Skip to content

Sorting out the garden problem area

Although we had the garden revamped in 2018 there was a corner of it that was unfinished. Even after we’d had the sheds built it was never totally satisfactory. By 2023 the yew tree had become quite dominant, with its roots extending into the rising bed against the far wall. It had always been difficult to grow anything much in those beds as the soil was dry and riddled with roots. It was also difficult to get to. Meanwhile the wooden pergola was a nice idea but the honeysuckle never really produced flowers, and the area around the base of the yew had become the place where we stored empty flower pots and bags of compost, which were regularly torn open by foxes.

garden in 2023

What to do? We often sat on the other side of the garden and stared across, trying to think up possible solutions.  First of all we called Ashley the tree surgeon and asked him to reduce the crown of the yew and to remove the bay (middle of top photo) which was dark and prominent. They couldn’t take out the stump but at least cutting it down let a little more light in. But as this photo shows (taken in January) the area was still a bit of a mess.

When the pergola started tilting and we discover the posts were rotten at the base, we finally called in Nigel Philips. Nigel had designed the garden for us originally, and when he came over to take a look we spent some time discussing the options. Then he came up with a plan.

garden design by Nigel Philips

I’ve always longed to have a greenhouse. Nigel’s plan not only gave us an (albeit small!) greenhouse, but it solved the issues of the flower bed that was too inaccessible and poor quality, and the need for screening of the ‘storage area’. The upper bed would be dug out back to the wall and the rock retaining walls shortened. The existing patio would be extended, the pergola removed and a new brick dwarf wall and raised bed built, to support a trellis or screen behind which the bags of compost would be neatly hidden. And who else to ask to do the hard landscaping but Dave and Mark of Southern Landscapes, who did such a fantastic job for us back in 2018. The dream team!

We got the ball rolling by knocking down the pergola. That was as much as we could manage. The rest of the job looked a bit frightening!

We had no idea what sort of state the brick wall would be in. It’s quite possible it hadn’t seen the light of day in over a hundred years.

By the end of day one Dave and Mark had dug out quite a bit of the bed, removed a load of rocks and taken down the pergola. Although there was clearly a long way to go.

There was the small (?) matter of the bay tree stump, and also an old iron roller that we had kept because it was quaint, but now completely rusted and too heavy to move, so we asked for that to go too. The first skip load of soil was taken away after just a day.

Meanwhile, Nick and I went shopping for a greenhouse…

lovely greenhouse-Mottisfont

Ha ha! I wish! Sadly it had to be something a little more modest.

By the end of day three some real progress had been made, and it was a relief to discover that the old Victorian garden wall was in excellent shape.

End of day four: the space was almost complete, and we could see the two levels of the new bed curving round. The rain and mud of earlier in the week was thankfully drying out and when the sun appeared it became hot work. We made sure Dave and Mark were kept supplied with water, black coffee and biscuits…

By the end of day 6 the men had started rebuilding the retaining walls with the stones, cutting and fitting them expertly as they went…

… and by day 7 the rock walls were complete…

The massive bay stump took a lot of sawing, digging and heaving to extract. It took three of them to haul it into the wheelbarrow for taking out to the skip. (The iron roller was next!) I have to say it’s a great pleasure to have discovered Dave and Mark. Not only did they do everything manually (access to our garden is not easy and there’s no way of getting any heavy equipment in) but they are quiet, clean & tidy, painstaking in their work and always good natured.

On day eight they set to building the new brick wall for the raised bed, which was also to extend down the side of the greenhouse space to the existing wall.

We kept checking the size of the space – could there really be room for any kind of greenhouse? We settled on one that measured 6’4″ by 4′ 6″ and Dave and Mark measured it out meticulously.

At this point, I went off on a yoga retreat in Spain, leaving Nick on coffee/biscuit duty. By the time I got back, the raised bed was complete, the patio had been extended, and everything clean and tidy – hurray! Even the area behind the raised bed, which will eventually be behind a trellis or screen, was neat and flat. What a brilliant job.

And there was a neat plinth on which to build the greenhouse!

Dave and Mark returned the next day and finished the grouting between the paving slabs. All in all a wonderful transformation.

The greenhouse is being delivered tomorrow, and we’re planning to put it up ourselves. The man at the greenhouse shop, when asked is it a difficult job, replied ‘It’s a lot easier the second time!” So wish us luck!

Subscribe to this blog

We don’t spam! You'll only get an email when there's a new post to read. You can unsub at any time.

Published inBuilding worksGarden

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *