Our garden - a transformation!

Our New Tree Arrives

With the bones of the garden in place now, we have a chance to take stock and make plans to fill out the planting.

At one end of the patio there is a raised bed which needed a focal point. We visited Majestic Trees in Flamstead and chose a beautiful multi-stemmed Cornus Kousa, a Japanese flowering dogwood. It produces cream-coloured, long-lasting flowery bracts in June and later a strawberry-like fruit, then the leaves turn shades of red and purple in autumn.

The guys from Majestic Trees did a great job of delivering, planting and clearing up, in exchange for as much tea and cake as was needed!

Groundwork Completion!

After a long wait for the remaining pathway bricks to turn up, they have arrived!

Now the guys can get on with finishing the paths - they have become so speedy at cutting those curves!

It's a real thrill to see all the hard landscaping completed, everything in place - the new shed, the water butts, a sitting area in each corner of the garden, the CorTen steel water bowl and the beautiful porcelain patio.
The beds have been dug over, plants that were potted up temporarily have been replanted and we are planning new plants for the summer and beyond. We have even had the odd sunny day to sit outside and enjoy the new views across the garden. Here it is from upstairs as a panorama:

We'll continue to post images here as the garden settles and matures. We have lighting coming over the next couple of weeks, and a beautiful Cornus has just been ordered for the bed between the house and the shed. The team from Parker Landscapes have been brilliant!

A builder's still life -

A Roof Top Garden

Chris Parker's guys, Lee and Jamie, have put up our specially strengthened shed. It's strong enough to support the S. Pod modular Green Sedum tray system supplied by Sedum Green Roof.

Within a few warm days the Sedum plants are spreading over the edges of the cells and over the edge of the roof, just softening the framework. The wooden surround to the roof is staying unpainted to match the capping rail along the top of the fence.

The shed gets painted in Cuprinol's 'Muted Clay' from their Garden Shades range and begins to settle into the garden.

Our wall-mounted 15m retractable hose by Gardena is convenient and space-saving -

and one of our two water butts is tucked away behind the shed - it's already half full of water just off the shed. The other 300l water butt (coming soon) is tall and narrow with a 42cm footprint and standing 210cm high, and is positioned by the house to collect rain from the office roof.

Finally for today, our new Brabantia washing line saves space by being wall-mounted instead of using valuable mid-garden space. It's positioned to catch the wind across the gardens, it's neat and easy to use and folds away to almost nothing. Marvellous!

Winding Paths

The brickwork for the curving paths around the garden has begun. The bricks are supplied by CED and are Dutch Clay Paviors and the colour is Lopik.

Laying Patio Tiles

This is where all the preparation leads into the nice bits that have a big impact. Lee got down to laying the patio. Within a few hours the light was bouncing into the house off the beautiful sandy coloured surface. The tiles are CED Emperor 'Limerick' porcelain.

Jamie then added bricks to the steps, and somewhere in between all of that, they laid the base of the shed.

Lee and Jamie and all the guys are all from the fabulous Chris Parker Landscapes

Closing Gaps - Day 10

Brickwork and fencing today - Jamie and Lee on site. I was invited to cement a brick into place - it's not as easy as Jamie makes it look!

And there's no cheating with Jamie's super sensitive spirit level!

Lee got all the major fence panels in place single handedly, and took the remaining one back to the workshop to be resized ready for fitting on Monday.

We love how the evening light glows through the slats.

A brace of builder's still lives to end the week on. Have a fabulous weekend!

Arrivals and Departures - Day 8 and 9

Wednesday started with the arrival of the stone slabs for the patio, and some of the bricks for the paths. All neatly placed onto the now clear drive.

The fence looks amazing with it's contemporary covering of horizontal slats. The gate hinges are going to be swapped for more modern darker ones.

Jamie is cracking on with his brickwork and has, by the end of Day 8 started on the returns for the steps. The herring-bone pattern didn't work with the width of the step, so a simple arrangement of parallel bricks will be laid.

A builder's still life:

And with the fence down between us and our neighbours, some of their overgrown Clematis and a tree or two are departing, before the new fence panels go in.

So here at the end of another day is a section of the wall with the capping bricks in place, all hand-made and beautiful.

The strips of wood on the fence have been almost finished too, with a return around the sitting area under the wisteria pergola.

This afternoon all the fence panels were delivered, ready to be put in place tomorrow.

And finally - a builder's still life:

Day 7 - Mostly Fencing

The guys arrived this morning with jobs allocated. Paul was on clearing the front drive, Lee and new boy Taylor were on fence duty, and Jamie is still working hard on the walls.

The new gate was brought in first.

Then Maddy decided she might like to be a brickie, so Jamie let her have a go - now she has her own brick in the wall!

In the meantime, the freshly painted batons were being added to the back fence. I felt that it was important to reduce the wonky effect of the original sloping fence panels. These strips are being placed exactly horizontally, and will make the garden feel wider, while smoothing out the panels and posts of the existing fence.

