So where were we? During the Ultimate Weed Showdown charted in my last blog we gave ourselves a blank canvas. Now the real work has begun. Well when I say 'Now the real work has begun' what I of course mean is: 'Now the next visit from my legendary in-laws occurs'. Picture again a Saturday morning. I come back from radio (I should go to radio more often as this seems to be when my house gets transformed!) and my family are all in the garden up to their knees in roots, gripping various hoes and rakes in a frankly menacing manner. This was serious. I had to get stuck in so on with the gardening gloves. (They're flowery and suddenly everything takes on less of a menacing and more of a 'now come here you unruly little so and so' vibe. Today I'm channelling Felicity Kendal.) It turns out one round of weeding wasn't enough on this garden. No. It required an extra deep detox cleanse level of weeding. The ivy was so keen on hanging around it had roots in every last inch of the beds. It was really at home. And so unwelcome. So we spent a good couple of hours with but a few sips of water (DEDICATION) turning this: Into this: Ok that's really not the same picture but you can see the lack of weeds!! Hurrah!! Ignore the fact it's only a tiny section and taken from a totally different angle! Yay!! One very satisfying thing you can see from the picture above is that what I thought was just a weird little weed zone for weeds and their weed friends is actually a mini border style bed. How exciting! One word for you: LAVENDER. When I was little I really didn't like the smell of lavender. It reminded me of parma violets and frankly they taste like soap so no thanks. It was also stuffed into titchy little quaint pillows that your grandma and your friends with super homely mums put in drawers to make clothes smell better - & to my mind it never quite worked. It just seemed to end up smelling 'branchy'. Is that a thing? Do you know what I mean?! For some reason though as I've grown up the old lady in me is KEEN for lavender. I can't get enough of it. If I pass it in a garden or a public place I just have to squeeze a bit between my finger and thumb to smell it. It's fantastic! And it's so majestic. It sort of towers and curves and has these very satisfying little heads that form to give the most glorious smell. It smells of summer and poshness. And I like both as it turns out. So a row of lavender was to be born. One trip to the gardening centre later and I was armed with some pots. That had green things in them. No idea what but they looked really pretty. Some of these were lavender. I felt positively green. Like I was an actual gardener. I should point out there's a weird mix of smugness and wholesomeness when you start gardening. It's quite a strange combo to deal with. I had to remind myself I was not yet The Titchmarsh. I was barely even Charlie Dims (where's she gone by the way?!) So. I'd never planted a thing in my life before. I knew I wanted the 'edge bed' let's call it, to be filled with lavender so I lined them up evenly like little soldiers. Look at them!!!.... So sweet and ready to obediently make my garden look nice. So. What you do is (some of you will know this but WOW for anyone who doesn't and appreciates my journey of discovery!!) 1) Dig a whole for your plant: Make it just the right depth for your plant to sit in the soil and comfortably have all his posh foliage and any flowers on display above ground. If you're planting in a pot you can test this by standing your plant next to the pot - that way you'll get the depth of the hole right. If you're planting in the ground just keep digging until you can comfortably drop your pot in the hole and have the foliage above ground. 2) Pop some nice compost in the bottom of the hole: This is just a tip if you have sad tired soil like we do. Put some earthy goodness into the hole and your plant's roots will have a decent meal down there. 3) In goes the plant and you fill the hole around it. (With the soil you dug out not just any old thing FYI) 4) Then you do 'the pressing'. Now the pressing is important to really get the roots mushed into their new surroundings so don't be shy of a good squash. My father in law was very militant on this point. None of this 'oh I'll just gently press the plant down into the ground' No. It was a case of getting stuck in! 5) Then you water. Now water PROPERLY. You know when you do a wee and it's one of those unexpectedly long ones that just goes on and on? Do that. But with a watering can or hose please - not your hoohaas. Ta dah!! This planting announcement was brought to you courtesy of my excellent father-in-law who oversaw the whole thing very patiently as I kept forgetting various steps (even though it is the most simple thing EVER). So far I have learnt that a big part of having a garden is basically keeping stuff alive. I'm not great at this as you will note in my latest guest blog for Thompson and Morgan. It's good practice for me though not to be lazy. I'd like to have children one day so I guess in some small way feeding my plants and flowers on a regular basis is good practice no? Look at how far we have come.... Im really enjoying taking my urban jungle to a whole new level of neat. Signing off for now... Helen Sorren is an actress and comedian. She co hosts the Saturday BreakfastShow on Hoxton Radio and has appeared in numerous stage productions. She is also a regular on the stand up comedy circuit. See Helen's latest blog for Thompson and Morgan Follow her @helensorren
So. I have a garden. My very own garden. In London. I’ve never had my own garden before. What on earth (excuse the pun) do I do with it?!
