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house as viewed 1990

garden as viewed 1990

bought 1990

vegetables 1990

Douglas in bare garden 1990

hole in backwall 1992

his and hers veg patches with Emma

no pond or bed 1992

pond made 1993

raised bed 1997

raised bed beginning 1997

raised bed from patio 1997

her veg 1997

compost bins and Douglas behind wall 1998

raised bed May 2002

raised bed and teardrop from patio May 2002

raised bed June 2002

raised bed and teardrop from patio June 2002

raised bed July 2002

raised bed and teardrop from patio July 2002

raised bed August 2002

raised bed and teardrop from patio August 2002

raised bed September 2002

raised bed and extended teardrop from patio September 2002

raised bed in frost January 2003

raised bed and extended teardrop in frost Jaunary 2003

raised bed in snow January 2003

raised bed and extended teardrop from patio in snow January 2003

extended teardrop bed 2003

a different view of the extended bed 2003

Frogs being frogs Spring 2004

Frog waiting to be kissed and turned into a prince....Spring 2004

raised bed through hops June 2004

garden from patio June 2004

looking down on the garden durning a heavy snowfall in February 2005

looking at lots of growth after a warm wet summer, August 2005

garden in full foliage, August 2005

In October 2005 we relined the pond, messy job! Had to do it in a day as the frogs kept returning.

The frogs were put here while the pond was being relined

The refilled pond before it started to leak!

In April 2006 we had to extend the height of the wall with two and a half feet of trellis to keep the dog in, eventually the ivy and so on will grow through it

We have a cherry tree growing in a half barrel on the patio which produces wonderful blossom

ORGANISED CHAOS
The evolution of our garden in Edinburgh.

It was June 1990 when we first viewed the 1938 bungalow within a ¼ acre plot with a small front rose garden, divided in two by the front path, and the back garden absolutely crammed full of vegetables.

By the time we moved in September 1990 the back garden was no longer full of greenery, but had only a row of sweet William, a row of cabbages, some rhubarb and a few roses left in it. We had no idea what to do with all this space! Beyond the back wall is Duddingston golf course with its mature 'listed' trees and to either side we have our neighbours'; gardens. We actually thought that the trees in the golf course had reached their full height and that it would be a fairly sunny garden so, on this assumption we discussed a very basic plan that included a lawn and flowering borders.

The first compromise was the size of the borders. I of course wanted wide borders whereas my husband Harry didn't.
We demolished the single garage and in its place built a double garage with a ramp running down the side into the garden. We added a conservatory which was initially just going to be a covered entrance to the garage. All this reduced the size of the garden a bit. We then re-sited the greenhouse, made a lawn, knocked a hole in the back wall (to hide compost buckets and comfrey feed bin behind wall) and put in a fairly narrow border. Every visit we made to friends and neighbours was an opportunity to take cuttings and receive any plants that just happened to need dividing.

The next compromise was the vegetable plot. Harry wanted mostly potatoes and sweet corn, but I wanted to try just about every thing else, so we made 'his' and 'hers' vegetable plots! Friends used to come over to give me a hand with the veggie plot, but by now they were all having babies and babies tend to take up a lot of time. So we put in some paving so that I could get my wheelchair between the rows of vegetables and physically remove the caterpillars and other creatures doing the worst damage. I had tried using a strong water jet to remove the blighters, but the caterpillars and slugs just made their way further inside the veg! Additional paving also allowed me to harvest the peas, beans, leeks, courgettes and so on myself. Two smaller raised beds were added for the blueberries and cranberries in order to keep these as acidic beds. The trouble is; the more paving you have to allow access, the less area you have to plant.
By now we had decided it was going to be a wild life garden, with a large lawn for our two dogs, nephews and nieces with borders full of plants for birds and beneficial insects. The effect I wanted to create was lush, green and relaxing with a mainly pink, mauve and purple colour palette. What the garden now needed was a pond. This time it wasn't so much compromise as me getting my own way! Harry wanted fish while I wanted frogs. We obtained the frog spawn from a stream running through the golf course and built a small wild life pond. Harry still gets a fright when working near the pond if a frog suddenly plops into the water!

But, I was running out of planting space and I also wanted to create a more enclosed feeling in the garden, so we had a raised bed built in 1997.
This was not to be your average raised bed for alpines but more of a raised border (three borders really as it is vaguely triangular in shape) with shrubs, bulbs, perennials and lots of ferns. By now it had dawned on us that the golf course trees were still growing, plunging our garden into shade by late afternoon, so, we made one side of the raised bed a 'sunny border' and the other two 'shady woodland borders'.

It didn't take long before I needed even more space for my 'must have' plants so in 2000 the teardrop bed was created.

As I spend a lot of time just sitting by the pond contemplating, what was now required was a small area for doing just that. Only a couple of slabs were needed so I could get my wheelchair level and enough room for a small (tree stump) table for my coffee and a book, that's all. Although it would be nice if this area was just out of sight of the patio for a feeling of solitude, so, the teardrop bed was extended to provide more cover.

The potato plot was now in more and more shade so with Harry's consent this was transformed into the fairy woodland garden (on going project).

