Posts Tagged ‘stones’

Who needs La Santa Sport?

-When you can get all the exercise you could ever need by crossing the country to help your Mum create a garden from scratch?

The garden at the “new” house (well, after a year I guess it’s no longer the “new house”, but simply “my Mum’s house”) was a flat, barren stretch of lawn. It did set off the simplicity of the house nicely – it was like a gem perched on a pedestal – but it hardly encouraged spending time outside. And my Mum likes to be outside, and she likes to have lots of plants and variety in her garden.

The latter especially frustrated the garden designer she had won in some magazine contest. (Well, she had won around $2000 worth of her services, anyway.) Three separate plans were created before my Mum was finally happy with it. And… The I arrived on Thursday and looked through the plans and the plants my Mum had purchased to turn it into reality, and I quickly saw quite a few discrepancies.

First of all my Mum hadn’t bought the required quantities of the plants in the plan, and secondly she had also bought quite a few plants that weren’t in the plan at all… So with respect for the lines of the plan it was taken back to the drawing board when I got there.

Planning Mum's garden

We didn’t have any tracing paper at hand, so baking paper was used instead. (Not a great substitute, but it worked.) I sketched up the outlines and then tried desperately to get my Mum to sit down with me to go through it end-to-end so she could get the garden she wanted with the plants she had.

She’s a bit of a scatter-brain, though, so she kept running off on tangents – or leaping from one section of the garden to the other – and it was really quite a chore. It took 4 hours on the Thursday afternoon, 3 hours on Friday morning and a total of three re-drawings of the plan before she finally said this was the plan. Then I drew up the final version with all of the plant names, the plant lists and so on and we went shopping for the few remaining plants that were “must-haves”.

Some of the plants won’t be available in nurseries ’till spring, but that’s all right. They will come in time. Others were more of a challenge as they are not readily available in nurseries at all, and one of our requests even prompted the reply “Oh, that’s gone out of style; it’s not used any more”… As if plants ever REALLY go out of style! (For the record it was a rather lovely white lonicera shrub, and it SHOULD be “in style”.)

Creating the new shrub hedges around the garden required some serious digging, but fortunately my younger brother is a contractor, so he came with a mini digger and a motorised wheel barrow.


Even so, some areas had to be dug by hand – and of course a lot of the planting holes had to be hand-dug as well, so there was plenty of work for the 10 adults – and four kids – working in the garden on the Saturday. Add to this that my Mother-in-law had come with me so she could be in charge of the in-doors; food, plenty of coffee, child minding and cleaning.

Borders outlined

The garden design is very square; lots of straight angles to oppose the angles of the house, and it will all – eventually – be a very “tidy” arrangement. We lined out all the beds and borders with plastic barriers so the grass roots won’t infest the beds too badly, and the beds in the lawn are completely square and aligned with the boundaries of the garden, creating lots of triangles with the house which is at an angle to the plot.

Once the ground work was done, though, I became frustrated with my Mum again. She kept wanting to make changes to the plan that I had spent a total of 7 hours drawing up with her – taking her step by step, plant by plant through every bed and border to ensure she felt she got exactly what she wanted and felt an ownership over the plan – and at times saying that we’d agreed on changes that we just hadn’t drawn on the plan. (Of course I drew every change she wanted in, since I thought we should end up with a plan precise enough for the garden to be done even if neither she nor I had been present during the work.)

It was very frustrating to have to work hard to dig out a bed on one side of the house and continuously having to run around the house to ensure that my Mum didn’t as people to plant stuff in one place when she had decided it should be in another. (This happened a LOT!) Some times it was due to a change of heart – which was allowed – and some times it was due to forgetfulness – which was not allowed. Being a bit of a catter-brain myself it was really hard having to make sure my Mum thought every change through so she wouldn’t forget it.

The one change I allowed her, though, was a reversal to something I had really liked…

Placing a stone

She rather quickly dropped the plan to have any field stones in the shrub borders, but then of course she forgot that and on Sunday morning she asked my brother to fetch them in the digger. *sigh* It had been a lot easier, had she decided this on Saturday morning, but the stones got in place, though the digger obviously destroyed all the digging which had been done in the border the day before.

This stone, though, is beautiful; it stands up like a triangular shape with lovely swerving horizontal bands, and I must say my younger brother has quite a skill with the mini digger! he moved the stone from the nearby field, got it in place and stood it up without a hitch. There will be large shrubs behind it and small groundcovers in front, and it will look like a modern-day rune stone. He also placed a slightly smaller stone (around 200 pounds) as a seating stone in the front of another section of the shrub border.

Rose beds, orchard and stone

The most significant aspect of the new garden is the three square rose beds of alternating sizes, each backed by a box hedge and with three fruit trees in the lawn behind them. On the other side there will be a herb patch as well, and there’s a small triangular patch at the back of the house.

It all looks rather empty right now, but even with 10 people working in the garden Saturday and 4 on Sunday we just didn’t have time to finish completely. All the large shrubs were planted, though, and the smaller shrubs were marked out, and most importantly it now looks like a garden in the making, rather than a piece of flat lawn.

Mind you, it will have to be a while before I see my Mum again. After my Dad died – and even some time before that – she has become very pessimistic, often focusing on “it’s a shame that…” rather than “how great that…”. I do love her, but that sort of negativity is very hard to deal with on a sustained level.

She knows, though, that her garden will be lovely. There will be not a single plant she did not pick herself, not a single area without some sort of interest throughout the year, not one moment when she can’t see beauty from the vast living room windows. She just needs to focus on this, rather than on the plants that are either impossible or excessively expensive to source.
But then… One day spring will come, and her garden will be full of narcissi, tulips, rhododendrons, roses, dahlias… And before all that, well… With any luck the witch hazel will bloom in its first year!

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