Garden Progress

May Madness, Mayhem and Wildflower Meadows

Yesterday we sowed a wildflower meadow in our back garden. Which sounds very simple but it’s been over a month of hard work in preparation. At the same time we had scaffolding put up around the entire house for new windows, guttering and fascia boards as well as some chimney and roof repairs. A busy household of men who were powered by sugared tea (we ran out of sugar!).

Scaffolding in place
Scaffolding in place

Last time I wrote here, we were getting ready for a delivery of two tonnes of reclaimed stone, to build a stone retaining wall which would replace the log one already in place. The stone was delivered at the bottom of our very steep drive on a sunny morning in early May. I moved it, a couple of stones at a time, off the public path to a few metres up the drive, Roger then wheelbarrowed it up to the back garden. It was very hot work.

Roger then had fun creating a giant jigsaw, choosing stones from the spread on the lawn to build a wall. He did a dry run first, before cementing anything in.

Back garden before May work
Back garden before all of the work done in May. Dry run of the retaining wall.

Roger had booked a week of “holiday” from work to build the wall and prepare the garden for the wildflower meadow. I started a new job the day the scaffolding went up (not on purpose, it was just one of those things) which added to the mayhem, so it was all down to him. Hardly a rest, and he’d also declined an offer of a week on the beach in Spain! The weather here was the best we could ask for, so the hard work continued.

Drainage in place
Drainage in place
Wall almost complete
Wall almost complete, just the coping stones to be put into place.

The wall looks fabulous, even better the the original stone retaining walls throughout our front and back gardens. But that wasn’t the end, next on the list was removing the uneven turf. Roger hired a petrol driven turf cutter but it was still incredibly hard work due to the incline, unevenness and compacted clay soil. We decided to keep the lower lawn and will try to revive it into something that actually resembles a lawn! [Our original plan was to make this into a low growing wildflower meadow that would only need cutting about every 3 weeks.]

Now it was time to lay some stepping stones through the meadow to the raised bed at the end of the garden. It was another job very well done.

Stepping stones laid
Stepping stones to the raised bed at the end of the garden

Next job…to turn over the hard compacted soil to remove the remains of the turf and weeds, and as it turned out, glass, rocks and old brick wall! I was able to help with this by the end of the week. Back breaking!!! We eventually finished it Sunday morning. I then raked it over as level as I could. Finally, it was time to sow the seed.

First I divided the area into equal(ish) sections. I couldn’t find my metre stick or any string, so I used a broom and a ball of wool.

Dividing up the area ready to sow wildflower meadow seeds
Dividing up the area ready to sow wildflower meadow seeds

I’d ordered native wildflower meadow seed for clay soil from Meadowmainia. It contains 21 wildflowers and 7 grasses. It’s a bit late to sow this year but I’m sure something will come up and we can expect a better meadow next year. I’m excited to see it developing over the years. I’m prepared to add plug plants if necessary. Best of all, it only needs to be strimmed/mowed twice a year.

I had 12 sections marked out. so I divided the seed into 6, then 12, in the conservatory. A red damselfly joined me!

I tried to sow the seed as evenly as I could but it was harder than I expected. I may well have a patchy meadow! After sowing I trod over each section. This was also harder than I expected and took a lot longer than I thought it would. We were expecting rain. The BBC said 1pm, then 3pm, then 7pm, then 11pm. So I soaked the area with the hose, to encourage germination, late evening as the rain didn’t look like it would arrive. It did eventually rain very lightly but barely anything. Only a few miles miles away, it rained hard and places became flooded. How lucky are we this week and this weekend?!

This is how our back garden looks now.

Waiting for the wildflower meadow seed to germinate
Wildflower meadow seed sown and trodden in – phew!

We are very happy!

The neighbours have been very complimentary.

Which leaves today, Bank Holiday Monday, free for a motorbike ride.

Walking Discoveries

Discovering Disley

Before moving here 10 weeks ago, I’d driven through on the A6 many times but I knew nothing about the surrounding countryside. I get an amazing view from my front door over adjoining villages and Kinder Scout, the highest hill in the Peak District, but so far I’ve only looked at it and taken photos.

Roger grew up in Disley and has many tales of mischief and adventures which took place all around where we now live. Sunday was finally a sunny, if very cold, day and he could keep his promise to start showing me my way round the many footpaths.

Map of walk 25th Feb
Map of walk, each number represents 1km

Wrapped up warm and reluctantly accompanied by two of the teenagers, we set off down towards the Peak Forest Canal, which is barely 0.5km away. It’s a wonderful waterway and I’ll be investigating it more in the near future. There were several inhabited houseboats moored alongside the pathway. I imagine the warmer weather brings this stretch of water alive with many more boats, people and wildlife. The ducks and geese were keen to say hello, but they weren’t so happy when they discovered we hadn’t brought any food with us!

We discovered community built dirt jumps just off the path, which perked up the male teenager. I think he might be back with his bike! Just a few metres further on, wooden steps down through the trees led to a view of a steep drop down to a fast flowing run off from the canal.

Near the 2km mark, gazing out over the fields towards Hague Bar we spotted a large bird of prey drifting on the thermals. On the other side of the canal, which still had icy patches, were happily grazing sheep.

A cheeky robin watched us cross the canal to start heading back up through farmland onto the busy A6, which was a very sudden sharp contrast to the peacefulness of the canal. A quick refreshment break at The Rams Head and we were ready to complete the second half of our loop.

Climbing up again, through the gardens of St Mary’s Church there were plenty of beautiful woodland plants to brighten up the way. Following the footpath with fields, and the odd house, either side I felt very lucky to be living so close to such stunning scenery.

