How re­cy­cled items can re­ally en­hance your gar­den

Amateur Gardening - - This Week In Gardening -

“See po­ten­tial in ma­te­ri­als peo­ple throw away”

EasT meets west in Heather and Chris Robin­son’s ur­ban cot­tage gar­den in Dorch­ester, Dorset.

Over the past 20 years the cou­ple have com­bined their in­ter­ests in de­sign, plants and dec­o­ra­tive ob­jects, and their keen eyes for re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als, to cre­ate a haven they can en­joy all year round, and in all weathers.

Colour is in abun­dance around the gen­tly slop­ing plot ly­ing be­hind their 1930s home, not least from the brightred moon gate fash­ioned from of­f­cuts of wood that marks the tran­si­tion be­tween an Ja­panese-in­spired area gar­nished with bamboos and bon­sai trees and the Ital­ianate zone with its clas­si­cal stat­ues and bold paving. Chris’s skill at wood­work is ev­i­dent in the obelisks dot­ted around the plot, all of which are painted pur­ple so they look good even when the climbers that clam­ber over them in sum­mer have died back.

and he’s a dab hand at mak­ing sum­mer houses and other struc­tures that pro­vide places to en­joy the fresh air and bird song, and join with arch­ways, hedges and other de­vices, to di­vide the over­all gar­den into dif­fer­ent ‘rooms’.

“We work on things to­gether,” laughs Heather, a re­tired nurse tu­tor. “I come up with the ideas and Chris con­structs them. I’m very for­tu­nate.”

Chris’s abil­ity to see po­ten­tial in ma­te­ri­als that other peo­ple throw away means that many of the gar­den’s eye-catch­ing fea­tures have cost next to noth­ing to build. His most re­cent finds in­clude a va­ri­ety of gran­ite pieces that pro­vide a base for his moon gate and a path lead­ing to it, and he’s re­cently re­pur­posed some bam­boo pieces from an old sum­mer house to add an ex­otic feel to a new gazebo.

“I hate waste,” says Chris, who worked as a blood-bank man­ager. “I en­joy the chal­lenge of find­ing new uses for a va­ri­ety of ma­te­ri­als. Some­times I find my­self wish­ing I had more of some­thing, but the key is mak­ing the most of what you can find.”

Year-round colour in the gar­den is achieved by a lib­eral sprin­kling of dec­o­ra­tive ob­jects and care­ful se­lec­tions of plants, which in­clude ev­er­greens, spring flow­ers and scented shrubs such as Daphne odora.

Spring bulbs are an an­nual pur­chase to en­sure a fine dis­play of colour, both in bor­ders and pots, and the cou­ple makes the most of bed­ding such as prim­roses and pan­sies for fur­ther in­jec­tions of hue.

Heather and Chris’s gar­den has been 20 years in the mak­ing, dur­ing which time they’ve taken a plot that had been sub­jected to a ‘scorchedearth pol­icy’ by a pre­vi­ous owner, dealt with its bindweed prob­lem and made it truly their own.

Chris’s ded­i­ca­tion is such that he un­der­took a de­sign course be­fore they got started, which he says gave him a “dif­fer­ent out­look”.

Nev­er­the­less, Heather and Chris say their out­side space is still “evolv­ing” as they come across new ideas and new in­ter­est­ing plants.

“We’ve al­ways loved work­ing on the gar­den: we had fairly stress­ful jobs and needed a place to get away from it all,” says Heather.

“We love com­ing out and work­ing on the gar­den,” she adds. “I look af­ter the plants and Chris does the struc­tures. It’s all about team­work.”

Make an en­trance: two blue-glazed pots help to mark the gar­den’s en­try point, with its path­ways made from re­cy­cled bricks and pa­tio slabs, while a vin­tage chim­ney pot is re­pur­posed as an at­trac­tive plant stand

This moon gate sep­a­rates two parts of the gar­den and frames what lies be­yond. It is painted red, the Chi­nese colour for good luck

Add the sound of run­ning wa­ter to the gar­den by cre­at­ing a wa­ter­fall or cas­cade. Moss adds a patina and or­na­ments bring ex­tra sparkle

Plant Daphne odora near the back door to for in­tense fra­grance in win­ter or spring. Th­ese plants thrive in moist, hu­mus-rich and well-drained soil in sun or shade

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