Hartley Magazine

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Greenhouses In A Small Garden

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.

Lilas garden taking shape

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.

  • Lila, lovely prose as always! Tnx esp. for recommendation of “Old Herbaceous” … will try to find it here … and if you haven’t glanced at it, you might check out Verlyn Klinkenborg’s “Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile” … a tale told by a tortoise held captive in an 18th-century British garden (based on Gilbert White’s journals and his “Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne”) … ^z = Mark

  • Deb

    Oh I love your blog (discovered it via Blotanical). I have a greenhouse which is awaiting my Hubby’s magic touch (I am hopeless at putting things together even Lego).

    I also have to squeeze a lot into my garden and have no idea how to do it so the pointers you made in your post were helpful (or would be if I knew what I was doing).

    Am now really tempted to get a professional in for a one-off consultation. Am also off to read the rest of your blog (the bit about being in the greenhouse while the children were out, radio going, practically had me weeping). Sigh. One day….

  • Looking good – makes you want to get on a plant something.
    My family are always amused as my back lawn gets smaller and smaller every year though I havent taken the leap to remove it all together it.

    I found your comment about one side of the garden talking to the other fascinating. Is this for narrow gardens only because surely if you have a wide garden as I do both sides wont be seen at the same time?

  • Lila Das Gupta

    Interesting point about narrow or wide. What you see on the left shouldn’t be fighting with what you see on the right, even if you have to turn your head to see it. It’s a bit like when you see someone wearing a track suit who has painted nails and serious jewellery: it makes you think ‘no, no, no’. Don’t try and say too many things at once.
    Lucky thing if you have a wide garden.

  • mindy

    how do you make a 8’5’foot tent with garden screen to prtect vegtables from sun using two by fours and green garden screens