How to cheat at gardening

When we bought our much-beloved smallholding, we had great plans for the garden. I’d loved my tiny London patio beyond measure, or so I thought until I arrived here. One of the things I was really keen to do as soon as possible was to prettify the formal garden with flower border in a country garden style. At last, a chance to attend flower shows and boldly approach shrub stands, rather than skulking around by the bulbs, dithering over which three would look best in the single puny pot I have available. What glory! What colour! What a lot of work. I am a lazy gardener you see. I love doing what I always think of as “fun” gardening. That is to say, the actual growing of pretty or edible bits. I’m less keen on work that is extremely difficult to do manually (digging a 65m trench through a mess of tree stumps by hand anyone?). So we bit the bullet and had variety of bushes planted to provide an evergreen screen to hide our closeboard and deer fencing. At the far end of the garden we wanted it to grow up over the fence to keep the view of neighbouring fields but to screen a road in the distance and all of this equates to a lot of bushes. IMG_3495The thinking was that once this was done (in a day, by a mini digger) we could then work on the frilly three or four feet in front of them. It’s amazing what machinery can do. We wanted our hedging to provide privacy to screen our ugly fences, to provide a habitat for wildlife and to basically ensure that our seasonal colourful planting really popped against a deep green backdrop rather than looking like an explosion in a paint factory. I’m not only lazy, I’m impatient. I know that what I should do (and what we will do for the 350m of native hedging we’re planting at the end of the year around the paddocks) is simply go for whips and let them establish themselves from the beginning. But I don’t want to wait that long. So in went an abundance of mature hedges, transplanted from pots. We went for a wide variety, including strawberry trees (arbutus unedo), silverberry (Elaeagnus × ebbingei), holly (Ilex aquifolium ‘Aureomargenata’), cherry and Portuguese laurel (laurus nobilis and lusitanica), spindles (Euonymus japonicus ‘Ovatus Aureus’), Griselinia littoralis, Chinese privet (Ligustrum lucidum ‘Excelsum Superbum’), Red Robin (photinia x fraseri), English yew (taxus baccata), Osmanthus heterophyllus and narrow-leaved mock privet (Phillyrea angustifolia). Nothing particularly exciting or out of the ordinary but then that was rather the point. These evergreen shrubs and bushes are camouflage, and a backdrop for all of the exciting and fun planting we plan to do in front of them. I won’t pretend that having this done wasn’t a serious financial investment, but we prioritise being outside as a family very highly and so it seemed worth the expense to get this bit done and dusted. I do find it extraordinary that it was done in a matter of a day though, because the difference it’s made to the garden (which has gone from being rather empty to being lovely) is amazing. So in short, cheating works. Yes, there is enormous pride in looking at a mature border and saying “I grew all that” but you know what? I can live with admitting to having a bit of help for the basic border structure.IMG_3621

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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

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