The Garden Build

It’s Monday morning and Damien and Lukas arrive early with the boss, James, who is already familiar with my design for the garden having quoted for it last year after Brian passed away. Together, we walk around the garden, consulting and discussing the intricacies of the design. And so work begins.

Week 1:

Within hours, the tired, mossy carpet, which had been masquerading as a lawn is scraped away. The dark, brown earth beneath lies cold and barren.

The mechanical moan of a digger vibrates relentlessly around the empty garden as they ferry their verdant debris to an ever growing mound on the front lawn. Within two days the lawn is gone and a trench around the footprint of the back and side of house is excavated where the paving will be situated. Outside of the dining room doors, a large circular trench representing the position of the new patio is scored into the earth. It rains. Driving, cold rain. Damien and Lukas appear as dark shadows moving slowly around the garden, looking optimistically upwards, silently praying for the rains to cease. Muddy puddles shiver, silently across the dark, exposed soil. The new garden seems light-years away.
The following day brings a slate grey, cloudy sky. But thankfully the rains have ceased. Hard-core is laid and compressed into the trenches to form the basis and foundations for the patio and paving. Suddenly, there is some structure and I can just about imagine the paving in place. Our two cats, Benson and Willow, hide themselves away under the bed as the house rumbles quietly.

Week 2:

The sun is shining in a clear, light blue sky. Slowly, slab by slab, a pathway emerges from around the side of the house. We’ve chosen a mid-grey limestone, in four differing sizes. I’m keen to build and plant a different garden from the last one. For starters, we have a much sunnier, south facing aspect and I’m want to take advantage of this, I’m thinking silver, purple, pink and white, well today, at least. It’ll change tomorrow! Colour themes aside, the grey is a little more contemporary. Is it at all possible that as I approach my mid-fifties I might finally embrace cool, contemporary chic? Probably not!
By mid-week the pathway has travelled along the back of the house and a circular patio is gradually becoming evident.

By the Friday of week two, paving and patio completed around the back of the house and a hard standing cut out in the circular patio for a small summerhouse/office. From this cedar wood building I will write and pursue my artwork. There’s something lovely about working outside and looking at the garden while I work.

Week 3:

A mixed week weather-wise with a selection of scrawly showers, high winds, rain and delightful, watery sunshine. It is February, I guess. This week sees the paving creep slowly to the side gate around the side of the house. This marks the completion of the paving being laid, which is then edged with ‘Silver Haze’ edging blocks. There’s still a long way to go, but the addition of the edging blocks provides a more ‘finished’ look. The circular patio is also cut to size and edged with bricks.

The circular patio is in some respects, at least for now, the focal point of the garden.

Everything runs off this central point; flower borders, paving and lawns. The patio and paving along the back of the house are pointed.

Week 4:

Another great week weather-wise. The guys press on with clearing the corner of the garden at the side of the house where the greenhouse will be sited. This area is thigh-deep with rubbish; old brittle and partly broken plastic garden chairs, old paint pots, shattered terracotta plant pots, plastic bottles and much more. Within hours, the debris is consigned to the back of the open-back lorry. Looks far better there than it did in the corner of the garden. By mid-week the area has been cleared and the concrete base for the greenhouse made. A new retaining wall along the neighbouring boundary is built and in front of that an eight metre close board fence erected. The whole area is transformed.

Week 5:

The first ‘Silver Haze’ edging bricks which will surround a five metre diameter, circular lawn to the right of the circular patio are laid.

If you haven’t already guessed, there’s a touch of a circular theme going on. On the left hand side boundary, upright oak sleepers are cut in half in order to build a one metre retaining wall.

The boundary here slopes upwards towards our neighbours who are at a slightly higher level than we are. Mid-week brings torrential and persistent rain. Within hours the garden is bubbling, cold mud. The guys work on. The rain beats them and they fall wet and weary into the lorry. Who would work outside?!

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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