Ex­ca­vat­ing for a flower bed

It has been hard labour, but now I’m ready to get plant­ing!

Garden News (UK) - - What To Do - NAOMI SLADE

My gar­den has reached a turn­ing point. Ou­tra­geously bad fake grass sent to a bet­ter life, and raised beds planted to their sen­si­ble max­i­mum for a mo­ment, it’s now time to bite the bul­let and break ground.

At al­most high sum­mer I’m over­com­mit­ted on the pot front. I don’t want to spend my life wa­ter­ing, I like hol­i­days and I hate to see plants strug­gling if (when) I get dis­tracted. So I’ve de­cided that what is re­quired is a patch of soil into which some of the plants can go. Small peren­ni­als and ten­der stuff like dahlias can live there on at least a tem­po­rary ba­sis and it’ll also let me finally plant out the an­nu­als.

As I get a feel for the space, a de­sign is com­ing to­gether. But it’s a real gar­den, emerg­ing on a real timescale at the hands of busy peo­ple. And I’m just not yet ready to com­mit to the lay­out of ev­ery square inch.

But I know where the pa­tio will be and broadly where I want to plant, so we at­tacked the no­tional flower bed bit with a hand­pick and sledge­ham­mer. The ideal: a thin ve­neer of con­crete and some poorly mortared pav­ing slabs. Re­al­ity: sadly not!

We kept dig­ging. Con­crete. Then hard­core. For 10 or more hard-won inches we made all the jokes we could think of about min­ing for gold and dig­ging to Aus­tralia. I en­ter­tained my hus­band by telling him that gar­den de­signer James Alexan­der-Sin­clair had once de­clared to me that if you dig down far enough, you will in­evitably hit soil. In re­turn, he mut­tered about spend­ing his week­ends crack­ing rocks. Daunted? Well, maybe a lit­tle bit. It did make for a lot of rub­ble in a small space. And the shal­low grave and heaps of sand only added to the im­pres­sion of hav­ing stum­bled upon an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal mur­der scene from an Agatha Christie novel. But re­lent­less op­ti­mism was re­warded. It turned out that we’d dug the hard­est bit first, and the soil level was higher and the con­crete thin­ner and weaker the fur­ther we got down the gar­den. No need to call in a con­crete-smash­ing ma­chine and raft of burly chaps af­ter all! The crater of hor­ti­cul­ture (as my hus­band calls it) may be a lit­tle unortho­dox, but it’s also full of prom­ise. I can’t wait to get plant­ing!

My new flower bed has been a true labour of love

Award-win­ning hor­ti­cul­tural jour­nal­ist, au­thor, broad­caster and de­signer

An­nu­als, such as these cos­mos, can go in my freshly dug bed

Gera­nium phaeum is a trooper in shade

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