In The Greenhouse with Lila Das Gupta
As much as I love my small greenhouse, its arrival also created a huge design problem in the garden, compounded by the oversized shed (where else do you keep 5 bikes?) and the obligatory trampoline.
Add to that the increasingly boxed-in feeling from neighbours extensions along the side and the end of the garden, and the whole space was beginning to feel more like a dockyard full of large, parked objects. A neglected dockyard at that; I’ve been an allotment holder for several years and as anyone can tell you – it’s impossible to serve two mistresses at once.
How heartbreaking to look on to your own garden every day and feel that you dont like what you see, especially when it was once a garden that gave you so much pleasure.
What to do?Ive designed gardens for friends before and have known exactly what to do, but when it comes to your own garden, I would always recommend getting help.
My knight in shining armour rode over on a bicycle: luckily designer Cleve West (he of the Chelsea gold medals) lives in the same borough and could come the day after I phoned him.For those who desire it, he offers a 200 pounds, one-off consultation, which is worth every penny and a very sound investment.
I explained what I thought was wrong and how I needed solutions that were economical, easy to execute, and effective.What he came up with, as you can see from phase one in the photograph, is something that has made me take pleasure in the garden again.
The first question he asked was ‘how wedded are you to your lawn?’ This was music to my ears as I’d wanted to rip it up for a while but hadnt found the courage – English gardens are supposed to have lawns!Cleve measured out a 1 meter gravel path.He also suggested screening off the trampoline and the back of the greenhouse so that the garden would be ‘framed’ again. (Enclosed gardens, framed gardens- all gardens need visual boundaries from which to work inwards).We agreed on a simple screen design that I can make myself.Next came the huge brick pillars on the left side of the garden. I’d always seen them as a negative thing because I dont like the bricks they are made of, Cleve suggested they gave the garden a lot of structure that should be echoed on the right side (one side of your garden should always be talking to or addressing the other side of the garden in some way, either in structure, plants or both). Some thin, columnar box (buxus sempervivens) between the raised beds on the opposite side would pick up on the pillars and echo them. On the shady side of the garden I have two tree ferns (Dicksonia Antartica).Should I get another much taller one to repeat the planting and provide interest with height?Yes.The smaller the garden, the more simple you must keep things.Repetition brings things together.
Suddenly, thanks to Cleves advice and a lot of hard work ripping up the lawn, I’m starting to look forward to a garden that’s in harmony again.
I have just finished reading ‘Old Herbaceous” by Reginald Arkell. It’s a charming book, published in 1950, about the life a head gardener from boyhood to old age. The seasons of his life are tracked along with those of the garden, and the mistress of the big house, who he serves till she leaves the house in her eighties. Highly recommended and amusing.