With the Best of Intentions

Every year I start with the best of intentions, principally to finish off a number of projects in the garden which have remained unfinished, Mediaeval Cathedrals did take hundreds of years to finish but my Grotto was supposed to be have been consecrated many years ago. Last year the principal projects were to be the steps up the far bank to a Belvedere, and the missile store in Faslane House. Faslane house is so called because the sewage treatment tank buried beneath reminded me in scale of a nuclear submarine. The idea of a missile store was perhaps also inspired by reference to ‘Little Sparta’, Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden in the Pentland Hills. There you can see a nuclear sail rising from the grass. Here there are already four silos prepared for my missiles, Trident II,, Poseidon, Polaris, and Priapus Mark 1. Furthermore Myrtle might have had her fountain at last

Each year, of necessity, should start off with a few weeks of serious flower bed maintenance as my relaxed gardening style intends to carry out only the minimum necessary during the growing season. If the plants are vigorous enough and close enough the only native plants to fill the spaces in between, (weeds to some) present little challenge to the plants that I have chosen. However the ‘Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men’ often go awry, or perhaps in my experience usually go awry.

In on the night of 12 February last year a storm that caused havoc across the Fylde blew down a very large beech tree that was growing on the bank above the path leading to my Hyperspace-Bypass. (Picture) The tree fell across the top of the bank, pulled its roots right out of the ground and then slid downhill to place the root ball fairly and squarely on the path. (2 pictures). I moved the ‘Tumulus for the Internment of Unachievable Dreams’ which I had placed in the bottom of the quarry to get rid of an excess of stone and borrowed a digger to assist my axe in reducing the root ball to clear the path. The tree was cut up and removed with the help of my neighbour’s son who had just completed his tree courses at Myerscough College.

To be a gardener one necessity is to be an optimist. As soon as the bulk of the tree had been removed there was clearly a great opportunity for planting, free from the shade and competition of the beech New shrubs will take time to establish but to overlook the area I have now made a ‘sitoutery’ at the top of the Bypass. If Thomas Hetherwick,one of my heroes, can build ‘sitouteries’ so can I; and it used up a lot of metal that was lying around. (Picture)

In the base of the quarry pit, churned up by the digger,.I plan to revisit the idea of a secret garden, plans I had abandoned when I had to construct my Bypass. I call this area a quarry pit because it was never dug for stone extraction but to obtain soil and clay to backfill the terraces along the river bank when a cotton spinning mill was built here. You will enter through a tunnel to restrict the view . In the longer term there may be a viewing room on top of the tunnel. Then you will turn into the sunken garden. Sounds simple but even this is not so. To keep the closed feel the doorway needs to be narrow, but I also need to be able to get a barrow through the entrance. So I need either a double door, one side normally closed or even a postern in a bigger door. The visitor will then turn on a path to a contemplative seat from which the view is uphill over the quarry base. This bottom was always sticky clay, either boggy or rock hard.. Terrace walls now hold back the soil leaving a space where the imagination can run riot, tempered only by questions of time, finance and maintenance. As I have worked in the garden over the last 40 years I have become more and more aware of the problems of maintenance. I have on occasion at the R.H.S. Tatton Show admired some of the startlingly ‘modern’ designs, only to realize that the stainless steel and glass would need polishing every other day. A ‘Shard’ made of metal fencing that I bought as display screens will soar up out of the base of the pit . The Shard has about 30,000 tonnes of concrete in its foundations, mine has only about one tonne, but that was still about 16 mixes that had to be taken to the bottom of the garden. Beside the shard will be planters of varying heights made out of a very large piece of plastic corrugated pipe that floated down the river, (10m.. long and 60cm. in diameter). These make reference to the Tower. (Picture). The more adventurous visitor may be able to explore this area on a series of stepping ‘stones’ above the ground level. I still do not know what to do between these hard landscape features. I would like to think that whatever I do will not take too much maintenance. Gravel would be a disaster with leaves falling continuously from the surrounding trees. Ground cover is a possibility, even Bob Brown’s idea of mown ivy. If ivy then in the future when I am no longer in charge the ivy could grow over all, over the towers, up the shard and give anyone contemplating the scene their ‘Ozimandias’ moment.

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