Barnsdale

A couple of weeks ago, Mr The Digger took some days off to spend with each of our daughters. So I had a day with each of them too, which very rarely happens.

Digger Jr had asked Mr The Digger to take her to one of those indoor playgrounds. The Littlest Digger is too small to argue so I made her go with me to Barnsdale Gardens (don’t worry, I bought her an ice cream).

Barnsdale is a collection of small-medium gardens which were begun by Geoff Hamilton for Gardeners’ World. The great thing about having loads of small gardens is that it’s easy to get inspiration for your own garden. But no, The Littlest Digger, that Gunnera is never going to fit in your little patch of garden. Sorry.

Here are some crappy photos in the wrong order for your enjoyment:

 

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Modern Estate Garden. I want this honeysuckle. There’s a danger that I’m going to turn into a honeysuckle hoarder.

 

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This awesome geranium was everywhere at Barnsdale.

 

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Alstroemeria. I still haven’t got any because I’m rubbish at choosing.

 

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I love this colour combination.

 

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Children’s Garden. Predictably, The Littlest Digger loved this one.

 

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Children’s Garden. Proof that you can have a beautiful garden that’s great fun for children.

 

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I’m not a huge Wisteria fan, but I bet this looked awesome in flower.

 

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Hostas. Hostas everywhere.

 

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Formal Pool and Knot Garden. I love these statues, something a bit different than the usual armless Grecian goddess.

 

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I am so going to do this with apple trees one day.

 

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The Littlest Digger takes a break in the Artisan’s Cottage Garden. What is an Artisan anyway? I think it’s a bit like an anteater.

 

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I can’t remember exactly what sort of tree this is. My mum would probably wave her hands vaguely and say ‘some sort of Prunus’. So I’ll go with that. As you can see, the bark is the star here.

 

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Stream and Bog Garden. The Littlest Digger and I spent a while playing ‘we’ve got one of those in our garden’.

 

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I might turn into a Clematis hoarder too.

 

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The willow dome in The Children’s Garden.

 

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GUNNERA.

 

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Japanese Garden. It doesn’t do it for me, really, but here it is if that’s your sort of thing.

 

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Sometimes I remember to note the name of a plant. This geranium is Russell Prichard and it’s beautiful.

 

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Versailles, Barnsdale style. Guillotine just out of shot.

 

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Mediterranean Garden. I neeeeed that Kniphofia.

 

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Ponds everywhere. You can’t have a garden without a pond.

 

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Hornbeam arbor in the Country Paradise Garden.

 

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And also in the Country Paradise Garden is the nut walk made from hazel.

 

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Town Paradise Garden. I think this was my favourite of all, which surprised me- it’s funny what sort of garden you fall in love with.

 

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If someone told me I’d love a town courtyard garden with a lion head fountain, I’d be like NAH. But I did.

 

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The pond in the Town Paradise Garden. GOTTA HAVE A POND.

 

 

How to plant up your pond margin for £1.30

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A month ago I dug a brand new pond and bog garden. I’ve managed to do this without spending very much money at all:

Pond liner for pond: £18
Liner for bog garden: £10
Water lily: £5
New plants for bog garden: £10
Seeds: £1.99

I also added plants that I already had. The loosestrife I did buy (years ago) but the cowslips, forget-me-nots and irises were all either given to me or came up on their own.

The only thing I was missing was some marginal plants. These are really, really important for wildlife. For this reason, I prefer to use native species. My original plan was to use bogbean but then one morning on Facebook I spotted some of my wildlife-gardening friends talking about using watercress in ponds.

So this is how it’s done:

1. Buy yourself a bag of watercress.

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Don’t eat it. That will ruin the project.

 

2. Put it in some water on the windowsill and wait.

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If you don’t have containers like these then just order a takeaway.

 

3. A few days later it should be growing roots. Time to harden it off!

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Roots!

