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Painting with locked down nature

The Corona virus lock-down that started towards the end of March continues. Its been over four weeks now. No one knows how long it will last. We all know that hundreds of people are dying on a daily basis, the hospitals are doing the best they can and the rest of the country is doing the best it can by staying out of the way at home. No one is happy about it, but we all know that we want to stay safe and well, and make sure that we keep to the rules by staying at home. 

I am fortunate that I can always amuse myself with painting to keep myself busy. And that is indeed to plan to do that..except there was one thing that changed that plan…and it was that the weather was sunny…and warm….and it hasn’t rained, and has been like that for about five weeks by my estimation. And when the weather is sunny and warm I want to be out in it, enjoying being in nature. And if I can’t be out and about, I will stay at home with my own nature and look at the garden of this house we bought 11 months ago and decide what is best to do about it. This garden is basically grass, and tall hedges, and a few trees. There are a few Hydrangea bushes, a couple of Buddleia bushes, a couple of pink rose bushes in the hedge, and that’s it for colour. Very little! 

I have many garden books on design, plants, ideas, and exciting projects. I have on a few occasions sat down with them and tried to plan a new garden from this bare canvas of one. But its difficult to start with a finished garden, with everything in its place and grown. I know I want an Acer tree again at some point, and a flowering Cherry tree, and various other plants and favoured shrubs that I’ve had in previous gardens or admired in the past. But all that has to be taken in with where is the best place to put them, as this is a wind swept garden in the winter, it can be in the mist and clouds some mornings, the rain can lash down to a great extent, and last summer it was so dry even the few plants were struggling. You could say we nearly always have extreme weather one way or another!!














But, at least we could start by changing the things we knew we wanted to change..start on a negative and make it a positive, that’s part of my way of doing things. So, we knew the pergola was in the wrong place on the side lawn, and it was dismantled. My husband asked where I wanted it putting, and I showed him on the main back lawn and he shook his head at me and said it was too steep there. Bearing in mind that most of this back garden is on a slope, and some parts so steep that mountaineers could practice on it, I pointed to my second choice and he agreed it was the best option, although even then one end would be a foot lower than the other end and we’d have to dig deeper holes for two of the legs to compensate. It was dug in…. and there was one of those wonderfully unexpected serendipity moments, because that setting for it meant that suddenly we had a focal point in the back garden from anywhere in the house overlooking it or in the garden itself. It was ideally placed. And I knew exactly what I wanted to grow up it! I researched my choices but due to the lock-down I couldn’t go to a nursery or garden centre to get the plants..but amazingly I could buy them online!! I chose a rambling rose in shades of peachy creams, and a climbing rose in shades of yellowy orange, and a clematis in shades of peachy cream, and a honeysuckle in shades of creams. They will all match, they will all add to each others beauty. They will all contrast with the black of the pergola. They will all be a joy to watch and see how they grow and flower up and over the pergola, and will be a joy to sit under on hot sunny days with a cool drink, and cooler summer evenings with a glass of wine in hand.

I didn’t need to think of paths to it, or flower borders around it. They might come at some later point, it might stay as it is. It will evolve as gardens do. I have planted near to them at the end of the garden, a pinky coloured  Escallonia, a yellow flowering Berberis, a lilac coloured Lilac and a Eleagnus that has green and yellow leaves. They are background interest to the main feature of the pergola plants. 



Since the weather continued to be sunny and hot, we were able to consider the long hedge that ran down from the house to the Laurel at the end. There were a few Hydrangeas there, both pink and my favourite the blue ones, and a tall Lavatera (Mallow) with pink flowers. It was also decided that instead of the lawn there just stopping at the hedge it would be better to have a proper border there, which meant it would be easier to mow the lawn, and also look after the shrubs. I decided that it should be 4 feet wide, as that’s a good width for plants to show their talents off, but not too wide to get fed up with the digging of it. I measured out the length and ended on doing 51 feet of it. That’s a hell of a lot of digging, and I did it all just me and my spade! It took four days in the heat of the Easter long weekend to dig it all, but after it was done came the fun part! The planting! I already had some plants I had brought with me from my last house, Red Hot Pokers, a Viburnum with pinky white flowers and dark green leaves, a pink flowered Spiraea that will have golden leaves in autumn, and a varigated red and green leaved Pieris, a varigated purple flowered Hebe, and a varigated Pittosporum ready to go in the ground. I also bought online and added a white flowered Philadelphus (Mock Orange) for heady summer fragrance, a Cotinus (Smoke bush) for autumn colour and interesting flowers (that look like smoke, hence the name), a silver and green varigated Holly for winter red berries, a Pyrcantha (Firethorn) for orangey red berries, and a couple of bush Fuschias for pinky red colour in the summer. That will tide me over until I can get to a garden centre to add more. But I know in the mean time that I have summer colour and fragrance, autumn colour and interest, winter berries, and all year colour in the evergreens.

They will grow together and compliment each other as they grow. They will be interesting if I am sitting in the garden near to them, or sitting in the house looking out at them. There will be whites, and pinks, and blues, and reds…with hints of orange in places. As an artist I can see them. As a gardener I have chosen them, and will tend them. But most of them will look after themselves, and give me pleasure in the future with their growth. Because gardens should give pleasure, and I want this one to come alive!! An artists garden. And a gardener deciding colours and textures as an artist.