Thoughts on a Big Project

One of my last projects for the winter was to strip out the shelves and wallpaper in my kitchen pantry and redecorate it the same colour as the kitchen. But then I started this blog and, ever since, every spare minute has been taken up trying to get to grips with WordPress! My learning curve has been, and still is, vertical!

At the end of April I will be retiring (yippee) so I will be able to put some real time into my Big Project, the garden.

22 years ago, when I had all but given up hope of finding a place where I could keep my horse at home,  I found my dream cottage through a friend.  I was in the right place at the right time and I could just afford the mortgage on this little ‘attached’ cottage with stables, outbuildings and a turnout paddock. Luck was on my side as I found a buyer for my house the day after I had placed the ad in the paper and in just over six weeks, my horse, two cats and I moved in.

Luckily the garden was a blank canvas, with only a few fruit trees and  shrubs. Over the next 10 years I toiled hard creating flowerbeds, planting hedges and shrubs.. It wasn’t on a par with the Lost Gardens of Helligon, but it certainly felt like it!  I planted over 60 old roses, and constructed a rose tunnel and trellises for them to climb through. The perfume on a summer’s evening was overwhelming.

Just a few images of my garden 12 years ago…

Garden 2000 Buff Beauty

Garden 2000 C

Garden 2000 D

Garden June 200

Cottage garden 2000 A

IMAG0015 (2)

That is what it looked like in its heyday.This is what it looked like last year…




Clematis viticella

As you can see the roses have all, but a few, died. They are high maintenance. They need to be sprayed for greenfly and against blackspot, fertilized and dead headed regularly. I just didn’t look after them as I was too busy going for long rides on my horse. The garden was neglected for too many years. The black spot gets into the stems, the leaves all fell, and the roses died. So sad. I had worked so hard on getting my old rose collection established, then I neglected them. Sad too, that now I’m going to have time to look after them, I can’t replant new roses where the old ones were. That is, not unless I replace something like two cubic metres of soil for each rose. This would just not be feasible!

Luckily the Cecile Brunner and the Rambling Rector, on the other side of the garden have survived. Can’t think why because they’re planted next to my neighbour’s conifers that take all the moisture out of the soil. They are beautiful…


So, the challenge is, what to plant in all the gaps!

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on a Big Project

  1. Hello Country Lover, what a shame to hear about all your beautiful roses dying! I’m a rose lover too and have many varieties in my garden, mostly climbers and ramblers but I NEVER EVER spray them or anything else in my garden with chemicals! Black spot can be kept under control with correct pruning and garden hygeine (ie always removing and burning any infected leaves fromthe plant and surrounding area.) As for aphids, if you’re brave enough to leave them be eventually the garden eco system will sort them out. I haven’t sprayed against greenfly for years and don’t find them to be a problem in the garden at all.
    But as you have sadly lost most of your lovely roses, how about a completely different approach? As you’re a busy person with other interests besides gardening you need something low maintenance but still beautiful. Take some time to look up the designs of Dutch designer Piet Oudolf who specialises in perennial planting that looks fab all year round and looks after itself pretty much. Although many of his designs are for large projects, his ideas can be easily adapted for the smaller garden. I’m sure you’ll find lots of inspiration from his work, I know I have!
    Good luck and happy gardening!

    Cathy Jefferies

    • Hello Cathy, how lovely to read your comment and advice, it is much appreciated. Yes, collecting up the fallen leaves, spraying the ground with diluted solution of Jeyes fluid to kill of black spot spores…. Didn’t do it, just neglected it. Was in a new live-in relationship and my poor garden went to pot. Will willingly check out Piet Oudolf and his perennial planting….. thanks for pointing me in his direction.
      The loss of the roses is just part of the problem as the garden has been taken over by the dreaded bindweed. Had planted many lovely perennials that have also gone by the wayside. Need to dig out as much of the bindweed ‘spaghetti’ roots as I can, but I am sure as you know, as I do, you have to leave just a fingernail length of bindweed root and it will regenerate.
      It’s the bare trellises and pergola that I need to fill. Most probably it will be with clematis and honeysuckle and perhaps some annual Morning Glory. The temperatures went down so low this winter -14 degrees – I have lost another ceanothus and I fear one of my honeysuckle Halliana. 🙁

      • Yes they’re probably the safest bet for the arches and pergolas. I find Clematis viticella varieties are so reliable and only need a good cut back in late winter, so not labour intensive at all

        • Ah, thanks for that, never can remember which clematis I cut back at the end of winter, or at the end of the flowering season (neither can I for spirea). The last but one photo is a clematis viticella (the purple one), which I need to cut back now. I have lost four or five clematis too. So sad.. The best one was the Vivien Pennell which you can see on the side of the cottage extension in the fourth photo in his post. Beautiful, huge double or triple mauve flowers in the Spring and then single ones later. I need to dig out my plans because I have been absent from the garden for so long I have forgotten the names.. of those few survivors. It’s a shame how love can turn ones head and stop one from following the true path. Ah well, such is life. I’ll pick up the strings again and move forward!

    • Many thanks, but you wouldn’t think so now. Too much bindweed, too many brambles and nettles. Must get out there today and start hacking back. Sadly, another day I won’t be riding, but soon will have all day to do as I please.

  2. I think your garden looks beautiful. It looks really big too. I’m jealous. My Gran had roses in her garden so they have always been my favourite flower. We have a low maintenance garden though. Slabs, decking and stones. I only have to shift the weeds every now and again. Good luck with your project whatever you decided to plant. Can’t wait to see the end results.

    • Thanks, yes, the roses were beautiful. Such a shame I have lost so many. I was worried I had honey fungus when I started to lose them, but I haven’t. Too many in too confined a space, and neglect I’m afraid. As they were old species they weren’t disease resistant like so many of the modern roses are. Ho hum.

  3. My word in it’s heyday it was fabulous wasn’t it? Even now it is a thing of beauty, but I can see that you’d be disappointed with the roses. I have one in my garden and I just don’t have the time to deal with it. Fuschias, mallows and geraniums, that’s the way forward for me: low maintenance, bung ’em in and watch them grow!

    • You’ve a point there! But it’s quite exciting planning what I will put in the gaps…. once I have dug up all the nettles and their awful roots, brambles and their awful roots, and the bindweed with their never ending roots. Only problem about the latter is that if you leave just a quarter inch of root, it will regenerate. Awful pernicious weed!

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