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Gardening with Hannah Genders

Early days . . .

Posted on February 12 2010 at 9:14:10 0 comments

Snowdrop bulbs coming up

Hannah Genders waits to see what surprises her new garden will spring.

As many of you will know, we moved house in September last year and are just now starting to settle in. Lots of people I have bumped into around Alvechurch have asked if I will be doing some articles on how the garden progresses as we work on it through the year, so I thought it was a good idea to do an early article.

When I’m doing design work for clients who have taken on a new garden, I always advise them to give it time before they make any hasty decisions – it really takes a full year, living with the garden through all the seasons, before you can start to make informed choices about how to make the space work best for you.

I have largely followed my own advice at the start, but I did get rather enthusiastic about planting bulbs when we moved in and planted nearly 400! They were mainly dark tulips, alliums and lots of spring flowering dwarf daffodils in the area where I want to create a woodland space.

The problem with this is that at the moment I don’t know what else will come up in the borders or how the colours will work, and this is one of the reasons why it’s better not to make too many plans until you see what comes up through the year. You can then make better decisions about the plants and planting design.

The other reason for waiting is to see how the sun and light move around the garden – this has an effect on the plants you’ll put in and also on where you might choose to sit. This might seem obvious but, according to your lifestyle, it might not be where you first thought. For example, if you both work, a west-facing patio can often be the most useful as you get the chance to soak up some evening sun after you get home. 

So, back to my plot and some outline ideas I’ve noticed so far, even though it’s early days. We have a walled garden area at the back of the house and although I am very excited about developing this space, I also wanted to check how much sun it gets in the winter months when a large part of this area of the garden is shaded by the house.

It has proved to keep quite sunny on the back wall, so I am thinking of growing some fruit there and will probably go for espalier fruit to save space and give an attractive shape. There are some perennials planted up near the wall and I am waiting to see what these are, but I guess I will put more shade-loving perennials in near the house.

On the left hand side of the garden are a number of trees and a great spot for bonfires. This area already feels very different to the rest of the garden, a sort of tucked-away space with lovely views out to the adjoining field.

I have put a bench up here to see how much we use it through the year, and so far it’s been popular. This area I will try to keep very natural and low-maintenance, planting woodland bulbs and flowers (as I mentioned earlier, I have already started!)

The top end of the garden already has a vegetable plot and greenhouse, and I plan to keep it here but remove some of the trees that are shading this area, as good sunlight is essential for growing your own fruit and vegetables.

Over time I might make the area a bit larger, and it will definitely need rabbit-proofing before I plant anything. The soil also looks as if it needs a good feed, but thankfully there are some full compost bins from the previous owners which need emptying.

Nearer to the house there are some large borders with a mixture of shrubs and perennials, and a well that we would like to reinstate. I can recognise some of the plants but not all of them, and I don’t know what colour flowers many of them will have, so apart from my rash planting of bulbs I will spend the spring making notes on this area and seeing what appears that I like.

As it is a warm south-facing border, I will plant plenty of herbs along with the flowers as it is convenient for the kitchen. There is already a good-sized rosemary plant and some oregano. The only herb not to plant in an open border like this is mint, as it becomes too rampant and will smother everything else – you can plant it in an old sink or container to avoid the problem.

Whatever the plants in this garden are, I can’t wait to get out there and start work, especially now that spring is on its way. 


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