fencing round 2

There was a problem with the blog hosting and I couldn’t create new posts. It was so far down our priority list to get it fixed that it’s taken us the best part of a year. Anyway. We’re back now. I’ll update you on all the super exciting* stuff over the next couple of weeks.
*May not be actually super exciting.

Most of you are aware that the neighbours on one side can be somewhat obnoxious. The 20-year-old son hangs out in the garden with his friends for very long periods of time (like 11am to 11pm) and their conversations are loud and frequently offensive. They all smoke and our garden reeks of weed. So, we’ve had numerous run-ins with the mother, who is very apologetic but ultimately does nothing about it. After our last, and biggest spat, at the end of summer last year, she put up some reed screening. She stapled it to the fence then added delightful garlands on top. *cough*

It looked like this from our side:


neighbour’s tiki bar screening

I really hoped it was a temporary measure. She stapled ivy and sunflowers to her side of the fence, too. I thought maybe she was having a party. When it became clear she was doing it in an attempt to ease the situation with her son, well, I was pretty mad. It looks awful and isn’t going to help. Stupid idea.

Fast-forward to January this year. It occurred to me that we could add a trellis to the top of our fence instead. It wouldn’t cover up all her screening, but it would blot some of it out and would mean the honeysuckle would have somewhere to cling to. I did some research and we bought some sturdy trellis (not the cheap stuff you get from Wilko) and some special brackets which attach to the fence and fix the trellis securely against our relentless winds.

So, everything ordered and expected to arrive by Easter, we were ready to make this happen.

Then the brackets didn’t arrive.


I did some fighting with the supplier and told him his communication was terrible and he shouldn’t promise a 2-3 day despatch turnaround if he can’t fulfil it.

In the meantime we painted the trellises to match the fence. I say we. Other than sourcing the trellis and brackets, and occasionally providing consultancy, I did no actual physical graft on this project. Mark did all the work.

Then, huzzah! the brackets arrived. We tested them out and discovered that while the brackets fit on the fence your average trellis is narrower, so it wobbles about in the bracket. Also, and this is entirely my fault, our fences are imperial while the trellis is metric. So there was a 3mm gap at each end too. What a kerfuffle. Off to the local building merchants to get some wood batons to use as spacers.

We used my favourite primer, Zinsser 1-2-3, to prime the galvanised brackets. Galvanised metal doesn’t take ordinary paint. You need a primer that will stick to it. Do your research if you intend to paint outdoor metal. (Or just buy a pot of Zinsser 1-2-3 because it will prime ANYTHING.) Then a coat of Cuprinol to match the fence/trellis.

Next, slide up the fence panel and prop it on some bricks while you screw everything in place. Gentle rubber mallet to bash them back down again (with the metal bracket on the fence, some of them were really quite tight) and hey presto!

Now to plant some annual climbers and another honeysuckle along the left fence, and tie in the existing honeysuckle on the right.


I think that’s better than the tiki bar screening, don’t you?


Things you need to know about fences.

There’s a well-known thing about how to work out which fence is yours and which is your neighbours depending which way the fence faces. Apparently, this isn’t accurate. Older houses often no longer have the boundaries in their original places when walls have been moved, or neighbours have made informal agreements. So, don’t take it for granted. The upshot is: if you want to change your fence, other than paint your side of it, you need to ask your neighbours. Just in case.

There are rules about the maximum height of any permanent structure on domestic boundaries. That means a wall or fence can only go up to 6 feet, but hedges and trees – ridiculously not considered permanent structures – have no such limits. If your fence/wall is roadside check with the council. In some cases, I think if there’s a possibility it might block drivers’ views of a turning, the height restriction is 5ft.

spring in the garden

Winter wasn’t very kind to the garden. So many plants withered to almost or absolute nothing. We were both despondent when March came around and there seemed to be as much bare soil as there was last June when we’d just started planting out. Two months later, though, and things are looking up. Plants we thought had died off have sprung back to life. We had some geraniums that I thought were evergreen but are, we now see, in fact deciduous, and they’ve filled out their patch and started flowering. The sweet woodruff died back to scraggy stems, booyaa was convinced it was never coming back, but it’s now a mass of bright green leaves and I spy the start of tiny flowers. (They’re such pretty plants. I hope they spread soon.)

sweet woodruff late winter starting to show new growth

sweet woodruff late winter starting to show new growth

sweet woodruff in May

sweet woodruff in May

The rose bushes are two distinct stories. The older one (by a year) is zooming up the rose arch. Every few days I have to tie in another wayward branch as it reaches out to scratch you as you walk by. The younger rose has put on some growth but it suffered more over winter, and has had to fight harder to make its spring comeback. There are already over a dozen buds on them, which is about the total of last year from May to September. Looks like I might get an actual bunch of roses (as opposed to a single bloom) by my bed this year.

We had a number of biennials, mostly acquired from the lovely Ben at Higgledy Garden. Some of them didn’t make it – Betsy trampling, slugs, don’t know what else – but we prudently kept some in pots in our little nursery in the side return. So anything that didn’t make it over winter direct sown has been planted out in the past two weeks.

We tried direct sowing some wildflowers and other bits and pieces, but we don’t seem to have much luck. One patch was decimated by the pigeons (thanks guys!) and the other, well, maybe it dried out or didn’t get enough sun, I don’t know. So I’ve resown everything in those little coir pots and all the windowsills are groaning under the weight of seed trays. It’s working. We’ll have a second round of cosmos to plant out in a couple more weeks, we’ve got more alyssum (last year’s is still going, but you can’t have too much of that delicious honey scent, I say) california poppy and cornflowers (those colours will zing!) for the pots by the front door, calendula for Betsy’s garden (they’re non-toxic to dogs, so if she eats them it’s ok) and masses of dill to fill in any gaps in the main garden with feathery green leaves.

The chamomile that gets trodden on (and that Betsy likes to pee on) is looking a bit bashed and we’ve lost one or two plants over winter, but all around the edge of the patio where it’s been mostly protected by stacks of pots and the barbecue, so Betsy has kept off it, it’s lush and vibrant and gorgeous. I’ve just planted out another two dozen tiny plants to fill in gaps and start on the path to the shed. And there’s a tray of chamomile growing in the downstairs bathroom. It takes forever to grow into a viable plant. It’s a real slow burner. But by the end of June we’ll have another 40 or 50 plants to expand our scented pathways.

tiny little columbine has survived the winter too

tiny little columbine has survived the winter too

We bought a bench. We were going to upcycle the storage chest into a bench (and we still might) but we both knew it would take us a long time to get around to it. So, having seen a bench I loved, I scoured the internet for a similar but much cheaper option. It’s not first choice, design-wise, but now it’s in the garden I don’t care. The last two days I’ve been out with my morning coffee at 8am when it’s still quiet and enjoyed the sun, the birds tweeting and checking up on the plants everywhere. Watching things grow on a day-to-day basis is such a joy. Then Betsy barges in and tramples on tender plants, or barks at the birds and spoils my reverie. But still. (No photo yet. Will do that when it’s in its proper place.)

the pulmonaria made it through winter

the pulmonaria made it through winter

booyaa planted tons of bulbs last autumn. We bought some species tulips, crocuses and mixed snowdrops, which came up and cheered us from January to March. Then the big tulips started to come through in April. They took their time opening, but the garden right now is a riot of big, blowsy flowers. They’re all pretty over the top, especially compared to my usual restrained palette. We have huge white-tinged-with-green flowers, they’re as big as peonies. Then slim, pointed ones in a deep purple (much darker and more velvety in real life than they come out in the photo). Then there are some bright pink multi-headed ones, just about to open up. We can see the glossy, strappy leaves of alliums poking through, too. June should see a haze of purple take over the garden if they all come up.

blowsy tulips

Last year’s nigella has self-seeded everywhere. We had some in a couple of pots and a neighbour gave us some dried seed heads which I tied upside down from an obelisk and now we’re awash with them. I’ve noticed that between the nigella, chamomile, cosmos and dill we’re going to be very feathery come high summer.

self-sown nigella and new shrubs along the fence

self-sown nigella and new shrubs along the fence

The deciduous honeysuckle, which has barely grown and never flowered since we got it – counts on fingers – 8 years ago, is romping up its obelisk like a crazy thing. It will need cutting back and retraining since it’s all lopsided from being retrofitted to the structure, but I’m quietly confident it’s happy now, we’ll get some flowers soon, and next year, with some careful tying-in, it will cover the obelisk from top to bottom.

honeysuckle climbing skywards

honeysuckle climbing skywards

Garden bargain hunting has gone well this year, with the discovery of lovely terracotta pots from Wilko at £10 each. They look just like your traditional Italian pots, rolled top and all, that normally cost an arm and a leg, but they’re a tenner! I can’t quite get over it. So we’ve bought lots of them. We’ll have plants moving round the garden to fill in gaps and these look just lovely in among the greenery.

you can spot one of the big rolled-top pots here

you can spot one of the big rolled-top pots here

The side return’s little nursery has been great and saved us so much money. It’s just a metal wire shelf unit we picked up for about ten pounds at Wilko but because the side return is fairly sheltered we’ve been able to overwinter young plants there, and now it’s spring we’re hardening off seedlings and growing them on before they go out into the garden. It’s meant we haven’t bought many full-size plants or plugs from the garden centre, other than a couple I picked up on a whim. (I’ve got a lovely marguerite that I just couldn’t walk past, and some trailing lobelia for containers and baskets.)

We’re trying slug-killer nematodes for the first time this year. We’ll be doing the second treatment this weekend. You do two treatments, six weeks apart, to first kill them and then break the breeding cycle. We still have a few snails around, but there’s a lot less damage to plants than we’ve had in previous years. Fingers crossed. Also on pest/disease/garden downsides: we’ve not had too much bother with weeds over winter and into spring. i’ve pulled out a few blades of couch grass trying to muscle in on the chamomile and there’s something that looks like speedwell that I’m just leaving because I like it. There’s another weed/wildflower depending on your take which next door are inundated with that creeps into our side that I’ve been ripping out. (I’ve forgotten its name. Big bright green leaves, tiny blue flowers. Like a forget-me-not’s ugly big sister.) We have a stripe of unidentified seedlings that I’m hoping I sowed last year and they’ve finally germinated. Otherwise we’re about to get eaten by triffids, because boy are they growing fast. The tiny tender buds on the roses are starting to attract aphids so it’s time for Vitax 2-in-1 – it worked last year to clear them and let the buds grow to full flowers.

pots of pansies along Betsy's fence

pots of pansies along Betsy’s fence

DIY-wise, we’ll be painting the shed and the storage bench – just as soon as I can decide which colour to choose – and making a brick platform to put our new bench on. (The bench is currently sitting with its legs about five centimetres submerged into the soft topsoil.) I’ve made a start on painting the back door, though I didn’t get the last coat on before rain stopped play last weekend. It will need replacing soon, but we’re hoping three coats of paint and some woodfiller will keep it going for another year or two. And the patio and side return need cleaning. The rose-coloured stone has an unpleasant greenish hue. I’m going to try a mild cleaner and scrubbing brush first. If that fails I’ll be asking a friend to lend us his pressure washer.

And that’s your springtime garden round up for 2016. It’s been hard work and there’ve been plenty of disappointments along the way but even now, only half finished, it’s a lovely place to spend your time. As it fills out towards mid-summer it’s going to get better and better. It will be full to bursting with plants and flowers, scents and textures, buzzing bees and fluttering butterflies.

uphill gardening

A before and after photo, lest we forget how far we’ve come.

We’ve spent most of the past four weekends working on the garden.

Once the landscapers moved out, booyaa painted the fence while I kept Betsy entertained (out of the way and not liable to get herself covered in paint).

booyaa painting "Betsy's fence"

booyaa painting “Betsy’s fence”

Then we planted the roses, one each side of the rose arch. The star jasmine, after being in a pot for about 7 years, has its own obelisk to scramble up and the honeysuckle too. We have another dinky honeysuckle that’s gone in by the fence, so it’ll grow up a trellis we’ll attach to the fence in the next week or so.

The roses going in the ground, at last

The roses going in the ground, at last

I bought a box full of chamomile lawn plugs to get things started while we wait for our tiny seedlings to develop, so they’ve gone round the stepping stones and patio. There’s some alyssum seedlings gone in the next tier, behind the chamomile, though that’s struggling to bed in. So starting from the path/patio and moving towards the fence it goes: very low-growing chamomile, then slightly taller alyssum and then sloping up to taller plants — cosmos, nigella — and shrubs — a daphne, dogwood, mock orange — beyond them until you get to things like the verbena which towers over the fence.

We found an oriental poppy growing in a pot, though neither of us remember sowing it, so that’s gone in. We have 3 gaura plants which hopefully will colonise the corner as you walk in the gate, and a dozen small lavender plants on the other side of the gate, ready to scent the whole garden.

Because of the delay getting the landscaping done we started off a few plants in pots and some of those have been transferred. Others are still in their pots, dotted around the garden. But there are still huuuuuge gaps. There’s, honestly, more bare soil than plant at the moment. We’ve sown lots of seeds as biennials ready for Spring, but there really isn’t much more we can put in the ground at the moment.

