Now Inner Grace is really not meant to be a gardening blog, but my garden adventures really have been a big part of my life since I became a parent, I think never so much as this year. So I apologise if I mention some plant names here, but I am turning into my mother it would seem and I can’t resist throwing the odd Latin name around.
It was a completely spur of the moment decision to turn our boring patch of grass at the front of the house, into an amazing sensory, bee friendly, cottage garden.
Here’s a before:
And an after!!
First we planted a few fruit trees but kept the lawn as the main event. It was a total non-entity of a space, which we never really used, and was a pain in the bum to mow. My husband literally went to do the school run, and by the time he was back, the grass was getting ditched.
It has not been easy, particularly with the kids helping, and I have learnt some hard lessons, like the fact that my slugs seem unable to resist decimating the lupins, echinacea or catmint, however many times I keep replacing them. I have learnt that restrained is not my gardening style, I had aimed for seven varieties of plants and ended up with closer to fifty! And I have learnt that there is a limit to how many times my husband can feign interest when I exclaim “look there’s a bee on the angelica!”
I have also learnt that there isn’t much I enjoy more than sitting on our bench, watching the bees, guessing which buds will bloom next, spotting interlopers of brambles and grass that need pulling, and hearing my children playing around me. They are still more likely to step on a tender seedling, pull the growing tip off a delicate young plant, or rip a plant whole from the soil, than actually help. But it has been amazing to see them picking and eating ripe berries, tasting sprigs of herbs, getting down and smelling flowers and foliage, squeal with excitement as a fluffy bumblebee’s bottom disappears inside a foxglove, and talking about what a pollinator is.
There is still a lot to learn, and huge amounts of growing to do. I have had to resist buying enough plants to fill every inch of soil, but trust they will all spread and merge in time. Hopefully though I have created a good structure within which it can grow. There is our willow edging which defines the garden whilst allowing all the children who wander past to stop and watch the bees and smell the flowers.
There is my barefoot footpath, made from stepping stones made from a variety of materials and textures. Each step has been carefully chosen, from the giant foot encouraging you to get your toes out, the rounded pebbles that massage tiny feet, to my beloved reclaimed manhole cover, and the hunk of solid rock donated from my mother’s new garden.
The path is surrounded by creeping thymes and lawn chamomiles, designed to be trodden on, releasing its beautiful scents as you explore.
I have chosen plants specially for their scented leaves or flowers, with sage, rosemary, lavender, hyssop, rose geraniums, wild roses, honeysuckle, jasmine, Welsh onions, savoury and chocolate cosmos all adding to the perfume. There is nothing colour co-ordinated about this garden, with a whole host of clashing colours mingling beautifully.
Sound is mainly brought by the constant buzzing of insects, but I have added a bamboo wind chime and a mobile made from shells and sea glass to add to the auditory component of this sensory garden.
As already mentioned there are plenty of herbs to pick for the kitchen, but also wild strawberries to pop straight into little mouths, and the four fruit trees we had already planted slowly ripening for Autumn.
I’m trying to get the right balance between controlling and embracing the wild in this garden. I am daily pulling up unwanted grass and brambles, but I’m happily leaving the hundreds of buttercups which have made their way through the tiny gaps between three layers of cardboard.
The back garden is undergoing developments too. There we are attempting to turn our slightly neglected, weedy lawn, into a deliberately wild flower meadow. The vegetable patch is turning into a jungle, after taking the easy option of a super-cheap lucky dip of vegetable plant plugs, ending up with thirty six tomato plants. We’re just hoping we manage to get some red ones considering we don’t have a greenhouse. We are picking raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrents and rhubarb, with our very first quince and cherries ripening by the day.
I have plans for a pond (though suspect the chickens may eat any tadpoles if we’re lucky enough to get some) and a willow fedge to try and stop those pesky chickens escaping.
I really have found these gardening experiments to be massively beneficial to my mental state, even if I am sometimes tearing my hair out when the children get involved. I really would recommend it to anyone considering having a go.