The new gate goes in tomorrow, with it's own corresponding batons in place.

The front drive is now clear of all the spoil from the back, ready for the delivery of the porcelain paving tomorrow. Very exciting!

The Wall - Day 6

Massive amount done today, with Jamie hard at work from the get-go building the wall which will frame the patio. It's great to see something being added to the garden now, instead of being removed.

Carefully getting every course level, the first few rows will be below ground before appearing above the patio to include a pair of steps.

At the same time, the grab lorry arrived to clear the mountain of mud and clay from the drive. Always hard to estimate, he couldn't quite get the whole pile on board. It took only minutes to fill the whole truck.

Next job - the fence between us and our neighbours is being taken down and replaced with a super new one, and while it's down, some unwanted trees and shrubs are removed from their garden and easily taken out through ours. You can see the large Corten weathered steel bowl in the foreground that will become our new water feature.

Builders' still lives -

So here we are on Day Four going into Day Five.

This is a composite image showing off a lovely trench for the low wall that will include the steps up onto the upper level. You can just see the blue lines marking out the paths, with an area in the middle for the water feature. Our poor long-suffering pot plants are up on the decking in the top corner. They will all be on the move next week for reasons I'll reveal then.

Next step - mixing concrete for the footings.

All shuttered and levelled, the wall will be started next week after the concrete has gone off. Steel reinforcing bars are added for extra strength for the steps.

Patio drainage will run into the existing soak-away designed to take surface water after heavy rain. It's 4.3 meters deep and currently filled with 3m of water. You can just about see the first rung that goes down into the water. A bit scary!

And finally the bricks were delivered today all ready for next week - very exciting! All covered up to keep the snow off.

A builders Still Life.

Have a lovely weekend!

It Gets a Little Clearer - Day 3

The last of the mud and clay left the garden today and was added to the huge heap on the drive ready for the grab lorry to collect.

The next step was to lay a sheet of geo-textile membrane to act as a buffer between the subsoil and the paving, which for an hour or so reflected light into the house - a very welcome effect on this grey day. That was soon covered with a layer of sub-base material, ready to be compacted down and angled with a subtle fall away from the house for drainage.

A bit of consultation between Amanda, Lee and Chris over the details, and the steps and wall positions are marked out with blue.

Next step - footings for the walls.

Mud Mud Glorious Mud! Day 2

Chris Parker's team really got stuck in today. All the remaining concrete from the old greenhouse foundation and the original retaining walls has gone. Well, it's gone as far as our front drive, awaiting the grab lorry.

A new trench has been started which will become the foundations for the new low wall and steps between the patio and the upper level. The amount of orangey-yellow clay has surprised us, not least because it helps to explain why the garden has been so poorly drained. Also there has been no sign of any man-made drains, despite there being at least two down-pipes from gutters that go straight into the ground and then nowhere.

You can see here how much of a drop there is between us and our uphill neighbour. All the walling will be replaced, as will the fence panels. All that clay!

Some temporary casualties - they will be re-homed!

The Transformation Begins Day 1

I'm used to starting from scratch with my clients' gardens, and although I've developed this garden over the last 14 years, now I have the chance to implement my ideas from the ground up.
So this is a diary of the transformation of our garden. It has given me enormous pleasure as it is, but it's always been a bit of a compromise. I've been able to alter the lawn, borders and planting, but not until now, the patio and walls - the hard landscaping.
Ours is a small suburban garden measuring 10 x 10 metres. It faces roughly south, but is very shady due to nearby buildings and neighbouring trees. It is also very wet in winter and after heavy rain.
Here it is before work started. There is a wisteria-covered pergola at the top of the picture which we're keeping, but the small patio near the house bordered by a tatty low wall and the lawn is going! You can also just see the pale bluey-green shed at the top on the right under the Catalpa - that's going to be replaced by a new shed placed this side of the tree, complete with a Sedum roof.

So here is the plan.

A much bigger patio across the back of the house with borders at each side, a 1.2m wide Corten Steel water bowl to reflect the sky, and paths laid with slim Belgium bricks to weave between the plants and reach a new sitting area at the top right. No lawn, just plants - which I love - and a generous terrace for relaxing with friends and family.
Parker Landscapes are our contractors; here's Lee digging the very first shovel-full of earth.

We offered the greenhouse and shed on Freecycle, and they went to two very happy couples over the weekend. Monday morning looked like this -
Our first hitch was with the skip location. We thought we'd obtained permission to use a space in the private car park behind our back gate, but despite three phone confirmations of alleged consent, it was not to be and we had to make other plans. So the guys have been loading up their flat-bed truck with soil and old paving, and driving round the block to store the soil on our driveway, awaiting a grab lorry.
That's it for today. Don't miss the next instalment!