Guernsey Garden

I've been remiss in not writing about the first garden that I helped design for someone other than myself and that's my aunt's garden in Guernsey. She had an offer from a neighbour to take a little off the side of her garden in return for more space at the back. In the photo the side is the wall straight ahead, and to the left the arch of roses leads to the additional rear space.

I had been to her quaint stone cottage, a step back in time on an ancient village lane, a couple of times before but the job of redesigning the space was done remotely while I was home in London. It was actually a tricky thing as the back area was sloped and the entire space was asymmetrical. Measurements were exchanged over the phone and my pencil sketch faxed over.

The solution I came up with was to put the main part into a circular quadrant which you entered from the side of the house and the back part was stepped into a higher level with a somewhat secret seating area. Tucked round the hedge on the right side is the kitchen door, where you get the full effect of the view - circular raised bed and a glimpse of what is beyond the rose arch.

Apart from a few suggestions that were more architectural like planting Ceanothus on the side wall the planting scheme was decided on by my aunt and another gardener friend with a general guideline that it should be 'cottagey'. Sadly I've never seen the finished result in person having moved to the US shortly after, but a couple of years ago she sent me some photos of the now fully mature garden and I have to say it looks pretty good. I did envision something a little taller in the raised bed at the entrance so it would be more of a surprise when you stepped into the space, but I can also see how a clearer view might also be more inviting.

Coincidentally the other garden I've been commissioned to design, the one in Mamaroneck is similarly a raised bed cottage type stone wall design. Although these cottage gardens feel like a hazy memory here in the sunny tropics, thanks to facebook, every time my cousin visits Guernsey and posts photos I'm right back there - like this one on the left of tulips in spring. 

Shady Meadow

The only kind of gardening that goes on in the orchard is a mowing about once a month, sometimes stretching to six weeks if the weather is dry and slows the growth down. I've experimented with leaving parts of it wild but I get concerned that my dogs who do like to go down there on occasion, might end up with ticks which they are miraculously free from now without any chemical help.  Touchwood. So it is allowed to get a little bit wild but not too much and thats what it was like today when I went down there to take some photos.

I was surprised to see last week when I went down there, quite a lot Chinese Violet, Asystasia gangetica. Not a huge surprise as its a pretty invasive weed  here - just that it looked more meadow like with its pretty flowers mixed in with  the lanky Alternatha Sessilis pictured here. Both are actually edible so I picked a nice bunch of the Asystasia which ended up in a frittata. There's an interesting video recipe for a dish combining alternatha sessilis leaves with lentils that I must try out.

There are a few different grasses down here, Kyllinga nemoralis, which is a big problem wherever I have lawn because it grows so quickly. Here it's polka dot white flowers look quite pretty and its an interesting plant in its own right with some interesting medicinal qualities, its leaves having antimicrobial properties.

There's also Nut Grass or Java Grass or Cyperus rotundus, whose roots are supposed to have protected cavemen's teeth from decay. Otherwise not a particularly interesting looking plant. There are a couple of patches of fountain grass which I will not see unless my gardener has machine issues and delays his visit for a couple more weeks, taking it up to a couple of months between mowing. Bamboo grass Pogonatherum crinitum keeps a low profile here whereas I see it becoming quite tall in places that have been left to grow wild.

This shady meadow has changed somewhat since I first got here. There were quite few garden escapees down here- Caladiums, Cococasias and quite a bit of Syngonium Podophyllum. I've moved them all into other parts of the garden. There was a medium sized weed tree, Clausena excavata, that got blown over in a storm that has since been removed as have quite a few rocks and pieces of concrete. This has changed sun exposure and competition and for the better - there's definitely a softer, meadow like feel and what seems like slightly different patches of diversity.

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