Today I am reflecting on why I am writing this blog. It is part of our attempt to, at least partially, to introduce Church Gardens to the public. Prior to 2018 it had quite literally been Harefield’s ‘secret garden’. I still remember our own astonishment when we were lead out into the ‘garden’ when we first came to look at the house. We had no idea about what surrounded the ivy covered ruin we were planning to buy.
I am trying to give an insight into what is involved in maintaining a garden of this size and also the work involved in the continuing restoration of the property. One of the hardest lessons we have learnt is that jobs - which may have involved massive amounts of labour and expense - do not stay done! I am not referring to things like weeding, which like house work always need doing. I mean big projects e.g. the many paths running through our ornamental vegetable garden were originally bark on weed suppressing membrane, in only a few years the paths were more verdant than the beds! After one more attempt at using bark, we finally succumbed to laying bricks last year - a massive, exhausting and expensive job. Even the bricks have issues, we could only afford brick seconds and some are already getting damaged by frost! Continuing with the subject of raised beds we have had to replace most of the wood. Despite starting with treated, good quality wood, it still rots in time. This time we have lined the boards with damp roof membrane - more expense! The polytunnel has had two covers so far and we are hoping to replace the present tattered cover with polycarbonate sheeting, which will hopefully last longer. Even the compost bins which were made of sleepers and scaffold boards are disintegrating. All of these jobs have involved huge amounts of effort for Patrick and me and it is demoralising and depressing to have to re do work... it’s hard enough doing it once!
Recently I have been going through old photos of the house and garden showing us working on different jobs over the years. It is shocking to look back and see how bad it was... it always amazes me how after a job is done and it looks good (hopefully) how quickly ones mind forgets how it looked before!
It is also interesting, if a little depressing, to see things like the vegetable garden being neglected at different points, since its initial construction. I’ve always produced copious amounts of vegetables but not necessarily with a high level of maintenance. Looking back, I remember these were the years when the girls were taking GCSEs or A-Levels. Unfortunately attending ones local school can have drawbacks and if the girls needed help preparing for exams, due to lack of support at school, they were my priority, not the tidiness of my raised beds.
But now I feel the gardens’ time has come and as the girls are older, instead of distracting me from my horticultural endeavours, they can help instead! Getting back to the garden... today I continue planting the fruit in the fruit cage. I planted 6 ‘Invicta’ gooseberry bushes, 3 Jostaberries (like a giant black currant) and 3 Tayberries - a hybrid of blackberry and raspberry. This is a good example of having to prioritise, I want to finish pruning the fruit tree border, but I know I must plant the soft fruit as soon as possible and as the supports are now in place... the long fruit tree border will have to wait!