I’ve been a bit quiet of late and that’s because I’ve been buying a new house. We are not moving, but knocking through into a neighbouring property to give us more space ….. and more garden. Most of you will find it hard to get excited about the prospect of an extra 20ft by 20ft of growing space, but for us that’s almost double what we have now, and with a sunnier, south-westerly aspect the possibilities seem endless. This weekend Architect Guy, brother of Him Indoors, is drawing up plans which will include a library for all my gardening books and a conservatory. I am finding it hard to contain my excitement. No doubt budgetary constraints will bring me rapidly back down to earth!
In the new garden we have inherited a rickety aluminium greenhouse, a rather fine deep red rose, a beautifully scented jasmine, an unusual fuchsia with red-veined leaves, promising clumps of Nerine bowdenii, a plastic pot filled with pink and red bedding geraniums and about 6000 snails. This is obviously where they came when I evicted them from next door. Two sheds and the greenhouse are precariously wired up with all manner of electrics, none of which look particularly safe, so our first job was to cut them off.
By rights I should not be attempting to do any gardening until the two houses have been converted into one. The new house, known as Polegate Cottage, has not been updated for about 35 years, so needs everything done to it – new wiring, new central heating and complete redecoration. It’s hard to believe that two such different properties could be so close to one another. Our house is light, bright and cheerful; next door is gloomy and dated. There will be a lot of mess and expense before I can really getting going on the garden, but in the short term I have succumbed to the usual temptation and started filling it up with pots of the kind plants I’d like to grow there eventually.
Being sunnier than our existing garden I am thinking of drought-tolerant Mediterranean and Antipodean plants which will save on watering. I have started with a bottle brush (Callistemon citrinus), Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius ‘Silver Jubilee’ (inspired by Beth Smith at Foamlea) and Cestrum fasciculatum ‘Newellii’ which has given a me a foundation of silver foliage and red flowers. On that I have built a collection of plants with interesting foliage colours, including fabulous Tradescantia ‘Purple Sabre’, Begonia ‘Benitochiba’, Sempervium ‘Virgil’, Echeveria ‘Black Prince’ and my long suffering aeoniums which have been temporarily stricken by vine weevil damage.
Our existing garden is resolutely green, and the previous owner of Polegate Cottage had a penchant for burgundy red, so I am using this new space as an opportunity to experiment with combinations of magenta, plum, scarlet and aubergine. A purple leaved canna surrounded by red nemesias and helichrysum will not be drought tolerant, but will enjoy the sunshine and shelter. Meanwhile I have moved other cannas and hedychiums around to the new garden to bring them on a little faster in readiness for our National Gardens Scheme open weekend on August 1st and 2nd.
I am looking forward to posting regular updates on our new coastal garden and the plans for its future layout. All bright ideas welcomed!