The one thing I’m concerned about with so much empty ground is the ease with which weeds will take hold. There are very many stringy roots under the topsoil which could surge into life, and at this time of year, with lots of rain and sunshine, any weed that can will be forging ahead. So we’ll be working that hoe. (Gangsta jokes straight to the compost heap. Thanks.)

We are talking about putting some grass seed down across the very back of the garden to widen the path and make it easier to get to the shed and the back gate. Neither of us really wants to do this, but we can’t see a way to fill up the garden here while maintaining access to the back gate. (The ground here is a couple of inches higher than we’d anticipated plus the amount of chamomile plugs we’d need, well, we vastly underestimated. We can’t afford to fill that whole section with bought chamomile. It’ll have to wait until we’ve grown it from seed ourselves.)

Along the side return we’ve got a white geranium, some sweet woodruff (very pretty leaves, tiny white flowers in early Summer and a sweet scent to it) and sweet violets. There are lots of gaps here too, but I have sweet woodruff seeds to grow to fill out the border for next Spring. We’ll probably get some Mind-your-own-business to sow along the very edge of the path, to creep along and make a green cover. This area is mostly shaded by the fence. It gets some morning sun, but we’re opting for plants for shade. I hope we made the right call.

The side return (covered with mesh until the plants spread enough to stop someone digging up all the soil...)

The side return (covered with mesh until the plants spread enough to stop someone digging up all the soil…)

We’ve bought some plant hangers to make an edible wall on the side return. The plan for next year is to have a basket of tumbling strawberries — plenty of sunshine up there and they’re out of the reach of slugs and Betsy. The other pots will have kitchen herbs in them, ready to snip and take into the kitchen as needed. Right now, it’s just the basket with some summer bedding in.

And we’ve set up booyaa’s “weird alien plant garden”. This is a half drainpipe, hanging on brackets off the fence along the side return, and it’s filled with tiny little sempervivum (houseleeks) and sedum plants in a few inches of gravel. They’re fascinating little plants and very cute, too. It makes an interesting little feature to look at through the kitchen window as you’re waiting for the kettle to boil.

booyaa's alien landscape

booyaa’s alien landscape

We celebrated our new garden one warm Saturday evening with a few bottles of Sol and a barbecue. Betsy was allowed in the grown ups’ garden while we had dinner and she set about sniffing every square inch of soil. It says something when she’s more interested in the ground than the fish on her dad’s plate. What a pleasure, sitting in what promises to be a really pretty, sweetly-scented garden. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve enjoyed everyday moments like hanging washing out, or wandering around checking up on the plants, to see how they’re settling in. The gentle freshness from the sweet woodruff when it rains and wafts of lavender are lovely.

BBQ time!

BBQ time!

Rip it up and start again

It’s happening! The builders are here, clearing the gravel as I type.

Your traditional Essex builder, there.

Your traditional Essex builder, there.

Say goodbye to an unloved, underused, difficult space and hello to a lovely new garden.

The plan is to pave the side return, leaving a tiny strip to fill with scented, shade-loving plants. Then we’ll put a small fence across, about a metre from the end of the house to make an enclosed L-shaped garden so that Betsy can run about with minimal supervision. I’ve chosen edible plants for that part so that, since she’s probably going to eat them anyway, Betsy will be safe. We’ll have a piece of turf along the back of the house to start with but I’ll swap that to chamomile lawn as we grow the seedlings (they’re supposedly a bugger to germinate, so I’m expecting it to take a while to get enough to cover the whole patch).

On the other side of the low fence there’ll be the grown ups garden. A few stepping stones will lead through a rose arch (see! grown up!) and onto a small patio in the centre, then the path continues from the other side out to the back gate. The patio will have a few pots of lavender and other scented plants and we’ll have a tiny table and chairs, just for two. (We have spare folding chairs, don’t panic, visitors!) I want to put chamomile lawn along the edge of the path so as you walk you crush the plants and release the scent.

To either side will be flower beds. We have the bones of the beds already, with our dogwood, mock orange, verbena bonariensis and so on. We may need a few more perennials to make sure it doesn’t look too bare in winter, but we’ll fill it out with masses of annuals like cosmos and nigella for summer. There’s not that much space there anyway, so it shouldn’t take too much to pack it with flowers.

