Toil, Aerial Conflict, and a Garden Walk.

Another month of significant physical effort here, in part influenced by a late season request to look round the garden by a small recce group, for a possible party flying in from over the pond. Sometime next year.


We’ve given up opening the garden this late in the year, since meadow work always takes over. In addition, this year has seen a major effort at installing a proper path through our lower meadow copse – genuinely the last bit of the garden design to be worked on – and a reflection that our garden is evolutionary – designs are never written and drawn on plans before we start. Like everything in our married lives, they start as thoughts. These surface as ideas expressed, kicked around verbally between us over days months or years, before anything happens. Mistakes or flaws are frequent and need to be problem solved in due course. The lower meadow copse was originally just pasture grass, then with some growing conifers I’d grown from pre-germinated seed plonked in with tree guards to protect against sheep grazing damage. Those which survived over the years, along with many seedling ash, planted for future firewood, grew away and eventually a boundary fence and native hedge was planted up, to mirror in shape the triangular copse on the other side of our access track.

Up until 2016, the grass and moss area beneath these trees was managed with our little lawnmower. Which was a real chore, with the trunks to negotiate, and a slope in 2 planes. A decision to move this towards a proper additional woodland garden was taken. Cardboard sheeting and mulch were added gradually as ground cover over the whole area as and when it was to hand, hand weeding began a year later and over the last 4 years, bulbs, shrubs and groundcover planting began. But that still left the awkward grass path to mow, and negotiate. So old sleepers, our favoured rubber horse-matting, and retaining boards on the up-side were needed. As always, Fiona did the skilled work of levelling and laying out of the path and sinking the sleepers, after I’d sawn them to size, and William and I had moved them into position. It’ll take time to bed in, but as the trees grow higher and shade increases, will at least give a drier and level- in-one-plane path, to explore this part of the garden.

As well as this, work has continued with constructing the vital two, small, hay sheds which replaced the footprint of the ancient Dutch barn which was unsafe, and had to be removed quite early in our time at Gelli.

Finally, Fiona setting herself the task of grubbing out multiple 17 year old ash tree stumps. All this meant we’ve had little time to tidy the garden for visitors, and it’s in a state of considerable chaos in places.

However, our arms were twisted about this recce visit, and it made us reflect on how we’d show these people around the garden, who’ve never visited before. In part to get the ripped apart “under construction” section out of the way first, we re-worked the route we’d normally take, and as a quick and much overdue post, I had the idea of walking it through with the camera, to show what it looks like now, in sequence from the paths, with little effort to go off piste to frame, or tweak views. Simply holding the camera on wide angle view in the direction of travel. So here it is.

Warts and all, after a month which will barely have given us more light than a typical March, and this part of the world is looking decidedly autumnal. Or worse.

Nearly the complete garden walk through views, with a couple of conscious exceptions, but seen in a very one-directional way, and reflecting our move towards much of the garden becoming semi-shaded woodland, to reduce weeding efforts as we, and the garden, continue to mature, or age. It made me appreciate that by good luck, rather than any real plan, it is indeed possible to walk around the garden in a circuit with little repetition, and this different direction of travel affects the observed views quite significantly.

Come to think of it, I might repeat this sequence, perhaps seasonally, to capture a new phase in the garden’s existence, as this maturity progresses, little new gets planted, some plants disappear from the scene, for one reason or another, and perhaps we take a little more time to enjoy it! Some friends who visited for a rare al fresco meal this week, told us they’d once visited a garden in France which had many old garden chairs, but minus the actual seats, and when they asked where the seats were, the sensible reply given was that gardeners never had a chance to sit down. Did they? So why bother with the seats.A quick count gives us a tally of maybe 25 seats of one sort or another, dotted throughout the garden, and I really do enjoy sitting down for a cuppa, when the weather is dry. It’s just a challenge to make the time to do this together.

A plan has already been hatched to improve this situation.

Anyway, on a lovely (and very rare in this exceptionally gloomy August) morning, to the background mewing of a young buzzard, I’d whizzed around the route, camera at the ready, before deciding what final tidying to do, in advance of the group’s arrival.So that’s it, including walking up longevity hill and back to the front door. Vivid greens predominate. Flashy flowers here are few and far between at this time of the year, in this poor August.

The same afternoon, as I headed down to help the grandchildren with a bit of fun dam building on the stream, I witnessed a fantastic aerial scrap between a medium sized bird of prey, subsequently identified (with many thanks to Colin, Andrew and Dave) as a sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus, and the available flight, or gulp, or kettle, or herd, or swoop of swallows (all apparently recognised as collective nouns for a group of swallows).Probably given the nature of the aerial interaction a “flight”, seems the most appropriate term. No blood was shed, and it’s apparently very rare for a sparrowhawk to catch a swallow on the wing. In this case, the hawk circled ever higher as the agitated swallows, with characteristic “Look Out, Look Out” alarm calls, took turns to buzz perilously close to such a powerful potential aggressor. But maybe they knew that mid-afternoon, the hawk is less likely to be in hunting mode? I didn’t even pick up on any signs of annoyed reaction on the hawk’s part.


11 thoughts on “Toil, Aerial Conflict, and a Garden Walk.

  1. Really enjoyed the walk around your lovely garden. I look forward to seeing the walk repeated through the seasons..great idea!

  2. Your garden always looks good, I’m so jealous! Looking forward to another visit next year. Thank you so much for remembering my rose, Jen has told me that she has it but I am yet to see it!! I will get it planted asap. Enjoy this late sunshine! Best wishes to you both x

    • Thanks Jan. Actually visiting your garden was an inspiration to us…never seen better Hydrangeas. We did mention to Jen that it’s also worth trying to get to see Jenny Matthews garden and nursery, Moorland Cottage Plants on the slopes of the Preselis, before she closes mid September, if you can…. We visited on the way back with the grandchildren yesterday and it’s still looking lovely with Hydrangeas, Crocosmias, grasses and much more,
      Best wishes and hope the rose does well with you. What a relief to have had some sunshine at last!!
      Best wishes
      Julian and Fiona

      • Sadly the hydrangeas have suffered in the constant dampness, the flowers deteriorated quickly into ugly brown lumps, I have even resorted to some ruthless pruning on some of the bigger ones as they looked so bad. I have long been a fan of Jen at Moorland, Dave and I were regular visitors for years but I haven’t managed to get there this season, I might just manage to squeeze a visit in next week. Many of my plants come from Jen’s nursery and prove to be very hardy. Best wishes Jan

        Sent from my iPad


  3. I can see your “second best” route being rapidly upgraded to “alternative”, it looks beautiful. I do not think any gardeners visiting your garden would ever be put off by “work in progress”, in fact, the why and wherefore of the work also provides interest. The “toil” section of the blog gave me pause for thought as did “grubbing out” Ash tree stumps. Well done, Fiona! Amelia.

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