Reclaiming the garden

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We’re reclaiming the courtyard of our garden. Jolia tonnelle

I’ve had very little time for blogging lately, taken up as I have been with a cat dying of thyroid cancer, a dog dying of heart failure, medical appointments for both me and the DH, and – last but not least – work. 

However, being slightly flusher than normal, I have been able to stump up some money for a gardener, and that has done wonders. He’s removed the bed in front of the house, which had gradually crept out into the courtyard for about 15ft, and we are now planning to gravel right up to the wall and set up a table and chairs.

On the opposite side of the courtyard, he’s cleared the patio of the assembled brambles, weeds and a broken-down old table that had cluttered it up, creating a lovely outdoor room area.

Not having had a decent summer since 2010, we haven’t sat out here much lately and I was shocked to find how much the shrubs had grown up. Really, now, it’s more like sitting surrounded by light woodland, as the lilacs are a good 9ft tall and self-seeded hawthorn, cherry, hazel and oak have grown up. These have now been thinned out, and the eleagnus and photinia cut back into tree style, with their lower branches removed.

We are doing this a lot lately as our trees reach maturity. The first year, we take off the lower branches, then each year we go up one layer, until it gets as high as I can reach with the loppers over my head – ie: about 8ft. Once you can walk under the trees easily, this feels the right height – about the height to which, in the surrounding fields, the local cattle would nibble them off.  

Last year, I thinned out the parrotia in our courtyard, which made a world of difference. Instead of the thick, dense shade of hazel, we now have a lacy network of branches, with leaves only from 4ft and upwards – this creates a beautiful stained-glass effect. We also had the walnut tree trimmed by a local tree surgeon, similarly allowing light to come in underneath. When we bought this house, that tree was about 4ft high – it’s now well over 20ft. My aim, eventually, is that it will just have a straight trunk to the height of about 15ft, with the branches only appearing above. Walnuts come into leaf very late, not being a native species, so they throw little shade onto the house until high summer, when it’s needed.

To celebrate our new patio area, I’ve just bought this tonnelle for half price in a sale from Delamaison – a steel 3m x 4m with a white top and curtains. We fancied a sturdy wooden or aluminium one really, as we are beset by the wind here, but with the difficulty of finding a replacement cover, we decided to go with the cheaper option and just replace the whole thing when required. Our old tonnelle lasted 10 years and the old bits don’t go to waste as they go out into the orchard to support roses, etc. 

I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to sitting under here this summer. It’s wonderful having the area with the cabin, down by the ponds – it’s bliss down there – but when we need internet, we have to be up closer to the house and this tonnelle will give us a lovely outdoor room to enjoy this summer.  

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