Originally we planned to have a utility area at the back for the shed and somewhere to store the recycling, and shield it from view with a line of bamboo. But, since we and a few neighbours cleared the shared pathway that runs along the back of our gardens, we’ve decided we’ll leave the rubbish and recycling out there, and we’ll tart up the old storage bench to make a second seating area. It’s a tiny garden, to go with our tiny house, so two seating areas may seem excessive, but the end of the garden gets the last rays of sunlight in the evening, and it might be nice to sit there with a glass of wine after dinner.

More as it happens.

sitting on the fence

We spent the bank holiday weekend painting the garden fence.

I say we. It’s not easy painting a fence with one arm in a sling… so booyaa did the vast majority of the work. I don’t know where he finds the energy, but I’m grateful for it nonetheless.

We’ve been putting up with a very un-boolou garden for a year, and this year we’ve decided that it’s going to get done. Partly it stems from when we were painting the dining room and we took it in turns to keep Betsy entertained in the garden. Sitting out in the sunshine next to the small flower bed we created last year was really very pleasant and we’d both love to use the garden more than we do (which is barely at all). Between the uneven surface, the skiddy gravel, the trip hazard manhole covers, the slope upwards to the back, and the overhanging trees full of shade and pigeons*… well, it’s not a very welcoming space.

We now have a quote for landscaping that’s affordable, and are pencilled in for the last week of June for the work to happen. Between now and then we need to clear out the junk that’s accumulated at the back of the garden, paint the fence, pot up the plants we’ve not long since put in the ground (hugely nervous about that) and grow some annuals to fill out what will be about ten times our current growing space.

So this weekend we tackled the fence. I faffed about choosing the colour using the Cuprinol website colour tester. My first choice was ash black, which mimics the scorched weatherboard of the local (well, Suffolk) architecture, but decided it would be too strong a look for our small garden, and certainly wouldn’t look very urban Victorian terrace. I couldn’t possibly go ‘Forest Green’ or ‘Conker’ or whatever those fake-natural dark shades are, so I chose “Muted Clay” which looked modern and fresh, and a mid-tone greige (that’s grey-beige to the non-initiated). I hoped the ugly concrete fence posts would blend in a little, as they really stand out against the orangey-brown colour we started with and guessed that the green of the plants would stand out nicely against a light, neutral colour.

The weather was forecast to be dry but cloudy, so we thought we’d get the whole fence painted once round. We were even optimistic enough to think we might get both coats done. Ha ha ha. How naive we were. Rain stopped play after 3 panels on the first coat. It dried up again later and while I was cooking dinner booyaa went and stormed through to the end of one side. We got one coat on half of the fence done by the end of the day.

Orange-greige side-by-side comparison

Orange-greige side-by-side comparison

We think the fence was all replaced at the same time, but because it’s weathered differently in places the paint has changed the colour in a subtly different way too. The gate at the back, which is a better quality finish than the fence, has a much stronger colour. The barely touched by sun panels along the side return have changed the least. I mean, they’re not orange any more, but they’re not as strongly coloured as other parts of the fence. After just one coat the fence looked like it had had all the colour bleached out of it. It was a ghost fence.

Shades of greige

Different finish on different wood

Thank heavens for bank holidays, eh? Monday was forecast cloudy with possible showers in the afternoon. We got started after breakfast and finished the first coat on the rest of the fence and started on the second coat by early afternoon. We ran out of paint halfway through the second coat. With no more of our chosen colour in the local Wilko’s, and neither of us fancying a trip to B&Q on a bank holiday Monday, we’re hoping Wilko’s will have more in stock during the week so we can finish off next weekend. But for now, we’ve re-Betsy-proofed the garden and called it a day.

Where the second coat has dried it still looks like we’ve got a ghost fence. The plants show up really well against it, both of us are pleased to see the back of the orangey-brown colour we had before, and it achieves the aim of drowning out the otherwise really noticeable concrete fence posts. The fresh green plants look great against it, and I can’t wait for something blue to flower because I think that’s going to look really vibrant. But on its own it’s a bit meh. Lucky we’ll have a garden full of cosmos and cornflowers in a couple of months.

Side return

The Ghost Fence in all its glory

*Dad says they’re collared doves. They look like what most of us heathens think of as wood pigeons. They’re big, noisy things, that’s the important point.

how does your garden grow

Considering it’s nearly October I’m very impressed with some of our garden plants.

Besides a couple of permanent shrubs, we bought some summer bedding plug plants and seeds to grow our own. We had white nigella flowers that were very pretty but short-lived. There was another white flower that was pretty but the stems grew curved rather than straight so they got lost amid the foliage. The white cosmos started off ok but have gone on to give a fabulous display, despite being hounded by blackfly.

The verbena bonariensis is as magnificent as ever, though a little floppy and requiring an awful lot of tying in.

cosmos and verbena being very tall

cosmos and verbena being very tall

Then the surprise hit, the Abyssinian gladioli. Tall green leaves and large white flowers with deep purple centres. Really impressive.

Abyssinian gladioli

Abyssinian gladioli

I scattered a few alyssum seeds around and they started to knit together to make little frothy mounds at the very front of the bed.



The poppy seeds didn’t take (Fairy Wings, a mix of white and pink field poppies), neither di the borage I sowed to fill in some gaps, but the seeds were old and we didn’t need the filler in the end. The angelica plant never flowered, though the leaves look parched so it probably has a disease of some sort, not that we’ve been able to identify it.

Our clematis that hasn’t flowered for years seems to have settled in well. One branch has entirely died while the other has raced all over and tied itself to everything it could get hold of. The honeysuckle didn’t flower this year either, which was somewhat disappointing. The philadelphus flowered fairly well and for longer than usual, so it must be happy to be out of its pot. And the star jasmine flowered for the first time in years. Only a few tiny little trusses of flowers, but still.

In the food garden we managed to get a handful of tomatoes but that’s all. The potatoes were lovely but we didn’t get that many. And finally the squash plants only produced one tiny little squash. We’re starting to get our heads round that we simply don’t get enough sun to grow food.

The pots are now full of pansies to keep us going over winter and I’ll be making a couple of large pots of “bulb lasagna” for layers of hope and colour from early spring.

the inconstant gardener

You know this bit. The “garden” is a space full of gravel. It’s not a gravel garden, it’s not a garden.

We made some tentative plans, let them sit for a bit and revisited them. One of the things we’ve changed is because, having lived here for nearly two months now, we can see that the garden is in shade for much of the day, so the bright, sun-drenched patio and sun-loving plants we’d planned aren’t going to work.

The wannabe garden is still full of gravel. So far nobody wants to come and take it off us. In the meantime we’re sowing seeds, buying plug plants and slowly working towards building the garden we want.

There’s an incline from the house to the end of the garden. A couple of houses down (you can see it across the fences; they’re all quite low here) they’ve built a raised patio at the top end of their garden, so basically creating two levels. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do too.

We’re trying to source a couple of hefty sleepers or rough hewn timber to create the retaining structure for the step up. You can buy sleepers, new and reclaimed, online, and they’re not that expensive, but the delivery costs are extortionate.

Once we’ve got the timber we’ll work to flatten the two sections of the garden. Then we can start creating the main flower bed.

I quite like the idea of having two levels, since the garden isn’t generous enough for us to create distinct zones, or ‘rooms’ as garden designers on telly say. We’ve tried to plan into this tiny space a couple of different views, so that you don’t see the whole garden the moment you walk out of the back door. We’ve also defined four spaces, determined mostly by the amount of sunshine that part of the garden enjoys.  We’ll have a patio area, with our table and chairs and the bbq in summer. That’s where there’s light shade in the afternoon for sitting around comfortably, and the last rays of evening sun to make the most of it. Then there’s a grow-your-own section, with the veg planters. They’re sheltered by wall and fence but get plenty of sunshine so they should be fairly productive. There’ll be one main flower bed, with very tall flowers in summer and a couple of shrubs in the centre for year-round structure. It’ll take up most of the garden, so it gets good sunlight throughout the day. Finally there’s a shade border along the right-hand fence, where we don’t get much sun at all bar a quick blast in the very early morning. Luckily we’ve lived with a shady garden before, so I already know a few pretty plants that will fare well there.

To agree the structure of the garden, the basic layout, we used a drawing program on the iPad. It’s called Bamboo Paper and it’s by Wacom, the people who make drawing tablets. We sketched out a number of designs there. You use your finger to draw, erase and annotate directly on the screen, so it really doesn’t get any easier than that. Then, once we were confident that was the right layout I transferred it to squared paper. The benefit of squared paper is that you can draw to scale, so it’s easy to measure and know you’ll fit everything in. I use squared paper for working things out in the house, too, like planning the layout of the bathroom. Sound investment. (WH Smith, £3.)

Here are some photos of seedlings to keep you going until there’s really something of note to show you.


waiting for a permanent home

waiting for a permanent home


three rows of salad crops

three rows of salad crops