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  • emmahealey

How it began

When I moved here I inherited a garden that had once been loved, but the owners between that time and my arrival were clearly not keen gardeners. I watched for a year to see what appeared and what I could save. The most successful plants, it turned out, were and still are the dreaded ground elder and bindweed!

In the time before I had the faintest idea about how to design a garden I knew I wanted a big pond, deep enough at one end not to freeze in winter and with a shallow area for birds and small mammals to access. In came a mini digger and a roughly 5 x 5m pond dug, lined and filled. The stonework around the edge was done by Adrian Blant of AJB Stonecraft with stone sourced from the garden. He made a bench out of an old stone gate post, which is a surprisingly comfortable place to sit with a cup of tea. Works were overseen by Lottie.

Paths edged with stone lead to the terrace, conservatory door and to the front of the house, creating roughly triangular beds. From the upstairs window the effect is like a child's drawing of the sun!

I am amazed how quickly a pond attracts wildlife. How do all those creatures know to come? I now have families of frogs, toads and newts using the nooks and crannies in and around the pond. Water snails munch algae and in the depths are larvae of many insects including dragonfly and damselfly.

Below the pond I've created an orchard with apples, plums, gages and quince. On the house wall are pears, one espalier, one fan. A cherry sits in a sunny spot near the house. I was able to retain one of the original apple trees. It produced small, diseased fruit so I employed the tactic used by my Dad and pruned it back very hard. This year it has produced an abundant harvest of clean, good sized, rosy red apples.

I enthusiastically filled the two triangular borders with roses, peonies, astrantia and geraniums as these were the plants I already had! The peonies love the south facing aspect and flower abundantly. For a couple of years I managed to keep up with maintaining the status quo in the orchard area by trimming the grass, and the triangle beds remained largely weed free.

Then disaster struck. I badly injured my left hand which required several visits to James Cook hospital including stitching back together in theatre. I was unable to use it with any effect all summer. The weeds took full advantage of both my predicament and the warm, wet weather. The oxeye daisies that were part of the orchard meadow happily self seeded and have become weeds as well! So I have an uphill task of once again rescuing my garden from neglect. To help me on my way and keep track of progress I have decided to write about my journey. If it helps anyone in a similar situation that would be fantastic. It's disheartening to watch how fast the weeds take over and to wonder if you will ever create the garden of your dreams.

I took the opportunity to have a proper think about what I want from my garden and how I want it to work. I will be using my design training to draw myself up a plan so I have a route map of where the whole garden is going. I can then implement this in stages as I have time and can afford to. This is a great option if you are having your garden designed or are designing your own.

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