New Challenge

A change of regime at The Farm means that my time there has
come to an abrupt and frustrating end. Sadly, my work to renovate the gardens will
not be seen through as a ‘mow, blow and go’ contractor has been brought in. I’ll
miss the place: I had started, but won’t have the opportunity to finish, as John Humphrys might say.

Onwards and upwards though. I have taken on a garden on the
edge of the New Forest – let’s call it ‘The Green’ – which is in need of a
restoration programme of its own. A semi-woodland garden of about an acre, it has
hitherto been planted mainly with shrubs, ornamental trees and conifers – most of them in
individual island beds dotted around the large lawns. My job is to give the
whole thing a (long overdue) going over, removing long-established weeds and scratty
grass, and creating some sense of order and definition. Then I’ve been asked to
come up with some new planting which will introduce greater variety, more
colour and a year-round calendar of interest. There is a lot of potential, and
already thoughts are forming in my mind about ways to enhance the gardens: a
day’s weeding gives one plenty of thinking time. The owners are keen to bring
the garden up to ‘Open Gardens’ condition in 18 months’ time – a significant
challenge, but a fantastic target to have.

Open Gardens are also the order of the day at The
Almshouses, where we have just fixed a date in May next year for an opening.
Those gardens are, of course, lovely enough at any time of year (only in small
part due to my efforts, I hasten to add) being well established and
well-planted. I did clear and replant an area of herbaceous border last week –
taking out some tatty Lonicera and a
superannuated Hebe – and bringing in
some autumn colour. Lobelia, Rudbeckia,
and a clump of Imperata
‘Rubra’ created a warm
glow of maroons and deep orange, where previously there’d been nothing much to

A  treat while working
at The Almshouses was to pick (and eat!) a few delicious late raspberries: some
autumn varieties, and others summer canes that have simply kept on fruiting
right through the season.

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