I will never say that the garden is finished, if I get fed up with an area it just develops into something else. Although it is a lot of work to keep on top of the weeding, pruning, propagating and dividing we would not be without our garden. I find that proper children's (not toy) tools are just the right size and weight for me to use and of course long handled trowels, but I still need help with weeding the back of the borders and tying thing up. Mowing the lawn and digging are Harry's domain while planning and pottering and of course plant shopping(!) are more my domain. Gadgets that lower the hanging baskets come in handy as does the coiled hose with long wand for watering all my pot plants on the patio. A long handled blow torch keeps the weeds from between the slabs and secateurs that hold onto the cut part of the plant are ideal for allowing pruning without dropping the bits behind the plants or to cut flowers for the house.

In the past fourteen years we have both learned a lot about gardening and wild life. We have a lot of wild visitors to the garden and we have learned to share the raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, apples and plums with the squirrels and birds. We forgive the foxes that dig up the bulbs and pull out some plants because they are such gorgeous creatures and it is such a pleasure to see them.
We now know to sow a few extra peas in the green house just in case the mice eat a few outside, and we just cut out the bits where the slugs and snails have damaged the courgettes. The only beasties I squash are greenfly, vine weevils and New Zealand flatworms. Although we love our garden with hindsight there are a few things I wish we had done differently such as:
• Levelled the ground properly before starting – although we used a roller the grass is still very uneven.
• Sand blasted the white surrounding walls – red brick walls would have looked so much softer so I am trying to cover the white walls with ivy.
• Wider borders with more room for the shrubs – we planted the shrubs far too close to the wall and to each other not realising just how big they would grow.
• A bigger pond with a boggy area and none of the liner showing – I would love to have dragonflies visit the garden and would have liked to plant some boggy carnivorous plant.
• Put the green house in a more sunny area – it only catches the sun between about 10am and 1pm where it is now.
• Used something other than boring slabs for paths; slabs look awful, but I require a nice flat surface to push my chair on. Bark would look much better but I don't know how that would be to clear up the leaf fall from all the golf course trees.
Today we can just enjoy the garden as it is now and come the winter I can enjoy looking through the plant and bulb catalogues and thinking up projects for next year (don't tell Harry!).

'Organised Chaos' revisited.

By now we have all heard about 'global warming' and the effects it is having on the planets weather systems - but just whose prediction will be right? Some theories suggest we are heading for a mini ice age across Europe (Gulf Stream conveyer belt theory) while others predict hotter, drier summers with wetter autumns and severe winters along with flooding from higher sea levels.
The earth may also be going through a magnetic flip - where the poles actually change their magnetism. Only time will tell which, if any, theory will be correct?
Here in the UK our weather patterns are changing and these changes are already affecting our wildlife. Spring is staring earlier and our growing season is getting longer. Some species are adapting to these changes while others are struggling.
Already a rise in sea temperature has affected the sand eel population in Orkney and Shetland. Sand eels are the main food source for guillemots, puffins and other seabirds so a reduction in sand eels has drastically affected the seabird population.
Similar affects can be seen in our own back yard. Our blue tits are having trouble feeding their young as the caterpillar numbers are peaking too early. The frogs are coming to our pond earlier to spawn, but the hard late frosts are killing all the frogs spawn. To help our wildlife out a bit we are putting mealworms out for the blue tits. Live ones are best and although I had an interesting few months when I decided to breed some myself; it is a lot easier to just buy them mail order instead. To help out the frogs we keep a bucket of spawn in the cool conservatory during spring and once they have hatched into tadpoles we can pop them into the pond. We lost a few plants and shrubs last summer due to the very hot and dry conditions but most of the others have survived well needing only a bit more mulch to keep the moisture in.

Climate change however is not the main culprit for some of the changes in our back garden. In February 2006 we acquired a new canine friend, Chiquo, who is in his element the back garden. In just his first week here he found that he could leap effortlessly over the 1.5m walls - hence the addition of trellis above all the boundary walls.
He took our neatly coiled hose for a wee jaunt around the raised bed, around a few trees then chewed and reduced its length by a few meters. He runs full pelt up, down, across and through the garden and has already worn a muddy trail under the right hand arch. One fine game is to find and dig up the peanuts that the squirrels have hidden. He has absolutely no respect for our borders - crashes his way through the tulips and narcissi and even has a chew at the odd branch while it is still attached to the tree.

One major project in 2006 was stripping out the old pond liner and replacing it. Poor frogs - we made them a makeshift pond; a large flat container with their old pond water, stones and a few plants, then placed it about 2 meters from where we were working and popped our amphibious friends into it.
Harry stripped away the old liner then added some new soft sand while I cut back the water lilies, divided the flag irises and threw away any overgrown oxygenating plants. Meanwhile, our home sick frogs who did not appreciate our efforts at a makeshift abode, jumped straight into the sandy layer before their new home was finished. We were astonished to find that only 2 weeks later the new pond liner had sprung a couple of leaks. ***bleep bleep*** exclaimed Harry. This time they were just patched with pond lining tape.

A visit to the gardens of Heligan and the Eden project in Cornwall was a real treat in September last year.
I am inspired to create an atmosphere similar to Heligan's jungly wild woodland with its grottos and wishing wells and lost valleys. Both places were vast and I really appreciated my PDQ trike (although you could hire a battery chair there). It managed very well with almost all of the hilly parts of Heligan (even some areas that were not meant to be accessible with wheelchairs) although I still needed a shove up some very steep bits. Both places were beautiful in September, but I am quite sure they would be even more so in the spring.
Well maybe next year.

With the excitement of Christmas and New Year over, the wet grey dreary winter will soon be transformed into bright spring days with the apple green of new shoots and leaves heralded by the first snow drops.

© 2005 savethegaywhale.com
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