Category Archives: Garden

Round and round the garden.

This post has been a long, long time in the making and there were times I doubted my wisdom in starting;  project ‘slate circle’ has taken a good deal of energy of every description. I’ve thought and re-thought it so many times. I’ve stared at it through the kitchen window with my problem solving hat on. I’ve lain awake at night visualising the necessary steps. I’ve searched local building outlets for just the right resource. I realise now that I began in June and finished in December! I know I’ve done a lot in between but it’s been on my mind in one way or another for over half of the year!

This latest garden project has been by far the biggest, probably the most ambitious garden project I’ve ever taken on. Back at the beginning of June I began the search for just the right circle. I found it on the internet after a lot of searching and speaking to sellers about the quality of the slate. I was pleased with my eventual choice it really does match up with Dai’s dry stone wall. I was even more pleased with the delivery guy who was really helpful.

ground I’d already got the plants for the surrounding bed, many of them gifts from  two of my friends from a great nursery we found during their visit. I think that Gwynfor Nursery in Pontgarreg will become a much frequented nursery over time. Such an an amazing selection of plants grown by lovely, helpful people. With the coming months in mind I needed to get planting so I marked out my circle and started to dig and plant the bed.

stonesAs ever It was hard going digging  out at least a proportion of the larger stones. The bed was a large one so this stage took a long time. I seemed to be digging and planting for a long time.

Digging on the slope didn’t help much and there were some very hot days (not ideal for planting but since I wasn’t going to be here in the autumn I had to take my chances) and I drank gallons I  even had to buy a suitably  floppy gardening sun hat! It did help.  My fork constantly jammed  against stones that I now know are going to be a constant in the gardening here, the quarrying label remains! When I eventually got down to the bottom digging became just impossible! I had discovered the reason for the wet-weather saturation! IMG_1427The rock bed we had found under parts of the patio ran this way. I explored and realised just how extensive this rock is!                      I didn’t really need a lot of encouragement to keep the new rock ‘feature’ and I began using some of the stones I’ve dug up to make my own little dry stone wall around the back of the rock base. There were plenty of them!

Now came the really hard part of the project – levelling the area for the actual slates. I had seriously underestimated the angle of the slope, there was at least a foot difference between the back and the front of the area to be levelled. I could have dug into the slope but I had, probably unwisely,  set my heart on how I wanted it to look. I knew I didn’t want the retaining wall behind the circle and I knew I wanted the circle level with the higher level. So I stuck in there and got on with it.

I used the large stones that were found when we were digging out the patio to give the slope some stability and then built up a retaining wall of blocks and layered  the turf I’d taken off the area to raise the front of the circle. I tamped it down and generally jumped up and down and danced on it. Anything to make sure it was firm. I filled little gaps with soil and sand and some of the shale I was digging out from a border I was making along the back of the dry stone wall. Actually I lost count of how many times I built up the blocks and then pulled them out again! Staring at it through the kitchen window every time I sat at the table made me realise I had to keep working at it until I was satisfied, madness lay in a future of catching sight of anything less than satisfying day after day. Frustration set in more than once, had I bitten off more than I could chew? Would the whole thing slide down the garden in a stony, muddy mess?IMG_4653It was hard labour!IMG_4883 Although I would have liked see it finished (or more like put an end to my agony) before going off to Spain for seven weeks early in September, in reality it couldn’t have been better planned. It gave the base time to settle, it got  soaked and dried numerous times and it felt a lot pretty solid underfoot by the time we got back at the beginning of November.

So now it was time to start laying the slate. I was excited and nervous, I procrastinated over getting started. What if it didn’t fit; what if a bit was missing; what if there was a broken piece or worse still, what if I broke a piece? And, of course, what if after all the work, my base still wasn’t right and the much dreaded avalanche actually happened!

But I was determined and with the help of some fine grit and sand and a lot of patience the slates were laid.  And by the time I laid the last couple of pieces there was ice in the garden.

I know it isn’t as level as a professional job and I’m waiting for some better weather to make adjustments to two sections. I know that a professional could have knocked it out in a week, but it’s all my own work and all in all I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.   And I don’t think it’s going anywhere.                                                                                                                          And I’m especially looking forward to seeing how the planting comes along next year.

