid Greek style blue, so it feels like an extension from our interior, which is mostly blues and greys through the kitchen and utility room. It makes the garden feel even longer, but wider too. I had also thought that a pretty climbing plant like a clematis or honeysuckle would look great up against a blue fence, but we’ve not got quite there yet… In the meantime, the contrast between the blue fence and the bright green of the railway bank behind is seriously stunning on a sunny day, and a bit later on in the year big swathes of little yellow flowers blossom all over the bank which is even more gorgeous. Apparently it’s a weed, but whatever!
With that decided, we concentrated on the main dirty work – the side return and patio slabbing.
We chose Cotswold Stone style slabs from B&Q, mostly because they were a lot cheaper than anything else we could find, and we weren’t too picky by this point! We bought them in packs which included a variety of big and small rectangles, and medium size squares. It was quite a pain to lay the slabs – we had the 4x4m patio at the bottom of the garden, the side return and round the back of the utility to slab, which in total was about 26 sq m. Here’s why;
Around the side return, we’d had the builders lay a foundation of hardcore – a compressed layer of rubble – when they came to finish off the damp treatment, after our mammoth digging efforts – see “DAMP is a 4 letter word” if you don’t know what I’m talking about! So they’d done the prep work for us in this part.
Could do with hiring a pressure washer this summer to get this looking a bit better…
However, when it came to the patio, and the slab laying, their quote was way out of our league, so it was down to us to do it ourselves. We had 2 tonne bags of hardcore tipped onto the road out front – again, cementing our position as everyone’s favourite neighbour! We managed to wheelbarrow this all through the house and onto the future-patio within an hour or two – with help from the Parents – and set about levelling it all off.
What took most of the time and energy was mixing the cement – by hand – as we decided to tackle all of this without a cement mixer (they’re pretty pricey to hire and we naively didn’t quite realise the size of the job ahead of us)! The tops of the slabs are wobbly too, to look natural I guess, but it caused some major headaches when trying to make sure the slabs sloped away and down from the house, to encourage the inevitable rainwater into the drain…
In total, it took most days off, and weekends, over a 4 month period to lay the slabs, do the pointing, and lay the path…
Once we’d finished, we had excellent arm muscle definition, but the quote we’d had didn’t seem too shocking anymore. Hindsight’s a funny thing.
We ran a path down the length of the garden, on the left hand side, joining the side return and back door area with the patio. To break up the look of all of the slabs, the majority of the path is lighter stone chippings, with slab stepping-stones, so it doesn’t look quite so formal. We also thought that should we be overcome with an Alan Titchmarsh style green-fingered passion, we could just shift some of the chippings out of the way to plant some plants down the edge of the path, rather than being stuck with having slabs right up to the fence.
For the moment at least, we just have a few pots with Lavender and Rosemary in, mostly due to our never-ending war on the felines of Cardiff after Husband read somewhere that cats don’t like the smell of them.
Still a few things to clear away off the patio, and the bbq needs a bit of attention!
The view out of the Utility Room window
In the corner of the garden closest to the utility room, is the shed. This corner gets the least sunshine, so we didn’t mid using up the space for storage. Now I will admit, the shed was a complete impulse buy, but I fell in love with it…mainly because it’s just so cute! It looks like a little beach hut, and we all know by now that I am a big fan of anything remotely to do with the seaside! Husband liked the idea of not having to paint it every year (it’s plastic) so I got my way!
Quite proud of how neat it looks!
We built a base for it from some of the old concrete slabs we found in the jungle part of the garden when we first moved in, and it turns out I’m a dab hand at brick and slab laying (seriously, I surprised even myself) so the shed proudly sits atop these, with a surround of the sleepers, to match the little wall at the far end of the lawn.
We also have the original stone walls of the house down the side return to the left and down the right hand side of the garden. They’re quite higgledy-piggledy, and you can tell they’ve been painted and left to peel a few times, but I think they add a bit of character and the moss, little succulents and weeds that grow on them are quite pretty!
To finish things off, we finally got round to laying the turf in October last year. I had a great tip from a keen gardener friend as to where to get the turf – a local company which has been awarded at Chelsea flower show!! – so arranged the delivery for a Saturday when I could rope in Dad and Sister as labourers in return for a Indian takeaway.
My Dad is a self-confessed lawn-obsessive, so I was pretty much doing what he told me. He said that Autumn is the best time to lay turf, so it has the wet winter to bed itself in, rather than laying it in the Summer, just for it to dry out and die before fully settling. Brilliant I thought. We’re good at wet Winters in Wales.
It wasn’t the most relaxing of weekends, so if you’re planning a weekend of turfing, here’s how not to do it;
- Husband decides to go out on Friday night. He returns at 4am and makes it very clear he is very drunk, so I move myself down to the sofa, which I am physically longer than, to try to get some sleep
- Don’t get sleep
- Wake up Saturday and it’s tipping it down
- Turf gets delivered at 8am on Saturday morning, and is unloaded onto the road at the front of our house. Really pissing people off by now, I’m sure
- Dad and Sister are travelling from London, so are still at least 2 hours away
- Within 5 mins of delivery, 2 dodgy looking blokes lurk around my turf
- I decide I’m not going to have some dodgy blokes nick my fancy new award-winning turf before I’ve even got to lay it down, so don some overalls and heff it all through the house. 15 sq m of turf. On my own. (Husband is still asleep). The rolls are as wide as our narrow, Victorian hallway is, and they are super heavy because they are wet
- Mud on walls
- Dad and Sister arrive and comment on how the weather isn’t great for turf laying
- Husband spends the entire day flopped on the sofa, threatening to puke at any minute (great when you have a puke-phobic Sister staying with you)
- Dad, Sister and I (now with a dodgy back thanks to the turf heffing) begin raking the soil to level and improve the quality of the topsoil, ready for the little turf roots
- After scuffing around soggy clay soil for a few hours, we decide it looks better and retreat inside, leaving the path, patio and side return covered in clomps of wet clay soil from our wellies
- Drink beer. Eat curry (a highlight!)
- Sunday begins and it’s not raining
- Husband is feeling better, so joins in for the glory job of laying the turf
- Turf is laid
- Go to the Carvery for Sunday lunch (another highlight!)
- Family leaves
- Monday comes, it doesn’t rain
- Tuesday comes, it doesn’t rain
- Wednesday comes, it doesn’t rain
- You get the idea…
- In absence of a hose, I kid you not, I used a jug from the kitchen to sprinkle water over the now yellowing turf
- This ridiculous sprinkling continues daily for a week, until Husband fits an outdoor tap/hose
It didn’t rain for 20 days after we laid the turf. In October. In Wales.
You couldn’t make this stuff up!
It doesn’t seem to have mattered too much though; the turf is going strong, a beautiful strong green colour (think Pantone’s colour of the year!) and growing way faster than we can keep up with…
Everyone loves a before and after!
Although I like to think the transformation has been pretty impressive, this is all fairly boring stuff, so I think I’ll do another post at some point about all the pretty stuff you can buy for your garden – We bought a bog standard table, chairs and parasol patio set from Tescos the other week, so I’ll have a chat about how to jazz it up a bit and get your slice of outdoors looking fab!
Happy gardening everyone and thank you for reading the longest post I have ever written!! I hope you found it helpful/amusing…