Saturday, 12 February 2011

front garden thoughts

Last week two very nice men built me a front garden. They are Ray and Dan of Rotherview Nurseries, just North of Hastings.

It has gone from this rather bleak shingle desert

to this

We’ve known them for some years, our old home being two doors down from Dan’s. They build us a lovely pergola, patio and path in the old place, with alpines tucked in here and there round a strange little rockery we made from large pebbles and odd bits of Victorian groyne collected one by one from the beach. 

This was where the golden yew lived, at the end of the path to the ponder spot.

This time more planting was needed. We planned it together, combining those plants I  had propagated from the old place with plants from the nursery, Ray having skilfully teased out of me what I wanted from the vague ideas in my head – “well sort of flow’ey with colours ranging from red to purple”, while Dan provided added suggestions.

The garden is south facing, the only really sunny spot so far, as the back is so shaded by the house. I want to catch the light, as I have indoors, but this time with plants. There are grasses to waft in the breeze and shimmer through much of the year, a weeping silver birch, one of my favourite trees, low growing plants to spill over the wall facing the house and a wisteria in a huge pot that I hope will ramble over some trellis and provide a wall of soft purple when it finally flowers. I so look forward to it all growing to maturity.

 My lavender cuttings were just about enough to provide a hedge right across the front, where I hope it will spill through the black picket fence and delight passers by with its scent and texture. Here they are all lined up.

Just now it looks rather empty as the plants are all little and are waiting to put on their spring/summer splendour. I can't wait!

I do feel very strongly that the front garden is the bit you share with the world – it’s not so much there for show, in a look at me sense, rather a collection of flowers, textures, scent and colour that you give to the people around you. When I was still at school, I often walked the 3 miles or so home when the weather was good. The walk started up on a high point to the North of Hastings called The Ridge – a final sweep of the South Downs before they merge into the Weald of Kent. The view from up there was wonderful, so as I walked, with my schoolbag bag clasped heavy in front of me, I swooped and swam in mind, out above the rooftops over the far sparkling sea to Beachy Head. Then as my route flowed down the hill, I walked through seventies suburbs with heather, azalea, birch and well tended lawns until it levelled out onto a busy bit of main road where the houses hid behind high fences to shelter from the noise. Once past that I dipped down again, the road meandering along the side of Alexandra Park  and through time from the thirties right back to Victoriana. This was where I lived, sheltered on front by the park, and behind by a steep hill of allotments and scrub where, in the thirties/forties my great aunt’s companion kept a mushroom farm. Through all this urban part of my walk, I would watch front gardens; some scruffy and weedy with unkempt edges, or no edges at all; some beautifully, almost artificially manicured, with green moss free lawns mown to within an inch of their lives and the odd gnome. In between these extremes were those gardens with blowsy irises or beautiful trees that attracted me, gave me pleasure. These I watched through the year as I walked past them until, at last, I would dip down yet again, crossing the park to reach home. There Ganna would be waiting for me since, for much of the time, Mum was out at work. I loved those gardens, they allowed my mind to disengage from school, where I always felt out of place, to drift for a while in dreamland, until I had to reengage with the curious world I lived with at home, quiet and sedate and, now I look back on it, from another time period entirely.

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