It's an extraordinary thing, taking over a garden that has been so loved for so long, and taking it to pieces. But that's the thing about gardens, they are not static, never can be, and the best gardens do I think show the personality of the gardener. My mother's garden was beautiful, and old school - shrubs and climbers a plenty (several of which I couldn't name and really wished I'd listened more) geraniums underfoot everywhere, lovely scented roses, iris, Japanese anemones taking over.... there's a gorgeous wild area with a forest sized oak and currently scads of crocus (when I refind or buy another camera I will start taking proper pictures!) and wild daffodils as well as snowdrops a plenty. Later there will be orchids there I hope, but as autumn leaf debris wasn't cleared for a second year this might be a bit variable. My mother loved plants, and when she found something she liked she found a place to cram it in, making beds bigger where necesessary.
Then I come along, and start digging. I took a deep breath and decided just to go for it in some beds, raising my eyes to heaven and apologising before stripping out some beds completely, and digging out as much as possible in others. I know I will have massacred some lovely things (everything is in a huge pile beside the field entrance) but I need space. I have also removed hundreds of raspberries, and a collapsing but rather wonderful old lonicera hedge that had fallen into a perfect example of ancient cloud pruning. Both these destructions are deemed very controversial by my children who have known this garden all their lives, but it will look so much better - one day! I am also making some beds smaller, which sounds counterintuitive, but at the front of the house my mother made herself more space by digging out great curves in the top small lawn, I'm returning to straighter lines as I like the idea of several parallel straight beds to get a feeling of depth as you look up the garden, and to return to some feeling of geometry as you look out from the house. Some areas I will leave completely, the wild garden of course won't be touched, and one, though randomly shaped, bed at the top will stay as is because it houses the largest Euycryphia Nymansay I've ever seen, several small leaved myrtles of stature, a Cornus controversa with two so far unnamed clematis romping through this and through the large physocarpus beside it.
The past couple of days have been dry, so I have finally turned over one new bed at the bottom of the garden. This was going to house late summer flowering heleniums, solidago, asters, but these don't need to get in the ground yet so they will be sent outside the garden gates and into the field when I have prepared some ground there. Instead I shall fill it with white phlox speckled with eryngiums, scabious, francoa and the tricky area too near the large copper beech will house crocosmia as I reckon they should grow pretty much anywhere.
Where once there was a slim lavender hedge, that never thrived, more recently there were bored shasta daisies, alchemilla and geraniums taking up the strip beside the lawn. Although one conifer does cast some shade, this will next be home to a hedge of agapanthus. I hope it will work. I have nowhere else to put them in the gardens and don't want to send them out!
I haven't yet worked out where to best rehome veronicastrum, veronica, hundreds of astrantia, libertias, pinks, so many things..... My favourite sanguisorbas, libertia, iris and such like will be somewhere near the house, but I don't yet know where. At least I have large shadier areas here for persicaria, heucherella, polygonatum, so much else. None, however, are ready for planting!
At the top of the former vegetable garden a bed used to contain a mix of daisies, lemon balm, horseradish, all sorts. I dug all this out (though of course some will return) and have planted peonies here. I've never seen a peony in anyone's garden in this area so this might be the riskiest of all. But at the moment their worst danger comes from the puppy as she sees this bed as her favourite playground whenever I'm in that part of the garden. I seem to be very poor at dog discipline, I guess I hope her grandmother will teach her and the rest she'll learn via some sort of osmosis. Maybe! She has also wreaked some havoc on the small sunny bed by the sitting room french windows, delphiniums were sprouting merrily until she found them before I found her.
And as to the all necessary annuals. I'm trying to be sensible as there is enough to do without having to get large areas of virgin weedy field cultivated. So the first lot will go into cut down potato boxes in compost. When I get it ordered and the boxes cut down. And that should give me some time to sort out at least a few strips of field without total panic. Sweet peas this year will be in the yard in a temporary sleeper bed.
The roses that were destined to grow through Mypex in the field won't get beyond the garden gates this year, somehow I have to dig up some garden space for them because I do not want to send them out before at least some sensible soil preparation in the hinterlands.... In theory they will face the agapanthus hedge across the big lawn, though there could be a problem with tree roots. They are all still sitting in hessian slippers in boxes. They may be there a while longer.
Help, time to stop writing and get those dogs walked before exploring the newly dug beds in the kitchen garden with a rotovator.