Out in the Garden

It’s been all about the garden around here for some months. I had lots of plans for April but then the patio was finished and the May and June weather was too good to miss . So other activities have been  on hold and the gardening went on. I did begin blogging my garden goings-on when we move in last August but somehow I lost momentum. Time to catch up! shedFirst the shed. Looks-like-a-beach-hut shed!I love seeing it from the kitchen window, it manages to cheer up even the dullest day. It fills the weird pointy bit at the top of the garden – and it’s very useful and not the least bit overcrowded (unlike the garage, which is full of stuff).                                                                                                                                              Building the shed was the first thing we did when we moved in. We didn’t exactly plan it that way, we just couldn’t resist the special offers on sheds at the end of the summer. And of course we had a built-in assembly crew of Matt and Tony  when Bethan and Tony came for their first visit to Cae Bach Y Rhiw.

Matt, Tony and Jeff got to grips with the plan and the pieces and then I set to work with the paint brush and the wood stain. No boring  sheds round here! Wondered what the neighbourhood would think but we’d made up our minds long before we put it up.IMG_3191So, here’s the painted (inside and out) shed up at the top of the garden waiting for the winter.   But wait, what about inside? Jeff put up shelves and a retainer rail for the long handle tools and I spent a couple of wet and windy autumn hours cocooned inside. I added a little bit of IMG_3371North Wales (a special little bit)  to the walls. I’d wanted to cover the walls with maps from the first day I thought about a  shed and I will add some more; we have so many old maps.                IMG_3365Next some hooks, old and new,  for the hand tools and bits and bobs. I think I’ve added a few  more over the winter!                                   Then there was the miniature cyclamen that had come with us from London. I’m very attached to this gift from a very good friend on a trip to RHS Wisley many years ago.        It spread all around our

IMG_3367   London garden so I had to bring a bit with us.  It flowered beautifully hanging there in the Greenwich market potholder over the winter and I did manage to  schlep up to the shed to keep it watered.                                                                 I’ll transplant the corm this autumn ready to colonise our new garden I hope.

So the shed sat over the winter waiting, waiting for Stage 2.  The wet winter proved that Stage 2 was needed. As a storage area behind the shed was a right off; a claggy clay bog; soggy, sticky and squelchy and so the improvements were not just cosmetic.                                                                                                                                We began by covering the area behind and to the sides and a strip in front of the shed with a weed barrier membrane and then with golden gravel that we found at Mount Trading. We laid a path at the front and side with Bradstone Carpet Stone (very easy – blocks on  a plastic flexible mat ).

Then we finished it off with a border of Bradstone rope-top edging to keep the gravel in check.  The overall effect is, well, even more     beachy! IMG_1402

Gardening Rocks

IMG_3206Starting out on my new garden I’ve decided that the making of it definitely fits the bill for recording in my blog. I have a great blank canvas and I will certainly need to use every drop of creativity to make it into a garden. There are some challenges. The shape is not the easiest, with the plot being wide and open to the side and front of the house and going up hill to a point at the rear. I have found with the first bit of digging that planting will be more like quarryingIMG_3198 than gardening. This is just a portion of the four bucketfuls that came out of my first bed! The collection is sitting on top of the only original feature in the garden; a massive rock that  we couldn’t move if we wanted to – just as well we like the rock just where it is. Apparently when it was unearthed during the building it was an object of desire for many of the neighbours but fortunately for us the builder decided that it should stay right here on the plot of it’s origin. As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to build a bed around it.

I’m not going to do much more for a while, we are going to attack the slope with a little digger, build a retaining wall and make our patio a bit bigger and have some steps going up the rest of the slope. But I couldn’t wait to make my mark and set about choosing some plants. The first one that caught my eye was a physocarpus and I really liked it.


The size I wanted cost about £14 in both of the nurseries I checked out but then the lovely Saturday morning plant man by the market hall had one and I bought it along with a smoke bush and some pretty orange geums all for £14. A bargain especially with a little cotoneaster and two other little unknown plants thrown in for free. Very pleasing! (In addition when I went to pick up my plants after shopping he had found my watch in amongst his plants. (I must fix the strap).

I worked for a while on taking the turf off my marked out shape but it was really tough going and I was really glad when Jeff came home and took over, even he couldn’t finish in one hit.  Once the turf was off on the following day I dug in 5 bags of lovely organic compost and placed out the plants. I really don’t want to lose anything I plant, I’m trying to choose wisely for the area and positions in the garden so I planted carefully with ‘fish, blood and bone’ and back filling with good compost. I had also bought miniature daffodils bulbs (I love them) and 3 varieties of allium.

A little sharp sand and checking the depth before planting the bulbs and then covering the whole bed with bark chippings.Image 12-10-2013 at 23.51

I’m very pleased with the bed, it looks a bit sparse at the moment but the planting is designed to fill out and have variety in heights. Looking forward to watching its progress.