Decoration, Guest Posts, Lou C

Nosy Neighbours

Now maybe it’s just me, but I do like a certain amount of privacy in the garden. Having established that we are somewhat of a novelty in the locality (after all, we love to garden), we know that many of our antics create a certain amount of curtain twitching and more than a few passing comments — not least the regular return trips from the garden centre with the car packed to the rafters with yet more plants.

There have also been certain garden mishaps I’d rather forget, like the time I tumbled down our (then grassy) slope after losing my balance whilst trying to insert a solar light spike in our rock-hard clay soil or when I suffered from pins and needles in both feet after too much crouching down as I weeded. Let’s just say that John Cleese and his Ministry of Silly Walks had nothing on me for nearly five minutes.
The newly painted fence in the garden
As part of a new build development, we are overlooked on all sides, and all sides are not more than a good stone’s throw from us (not that I’ve ever checked in practice of course!). It doesn’t help that our garden is on an incline and our patio (well, that’s what we like to call it, although I think that I might find a photo of it under the dictionary definition of a handkerchief) sits at the top, for all to see.

Maybe I’m just kidding myself – after all, are neighbours really that nosy and am I really that interesting (silly walks and roly polys aside of course)? I’m sure neither is the case but this does nothing to dampen my desire for a little more privacy, particularly when my next door neighbour (unassuming, friendly and not allergic to a few plants herself) combats her slope by having her garden landscaped into levels. This means that when she stands on her patio, she is now waist height with the top of our fence, in manner of the Jolly Green Giant and it now feels like Lilliput on this side of the fence.  In fairness, she does try and announce her presence with a well placed “ahem” or “knock, knock”, should she want our attention, which is usually quite rare. However, it can be a little disconcerting to know that the view from her conservatory window and garden leads straight over the fence into our patio and garden room!
Pergola with hanging baskets in the garden
Building a pergola attached to the house has helped a little and has created a little more privacy overhead, but this still doesn’t solve the whole problem. After a lot of negotiating (read: begging), my husband agreed to a trellis screen carefully placed at the top of the rockery which solved the problem of the neighbours to the back of us having a direct view of the patio. However, this still leaves the issue of my next door neighbour’s view.
A garden trellis
Not one to be deterred, I have taken the opportunity to purchase several more well placed clematis and once they are settled (and not slug food) they may hopefully blur the boundaries a little. However, they will not reach the dizzy heights needed to screen my neighbour’s view without something to attach themselves to and it seems a little extreme to use even more trellis screening, even if it is attached to the fence. We have for now decided that we are on good enough terms with our neighbour to leave things as they are.
Neighbour's red setter dog
Unfortunately the red-headed lodger who has recently moved in has none of the tact and diplomacy of her landlady. In fact, she loves nothing better than spending the greater part of a day peering over the fence into our garden and she’s not discreet about it! Even catching her on camera didn’t seem to deter her enthusiasm although it soon became clear that she was particularly enamoured with our furry five.
Red setter dog looking over fence
It does at first feel quite disconcerting, knowing we are being watched but it is quite a novelty knowing that it is by a rather large red setter and it certainly adds to the Lilliputian effect! I just hope the fence holds because I’ve seen the devastation she has wreaked on her side of the fence and there’s a lot more to play with here.

The whole business has left me wondering though, how do other people deal with privacy in an overlooked garden, and how much does it matter?

Lou C

Charlotte, Gardening, Guest Posts

Stormy Weather

After weeks of glorious sunshine, my garden was blooming and the vegetables I had started from seed were all progressing better than anticipated. So much so that I had bravely put many of them outside to harden off before being transplanted. What a mistake! One night last week the weather took a turn for the worse and my once beautiful garden has suffered dearly.

Charlotte Working on the TrellisHeavy rain and gusting winds rattled the windows as I tried to sleep. ‘Tried’ being the operative word since little sleep was achieved as I imagined the havoc being created outside. I awoke early and ventured outdoors to assess the damage. Roses had been ripped from their trellises, colourful borders flattened and the stunning hollyhocks which had formerly towered over me, now stood limply at right angles.

Charlotte's husband helping with the branches I hastily got to work tidying up and repairing what I could. I carefully teased the roses back onto their trellis; trying not to damage the plentiful flowers and buds. Supports were provided for the hollyhocks and stakes added to the young fruit trees which looked at risk of snapping. I enlisted the help of my husband for this task. Being almost a foot taller than me he comes in rather useful for such vertically challenging chores.

Most upsetting was the destruction endured by my precious vegetable seedlings. Those placed in the open air to harden off, had been tossed around the garden by the unforgiving winds. Even those which I thought were protected inside a growing frame were not spared. The entire frame had been blown over, leaving young tomatoes, peppers and sweet peas upturned.

I re-potted what I could; scooping up the spilled compost and carefully replacing the young plants. It was then I noticed the sweetcorn. It’s the first time I’ve grown this and the quick and steady growth had impressed me. However they now stood sadly, many with broken leaves and stems. It felt as though the months of hard work and love I had poured into the garden had been destroyed overnight.
Charlotte's Plants
Having fixed what I could I retreated indoors for a cuppa whilst surveying my seed collection. Thankfully, I had reserved a few of each seed type when initially planting. Undeterred I spent the afternoon planting second batches as a backup for those which may have been lost. It’s rather late in the season to be starting many of them off. However, living in the south-east, I’m hoping the warmer and longer summer we (usually!) encounter will allow me to see a harvest from most crops. That is, if the rain and wind ever make way for more sun.

I haven’t given up on the sweetcorn though. The injured specimens have been brought indoors for some TLC. Perhaps they will find the strength to recover and produce new shoots. Any advice on how I can aid this would be gratefully received. I was so looking forward to serving my family delicious home grown corn on the cob, dripping with butter. I can almost taste it now… fingers crossed they pull through and make it to the table.

