Cloister Planting & Redesign



We have a mammoth task this summer. When the clouds clear and the rain stops we will have to start digging out the retaining wall that holds the lower garden. At present, this wall is 'stepped in'.


The wall is around seven foot high but is broken up. After four feet we have a raised bed. To give it that name is laughable, it is more like a giant mole hill. The bed is not flat but sloped, there seems to be the remains of an old rockery which will do nothing for the engineering of the wall below. It is this 'slag stone' that is pushing out the bottom wall and barely holding together a path than runs over it. This path is now presently suspended in mid air, three by two flags are held up by matted roots from dead laurel stumps. No one walks on this. The steps up to the lower garden are barely two feet wide and are also starting to slide down on themselves. This will all have to come out and there will be a lot of activity around digging, swearing, moving stone, barking thumbs, fingers and bums, and then dry stone walling with more swearing (though most of our rubble will be recycled here). The new steps up will be staggered rather than a straight run and the lower raised bed by the back door to the kitchen will vanish. This will create a wider cloister and room for a log store by pushing the steps back and raising the level of the wall at this end of the cloister. At the far end we will be taking the level of the wall down, building in an in situ potting table in stone and hopefully bringing more light into the kitchen before I plant a climbing hydrangea and a rambling musk filled rose. Think English Heritage walls and you will be on the same train as us. All the flags there at present will be lifted, reused as the new steps and then the whole cloister will be laid to gravel to help drainage (there are whispers of land drains but frankly we don't have enough swear words in our lexicon to cover them). All this sounds confusing unless you can see it and in the next few months, weather permitting, you will see the before and after of this narrow space being made larger, wider and happier.

In the mean time, there is a corner of the cloister that demands a bit of attention. There is a low wall between us and next door, a wooden gate is fixed into it. This is our way in and out of the back of the house, we never use it as we have to go over our neighbour's garden but it is there in case of emergency or large furniture. Whilst Carol was clearing out the spare bedroom, this became a dumping ground whilst we were having the solid fuel heating system fitted (after seven months it appears that this now fixed and working but we have yet to see a winter through with it fully working), she found several wooden trugs from our wedding six years ago. Moths had taken residency and they were tossed into the cloister in the dead of winter, come spring and the moths were dead along with the eggs they had laid. Rather than throw them away or find a use for them in the house again (they never were used, at Drovers they sat on the windowsills gathering dust) we decided they should be back where they belong, in the garden. As if they knew this, these wonderful trugs fitted perfectly on top of this low wall between us and next door leaving some room for a few pots at the end. They are now planted up with Scarlet F1 Pelargoniums (from Fothergills in spring) and Nasturtium Jewel Cherry Rose (from D.T. Brown). Nestling beside them is box taken from cuttings. It brightens up this corner and we will show you how this grows. Oh, and by the back door, Attar of Roses with some more nasturtiums, a dream to brush by on the way to lunch, dinner or supper.




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