Sunday, 2 January 2011

Taking on a blog and the countdown to opening for the national gardens scheme (aka panic and over optimistic worrying)

I moved to my flat almost exactly 4 years ago and so came to take on a good sized garden in South London. Although it is a shared garden we have a private terrace (which is bigger than my last garden in Plaistow) and then a good sized garden. The garden had some love a long time ago, although we heard that the last gardener whom was employed to keep it in check left after he refused to help ceremonially bury the afterbirth of the child of one of the last residents...this then left the garden in the care of students whom seemed to just cut the grass and keep out obvious weeds. So when we arrived it was all old oversized shrubs and brick walls 3ft deep in ivy.
I have always dreamed of creating an exotic jungle paradise where I could hang my hammock amongst large clumps of bananas, palms and big leaved things and as I wandered around the untamed garden imagining how it could be, a challenge to myself was to get the garden to a good enough standard to be open for the Yellow Book Scheme. I have never done this before, and felt that aiming for this would help me focus on getting things right and of a recognised standard
I love the gardening world, and people who like plants are my kind of folk. Through my degree in botany, knowing some great people and dragging my partner to different nurseries and plant shows I wanted to get deeper in to this world and as such the idea of being in the Yellow Book has begun to appeal more and more, so last year I applied to be in.
The idea of having an assessment in 2010 was really just to hear firsthand what they thought about the garden and what i would need to do to get things right to get in so that i could then have a couple of years to get things sorted.  Before my visit I had been though a bit of a roller coaster ride as I had watched most of the tv series about people trying to get in the yellow book (lots of emotional music and scary filming of the assessors standing with clipboards looking threatening). I had also helped with my neighbours open garden which was good fun, although being a botanist he just wanted me to identify what things were which was impossible. Then I got depressed after seeing a fabulous open garden in Forest Hill which was way better than my own garden as it was bigger, so well landscaped and must have cost many many thousands of pounds to create. However I thought why not give it a go? The worst they can say is no.
So the day of my assessment arrived and I spend the day swotting up on the full Latin names of my plants and pulling up weeds. My assessor was lovely and after half an hour said yes! I was a little surprised by this (I think being a gardener I always think there is something which needs to be done) but it has happened, I’m in the yellow book, and now have 9 months before the opening!

Since I got the yes in August I have had occasions of panic buying plants to fill gaps, confident moments looking at how well things are growing and looking, and then traumas over heavy snow and if things will be ready. This has been exacerbated by managing to buy a bit of land next to the garden thus doubling the area we have. This area is currently full of brambles, rubble and rubbish but I plan on turning it in to a ‘jungle clearing’ with a potager in the middle, with perhaps bees, chickens (vetoed by partner), jungle huts and ponds which may be a little optimistic for September
So this has lead to the idea of this blog which will chart progress towards the ‘big day’ and also look at how I am rambling towards creating my idea of an exotic garden paradise.

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