Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Weather Has Improved

The games have begun, and what international sportsmen there are, competing from all over the world. The British gymnastics team are so far looking incredible, with Louis Smith doing particularly well. Having been in the school javelin team, I'm looking forward to this years performances and new honed techniques. The main event going to be watched in the Gary and Amanda household however, will be the diving, and in particular Tom Daley. I really hope it all comes together for him at the games. On the gardening front, our own garden is in need of some serious pruning, as things are becoming quite overgrown, but at least we have some colour (and sunshine) to look out upon.
The first stage of the re-landscaping at the house in Sandbanks is now complete, with only planters for the decking to sort out. The front garden is next, but that will have to wait for the autumn, as there is some rather exciting planting planned. But for now, the rear.
The remit was to go for something completely different to what we did at their last place, which was mostly large mixed shrub borders filled with classic English 'fluffiness'. The effect there was perfect, but also suited the house style and the owners lives.
As soon as the owners moved in to this new place, the first thing we noticed was the poor planting already carried out by the builders, and a large Eucalyptus tree towering over the Chusan Palm, and far too close to the fence. When on the decking area, the eye was naturally drawn to either the strange Pittosporum crescent, or the Eucalyptus highlighting the bend in the fence. Also, there was generally a mix of curves and straight lines in any borders etc, and so, with a very modern design of house, we decided to use only straight lines in the design. Make no mistakes, this is a 'top end' house, kitted out with some serious stuff.
One of the main planting considerations we thought of, was how to disguise the fence. Along the side of the house was an old Laurel hedge, through which were 'growing' 20ft high conifers, now mostly dead. The latter were quickly removed, and the remaining Laurels reduced drastically, so that they could be maintained as an evergreen hedge. The rest of the fence, which completely wraps the rear garden, was planted with Pyracantha 'Orange Glow' along the Eucalyptus side, and more Laurels down the other side. The Pyracantha, when either in flower or berry as a tight trimmed hedge, should give a good colourful show, and still look fairly simple.
A small octagonal summer house was out put on the corner, to break up the garden at this end into two areas. The side below also contains a wash drying area, and so needed to remain fairly functional. First however, there was the grass to remove, so that a border could be created. When I say grass, I should say moss, because all of the overhang and darkness caused by the conifer and Laurel hedge, meant that grass never stood a chance anyway.
The ground is now a blank canvass, and the Laurels under control. These will be hand pruned from now on, allowing about six inches of new growth each time, until they reach the top of the fence.
The drying zone, also in this area, was also cleared of grass and made ready. The rotary washing line, that hinges out over this small border, required us to make an area of harder standing than the existing grass, which, with dripping clothes and foot traffic, would have soon looked a mess.
Also, another area that required harder standing was just in front of the summer house entrance. As you can see, the grass can get quite wet and muddy, and so it's important to have a dryer transitional area.
The Eucalyptus was removed, and the large stump ground down. The Pittosporum crescent removed. The border in the far corner completely emptied, and then all remaining areas to be planted were given a pressure treated timber board edging to maintain hard, abstract lines.
Next came the planting, and if you remember in this post, we had selected some nice stuff. The ground was easy to work, and we both had great fun getting 'down and dirty' with these living things. As a gardener, I never get fed up with the smell, feel and texture of plants, and always am amazed at just how diverse nature can be.
These Pieris 'Pink Perfection' were a particular favourite of Amandas.
Once all of the plants were in, the next stage was to put in a breatheable weedproof membrane everywhere.
It was carefully teased over the new planting, and around the old, and finally pegged into place. Air and water can pass straight through, but weeds can't, which is very important for the next phase.
The border in the far corner, now much lighter and ready. A young Acer 'Senkaki' is planted in the corner, and in a couple of years will give an amazing show with it's coral coloured bark throughout the year, and it's lovely foliage in the summer. The fence will eventually be hidden by the Laurels and Pyracanthas.
Now everything is ready for the pebbles.
The day of the pebble laying. There were 12 tons of them, and it was pouring with rain. We had roped in the daughters partners to lend a hand, as more muscle was definitely needed at this point!
The weather was horrendous, but the show needed to go on. Waterproof were a bit of a waste of time, as the rain was so heavy, and we were sweating so much, that we were so drenched underneath that water was running out of our trousers! A psychological support more than anything I think.
Still, we managed to still have a laugh now and again.
Nearly finished, and almost time to go home for a hot shower and change of clothes before going for a beer by way of a reward.
And we are now finished in the back. Incredible low maintenance, with only the need to go over most things two or three times a  year with secateurs. The four small Andromeda polifolia on the right are where the rotary clothes line comes out. These will benefit from any dripping, whilst the owner won't make any grass muddy now that it's been replace with pebbles.
The rear garden now looks and feels much larger and brighter. Everything is now in straight lines, in keeping with the look of the house. A little more colour will be introduced with the use of clusters of grey granite planters at either end of the decking. These will be planted with an ever changing selection of small seasonal shrubs and things like Gazania and Agapanthus. The lawn has been removed, and artificial turf put down, as the owners like to occasionally leave their dining table and chairs out, and this way the grass won't suffer. Note how the pebbles highlight the new planting, and frame the garden. Being quite light when dry, they draw the perimeter of the garden out from the eye, making it seem bigger. Try comparing with the same picture a few moments ago.
This is the other end of the house. Once a very dark, and very wet and boggy area, the Laurels will soften the fence line when they reach it's top, and the pebbles once again lighten it some more. The drain covers had to be hidden, and this was the best way.
A lot of work, and we were very hungry after work on Saturday, and so cod fried in butter, with asparagus and tomatoes fitted the bill, all washed down with a nice chilled Chablis!
Ps...I'm ignoring the updates about the Red Thread in the lawns...far too depressing!
Thanks for passing through.


