Standing Room Only



With the garden at Polegate Cottage temporarily occupied by builders and tradesmen, I am experiencing an explosion in the plant population next door at The Watch House. Having cuttings, seedlings and freshly sprouted dahlias on the terrace and kitchen worktop was tolerable at first, but those tiny seedlings and cuttings are now vigorous young plants, and the dahlias are approaching 3ft tall.


My kitchen worktop woe

My kitchen worktop wilderness


Lining the passageway that leads to our front door, there is a long procession of gingers and cannas. Robust and healthy, they are producing vast, water-channeling leaves, brilliantly adapted for soaking ones trousers every time it rains. In league with the gingers, the trachelospermum opposite is pushing further and further across the narrow path, knowing that I will not countenance removing the scented flowers that are blocking my way. The walls are, quite literally, closing in on me.


Get wet for the weekend!

Get wet for the weekend!


Meanwhile the contents of the greenhouse, standing remarkably intact amongst wheelbarrows of mortar and a spaghetti of old copper piping, is evolving into a lost world of gigantic leaves, exotic flowers and rampant climbers. A single seedling of Eccremocarpus scaber is starting to smother its neighbours and there are sweetpeas emerging from the roof vent. There isn’t a single pot that doesn’t have a baby Echium pininana or Geranium maderense sprouting from it; I am much too slow to pull the seedlings out. I had the brilliant idea of filling the greenhouse with Gloriosa rothschildiana during the summer, but now find I have no-where to plant them out. The luxurious orange and green flowers of Fuchsia splendens are a small consolation – never have they appeared so early or so unblemished – and now I learn one can actually eat the fruits that follow.


Splendid Fuchsia splendens, dahlias, echiums and cannas in the greenhouse

Splendid Fuchsia splendens, dahlias, echiums and cannas in the greenhouse


The chaos and overcrowding displeases Him Indoors greatly. His perfect garden would have wide terraces with only sunbeds and parasols arranged on them, preferably overlooking a swimming pool. Plants might be acceptable provided they required minimal maintenance and did not create shadow. And it would be sunny from dawn until dusk. What we have now is about as far from his Nirvana as possible, plus it’s rained incessantly throughout our not-so-flaming June. It is a jungle out there and I imagine we have another month of mayhem before I have any hope of getting my overflow garden back.


My kitchen sink conundrum

The kitchen sink conundrum


Of course, I should have known better. This scenario was entirely predictable and I chose to plough on regardless. Less-is-more would have been a better philosophy, rather than saddling myself with hundreds of plants that might find a home somewhere, sometime. My predicament weights all the more heavily because of the garden open weekend in August. Thank goodness this is three weeks later than usual. If the builders take any longer then we may be lending visitors scythes and machetes to penetrate a thicket of gingers, dahlias and agapanthus.


A more controlled area of the garden

A more controlled area of the garden


My strategy now is that I need to get through this summer without being struck off by the kindly but exacting ladies from the National Gardens Scheme. In autumn I can rein in my ambition and start again with fewer pots and a simpler layout. I will make space for Him Indoors’ long awaited steamer chairs and reduce the population of the greenhouse, maybe. A few frosty nights would probably assist me with the selection process. Until then it’s standing room only.
The Watch House garden is open on August 20th and 21st, 12pm-4pm, in support of the National Gardens Scheme. Sturdy boots, compass and pith helmet optional.

The sun’ll come out, tomorrow….