– Charlotte

Gardening, Guest Posts, Lou C

Painting in a Thunderstorm

Lou C is back with more adventures in her garden renovation from last month…

I don’t care what the weatherman says…
Lou C's trellis
It’s spring! Well, according to the calendar anyway. Normally by now we would be experiencing an abnormally early heatwave, at least a quarter of the population would be grilled a painful shade of pink by the sun and gardeners everywhere would be out in full force. After a promising false start in March, sadly this year we seem to be playing a game of cat and mouse with rain showers and I am losing my patience. I’m desperate to paint the fence and plant the hanging baskets amongst other things. Lulled into a false sense of security by abnormally hot weather just before the start of April, we re-turfed our little patch of lawn, jetwashed the patio and wielded a paintbrush on the shed. The shed now makes the fence stand out as shabby in stark contrast and my tulips really have seen better days. Our pots are begging for fresh bedding plants. My sweet pea seeds are fighting for alpha status in the comfort of the garden room which is having to double as a greenhouse as I make my first foray into the world of seeds. But even more importantly than that, after a great deal of hard work, I have finally convinced my husband to erect a trellis screen in front of our patio. The time to act is now, not least before he changes his mind, but sadly Mother Nature has other ideas. Or so she thinks anyway. Not one to be beaten, I am throwing down the gauntlet. Yes, I will be taking on the weather; after all, I’m not made of sherbet.

Now, the neighbours overlooking us are not enthusiastic gardeners. Large expanses of patio, decking and paving sit empty, punctuated only by the odd lonely pot here and there. Each to their own but this does mean our garden stands out, just a little. Our tiny wilderness is crammed to the fence tops with plants and garden features. Our garden is like Marmite; you either love it or hate it. My point? Well they already think we’re slightly mad. Therefore the sight of a somewhat possessed woman wielding a paintbrush and garden timbercare (and in a pale pink hue too!) as storm clouds gather overhead make amusing yet unsurprising viewing for our neighbours.

Lou C's trellis with montana clematis
My chosen afternoon began promisingly as it looked as if the cloud would blow over. It wasn’t long however, before it became a race against time. Could I finish painting the new trellis we had bought for our screen before the heavens opened? Now I’m not a betting woman but even I began to realise that the odds weren’t in my favour!

Undeterred, I forged ahead. Half time and I had to dive inside, trellis and all. One hour later and I could resume. Two thirds of the way through and in the distance I could hear thunder approaching. The rain however was still some way away. For the next half hour the thunder rumbled as I painted. Closer and closer, louder and louder it came. My transition to insanity was complete in the eyes of the neighbours; painting in a thunderstorm? Really?
Downing tools, the job was finally complete. The thunder applauded me as the first raindrops started to fall. The trellis and I dived inside one last time for cover. I’m sure my victory dance didn’t help my certifiable status in the eyes of the neighbourhood.

Two days later and dodging further rain showers we finally erected our new screen. It is now perfectly placed to break the view into our garden, giving us a certain amount of privacy on our patio whilst still letting in the light. We’ve just started to encourage our Montana to weave its magic through the gaps. This time next year it should be a well established part of the garden. The weather might be better too.

Lou C

Gardening, Guest Posts, Lou C

Mission Almost Impossible: Montana Clematis

Here’s a guest post by Lou C, on her adventures wrangling her Montana Clematis plants earlier this month.

Lou C's Clematis Montana
May bank holiday — A time when gardeners traditionally overexert themselves in the garden and bedding plants come out to play. Suddenly everyone is a gardener and the neighbourhood battles of the baskets commence. Unfortunately, this May everyone is a little behind with things and for one reason alone– Rain has stopped the play. I can now imagine how Noah must have felt.

The forecast for the bank holiday weekend is for showers rather than torrential rain. Promising. Since the start of April we have lived with a half painted fence that is begging to be finished. Initially we planned to allow our two (yes, two) Montana clematis that are clothing said fence to finish flowering but the rain seems to have put them all behind as well.

We have a montaña to climb and we’re going to need the best in the business. Undaunted, I contact the Impossible Missions Force, also known as my mother. The challenge, should she choose to accept it, is to help us remove the clematis from the fence so we can paint it and put the clematis back a) before it rains and b) by sacrificing as little of it as possible.

Lou C's Montana Clematis
We plump for Sunday – predicted as the better day. The Force arrives, all 73 years and 5 ft 2 of her. She’s bought a packed lunch so she really means business. Before I can ask if she wants a cuppa, the first Montana hits the floor and my mother is nimbly scampering up my rockery incline to the second with no thought to the possible hip replacement that might be necessitated by a nasty fall. The second Montana proves slightly trickier as it has also wound its way through a trellis planter and we have some serious untangling (not to mention a little sacrificing) to do. But not to be beaten, less than half an hour later the first part of the mission is accomplished. Sadly it takes a lot longer than this to finish the fence. In the meantime, the Force makes herself at home with a bag of potting compost and a queue of plants.

Lou C's Clematis Montana on a trellis
A lot later and we set about resurrecting both Montanas. The fence is dry, we have only had to dodge one shower and most of my planting has been completed, just not by me! As they are trained onto new wires I stand back to admire their new svelte physique. Yes, there is less of them, and yes, I could have waited until flowering was over, but flowers they still have and they will grow back very quickly if the number of new stems is anything to go by. They stand out beautifully against my new “seagrass” fence and I cross fingers and hope that I will not be greeted by a mass of wilted stems in days to come.

Mission accomplished and no one disavowed. The Force will be suitably rewarded with a trip to her favourite garden centre. May the force be with you, too.

Lou C