Gardening versus the Hard Stuff (That’s Landscaping, of course!)

I have been taking stock of my blog so far, and realize that I have not yet made good on my promise to occasionally talk about gardening. Now to my friends this will seem very strange, as gardening is my go to activity to relax. I also love looking round other people’s gardens, and can never make a visit without coming away with pots full of plants for my own.

My garden, like most I have owned over the years, is a work in progress. It’s just that it’s a bit more of a work in progress than usual…

To me, a garden basically means plants. And lots of them! As many plants as I can cram in per inch and more. It’s not that I want to crowd my poor plants out, it’s simply that there are so many wonderful plants to have and not enough space to fit them all in. My garden is thus like a giant jigsaw puzzle, where all the pieces (plants) are juggled round to fit the space in the most economic, and decorative, way. It is no wonder that my ex-husband used to joke that the plants I bought needed to be on casters – they get moved so often to make room for something else.

Now the problem with loving plants is that you need flowerbeds to put them in. Most of my gardens have had magically reducing lawns: ones that have gradually shrunk as I claimed more and more of the grassed areas to create earthed areas to plant in. This would have been fine in my current garden if it had been big enough for both a lawn and planting areas. Unfortunately, with my manic obsession with all things green and growing that is not called grass, this simply was not the case.

The first thing to go, therefore, was the front lawn. This was a rather scrappy area of grass, joined seamlessly with my neighbour’s, with a single hypericum ‘Hidcote’ planted by the front wall. There is also what I thought was a rather ugly acer – its lime green leaves were quite nice and fresh but they turned an ugly brown in autumn. I pruned it mercilessly before I realized it was a snake-bark acer, and rather sought after. Ooops!

Having dug up the front lawn (and turned all the sods over to rot under cover to produce soil to plant in the next year) I turned to the back garden. This has two beautiful and structural trees – a magnolia and a cherry – complete with a rowing boat (but no water) sitting beneath them. Unfortunately, plant wise, this was it. The previous owners, not being particularly garden friendly, had paved the entire area, right up to the base of the concrete bargeboards of the fence.

There ensued a year of chiseling, and digging, and crowbarring, as I carefully prised out many of the paving slabs, together with the cement and hardcore underneath, to create new flower beds to plant in. Not being one to waste anything, I then moved my extra soil from the front garden to the new beds in the back, and my paving slabs from the back to the front. Ta dah! I now have a lovely front garden with a central paved area and plenty of space to juggle plants in!

What, you say, does digging and cement mixing have to do with gardening? And I suppose it is really landscaping. But for me the landscaping gives me a freedom to plant, and a wonderful backdrop to show everything off. The only trouble is fitting everything that I’d like to plant in! image: Front Garden before work

Front Garden – Before! image:  Front Garden after work

Front Garden – After image: Back Garden before work

Back Garden – Before! image: Back Garden after work

Back Garden – After


Planting plants in the dark! (See previous ‘Mad Moment’ when I was mortaring and laying paving in the dark. There may be a theme emerging here.)


Amazing online connections. Finding a wonderful gardener through her blog, then meeting in person, having tea, and planning a plant buying trip together. Check her inspiring blog out at:

© Anne de Gruchy

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