Spring: Mulching and Moving in the Rhubarb Patch and Cottage Garden

Carol always wonders why I move plants. She goes on about the fact that she gets use to something being there, getting established and then I go and do something to spoil it all by moving it. I try to explain, as many gardeners have over the years explained to their spouses, their marriage counselors and their divorce lawyers that some plants need to move as you get to know the garden. As a garden beds in. This is our sixth season on Pig Row and there are parts of the garden that are starting to bed in: the orchard, the hedges and the cottage garden. The rest is a helter skelter kind of garden, it may be the hillside effect but plants tend to slide down the hill into the cottage garden. The fruit bed is now in the cottage garden and the chickens are earmarked for the cottage garden.

Gardening small spaces in a large garden

I think this is leftover from Drovers, it's still a garden that I love, remember and lament over. It is my first love when it comes to gardening, it was tiny, you could see all the boundaries and your neighbours; sometimes in positions you didn't want to see them. I spent years at Drovers constructing small secluded areas within what was a small overlooked garden; if you were walking a dog then you could stop off and talk with me, even when I didn't want you to. There was the apple arch, it's secluded score was 7 out of 10 in summer, there was the honeysuckle arch whose seclusion score was 3 out of 10 because people could still see your arse. I told you it was a tiny garden. There was the short lived, shocking and secretive clematis collapsed arch that fell on me whilst having a cup of tea. That was a definite 10 out of 10 but the screaming gave away my location. It is the essence of Drovers that to some extent permeates here as the hedges grow ever higher to create a paradise garden, gardens within gardens, seclusion within seclusion and because the neighbours are rarely at home and because there are rarely dog walkers to be seen it has become less a garden that is a theatre and more poetry, more a one to one relationship with the space. So, now and again I see a plant that I placed in the wrong position or a plant that is struggling, or beds that aren't working and I know straightaway that sometimes they belong in the cottage garden. I think the cottage garden is my chance to see all parts of the garden on a micro scale: flowers, fruit and livestock, all within a space that I can see the boundaries. The rhubarb signals the waking of the cottage garden and the need to mulch. We have a cycle here, spent compost from the potatoes from last season is used as a mulch with manure. It's a chance to take stock of the plants that survived and the plants that just couldn't face being alone, like the delphniums and some plants I can't even remember planting - only my gardening diary tells me that I have. Names long gone, long forgotten and proof that some things just don't work on our hillside.

A good cottage garden can take you on a journey

One of the success stories, and one of the ghosts of Drovers, are the chives. We arrived with three large pots of them in 2009. Our sixth summer in and these chives now number around 100, and this year they needed splitting - more laments from Carol, more sonnets from me on the need to allow them to thrive and divide - the plus side is the largely failed and short lived nepeta hedge in the cottage garden will give way to a multitude of very happy, horny bees swarming over the chive flowers. They bloody love the stuff and in turn love my fruit, and in turn love my vegetables and in turn take up residence in bee hotels in the orchard and thus a cycle is complete and shows why I have to move a plant.

Likewise, the mulch keeps the soil topped up. The new path running through the orchard is a good 8 inches higher than the beds to the south of it. Why? Because this will be my aim, to increase the soil level over the years and the fertility. So, you see that cottage garden is a barometer for the health of the rest of the garden and I love it so much that I am creating a completely different, secluded one up by Carol's shed, it won't change...much.


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