At last, the weather’s turning, after so many false starts (I mean, snow and hail in April? This place is nuts!), and my mind’s been turning to my garden.
When we were saving for a house last year, I’d spend hours in an evening on Rightmove and Zoopla, gawking at other people’s houses. The husband couldn’t have cared less, up until the very moment we were ready to start making offers. Only then did he take a similarly keen interest, and start to whittle down my expansive list of contenders. There were a few that we loved because of the décor, but knew we couldn’t afford. There were some I liked that he hated – and to be honest, I liked almost anything back then because of the dreadful state of the house we were renting. (Almost) anything would have been better, I thought. The one thing we agreed on was that it had to have a garden.
It sounds like we were on the same page, but we don’t actually see eye to eye on the garden situation. I’m seeing carefully planned perennial beds, shrubs, bulbs, exciting specimen plants and cut flowers; he’s seeing a bit of grass for beer and barbecues. Hmm. He’s also not seeing all of the mowing, clipping, digging, planting… or at least he’s trying exceptionally hard not to see it.
|The Rightmove picture that sold this house to us.|
In our area, finding a house for around £50,000 isn’t hard. Many terraced houses in fair-ish condition go for that, but most terraced houses up here only have back yards, by which I mean a concrete or flag stoned patio. Finding a house with a garden (a real garden, not a courtyard, patio or strip of grass by the front gate) for around £50,000 generally means looking at ex-council houses. This house was in dreadful condition, but the garden is what really sold it to us. Actually, a huge part of the garden’s appeal was the massive oak tree growing at the back. I fell in love with that tree. I might actually have bought the tree for £50,000 and gotten a house thrown in to the bargain!
We each had different ideas bound up in the notion of a garden. For me, it was the dream of watching my individual plants grow and thrive and combine to make a year-round display; it was the dream of composting, growing vegetables and connecting with the natural world (apart from the part of the natural world that’s slimy or slithers, no desire for connecting with them). For Lord Balders, it was the dream of having his own slice of the outdoors to relax in, after heavily fortifying it against all marauders, of course. No plants necessary besides grass, and those yellow flowers he likes. (Turns out he meant daffodils.)
Again, I spent far too much time on Pinterest, looking at perfect, show-stopping gardens, and dreaming about recreating them on my own. The reality was, the house itself was so dirty, and needed so much work to be done to it, the garden just had to wait. We fixed the fence that had blown over in a storm, kept on mowing the lawn, planted some privet hedging at the front and got stuck in to the house. As it got colder, we carried on working indoors and left winter to its own devices outside. Now that spring is here, I want to get back to work on my grand garden plans, but I’ve accepted that the perfect vision I’m after won’t happen overnight. Plants can be expensive!
I’m chipping away at it, though, and I’ve found an accomplice. Lord Balders doesn’t care for plants (yet) but his stepfather is a man after my own heart. He gives me tours of his plants when we go over to visit (same plants every time), showers me with packets of seeds, and lets me collect seeds from the dried heads of his flowers and cuttings. I’ve been offered his greenhouse, but it’s taken Lord Balders several months to bend to our collective nagging to go pick it up.
A few weeks ago I ordered some mixed summer-flowering bulbs from Thompson & Morgan, mostly because of the price and the fact that they contained allium sphaerocephalon, which is on my wish list. I thought hard about it, because I wanted those alliums and I do like gladioli, although not necessarily the mixed colours that were included, but I didn’t know whether I wanted all the others – brodeaia, allium moly and anemone blanda. In the end, I went for it, because right now there’s nowt but one big rhododendron, one little clump of crocosmia, one ash and one oak tree. And the rest is nothing but grass.
|The fence had blown down before we bought the house.|
So I decided to abandon the rigid colour-coded plan I had in mind before, and I’m just going to fill my garden up the money-saving way. Cultivate, propagate, split, divide, inherit, collect, and finally share. I’ll buy plants that are good value for money, and treat myself to special cultivars I’ve been waiting for for ages. Buying those bulbs put me on a path to designing a year-round bulb display, which I hadn’t decided on up ‘til then, and I’m happy with that. I’ll share my results, but I’d also appreciate any more tips for green-fingered money saving!