Just before winter sets in, I decided to tackle the rockery slope. I’ve already had bites at it, in search of bricks and rubble for beneath the greenhouse patio and side steps (see breaking glass). Hence, it is affectionately thought of as ‘the quarry’.
Add to that a tenacious carpet of creeping buttercup, nettle, bramble and bracken and this gives some idea as to the job in hand.
The rockery is an area of nearly 4m at its widest part and sloping steeply down from the raised lawn For it to be any use as a planting area, it will be necessary to terrace. Thus with my trusty mattock, I unearthed most of the weeds over several days as well as carving out two basic terraces. The top of the lower terrace will also include a small brick path for access.
Three quarters of the way along, I encountered a wide section of large embedded rocks which has temporarily halted the progress of the terracing. However, since part of the plan here is to put in a water cascade with pool, these are perfect – I just need to shift them slightly further towards the North steps (see ‘Stepping Down‘) and must await some extra muscle to assist me in this.
At the far end by the North steps, a fernery is planned to lie alongside the water feature. Harts Tongue ferns are already resident here but so too were two large mounds of bracken Pteridium aquilinum . It is also known as fernbrake perhaps because it is backbreaking to unearth. It took me two days of hacking and rooting out with mattock and pick!
Although I’ve made much of the effort involved in converting the rockery to the beginnings of a terrace, I should also say what fun it actually is. Not dissimilar to a treasure hunt, I’ve found assorted rubbish, bottles of all sizes, seams of clay, bricks whole and broken, and best of all, a veritable harvest of lovely large stones. Many will be used in the Japanese style garden (when the raised lawn is ‘converted’) – flat ones for a path and larger shapes for decor. The rest will create the cascade, and terraced edgings.
At the back of the greenhouse were some thick rotting timbers which were the foundations for its original site. Removing these left the ideal space for two, tiered seed-tray frames, which I’d inherited. For now, it seems like a good spot to put some winter germinating shrub and tree seeds I’ve just sown (after soaking and scarifying). Meanwhile, the hornbeam seeds I’d collected are now cold stratifying in my fridge for the next few weeks.
“The purpose of stratification is to expose the seeds to alternating freezing and thawing temperatures, so they should be left outside for several weeks at a time when this fluctuation in temperature is likely to occur The seed site
And as I write, temperatures are falling to a much more wintry feel. That means I’ll need to wrap up warm and carry on terracing for as long was the weather permits.