by Kate and Len Lucas
We have just come to the end of several years of project work tackling this very issue. For us, it was about getting older as well as trying to make sure that we took Geoff Hamilton’s advice and actually sat in our own garden.
So this article is about what we have done in our garden to change “gardening time” to “our time”.
We have slowly done lots of things over the years to reduce maintenance time, like taking out the fish pond, turning the vegetable garden into a quiet secluded seating area, replacing old cheap fences with much longer-lasting, although more expensive, close boarded fences and using proper preservatives on outside woodwork rather than paint.
All of that has helped but still left the two biggest things that always took most of the time which were the lawns and the borders. The plan there was to take up and replace the three circular lawns with three similarly shaped larger areas of hard landscaping which, at the same time, gave us the opportunity to drastically reduce the size of the borders which surrounded the lawns.
This would have been too expensive to do all at once so we spread it out over several summers. We knew that it would reduce the hours spent keeping it all looking tidy but what we really didn’t know was will it look like a supermarket car park.
The first to go several years ago was the largest round lawn which has been replaced with a round area of gravel completely surrounded by a circular paved path. Later, we took up the other two lawns and replaced them with nearly round patios.
In addition, the size of one large fence-side border needed to be reduced by two-thirds by taking all the plants out and replacing them with a thick layer of pea shingle over a membrane and softening the harsh-looking gravel with architectural plants in pots.
It was a bold move but the end result has paid off because it has saved a very noticeable amount of time and no more so than at the end of the gardening day when we would say to each other “fancy cutting the grass?” Not anymore because as well as having that glass of wine an hour earlier the lawn mower has been sold along with all the other stuff you have to have to maintain that most English of all garden items -the lawn.
We have never had a garden without a lawn and this garden has had one for a very long time.
So how does it look now? It is, of course, a matter of personal taste but we think it looks just fabulous and not at all like a car park. The patios now have large pots with architectural plants in them, including some very red flowered Cannas standing currently about ten feet tall, alongside some of our original garden furniture and the fence side border with its new covering of pea shingle and pots that looks like it has always been there.
We still have borders and keep covering up as much soil as possible with close planting including ground cover plants. We will always have something to do outdoors but the balance of our time has swung in our direction and we can now say with confidence that we have taken Geoff Hamilton’s advice.