The question or sometimes the Statement is. “So you have three gardens?” Often the reaction to the answer is ” that’s a bit greedy ” you must be loaded” ” are you mad”: but the answer is ” a little bit mad. Yes” Greedily loaded. “no”; the real answer is circumstantial ~ we never set out for three. Two yes. But not three. And yes it’s a struggle to juggle. At some point there will be two. Not yet. But there will. Only one of them is non negotiable ~ and we go through stages of which of the other two will be the second permanent with one today being a strong contender. But tomorrow ……
When I met Ian nearly three decades ago I was living in a one bedroom flat. No garden. Not even a window box. Ian moved in ~ travelling between his flat in SW london and mine in SE london was a pain. Realising that the papers for your meeting were across London became a pain in the posterior. That your suit was not where it should be.
Ian wanted to buy a house somewhere but we didn’t want to move in London and at that stage we weren’t sure if the relationship would last ~ Which now nearly thirty years later is hilarious.
So Ian bought the cottage so we could work in London and stay at the flat. Then head off to the cottage on a Thursday or Friday ~ us and the two cats. To a cottage furnished with second hand furniture and a decent sized garden. Ten years later we bought the cottage next door and to quote the Spice girls “Two became one’.
So if you want to be pedantic. It’s 4. The gardens were merged together so technically it’s one ~ I’ll stop as I’m confusing myself. And this continued for the next 24 years until we threw a spanish spanner in the works. Which added to retirement changed everything.
Though I had loved helping my parents garden when I was living at home I hadn’t had a garden myself for a long time. Finally we moved from the flat ~ now I’m not one for a massive change so we moved a couple of hundred yards down the road to a house and we have been here 17 years. See how I don’t like change. To a house. With a garden. Madness.
Those that know understand it’s more a patio garden here. Tiny. Though big enough for us to dig up a cooker ! ( yes, honestly) and all manner of things when we started to renovate the house.
The question I get asked is ” Are the gardens different? ” Umm. Chalk cheese and concrete come to mind. A cottage garden. A small patio garden and a hot Mediterranean garden. Somerset has fabulous soil. London I garden in pots. Spain. I garden with pick axes. In Somerset we have sufficient water. In Spain water is a luxury. We have some common plants in all three gardens. Agapanthus is the main one. Honeysuckle is another. Salvia Amistad.
The cottage garden
When we bought no 3 the cottage garden was in good shape except for a hideous hedge that had grown into trees at the bottom of the garden. Eventually they came out. The borders widened. Fruit trees planted ~ some do well. Some will be replaced. The plums are pretty non existent but the apples do well. Gooseberries. Raspberries. Red currants blunder through and need a good prune and a bit of tlc. This years crop sit in the freezer ready for a day of red currant jelly Making.
All we did when we bought no 4 was to remove the fence. It was that easy. I remember on completion day going straight out and started taking the fence down. Like an animal marking the boundaries.
These photographs were taken in July this year. Our first visit to the cottage in 6 months following lockdown. During lockdown we stayed in London but the grass was cut and some weeding done ~ trust me we have the National collection of ground elder and bindweed. No matter how much we have tried it comes back. And back again. Usually with a vengeance. ~ I’ve learnt not to stand too still for too long. Otherwise it’s up to my waist. I’d managed to prune the roses so we had had a good first flush. To be fair a number need replacing but that goes onto a list of things to do. Of which I have three separate lists. Obviously. And that’s just gardening lists.
We have a tsunami of golden rod. I hate it and I’m forever pulling it up and disposing of it. It’s fine in places. But. ,,,,,,, to be honest it’s got to go.
The garden has suffered over the last three years as I have split my time unequally but hopefully we are now in a pattern where we can get back on top of it. Funny that I’d said that at the start of the year and then look what happened.
I’d spent some time in February doing some work on the garden and our summer was planned. August and September in Somerset. How things changed.
The garden falls down to a small river. Come the Summer you can walk across it and not get your feet wet. We are in a valley and after heavy rains the little Pitt fills up pretty quick. This picture is when we had the steps put in ~ a few years ago. It needs a bit of a tidy now. Can you imagine Ian and I sat here with a glass of wine on a balmy evening? I wouldn’t. It doesn’t happen. If you ever see a public display of affection I’ll slip you a fiver.
It’s usually me trying to get a phone signal standing on one leg on the bench waving my hands in the air. Not a pretty sight and not the thing to do when the bench really needs replacing.
I started to cut things back in July ~ but remember we hadn’t been here been for 6 months. Plants don’t stop growing in a pandemic! Especially in a wet Somerset garden.
Need the loo anyone? The old loo 100 ft down the garden close to the river for obvious reasons. No signs of that today ~ Funny enough we have loos indoors.
The door needs repairing and that clump of Crocosmia splitting as it never flowers.
Ian’s not running away. Not this time. We worked hard as a team in February. I didnt throw my toys out of the pram once. Well maybe a rattle and a dummy but we didn’t stop. He did keep saying when are you off to Spain. I’d like to think he was just checking dates but in reality he knew once I was away he could sit and relax.
Umm. We were busy ~ so busy that my godson came along with his tractor to take away the garden rubbish.
But despite the neglect we have worked hard to get some normality back. A boot full of new plants from the plant stand at Ultimg Wick and our friend Phillipa Burrough and some canna and agapanthus from Todds Botanics together with some plants that have done well despite the neglect we have made a start. Next is to plant some daffodil and narcissi bulbs but bulbs aren’t great in the garden. The ground can get too wet. But il going to have another bash.
I am yet to see the result of the July work and planting as I’ve been away for over 8 weeks and I’m now in quarantine for two. But I have had some photographs. The friend who sent them mentioned the grass needed cutting and she would get onto it. Which is easy as it’s her husband who does it. I shall be back shortly and again it will be a week of gardening.
Thankfully we don’t have a front garden. . The cottage opens onto the lane with a small gravel border. In the spring it’s planted with tulips. In the summer generally geraniums but again this year it’s not been a normal year. So it was agapanthus. Did I mention I like agapanthus.
I did manage to plant the tulips in the Autumn. Ok. I admit it. I’m a bit of a show off. I plant all new tulips each year ~ all in pots so it’s easy. I’ve tried explaining to Ian that it will look good and he just raises an eyebrow. Until he sees them and I get the eyebrow of approval. If he saw the invoice for the spring bulbs he would raise both.
This year I had to rely on friends and neighbours for photographs and a friend who runs past the cottage most days ~ not because she’s scared ~ she’s a runner ~ who posts the photos of the tulips on Instagram and tags me.
This year we missed flowering in Somerset and in Spain. Sad but the joy the photographs from both gardens and the thoughtfulness of friends was heart lifting. Good friends and good neighbours are worth their weight in gold. So are fabulous bulbs from Peter Nyssen.
These are some of the photos that were sent to me during lockdown. Good neighbours and friends ~ who obviously watered them through the weeks and months we weren’t able to be there. Using water from Jacks Shute just across from the cottage which has lovely spring water. Quite where it comes from we don’t know. I just wish I had a similar water source in Spain.
We have planted agapanthus this year in pots at the front of the cottage as we were too late for geraniums! Big tall white agapanthus which will be used again. We had ordered from our friends at Todds Botanics. I had a message from the courier. I called back and he said he had delivered the plants. I opened the door. Nothing. I called back. He was adamant he’d delivered. So he sent me a photo. He was right. To london and they were there on the doorstep waiting for me. Me. I was 125 miles away ! Schoolboy error. Mine.
To be continued.