09 August 2010

Creating a new garden from scratch & enjoying it!

Hardy Annual Seeds for a 'quick fix'
At the beginning of June when our children began their summer holidays, I made the decision that I wasn't going to work as hard during their eight week break as I had over the previous couple of summers.

When you're self employed, and particularly when you're starting up, it's very easy to work ridiculously unsociable hours, sometimes up to 100 hours a week, which can put huge pressures on all the family.  The plan therefore was to take some time off and enjoy my family, and so far we're all loving and benefiting from it!

Despite the longer days, there never seems to be enough hours in the summertime, and however hard we work there's always a job list.  Whether it's the daily chores that quickly mount up if they're left for more than a couple of days, or something more satisfying (for me anyway) such as harvesting all the herbs and veg that we've been growing, it's a never ending list.

'Go away, this is MY job!'
We've spent the last eight years renovating our old farmhouse and for seven of those I yearned for an 'ornamental' garden (by ornamental I mean a garden with pretty flowers and not just veg).  We kept putting it off because of the regular piles of earth, rubble and diggers coming in an out of the yard.  Last year however, we took the plunge and made a start on the 'floral' garden.

We started by taking measurements of the available space and transferring those to graph paper.  From there we sketched shapes and sizes, taking into account all of our family needs.  We came up with quite a grand design with squares and circles, water and colours and have transferred those thoughts to our 'master plan to be worked on over the years' pile.  So to begin with, we concentrated our efforts to the parking area, lawn and the first of the flower beds.

Starting a garden from scratch can be a very expensive business, so here's a few ideas that worked for us on creating a garden on a budget: 
  • Sow some of the 'easier' plants from seed into small pots such as lupins, poppies, perennial cornflower and transplant when they're bigger.
  • Keep an eye out for small bargain shrubs from shops such as Aldi or Lidl.  As soon as they arrive home transfer them to fresh containers of compost until you're ready to plant them.
  • Look out for the 'bargain' trolleys at the garden centres.  In the winter time herbaceous perennials are often sold cheaply as all  that can be seen in their containers is soil.  We picked up lots of great plants this way, including Scabious, Salvia, Astilbe, Coreopsis, Crocosmia, Aquilegia and a beautiful Sedum 'Blue Emperor', all for just €2 each. 
  • Where there are large gaps of soil consider buying packets of hardy annuals and sow them directly where they're to grow.
  • Pick up bulbs when they're on offer, checking first that they're undamaged and firm.
  • If you have a favourite shrub or tree that you'd like to grow in your garden, be prepared to pay a little extra and buy a larger, more established one from a reputable garden centre.
  • Gratefully accept gifts of plants or cuttings whenever they're offered!
  • Learn to propagate your own plants (if you're not sure how buy a good book such as the Readers Digest Plant Propagator's Bible to learn how) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Plant-Propagators-Bible-Readers-Digest/dp/0276442075/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281365593&sr=8-4 
Gardening is an ongoing project that never ends.

(Lupins grown from seed)
We're going to have to move a lot of plants around in the autumn time as they grow bigger and start to compete for space.  We'll also have a better idea of shapes and colours as the plants mature and we'll be able to work out which plants complement each other and their surroundings too.

So what does our new garden mean to us, apart from more jobs on the 'to do' list (mulching with wood chip bark has helped to keep the weeds down)?

I can't answer for my hubby, but for myself I always smile when I come home now.

Honeysuckle & Herbs
I feel a sense of tranquility as I walk around the garden looking at the colours, movement and sound of the shrubs and flowers, and the insects around them.  The different perfumes too can become an aromatic treasure hunt as we try and figure out which plant is giving off which smell.  

I love being able to explain the life cycles of, say, the lupins or the candytuft to my 9 year old daughter and watch as she collects, saves and sows her own seeds.

And lastly, I love being able to sit somewhere 'pretty' on my own for a couple of minutes with a mug of tea on a sunny day, close my eyes for a second and take in everything nature has to offer (and hopefully not open them to find a bug swimming around in the liquid!)


  1. You are creating such a beautiful flower garden, how very nice to have something like that to come home and relax in. Your lupins are amazing.

  2. Thanks Mr H! I grew the Lupins from seed and then forgot about the modules that were tucked away on the patio. I found them again last spring, stuck them into the ground to see what would happen and hey presto! Beutiful display this year..... hopefully we'll get a repeat next year.

  3. love the plantings, very cottagey, very me!



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