 

4. Use some aquatic compost and plant your water cress in the pond margins.

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Plant either in aquatic plant pots or straight into the pond bed.

 

5. Done! A haven for pondlife and all for £1.30.

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It’s definitely looking less like a muddy hole in the ground.

 

PS I tried planting some in the bog garden. Slugs ate it. I hate those guys.

How to make a bog garden, by someone who has probably cocked it up

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It’ll look better in a couple of months, honest.

I have been planning a bog garden for sometime, having been ‘blessed’ with heavy, wet clay soil (my mum keeps reminding me about all the good points of clay but she’s not the one who has to dig it). Last year my back garden was a bit overrun with veg, but now I have the allotment I have plenty of room to extend my wildlife section with another pond and a bog garden. The area is a small border, but you don’t need a ton of space for a bog garden anyway. You could create one in an even smaller space than this if you wanted.

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Digging is hard work, so get help if you can.

The first step is digging. Digger Jr looks like she’s helping but really she is just posing with a spade, the massive slacker. You’ll need to dig down about a foot and a half, which is 45 cm or knee high if you’re 5’4″. For a bog garden, you don’t need to worry about using a fleecy liner because you want holes in the liner anyway. Just remove any biggish or pointy stones and bung in the liner.

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Stabbing things is fun. And legal if it’s pond liner.

Next comes the fun part! Stab some holes in the liner with a fork. The bog garden needs to be slow draining but not completely water tight, so some drainage is needed.

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Looking forward to this not looking like a grave.

Next add a layer of gravel at the bottom to aid drainage. It’s hard to tell how thick it is in this photo- it’s about an inch.

The next step is to fill it all in. The soil will settle and the level will drop so it’s best to leave the planting for a couple of days.

So I finished my bog garden off with (and you’ll have to trust me on this because they’re only just waking up): Purple loosestrife, Ligularia, Persicaria (no idea which one…), cowslips and forget-me-nots. I’ll also be adding some ragged robin which I’m growing from seed and some bog bean in the pond margins. I’ll take a few more photos when it starts looking good. In fact, I’ve worked so hard that I’ll probably approach strangers in the street with photos yelling ‘LOOK AT MY BOG GARDEN.’ Someone look after my bog garden while I’m in jail.

 

 

I made a wildlife pond and I deserve an award or at the very least some alcohol

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Cat shown for scale (cat is massive)

Last year this bed was where I grew my brussells sprouts. Since they’ve all been eaten (4 plants is a good amount for a family of 4 btw- you will run out of sprouts at about the same time you get really sick of them) I was able to get cracking on my plan for extending the pond/wildlife area.

I have built one and a half wildlife ponds before so I vaguely know what I’m doing. So, for your information here is how I did it. The Digger- cocking up gardening so you don’t have to.

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Yes, that is solid clay.

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Nope, never dries out.

These are the conditions I’m working with- heavy clay that never dries out. For years I’ve been trying to fix it but now that I have more space for veg up at the allotment, I can finally work with the conditions and put in another pond and a bog garden.

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I found some sanity at the bottom of the hole. And a lot of bricks.

First things first, decide where you want your pond. If you want a natural wildlife pond it’s best to go for somewhere flat or at the bottom of a slope, and somewhere that gets some sun. This spot ticks the boxes and will get more sun that the other pond so hopefully the frogs will prefer it.

If you’re organised or picky then you can mark out the edge of your pond so that you can plan the shape beforehand. I was limited by the space available, so since I didn’t have much scope for choosing a size and shape I just dug.

It’s a good idea to have different depths in the pond. I needed a deep bit for a water lily that I impulse bought last summer and has been sitting in a bucket ever since, poor thing. But I also wanted a shallow bit for some native marginals.

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An hour and a half later….

Make sure you check to see if your pond is level, otherwise you’ll end up with loads of liner showing on one side and it will haunt you forever.

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Don’t worry, it’s meant to look like this.

