Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Working with Existing Structures

When we moved into our home the garden was a key consideration, and for an urban garden we ended up with quite a good sized plot.

The house was built in the mid 1930's and so has had many owners over the years, who will have lived, worked and played in the house and garden. The last but one owner, Richard, was very keen at DIY, and we understand an electrician by trade, but also a keen carpenter. He made various alterations to the house, such as an attic room and added several buildings and structures to the garden. Whilst some of his landscaping has long since gone, many other aspects remain, and I'm sure if he were to see the garden again there would be elements he would still recognise.

As you enter the garden one of the first structures that we are greeted by is what we refer to as the "Church Gate", a pergola with a tiled roof. We assume the tiles are original to the house, as the the house was re-roofed with concrete tiles at some point, but some neighbouring houses still have slates. We did have to add the finishing ridge tiles as Richard hadn't quite completed the roof.

The next structure to survive is a red pergola, when we moved in this was a mass of ivy, and Mark spent a significant amount of time reclaiming the structure from the vegetation. We added the bright red paint for a splash of colour! We need to undertake some restoration to the roof timbers later this year as one of the wooden cross supports is showing signs of decay.  
The pergola led up to what was once a Koi pond (yes the garden had Koi in its distant past) however this did not hold water when we moved in, and we understand from neighbours that the pond had failed some years before. We filled this pond in to create our middle patio area.
The Middle Patio
Continuing down the path led to a large garden shed. This was a fantastic wooden outbuilding, fully insulated plaster boarded on the inside, with double glazing and its own electrical supply. Richard had used this as a carpentry workshop, and neighbours mentioned they would see him working on his carvings and carpentry late into the night!
The shed before we added the verandah
We added a verandah to the shed a couple of years ago (See here for photos of the construction) and now have a sheltered and secluded place to sit and enjoy a cold glass of something (or a hot mug of tea in the winter!).
A relaxing place to sit
Finally at the end of the garden, Richard had a pig pen and sty, keeping Vietnamese pot bellied pigs - apparently a gift from his mother in law. According to our neighbour, the first pig arrived pregnant, and promptly gave birth to a litter of piglets. Unaccustomed to keeping one pig let along a ready made herd, Richard wanted to re-home the piglets as soon as possible, unfortunately for Richard, events over took him and there was a temporary ban on animal movements due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. So for several months what is now our garden more closely resembled a farmyard than a garden (Richard also kept chickens and rabbits!). Once the ban was lifted all the pigs were relocated to a local children's petting farm. The rabbits escaped and a fox got the chickens. The gardens short life as a smallholding was over.

We couldn't come up with any good ideas on conversion, so the pig sty came down. It was built from sections of wooden telegraph poles, so these were recycled in the garden. The pig pen itself had been concreted (and this was 8-10 inches thick in places) so we decided this was too big a job to remove, instead we built our first koi pool and created another patio area. Secluded at the bottom of the garden, its perfect for barbecues, with the smoke a long way from the neighbours!
A secluded spot for a barbecue

A view towards the existing Koi Pond
In this area was also a normal garden shed which is used to house the filters for the existing koi pond as well as a secure tool shed.

We were rather fortunate to inherit several good quality structures and sheds in the garden, all of which still enhance the garden today. Whilst much of the planting has changed, its nice to know there is still a connection to people who had called our home their home.



  1. That's nice that you have that history about previous owners. Here in the US we could never get away with the farm animals in the city though. Everything looks so nice that you've done.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. The property may have had a good infrastructure when you bought it, but it's what you did with it that makes your garden so outstanding. Looking at these photos, you would never guess you live in the U.K. I'm surprised you guys ever go on vacation when you have a tropical paradise right in your own backyard :-).

    :: Bamboo and More ::

  3. I love the bright splash of red. It looks wonderful with all the lush foliage. And the shed looks very comfortable. In fact life could be all too comfortable in your garden....

  4. Wow! I like all of it but especially that red pergola surrounded with foliage plants. It gives me some great ideas.
    Your garden looks more like it's in Malaysia than in England.
    Nice style!

