Posted in garden design

Breaking Glass

One of the few remaining, just about worth saving items in the garden, was the small greenhouse (6×4 ft)

“It always seems impossible until it is done”

Fortunately, I had the expertise and muscle of a friend to help every step of the way as I had underestimated what would be involved with this renovation, until closer inspection revealed several major problems:-
– the ground on which the greenhouse leaned(!) was undulating layers of soil impregnated with old weed suppressant and topped with 20cm faded white stones
– the far end corner where the new platform was to be located, had a soil erosion level of about 2 feet
– ivy and an old tree had penetrated the roof and broken and cracked all the glass there
– thick and thin stems of ivy had woven through back panels and frame so that these had to be cut/chiselled out, stem by stem.

ivy stems fused into the back frame

“Oh, a dainty plant is the ivy green,
That creepeth o’er ruins old! ”

~ Charles Dickens

All glass panes were removed so that the frame could be easily lifted off and put to one side. (the salvageable glass was jet washed and later hand washed prior to being put back). Then it was literally a case of doing the groundwork.

The eroded far end had to be banked up by cemented concrete blocks and the whole area, after clearing, required much filling in. Fortunately the garden’s overgrown ‘rockery’ slope turned out to be a veritable brick and rubble mine and with mattock in hand, I salvaged all we needed. After endless measurements, and topped with ballast, the slabs were mortared in. (I combined mortar ingredients 5:1 by hand and would have given the earth for a cement mixer!)

With the paved platform finally completed and the greenhouse in situ, screwed down and most of the glass back in, it’s just a case of needing more roof panels. Luckily, a friend of a friend is dismantling their old greenhouse (same model), so I shall have plenty. Much better than purchasing new since there would be too much contrast between these and the original panes.

This glasshouse (I use the term interchangeably) will be more akin to a potting shed for seed sowing, cuttings, and growing seedlings on. Overwintering tender plants too given that it can get cold here in Derbyshire

Given its locale in the Japanesque garden, a glasshouse does not seem very thematic. I’ve not been able to determine what equivalent they use(d) in Japan – perhaps making space within the house. One modern Japanese design I’ve seen is to build a house within a glasshouse! I’ve only room in mine for table and chair and some shelving. Still, it feels like home!

A scrolling view of the greenhouse renovation so far:

Posted in garden design

Three steps forward

One reason I was so taken with the garden on first viewing was its woodland setting and the parlous state of everything which meant a blank canvas and a project in the making over time.

Step 1: By July when I moved in, the raised lawn had become a wild grass area with butterflies and birds flitting in and out (I use the term ‘lawn’ lightly as there was as much weed and moss as grass. It seemed a pity to cut it but this area is destined to be de-grassed and gravelled and so a rough strim brought the whole area into something more manageable for walking on.

the wilderness lawn

Step 2: From the raised lawn area, there is a view over my daughter’s wooded garden and glimpses of the brook below. Being west facing, there are also some lovely distant sunsets to be had but first I had to clear the view of three youngish willow trees.

the boundary view

Aside from their aesthetics, trees have many uses including anchoring loose soil and with some steep inclines beyond the boundary, I decided to cut the willows into a layered hedge (a skill I learned when volunteering at a London wildlife garden but have yet to master!). The pillar evergreen did have to be axed though and even that has not gone to waste as it nicely fills the base of a garden composting area

The pleach is the semi-cut part of the stem that allows the branch to bend and lay… thin it out enough to allow the stem to lay, but leave enough wood to allow sap to draw up through the stem to keep the tree alive and to encourage new growth….”
All You ever wanted to know about hedge laying

Step 3: There are in fact three steps up to the raised lawn area. Lovely old stone steps that I did not want to disturb but was forced to consider modifying because the risers between them was too diverse and the top step too steep for my not very long legs!

I found a compromise by arranging to move the top slab to the bottom step, which evens out the incline. Good enough anyway to make the steps more manageable, and a handrail in future will make it more secure. Meanwhile, I had to call upon my son to do the transformation here.

three giant steps for one small woman

A gardener can never rest on her laurels and as I sat enjoying the handiwork so far, the distant greenhouse kept calling for a complete renovation and an even slabbed platform on which to stand. And that is another post!

A scrolling view of improvements so far: