Thursday, October 18, 2007

18 October: In my garden

The back garden here is just a little standard modern estate plot, about 35 feet wide and about 40 feet long.

But it's pretty busy, functioning as an outdoor room (paving by the house, with a bench and sunshade), food production (raspberry canes, apple trees, and an occasional tripod of runner beans), pastime (lawn to mow, shrubs to prune, borders to weed), recycling centre (compost bin, shredder, water butts), intermittent playground for the grandchildren (the lawn and the paths to run round), and wildlife haven (birds, butterflies, insects, the odd small mammal).

Now that the house is 5 years old, and plants have had some time to grow, the garden is changing. Some things grew too big and were dug up; a number of things inexplicably died; other things fell out of favour or failed to thrive and were changed. The trees planted in the borders are having an effect on the moisture and light around them. In previous years, time spent in the garden was mostly maintenance, but now it's mostly relaxation.

There's a basic framework to it, with the paved area and a paved path all the way round, then borders around the lawn, but the planting is a joy-jumble of trees, shrubs, perennials, and bulbs, with annuals self-seeded and added in any spaces that can be found. It could never be described as "designed", more "evolving", and the style, if any, could only be called "individual".

The flowers are always a delight, and foliage (or foilage, as it was once memorably described as by a policeman giving evidence in a trial) provides extra colour. And there is always something of interest, even if it's only the spiders nesting in the corners of the conservatory windows.

This morning when the kitchen blind went up, the garden was alive with birds. Several blackbirds - they like the water in the 2 birdbaths - a small flock of dunnocks, a robin, blue tit, coal tit, and most gloriously, a wren!

Immediately outside the kitchen window is a potted variegated holly tree, about 5 or 6 feet tall, and the wren was darting about in its branches, picking up tiny insects. She wasn't bothered by my presence, less than 3 feet away, but continued her breakfast, moving on to the oak tree, the border, and back again. There may have been a second wren, as a fierce chase of another bird took her zipping out of the garden once. She returned for a further forage, though. So it seems that we provide a food supply worth visiting for a number of little creatures, including mouse/rat/possible hedgehog or stoat.

The future of the potted trees has been in question - they take more upkeep than the other trees, needing watering, feeding and trimming. And with 9 of them - 2 hollies, 2 gingkos, oak, black pine, hornbeam, yew and bay - they take up a fair bit of space. But when they provide food for the wren, then they have to stay.

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