Summer is almost at an end in Britain and it seems a good time to take stock of progress at Sherbrooke, my 1.25 acre garden in the west of Scotland. Looking back at my previous posts on GardenDrum, I see, last November, a despondent account of work unfinished and plans thwarted, accompanied by pictures of rubble, mud and debris.
Well, things are now quite a lot better though it’s more a case of lower expectations than real progress. I have had to accept the difficulty of getting any major works done at all, let alone promptly and properly, with everything cleaned up afterwards. It might be possible if we were living there, but from a three-hour distance it doesn’t seem to be. So anything that I can’t do myself, or with help from Jim D (now 78 – how long can we keep him?) is, at least for now, not on the agenda.
The most important achievement is a vast reduction in mess. Jim and I have gradually barrowed the rubble up to the ruin, where it is safely out of sight, and have used the better stones for a new dry-stone retaining wall on the east slope. So far I haven’t managed to get rid of the large blue bag of gravel at the top of the drive. It weighs a ton so we can’t move it and the so-called “gravel” that remains inside could be more accurately described as pulverised road metal. Maybe I could gradually use it up to patch puddles in the drive.
After four solid months of hassling and two breakdowns of the stump grinder (that’s the machine, not the man, though I think the man was pretty close to it too!), I have at last got rid of the stumps from the felled trees.
So the garden bed at the top of the drive is ready for planting and I hope to be able to do that this autumn. My pretty smokebush (Cotinus coggyria ‘Dusky Maiden’) and Japanese maple (Acer ‘Phoenix’) can be freed from the pots they have been languishing in since April and I will have fun choosing a hybrid Rhododendron to plant on the site of the felled Sequioadendron.
The east slope, which I planted in the spring, is coming along reasonably well, though I don’t think I have really got it right. Not surprising, I suppose, as the planting plan, such as it was, was a pretty spur-of-the-moment affair. More haste less speed, probably. On the plus side, everything has grown, and the things that were supposed to flower have flowered.
The hydrangeas have done particularly well. On the minus side, the garden bed as a whole still looks a bit sparse and so far lacks impact, and there are one or two things that I think are finding it too wet. I’ll take stock again in the spring when I see how it all gets through the winter. (Predictably, Jim D has completely given up on strimming the grass so it only gets done when we have time to do it ourselves – which we hadn’t when I took the picture.)
The Rhododendron ponticum stumps have gone from the drive and I am gradually working my way through the debris with the wonderful shredder my husband gave me for my birthday. (Well, Beth Chatto’s husband gave her several tons of manure so a shredder by comparison seems positively romantic!). I’ve filled in the holes with topsoil and sown the patches with grass seed. The stump of Henry the conifer, on the other side of the drive, has been ground out but I can’t decide what, if anything, to replace him with. It will have to be something shallow-rooted because I’ve discovered that the remains of the stump are only about 20cm below the surface and my chances of getting it ground out any further are somewhat less than zero.
The tatty avenue of mixed yew and Rhododendron that used to line the old carriage drive has also gone. I think the answer to the question of what to do with that space is probably “nothing”.
I’ve cleared up the chippings and re-shaped the edges of the drive. We can now see out to the open water from the kitchen window so I think it would be a shame to do anything that would block that view again.
The only major mess remaining is the site of the fallen willow in front of the garage. I think the stump has properly gone but it’s a bit hard to tell underneath the huge mound of woodchips. Sorting out that area is on the agenda for the winter months.