Excavating for a flower bed
It has been hard labour, but now I’m ready to get planting!
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