Checking in

Ha, just spotted my m-in-l top left taking photos!
Dog looking shifty.
Remember that bare bank of soil?
Terracing starting to come together. The grasses ‚Äď Calamagrostis, Miscanthus and Stipa t. will soften it.
Aha, the pond! We didn’t realise there were paving slabs this end of the pond until we cleared the big pile of rocks, soil and brambles…
This jasmine smells divine.
Climbing rose over the wonky arch. No idea what variety it is.
Lavender and briza.
Pink scabious (bees love it), with ammi, sweetpeas, marigolds, Verbena b. and grasses behind; blue Campanula to the left.
The new veg patch on the other side of the steps.
Colour-pop pots.
The zinnias are coming!
Gaura ‘The Bride’.
Two ‘Turk’s Turban’ squashes growing in the compost heap. They’re now taking over that whole corner…
Front left (looking towards the sea) taken from the balcony.
Front right.
The back garden which has been a bit neglected, tbh, while we’ve been beaming on the front garden. Goodness knows what we were thinking when we took this on…

 

Hello, how are you?! It’s been all work and no play for the past couple of weeks here at acoastalplot, hence the radio silence. It’s good to be busy (freelance work tends to be like buses) but I have missed you ūüôā I’ve also found it slightly excruciating (if it’s possible to be excruciated in degrees) being indoors at my desk during some completely glorious weather; looming deadlines meant that I couldn’t down tools and head to the beach with my family at the weekend. But, hey, there’ll be other days.

The garden has had to pretty much fend for itself, so thank goodness it’s finally raining! Hoo-flipping-rah. The sky has been full of grey clouds all day but it didn’t start properly raining until early evening. It’s now bouncing off the skylights and I’m imagining the plants are cheering, especially the grass which has lost most of its green. The snails are probably cheering, too, so I expect I’ll find more destruction in the morning. I must take a photo of one of the dahlias to show you ‚Äď it’s a poor dahlia skeleton. Curse those slimy creatures.

These photos were taken in the garden just after the garden safari weekend. We were still planting, moving rocks and laying paths right up to the night before, but it all went well and we had lots of lovely people¬†through the garden, met new neighbours and locals we hadn’t met before, and chatted to fellow keen gardeners. It was lovely to be able to take a breather and to enjoy being in the garden and we even managed to visit a few inspiring gardens recommended to us. A decent amount of money was raised for the hospice and everyone declared it a success. Looking at the photos, it’s amazing how much everything has settled in and grown since they were taken. The little orchard area is now full of wildflowers, the ornamental grasses and perennials are filling out, we’ve courgettes, tomatoes and squashes growing like crazy, and enough flowers to keep me in vase material for a good while yet. I can’t wait to have time to get out there again. When it stops raining.

Have a lovely rest of the week. More anon. x

 

Orchard dreaming

The orchard and meadow at Great Dixter in late March last year.
The work in progress of clearing.
Part way through clearing¬†(from above). You can see the old stump we uncovered and dug out, mid-left of the picture to the right of our neighbour’s garage.
Bare root trees waiting in trugs of compost.
Marking out, digging holes and positioning stakes.
Planting
After (from above) with super-gran
Stepping-stone path laid around the trees and a lavender border planted along the path.

What do you imagine when you think of an orchard? The word has¬†such idyllic¬†connotations for me. It conjures up a particular image in my mind’s eye: dappled sunlight¬†from a late-afternoon sun filtering through rows of gnarly old fruit¬†trees, a blackbird singing its heart out, a gentle¬†breeze moving the¬†long grass which is dotted with¬†wildflowers, the scent of ripening fruit in the air. It’s a serene scene and just the thought of it cheers me. There is an actual, real-life place that almost lives up to this¬†‚Äď the orchard and meadow at Great Dixter.¬†My heart skipped a beat the first time I clapped eyes on it but it’s too far away to visit often and I don’t think the gardeners would take kindly to me lying about under their trees¬†on sunny afternoons.

My dream would be¬†to have a little house in the middle of an orchard,¬†but in the meantime (and this is very thrilling)¬†we’re creating a mini-orchard of our very own. When we moved here, there were already a few¬†low-growing apple trees, a plum (since gone), a greengage and a pear tree in the back garden but we always had the idea¬†at the back of our minds to plant more at the front.

Our designs for planting the different levels in the front garden (the area that faces the sea) have evolved, as they do, and a few weeks ago we finally reached the decision to clear an area and plant some fruit trees. The end of the season for planting bare root trees (which are cheaper to buy and more likely to establish well than container-grown stock) was fast approaching but we managed to find most of the trees we wanted as 2-year-old bush, bare root stock from Blackmoor Nurseries in Hampshire. We ordered online and they arrived a couple of days later in a big cardboard box.

We ordered¬†three apples, ‘Discovery’, ‘Red Windsor’ and a cooker, ‘Howgate Wonder’,¬†two pears, ‘Beurre Hardy’ and ‘Doyenne du Comice’, and a¬†‘Victoria’ plum. We couldn’t track down¬†a bare rootstock ‘Catillac’ pear (which I wrote about last autumn¬†here) but I hope we can order¬†one to plant next year in early spring.

We¬†tucked our new¬†trees¬†into trugs of compost¬†while we worked our socks off digging up overgrown geraniums and other plants¬†to relocate, clearing¬†brambles¬†and¬†weeds, moving¬†rocks and levelling the ground. The space was carefully marked out, holes were dug, posts bashed into position, compost wheelbarrowed from the heap, and, finally, we were ready to plant our new trees.¬†My mother-in-law was here at the time and¬†it’s largely thanks to her that we¬†achieved all this¬†in such a short space of time. We truly have no idea where she gets her energy and drive but she galvanised us to get it done. (Our 17-year-old¬†was even enlisted¬†to help dig out an old tree stump!)

The trees are grafted onto dwarf root stock ‚Äď M26 for the apples and Quince C for the pears ‚Äď and will need to be permanently staked and they¬†are planted a little closer together than recommended but we’ll keep them pruned so that enough air can circulate between them. They have 2-ft skirts of weed-suppressant fabric¬†around their bases, covered with a thick layer of bark to keep moisture in and weeds down. David has laid a recycled stone path¬†and we’ve sprinkled wildflower seeds on the soil in between. Newly planted trees do take longer to come out of their dormancy after¬†planting, which can delay new growth, but there are¬†already leaves and blossom on the apples and leaves are appearing on the pears. I’ve moved a seat¬†down to the path so anyone going down the steps to see what’s what can sit a while and imagine how it will look in a few years.

Happily, we have had some rain since Monday and more is forecast for tonight, so I hope we won’t be using the hosepipe too much over the coming¬†months. The nursery’s instructions were to remove any blossom and not allow the trees to set fruit in their first year ‚Ästall their energies should go into establishing strong roots. I’m going to have to steel myself to prune off that blossom this weekend but I’ll admire it a little while longer…

Can you believe it’s ¬†May 1st on Monday?! It’ll soon be time¬†to plant out all the tender stuff. I hope you have¬†a lovely May Day weekend, whatever you have planned.