People move house for all sorts of reason, for me it was out of necessity as the Victorian housing association house I had been renting for the last 14 years became too difficult for me to access both indoors and outside out to the garden. With my decline in health, especially mobility, moving house became the only option even though just the thought of leaving my lovely garden filled me with absolute dread and sorrow. In early February 2015 I was offered to swap my tiny 2-up-2-down with a 1-bed council bungalow - and I accepted having little idea how much work I was actually facing. I spent the next few months lifting as many plants and bulbs as I could find in my garden at that time of year – and as many as I could manage due to size, and also realistically hope would survive a while in pots. I ended up moving almost 700 pots, from the smallest cutting pot to the largest containers. I must admit it has not been plain sailing, the hot period last June-July was difficult and although it was not so hot the rest of the summer I still had to water every evening or at least every other evening. Watering plants in the ground is not so difficult, watering pots is so much more challenging and I would ideally have liked to poke my finger into each pot before I watered – but with nearly 700 pots that was not realistic! Some plants ended up dead from not enough water and some actually drowned. And I lost plants to vine weevils, another challenge with lots of pots. Finally I had an attack of Fuchsia Gall Mite and in the end had to destroy all my 86 potted fuchsias and all I have left of fuchsias are my miniatures which seem unaffected. It’s been a year of trial and tribulations in the garden!
But it has also been a very exciting year – how fun it has been to plan a whole new garden from scratch! The garden I moved to is slightly bigger, a ‘wrap-around shape’ rather than the rectangular back garden I had before, it has a back gate and a shed which I didn’t have before, is much sunnier and there is even a neglected, soil filled brick pond. On the downside I lost the wonderful soil I had in my previous garden, lovingly tended to by me over 14 years and perfect for my many acid loving and woodland plants. The soil here in my new garden is perfect….for pottery! A spongy, squelchy, wet and cold soil in the winter – and hard as concrete the rest of the year. I am now looking into installing a soaker hose for the whole back garden, something I am new to, but I hope that will help so I can be able to plant in the summer too, and it will be a good help and cost saver not having to water with a hose anymore. Digging out the clay and replacing it with new topsoil would have been the perfect option but that’s not going to happen – I can’t afford to pay for a company to do the job, the council is definitely not going to do it for me and I am physically not able to do it myself. I will have to learn to garden in my new environment and slowly add to the clay so the soil gets better – that’s going to take time, many years. In the meantime it will be interesting to see what kind of plants that will be happy in this soil. My acid loving plants will be having container life for years to come I am afraid.
So how far have I got with my new garden? Well, I must admit that when I am pottering around here on my own things take a long time and everything often takes frustratingly long…but I get there in the end! And since I am no longer working I have of course the opportunity to go out for an hour now and then when the weather permits even if it is in the middle of the week. I still have most of the plants left in pots, I have been concentrating on getting the garden cleared of rubbish, removing old plants I no longer want and getting the hard landscaping right. I inherited some pretty bog standard plants and I just cut them down to ground when I started working as digging them out during the summer was not an option in my concrete soil. I have also inherited a lovely apple tree and a plumtree, both in desperate need of pruning – and with me being a rather novice to fruit trees I am a bit lost to where I start with trees that hasn’t been pruned for at least 10 years. Inheriting a garden is exciting, frustrating, scary, hard work and oh, so FUN!
My plant list is finally up to date, I will soon get on with making a swap list and I am still aiming to have ALL the plants in my plant list with my own photos – the latter will take some time I fear, but I have made a good start. I have been absent from GPS more or less the last year, only nipping in to read and comment here and there, but I feel ready to come back now. I have made an open invitation to GPS growers in my area to come and meet me and other growers and do some swapping, you can read more about it here: https://www.greenplantswap.co.uk/talk_posts/366-meet-and-swap-day-in-east-london-saturday-20th-february
I hope it will be successful so we can repeat it, and hopefully other growers will do something similar. Time will tell if this becomes a success!
PS! The first photo is from May 2015, one week after moving in, the second is from February 2016.