New Beginnings – Part III

So much to be done in the new garden I’m giddy not knowing where to start. Decisions made, I contact the landscaper to ask for the build of the new garden to be rescheduled. Whilst I’m obviously keen to keep the existing design and build the garden as a lasting tribute to our lovely friends, I’ll make the planting areas slightly bigger. Further, around the side of the house, the existing plastic tool shed will be removed and replaced by a bespoke compost area (the lifeblood of any garden) and in front of the existing wooden potting shed, a brick-based, Victorian greenhouse set towards the back of another circular lawn.

Before that, though, the existing shrubs around the garden need some work. Many have been allowed to wander and intertwine, to block vistas and shroud the borrowed landscape beyond. The stunning, columnar bell tower of nearby St Stephen’s church masked by fingers of excitable conifer. And some overgrown, gnarled and woody shrubs, devoid of foliage which have long since passed their ‘sell by’ date will need to be removed. We use a local tree surgeon when we have clients whose needs are bigger than the support we are safely and effectively able to provide. A site visit and in-depth discussion with Jim culminating in a date and plan of attack. We will remove and cut back as much as we are able to ahead of their visit, with the resulting prunings and shrub corpses to be shredded and taken away by them in mid-October.
It’s late September and with a battle-plan drawn up, we take to wrestling the overgrown Fuchsia magellanica shrubs at the front side of the house. These neglected, sorry specimens line the right hand boundary in a small area approximately four metres by two metres where our waste disposal bins are housed on a hard standing. Regular trips to and from the bins require careful negotiation between refuse bins and the twisted fingers of fuchsia that pull and pick at clothing and bare arms. Within an hour the fuschias are no more. Top growth and root balls consigned to the newly established holding area in a shady corner of the back garden. Within the morning, a tall, bulky conifer and another spindly fuchsia are removed.
Adrenaline and excitement pumping, we head eagerly, tools in hand, into the back garden. The freshly, flattened, front side border continues, albeit over a brick and fence partition. Further fuschias, a near petrified Viburnum and several hebes join the skeletal and tortured remains in the holding area.
The removal of perhaps a dozen or so shrubs around the house has made an immediate impact. Less cluttered, and the line of shrubs like soldiers on parade, that I detest, is broken and less regimented. But, every silver lining has a cloud, and this particular cloud is the exposure of the faded, silvery, bleached larchlap fences that sit atop a ten course brick wall around the west and south borders of the back garden. I’ve already decided that the garden at High Haven will not be a replication of our previous garden. It needs to be different; it needs to reflect all of the lessons I’ve learnt in the last twenty years; it needs to accommodate a revised palette of plants and shrubs; it needs to be more dynamic with slightly less maintenance needs. And so, whilst the fences will not be a feature of the garden, they will, in places form the backdrop to the planting garden. And with a palette of silver, purple, blues and pinks, sprinkled with a dusting of white, we decide upon a mid-grey to adorn the fences.


From October until December I paint twenty three fence panels, twice. The paint sucked up immediately by the dry, thirsty timbers.

And then, after a brief phone call to the landscaper, I’m advised that the garden build has been scheduled to begin 15 January. Damien and Lukas arrive, early on a mild, cloudy Monday morning.

Author: Mike the Gardener

Freelance gardening writer, consultant and designer. Mike Palmer is a passionate and professional plantsman, offering services in garden writing, consultancy and garden design. Mike is also available for garden and plant related talks and presentations. Mike has been a professional horticulturalist for over fifteen years.

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