Beyond the bird feeder is a new column by Alys Fowler for Wicked Leeks.
My garden has a large, practical, but very ugly patio. If it was just bland it might be okay, but instead it has ‘features’. There are some very strange red pavers with a circular pattern, randomly placed for good measure. I think it was supposed to be for a barbeque, but the proportions are all wrong. On top of that, the retaining wall has concrete block made to look like Cotswold stone. This stone is pretty hideous already but made more so because the rest of the garden is built of local slate, so it clashes rather a lot. To add to this, there’s some concrete balustrades that merely allow you to look at all the rubble the previous owner piled up behind them.
It jars at my aesthetic sensibilities no end. But just getting rid of it is not an option. There is no ‘away’ to throw it to – and in any case, it’s bad enough that we endlessly remodel our houses, believing our taste to be the one that will prevail, but I hate how gardens have ended up in this cycle too. I must learn to love this space another way.
It’s bad enough that we endlessly remodel our houses, believing our taste to be the one that will prevail, but I hate how gardens have ended up in this cycle too. I must learn to love this space another way.
Luckily, this patio is not very well built and bits of it are starting to fall off. This adds little to its looks, but it does give me the opportunity to wiggle out bricks and pavers here and there to expose the soil. Beneath the pavers there is, in lieu of hardcore, a fair amount of concrete (hence why it’s falling apart). A productive hour spent whacking the stuff with a small sledgehammer, plus a couple of bags of horticultural sand (don’t use builders’ sand, it can make the conditions too acidic) and I now have the perfect, free draining, low nutrient soil for wildflowers to thrive in.
Into this I have sown a wild mix of things: thymes, Verbascums, Verbenas, hollyhocks, calendula, toadflax (Linaria purpurea), honesty, prostrate rosemary, lavender and some alyssum. To be honest, it was not a particularly thought through mix, I just emptied all the half-opened packets of seeds that have accumulated in the store and thought I’d allow nature to determine the rest.
It looks pretty bonkers right now, but in no time it will be softened by green things and will have a gentle air of nature reclaiming her rights.
I’m very much hoping the Verbascum germinate but I am a little doubtful about the rosemary; it’s notoriously slow and a bit tricky from seed. But, hey, if the conditions are right, it might just work. I’ve added a few plug plants of creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum) into a few of the large cracks, mostly for my own benefit, so that I can see a little early progress.
Once I realised how badly the patio was built, I decided that I could add a little wiggle room in here too and went across it with a spade to gently nudge out some of the pavers in a random pattern to create cracks for self seeders. It looks pretty bonkers right now, but in no time it will be softened by green things and will have a gentle air of nature reclaiming her rights. Soon, I hope we’ll be eating outdoors among the buzz of insects and the heady scents of herbs.