Sometimes it’s possible to be a bit too practical at the expense of enjoyable frivolities. I’ve always loved flower gardens but my lack of space in our London garden meant that I’ve rarely chosen inedible plants. When we moved to our country house I delighted in planting flowers in our front garden, and also in starting to mentally mark out long flowerbeds around our formal garden. As a project, it’s taken a back seat to more pressing matters in the six months since we bought this smallholding and started to work towards self-sufficiency – felling dangerous trees and turning them into firewood for example, and creating a wood store for it. Sorting out a luxury chicken enclosure. Working to get the kitchen garden up and running. But it’s always been there in the background and I’ve been slowly building up a series of plants ready to go in. At first I had grand planting plans for a deep herbaceous border but the idea of it lying dead for half of the year put me off. We’re outdoorsy people and use the garden even when the weather isn’t exactly balmy. Plus there are lots of plants that I quite like and I don’t want to be constrained. I am yielding to plans by limiting my colour palette to hot colours, yellows and reds and oranges for the back bed and yellows and blues for the side. I’m nowhere near working on the side bed at the moment, but I’ve been battling the dog for ownership of the plants I’ve been stockpiling for the long bed and we’re finally starting to get it planted. We are on chalk here but with a good metre of horrible, stick, compacted clay on top of it. The soil was so full of old roots and tangles that in the end we gave in and got a mini digger to churn up a nice deep border. We’ve sacrificed quite a lot of lawn for it, the bed becomes nearly six metres deep in certain areas, and the plants are slowly going in. There’s peace to be found in planting a bed from scratch. It’s also mesmeric, the effort needed to dig in soil improver, the time needed to set the plants out where they’ll best complement each other, the pleasure in seeing those that are already in the ground start to bloom.
I honestly don’t understand why anyone would go to a gym if they could garden instead. It’s brilliant exercise and marvellously relaxing. It’s taking a lot of time to do properly though, and although I’m enjoying it, the rain keeps soaking our clay and meaning I have to stop. Goodness but what a dreadful spring we’ve had, following a depressing winter. But even in bursts of planting, I’m really enjoying putting it together and I can’t wait to see how it develops and grows. For now though our dreadful clay soil becomes enormously compacted if I tread on it when it is wet and so I’m careful to wait for fry sunny days to plant and I have so very many plants to go in that I still haven’t finished planting the first batch! I think I’ll have to wait until next year once the plants have had a chance to grow to see where the gaps are in the bed but it’s an exciting start!