Just before turning left at around the 5km mark, I could see The Cage (an iconic folly that can be seen for miles) at Lyme Park and Bollinhurst Reservoir. I’ve visited Lyme Park, and The Cage, many times before but it was a surprise to me that I’d never seen this reservoir and didn’t even know it existed. I think I might be taking a walk in this direction before long!

The Cage at Lyme Park in the distance
The Cage at Lyme Park in the distance
Bollinhurst Reservoir through the Trees
Bollinhurst Reservoir through the Trees

Crossing Buxton Old Road we were now heading downhill, along a track which resembled a stoney old river bed and back to where we started.

What a fabulous couple of hours. I can’t wait to discover more of this beautiful area.

There are Pixies living in Disley!
There are Pixies living in Disley!
Garden Progress

Front Garden Plan

It’s taken two muddy measures in the rain, lots of viewing through various windows and a few false starts getting it down on paper, but at last, I have a front garden plan (back garden plan is still in progress).

Front Garden Plan
Front garden Feb 17

This is how it is February 2017 (although I’ve added leaves to some of the shrubs that don’t have them at the moment!) and there’s probably some plants yet to wake up and show themselves.

I was hoping to get out there this weekend, do a bit of weeding and tidying, and to get up close to the plants I can’t identify. But, this morning was driving sleet and freezing cold. Instead, I’ve had a delightful few hours with some watercolour pencils, keeping warm in the conservatory listening to the rain and letting my imagination run wild.

A bit of research on the internet and I’ve come up with some preliminary planting plans.

On a lunchtime walk this week, I saw so many signs of spring in the front gardens I passed. Lots of snowdrops, primroses, crocuses, leaf buds and catkins. I’m lucky enough not to suffer from winter blues (I do suffer from motorbike adventures withdrawal though!!) but my spirits are still lifted and I can’t help smiling when I see spring is on the way. I made up my mind to get some of these things into my own garden.

So, the small bed at the bottom of the drive is to become a woodland garden; Snowdrops, Wood Anemone, Snakeshead Fritillary, Bluebells, Wild Honeysuckle and Wild Cyclamen. And yes, I have placed my order! With Naturescape, a wildflower specialist. Some of the plants will be in the green, so this won’t be their best year in my garden but I’m hoping the woodland garden will improve over the years. I might scatter some forget-me-not seeds in a few months, to help fill in the gaps.

 

I’ve noticed a few small birds flitting in and out of the hedge, which has a few berry remains and birds like berries! This has made me consider making the bed to the right at the bottom of the drive, a bird garden. I can hang some feeders in the tree and put up a bird table and a bird bath. As birds like the seeds from thistles and I’m a thistle lover too, I’m going to try and grow some here. It might not get quite enough sun, but I’ll see how it goes.

 

The main bed in the front garden is tiered and runs from the front of the house alongside the steps to the drive. It already has quite a few established shrubs, some very pretty white and purple heather, as well as lots of Crocosmia (which needs a good cutting down to allow the new shoots through). Next door successfully grow Lavender and Rosemary in their corresponding bed, two of my favourite perennial herbs, so I’m assuming that the front garden is as well drained as the back, despite the water that makes it’s way down from the fields at the back. I’ve already purchased two potted Lavender and one Rosemary. They’re waiting for their new home on the steps in the back garden. I’m gradually going to pick up pots of other herbs such as Mint, Sage, Thyme and Chives to fill any spaces.

 

As I don’t know what the hedge, two trees and most of the plants are, I will be posting close up photos with the hope that you can enlighten me. Any comments on my plans are also very welcome.

Garden Progress

Where Do I Start?

We moved in 6.5 weeks ago! All the boxes are unpacked and everything (almost) has a home. Christmas and New Year have come and gone, with all they entail. The never ending list of jobs to do around the house has been started but, what about the garden?

The Urban Wildlife Gardener
My Inspiration

 

Before we moved, I came across a book whilst browsing round the shop at Chatsworth House which I decided would be the inspiration for my vague ideas of creating a wildlife friendly garden – The Urban Wildlife Gardener by Emma Hardy.

I’ve glanced through and been excited by the brief glimpses of the pictures and few words I’ve actually had chance to read. Definitely a good place to start.

 

 

Emma recommends “Drawing a Plan”.

Top tier of front garden Feb 18
Old plants needing attention, new growth peeking through underneath

First, to plot what already exists in the garden, which will be a work in progress as new surprises pop up throughout the year.

Second, to note where the shady parts and sunny areas are.

Third, to plan what I want to keep and what I don’t as well as what I want to add. This will also be a work in progress, for many years I imagine!

I love plans and maps, so this appealed to me very much.

Putting on my new sparkly blue Hunters wellies (I’ve had a birthday since we’ve arrived too) I patiently waited for Roger to finish his first foray with the Karcher pressure washer (not a birthday present!) on the slimy stone paving around the conservatory. He  could then hold the end of a tape measure whilst I squelch around the garden making rough sketches of both the front and the back gardens.

Note: the paving has cleaned up beautifully!

I now have two slightly wrinkly (it was damp) A4 sheets with a barely recognisable map of the garden, all drawn out in biro. But give me a while, and hopefully I’ll have something that looks like a garden plan, inspiring me to get out there, tidy up, discover, complete a few projects and ultimately attract wildlife visitors.

img_3379.jpg
Pretty winter flowering plants with new shoots coming through and old plant debris to be cleared in the background
Tree at the bottom of the drive
Small bed to the side at the bottom of the drive
Back garden view
Sloping back garden complete with mole hills