I was brought up in the country where having a garden was the norm – like brushing your foul mouth in the mornings – it was just expected.
When we first moved to the UK from a stint in France (because we were all little slash not born yet and my parents ‘felt like it’) it was straight into a stunning converted manor with a gigantic garden and a paddock. *posh alert*
We had a pond the size of a small swimming pool, a rockery (never seen one since) and empty stables that I used to happily pretend were full of horses I would ‘tend to’ and ‘exercise’ among the cow pats.
My siblings and I had hours and hours of fun in that vast green space; sometimes chasing each other to the point of sheer exhaustion (mum knew that tiring out her 4 nutters was a sure fire way to get us all to sleep well) and the man next door had a sit on lawn mower that we’d watch him drive in symmetrical lines with envy.
We were actually only there renting as a (*super-mega-can-you-get-any-posher*) stop gap for about a year but my best garden memories are from that house because you could go straight from the house to the lawn and play, secluded, every summer afternoon. Gardens as a kid = fun.
Mum and Dad’s garden now has a lovely big lawn, a battered old greenhouse and a river running through it. It holds more happy memories of afternoons with my first boyfriend as a teenager, family parties with cake & freezing cold paddling in our swimming costumes the second the sun made any sort of appearance.
So far to my mind gardens are a place in which you spend time relaxing. They are also ‘someone else’s responsibility’ and therefore of no cause for concern. They look after themselves right?
Erm. No Helen. Turns out they don’t…
You can just imagine the trepidation and frankly cold hard fear that I felt when faced with the horror of the thing we inherited from the previous owners of my new house.
Here it is in all it’s jungle-esque glory!…
Bear in mind these are the pictures the estate agent chose to sell the place! Pah! Don’t the table and chairs look inviting? Doesn’t that front bush look majestic?
I mean where do you even start when you’re faced with something like this?!
There was one thing we were certain of. Even if some of the plants looked salvageable/mature they had to go or the whole space would be dictated by these ancient unkempt beasts.
Well I can’t take credit for what will go down in our family history as ‘the ultimate weed showdown’ because I came back from presenting my radio show on the first Saturday we had moved in to spot my mother in law and my brother in law GOING TO TOWN on the back garden.
Their machine like efforts created this tangled pile of wood, weeds and some weird mesh netting stuff that must at one time have held something or other together but had since just become bezzies with the ivy as if to say ‘we are mighty together. You shall not destroy us new garden person’. How incredibly smug and annoying… & true.
It took me OVER FOUR HOURS to do this…
& it doesn’t even look that impressive. Honestly – my hamstrings felt it the next day and I realised that perhaps gardening is also excellent exercise – the perks begin to reveal themselves.
Now we had a clear (ish) space to get weeding on….
During ‘the ultimate weed showdown’ we discovered there was actually a small stagnant pond (that REEKED of the death of a million ivy leaves) and some incredibly 70s (not in the good way) lighting choices hammered to our fence.
This was all food for thought. Would the pond stay? How do you design a decent lighting scheme in a little urban garden? I was daunted but excited by the prospect of making these kinds of decisions.
Oo get me being all decision-y!
During that first weekend, one major victim of my father-in-law’s machete (picture 70 year old axe-wielding Mauritian) was a bay tree that was totally taking over the front garden.
All I’ve heard since from people is ‘DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG THEY TAKE TO GROW??’ & ‘Typical woman – it all has to go. You just have to go and start again with the stuff YOU want’
First of all – my ovaries had nothing whatsoever to do with the decision to destroy that tree. Second of all – my ovaries had nothing whatsoever to do with the decision to destroy that tree.
Third of all – said tree was blocking ALL the light into our front room and it was the centre piece of someone else’s idea of a front garden. Sorry but it had to go.
Maybe I will live to regret that particular decision. Maybe. But I doubt it because what we have now is a blank canvas that isn’t dictated to us by a light sucking thing that had grown out of control. Plus we plan on being here a while so I have time to grow my own inappropriately gigantic shrub if I so desire thank you very much.
I’m a creative woman and this garden thing looks set to be very fulfilling in that respect. I’d like to make my own, sage decisions about how to design and enjoy the precious precious space I have (I used precious twice because apparently more than 2 million homes in the UK don’t have a garden!! – I just googled that so it can be your fact for the day. You’re welcome). Thankfully I’m married to a brilliant man who wants to enjoy a beer or two in there and possibly get serious over the odd BBQ but other than that will pretty much leave me to it…
I’m excited. Watch this space and wish me luck!!!