  5. I remember seeing the big damaged pond and having to drill the walls to ensure that any water could drain away. The middle patio looks fantastic, especially when you think of the large "hole" you inherited. It is the vision you had from the start which is really good. Well done. I loved the article to.

  6. It all looks incredibly beautiful.

  7. You seem to have lots of lovely 'little secluded' areas. I wish my garden was warm enough to have tropicals the whole length. I would have lots of lovely secret areas too.

  8. Loved hearing about your garden's history. Interesting about the pigs, chickens, and rabbits. And I love the veranda you added to the shed. I think I am most taken, though, with that red pergola! Oh, how that red stands out like a jewel among the plants. Such a complimentary color. Now i'm wanting a red structure in my garden!

  9. Great post! Love learning more about the process of your garden. One question though...does anyone ever get lost out there? It's a jungle! A beautiful lush jungle...

  10. Cher - We enjoy hearing the history, and the way our neighbour tells the stories usually make us laugh!

    Gerhard - thanks for your comments. We do like to travel but always enjoy coming home too!

    Janet - it can be very comfortable at times, and then we remember we still need to finish the pond project!

    David - looking forward to seeing what you do with the ideas!

    Dad (Keith) - Plenty more you can help us with :)

    Thanks Hazel!

    Libby - it was our intention to have lots of seating areas, we have 5 patio areas, the verandah and 2 more areas with benches. Plenty of places to sit and relax!

    Holley, Red is such an exotic colour, now what will you build?

    DG - so far no one has got lost yet :) Well not that we have noticed anyway!

  11. Great, guys. Really interesting to hear of 'The Good Life' happening for real in your garden. Was the present of a pregnant pot-bellied pig an act of kindness do you think? Or perhaps the culmination of a vendetta? To be an enforced pig-man! Very funny - though perhaps not so for Richard. I would be wary of your shed by the way; someone's lurking - I can see a leg!

  12. Mark and Gaz, you already have a lush tropical forest in your midst. Even the chairs came from the tropics, or is it brought by Mark from here? You are so good in taking care of your garden, and i think i have moderately followed most of what you have been doing there from planting to growth. But i haven't seen them during winter, what do you do with those plants so they wont get the snow?

  13. David, I was laughing when I first heard that story from our neighbour, especially with the pig being pregnant without him knowing and all. Are you sure it's not Angelina Jolie's leg that you're seeing by our shed?? :)

    Thanks Andrea :) The chairs did come from SE Asia but I didn't buy it direct from there. Most of our plants growing outside can cope with being covered in snow for a few days, and are mostly fine once they melt.

  14. If you don't mind, what's the size of your garden? I am asking this because it has so much characteristics; it really looks like one of those island-paradise gateaway; a tropical forest. How did you all create such a beautiful place? How does it look during all those snow?

  15. Thanks KL :) The garden is L shaped, with the longest bit I think is 120 feet (or is it 140??). It is divided into different rooms or section and we did the work gradually, section per section. Most of our plants are fine even with snow in the winter, the tender and borderline ones go under cover.

  16. Fabulous and very inspirational, you have done a great job! I also found the old original pictures you put on Growingontheedge? amazing to see the transformation

  17. Please make a list of plants that you have in your garden and that survives the English snow. It would be really helpful as I look around for plants that looks so nice but can survive the snow. Most gardencenter people around here in NJ are not at all that helpful.

  18. Richard put a lot into his home and garden. I am sure he would be pleased with what you have done! Your garden is an alternative eden, indeed!

  19. Clive, yes the garden has come on a long way since those pictures - originally posted on UK Oasis, do you remember that forum?

    KL - there are so many we grow, will try and do a post at some point, but most plants are planted out, with only some more tender ones coming into the warm for winter. If you spot anything in a post you like, do ask and we can tell you about it.

    Ian - glad you like it!

    Debs - Richard sure did, we were glad to have some great structure already in place.

  20. What a beautiful garden. I'm so amazed what you made from the original features. I love the idea of filling in a pond for a sitting area. With so many quiet hidden spots to relax, I agree with Gerhard that vacations are almost unneeded!


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