You’ll need to put something between the pond liner and the ground to prevent it getting punctured by sharp rocks or some of the crap that the lazy arses that built your house left behind. Sand is OK for the flat parts but you’ll need fleecy stuff for the sides. I’ve used a mixture because I am cheap as hell and just used what I had lying around, but you can buy special stuff for the job.

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Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.

Don’t cut the liner yet! Lay it over the hole and start filling with water. This will help the liner form the shape of the pond. There will be creases, so try and flatten them out as best you can while the pond is filling.

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Told you.

When it’s filled up, you can trim the edges of the liner- be cautious, you can always trim off more later on.

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Nearly there….

You can weigh down the edges of the liner with rocks or you can dig a little trench and bury the edges with soil. I opted for the latter, firstly because it’s cheap and secondly because I want plants growing all the way up to the edge.

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Tadaa!

Done! Not a massive pond, but a worthy addition to my little wildlife corner.

Right, the sun is shining so I’m going to go and finish my bog garden. Stay tuned for updates!

 

Swings and Roundabouts

It’s been a funny old sort of day. A few bad things, like I’m still not fit enough to go running and my computer broke (posting this on my phone so hope it works!). Also my CBT appointment got cancelled.  But this happened:

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Something is brewing…

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Nearly there…

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Here it comes…

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Thar she blows!

I have no idea how this is going to look on an actual computer.  Sorry if it’s massive/tiny.

Bennetts Water Garden

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I think this is my favourite.

Everyone got a chance to pick something they wanted to do on holiday. My husband wanted to relax on the beach, the children wanted to play on the beach and I wanted to drag them around a garden and bore them with plants. Anyway, you can’t visit the West Country without going to a nice garden, right?

Our campsite had a load of pamphlets about places to visit and I spotted one for Bennetts Water Garden and its National Collection of waterlilies. Now usually, the words ‘national collection’ are enough to make me run in the opposite direction. I suppose I don’t understand why someone would want 900 of the same plant when there are so many plants to choose from. But this is a water garden, and I love water gardens and everything that goes with them. And you have to love waterlilies because they have beautiful flowers, and leaves shaped like Pacman.

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One of the lily ponds- there are 8 or 9 altogether.

So. We tootled off towards Weymouth and Bennetts Water Garden. It looks a little small and possibly even cheesey from the front but inside it is amazing. The first bit you walk through is the hot house, which has a fish/waterlily pond, cacti and a resident cat (called Lily, obviously). You know when there’s a resident cat sunbathing amongst the plants that you’re in a relaxed kind of garden, and that’s exactly what this place is. There are no manicured lawns, rows of perfectly spaced bedding plants, or neatly clipped hedges. There are even weeds (AKA native wildflowers), which adds to its wildlife-friendly credentials.  I get a lot more inspiration from gardens like this rather than the aforementioned manicured lawn, bedding-plants-in-a-row gardens.

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Ducks!

There’s a nature trail for children that the girls loved, and they each won a packet of sweets at the end so they loved it. There are also loads of fish, ducks and other wildlife to spot so it’s a great place for children to go. And there’s a cafe (cream teas!) and a plant shop. Go and visit right now while the lilies are flowering!

I took millions of photos and managed to narrow it down a bit. I thought 20 photos might be pushing it. Maybe I’ll post some more another time.

 

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This one was in the tropical house, so forget about putting it in your pond unless you live in Florida or something (can I come and visit?)

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Another tropical lily

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A brand new dragonfly drying out his wings, with his old suit hanging up next to him.

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No, this is my favourite.

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No, THIS one is definitely my favourite.

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Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), a UK native. I think I might need some of this.

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Here’s another waterlily.

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I prefer the white/yellow ones tbh.

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‘Chateau le Rouge’ is nice though.

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‘Texas Dawn’- my new new favourite.

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‘Arc-en-ciel’- love the leaves on this one, it’s beautiful even without the flowers.

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Meine Familie on the Monet Bridge.