Labour of Love

This weekend, with the main hard landscaping complete, I was finally able to begin digging over more of the fence border while King of the Hill prepared ground over the other side of the garden, and mixed and poured a concrete base. A large heap of topsoil still stands halfway along this edge of the garden, which will prevent us from preparing the middle section of the border and joining up to the first section for some time, but that still gave me free reign on the compacted earth that was now cleared towards the house.

The ground was slightly easier to dig than I had anticipated, although I frequently hit a few big chunks of root remaining from the old hedge and conifers that used to stand here. My work would have been a relatively fast and straightforward task but for one thing: it was infested with bindweed.

Diligently, I picked over every spadeful of earth by hand, to pull out even the smallest chunks of those fat white roots, quickly filling a large trug, which made the work not only more back-breaking but also rather dispiriting. I stopped work on Saturday afternoon rather horrified after a further revelation. Peering over the other side of the fence where most of the roots seemed to originate, I was rendered almost speechless by the sight of a hedge of bindweed growing along the far side of the fence, about fifteen feet along and almost as tall as our four-foot fence section. That’s going to need some remedy, or we will be fighting a losing battle on our side before long!

When Sunday dawned I swallowed my frustration and painstakingly continued my herculean task, which was magnified somewhat by the mats and mats of crocosmia corms that I then also began to dig up. Over the years of neglect these plants have stacked their corms vertically year after year, to form a three dimensional mesh which made progress even slower again. Fortunately, the bindweed was more concentrated by the fence, and the crocosmia was more prevalent towards the front of this section as the previous hedge had prevented it spreading back too far, so I was rarely dealing with both in the same spadeful.

These are just the standard orange species, and although they do look pretty en masse, they are rather invasive and I have other plans for our limited space so I fell to picking out as many of the corms as I could. Having made progress through about half of the area I hoped to cover, I stopped for a rest and rewarded my hard work by planting the viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’, that my parents bought us for our anniversary, in pride of place where the fence drops down in level. This should provide us with a little extra screening here in the years to come.

This gave me the boost I needed to pick up the spade once again and continue on until I reached the edge of our newly terraced patio. By this time the winds, which had been strong all day, had increased in their strength, and dark clouds were beginning to build along the horizon.

It was remarkably satisfying though to finally stop and survey my work in the sunshine. All my own work. And just look at the lovely paving on the patio and step, still drying from a light shower at lunchtime. It was finally time for my favourite part: planting.

In went the clematis ‘Ernest Markham’, just waiting for some trellis to climb up; one of the sedums; the salvia nerorosa ‘Caradonna’; our poor wind-burnt red acer (whose variety is lost in the mists of the past few years); the lovely crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, given to us by my mum a few weeks ago, that has been blooming nervously in its pot (yes, out with one, in with another!); various bits and pieces of geranium, including ‘Orion’ by the step; an eryngium; several verbena bonariensis raised from seed this year and a few other things rescued from the greenhouse or staging, including some of the more spindly cosmos to fill the spaces this year. Just as I finished and headed indoors for a well-earned shower, the rains moved in for the night; even watering the new border for me.

With amazing restraint, there are still some spaces in this new border, even allowing for spread. I can’t plant too close to the raised paving yet, as we need to cut the new concrete foundations back along the length of the retaining wall so that plants along here can have some depth of soil, and we are thinking about a pair of matching rose bushes either side of the step, perhaps Iceberg…

Among other things, there are several young Japanese anemones in the greenhouse, one or two of which I hope to find space for in this part of the garden, so I must hold myself back from filling up the border entirely before they are ready to plant out. We are another step closer to a garden though, and it feels great.


9 thoughts on “Labour of Love

  1. We had this problem with bindweed when the neighbour’s garden became overgrown. We found some old roof slates and dug a trench along the bottom of the fence and lined it with slates-it stopped the roots coming through-but its important not to leave a gap between the fence and the slates, a snug fit is needed to stop the bindweed stems as they look for escape routes!

    • Thank you; my mum had already suggested something similar further down the garden where brambles come through from next door to our raspberry patch; it sounds like a good approach. We have lots of old roof tiles left over, which may be just the thing. I shall see what I can do.

  2. Bindweed! Such pernicious stuff. Is it neighbours on the other side of you or roadside? Either way, sounds like an ideal use for some glysophate spray. Not organic, I know, but it would get the job done and wouldn’t harm the wildlife.

    Excellent job though, the soil you’ve worked looks great, and how lovely to get some plants in right up close to the house like that. Any time you get bored and fancy some more digging, just let me know! Roses either side of the steps sounds lovely.

    • Non-gardening neighbours, alas, although they are moving out so fingers crossed our new neighbours take a more active interest in the garden! In the meantime, we may indeed reach over with some spray since as you say it shouldn’t harm anyone and it would stop the problem spreading further if the house is going to be unoccupied for long.

      Ha, that was more than enough digging for me! Especially as on Friday night we shovelled just under seven tonnes of topsoil between us from the roadside into wheelbarrows that my husband then wheeled on to the front garden. A very productive weekend, but took its toll on the body!

  3. Reminds me of the state of my garden when we moved into our current property – loads of rubble covered with a very thin layer of topsoil. Cosmetic work! That was one of the reasons I decide to create the raised beds.

    • Ah, our rubble is on the surface now at least – we have already dug out the areas that previous occupiers had seemingly used as waste deposits, primarily beyond the greenhouse where we now grow our crops. Our own rubble was all piled on the garden and has now either been integrated into the landscaping or taken away. Just a few pipes and windows, spare bits of rock and other such bits and pieces to clear away now.

      Our garden has a good spade-depth of rich clay topsoil on top of the local rock that is known as pin rock – enough for most of the garden to grow happily, though the ‘spare’ soil that we’ve excavated in that big heap is destined to build up the vegetable garden as we harvest the crops and free up ground, to give it more depth of soil.

  4. Back breaking work Sara but the tilth is coming along beautifully. Noted how you used a plank to stop impaction when you planted your opulent viburnum – it is these touches which show how diligent you and King of the Hill are. It’s very enjoyable watching all the landscaping progress

  5. I had a bindweed problem like yours in my last garden, and I tried bricks (no slates available) but in the end I had to use black plastic, held in place by the bricks. The best thing in the end was new neighbours – so I hope you have good luck there!

    But what a lot of hard work, and what fun it is going to be planting it up…

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