At the back end of 2017 we embarked on revamping our garden; well the truth is we drew up plans for the following spring. Approximately 100 feet by a 100 feet, with much to build upon at the back of our 60s semi. South facing, a working farm beyond the old stone wall our rear boundary. Fields beyond. Idyllic for a boy brung up in London’s East End.
The patio was relatively fine, the lawn, intact but tired. A wonderful lilac tree. But a shed that needed a little more than TLC; nails, hammer and a new roof the initial diagnosis. Fundamentally though the garden was sound and an exciting proposition.
Our desire: a blend of a Mediterranean Courtyard outside the ‘French’ doors, leading to a traditional country garden that will befit the Oxfordshire countryside backdrop…
…2018 dawns and we are eager to proceed. What hadn’t been factored in was the hottest summer since ’76 and ‘Saturday Night Fever’. Certainly not conducive to planting nor restoring a lawn. We were not alone in watching any green grass turning brown and then disappearing!
So, plans changed. First get the shed fixed or demolished. Then address structural matters that wouldn’t wilt, whilst awaiting the rain that was sure to materialise. Not…hardy plants struggling in the arid hot conditions. This first photo probably familiar to those on water meters.
With the shed saved and in pretty good order with its new roof covering we set about the slab of concrete, formerly to store oil on at the rear of the garden. This we wished to turn into a charming patio to catch the morning sun. A trip to Facebook’s Marketplace and we dug out some great terracotta tiles for a very good price. Strong adhesive coupled with ‘skilled’ tiling and the area was transformed. With the table and chairs acquired for a bargain from The Old Flight House, a bric-a-brac emporium with café, north of Weston on the Green and Bicester (www.theoldflighthouse.co.uk ), a couple of pots, lavenders round the edge, trellis and a window mirror a stylish cosy corner was created.
An essential purchase for the long hot summer was a proper charcoal bar-b; a £40 bargain from Tesco’s. A couple of crops did thrive in the heat; trailing tomatoes and chillies. As you will note the latter provided us with supplies through the winter and into the new year.
We desperately wanted to attack the lawn; well a mix of bare patches, moss (even without the rain) and weeds it didn’t resemble the outfield at Lord’s Cricket Ground! Whilst waiting we prepared a couple of beds. A strip of drought loving lavenders to one side and the start of a herbaceous border along the rear wall. In preparation of a window to start on the lawn we purchased the following from Amazon in anticipation:
– Canna Terra professional soil mix
– GBW premium grass seed; hard wearing, fast growing and suitable for the UK’s climate (?)
– Elixir Lawn sand (fine) with fertilizer and moss killer
We also scarified and made one attempt to aerate; a quickly abandoned initiative as this left an already disastrous plot looking like a harvested potato field.
Late September and a weather window appeared. Indian warmth and English rain; we put our trust in the weather ‘experts’. A mix of equal sand and soil along with seed at a 5:1 ratio. Spread by hand across the lawn and then fingers crossed left to the elements and large ‘keep off the grass’ signs from the local golf club!…We got lucky; early Autumn sun and precipitation. Here’s a photo from April ’19; impressed uh? As I said we got lucky.
Our first cut was in March, remaining virgin until then. Would it be patchy or lush? The latter! Level four on a light electric mower and not lowered since has maintained it despite the hottest day ever!
Spring and early summer of 2019 saw plenty of planting. We can give more information on this but believe that plants are very much a personal choice. Many thanks must be given to our local nursery where most of our plants come from – Bunkers Hill Garden Shop (https://bunkershillgardenshop.co.uk). We also had an irritating fence to put right (shouldn’t have been our responsibility). A couple of roses planted into the ground have proved disappointing as have a couple of ferns. Largely though successful.
With the summer moving on we have prepared a larger area for bulbs and are awaiting delivery. Plus, a couple of shrubs are on order (you can never have enough plants). Plans are now afoot for 2020.