  1. Looks great Gary. It's nice to see the step by step process on how you go from A to Z. I have a tiny little job to do and you'd think I get it done....but I have no energy with this heat. It's ridiculous. Maybe tonight when it cools down. Your final product looks great.

  2. This all looks great. What a nice variety of plantings. I found it interesting that you put in the plants and then put the fabric layer in. Can you put it down and cut holes to plant through instead? It should work well and really made for a nice area. The covers for the drains in fun. I know what you mean about the rain gear just making you hot ans sweaty so you're wet anyway. Been there!
    Enjoy the better weather you've been getting.

  3. WOW!!! It looks great. .and I'll be the owners are more than pleased. .Have you ever considered moving to Kansas :-) Probably not. .so I'm still probably on my own!! Oh well, I would miss having green fingernails!! Enjoy your week!

  4. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for the nice comments. That job that you can't get done, I know the feeling. Our garden is the same, as we just run out of steam by the end of each day to do our own.

  5. Hi there Sherlock,
    Thanks for your kind comments. Usually we would put the membrane down first and then plant through it. This time we were using an ornamental pebble, and wanted to avoid get any soil at all on top. Also, with some of the shrub sizes involved it was easier. Wet weather and would think they had got the sweat problem completely sussed by now wouldn't you?

  6. Hi Melanie,
    The drain covers are kind of quirky aren't they? Kansas....hmmmm.....I am afraid that Barton-on-Sea is the furthest we travel!
    Thanks for the nice comments, and yes, the owners are pleased with the results (phew!)

  7. Unbelievable amount of hard work and good designing. Looks great, so does the dinner you made, take care!

  8. Hi Gina,

    Looking forward to doing the front garden now, and we were reaaly ready for that food!

  9. Hello Gary:
    First, thank you so much for becoming a Follower of our blog and through which we are delighted to have become reacquainted.

    Such a transformation has been effected in this Sandbanks garden and we can only imagine that the owners are delighted not only with the end result but also the quality of workmanship which has gone into the making of it all.

    As we understand it, the weather has been positively dreadful in Britain throughout the whole of the summer so you were indeed fortunate to find a few dry days although, as we read and see, the pebbles had to be put in place in the usual rain.

    We shall look forward to future posts.

  10. Hi Jane and Lance,
    It's good to once again share in your wonderful tales. Your comments are very kind. The weather this year has been extremely problematic, and still is, but it was nice to at least finish the first part of the Sandbanks garden.