Circles and slate

Yes, another post on my grass circles, but there's good news as we're reaching the end of this project. All, but the final piece of edging is down and our grass is looking less like we've put one of those expandable cake tins around it.  And if you're wondering why we haven't put the last piece of edging down, it's not because we have some weird kind of topping out ceremony planned, but all to do with the fact that the edge was covered with one of those huge tonne bags and full of slate.

So with as much edging down as we could manage, it was time to tackle the membrane and redistributing the aforementioned slate. But where to start?

We decided to tackle one of the larger areas at the back of our garden first so we could practice our techniques and so we didn't botch the most visible part of our garden, the bit that is right in front of the patio.

Looking at what was outside the edging more closely we were once again reminded that our house was built on an old gravel pit, to say we have stony soil is an understatement, I mean just look.

Circles dug and edged, now for the slate

We could have picked out the stones, and in fact could quite easily go into business selling them for a good while, but instead out came the big hammer and some serious arm work got underway - the results are pretty impressive aren't they?

But first some arm work compressing the earth
And what a difference it makes, a nice smooth surface to lay the membrane on

So out came the rolls of membrane. It was much thinner than I'd expected, but it was just like rolling out material and kind of weird. We quickly learnt that the longer the piece of membrane the more effective it's likely to be, and that it's best to secure it first and then cut the shape, leaving plenty of overhang.

And then it was time for the membrane, which was much easier to lay than I anticipated

Pleased with our progress and learning quickly we shifted our attention to the patio area.

After practicing on the rear of the garden we moved to the most visible part of our garden by the patio

And the results were pretty impressive, and quick - which is definitely my kind of project!

And then we added the slate

It was clear though that despite having one very large bag delivered (which we'd split into two when we decanted it through the house back in 2013 - how time flies hey?!) it wasn't going to be enough to do the whole garden. When we ordered it we weren't sure, but as the circles were only a glimmer in our eye at that time, we weren't too fussed. We ordered it along with the new patio and therefore saved on delivery fees, I don't think though that either of us thought it would sit in our garden for the next four years!

So tactical decision made, we decided to lay the slate by the patio and then all the way up the left-hand side of the garden up to the greenhouse, and then to complete the area in front of the shed, which I'll show you in a moment. 

But first, I'm enjoying a couple of more arty-farty slate pictures.

The slate has made such a difference
A picturesque view of our circles, slates and plants

And look, the yucca is no longer lolling over the grass, it's staked up - but more on that tomorrow.

Looking up the garden towards the phormium and the yucca, now bathed in slate beneath them

And so in one afternoon and evening session we'd laid slate right up to the greenhouse, it makes such a difference, don't you think?

Looking down the garden towards the house, the slate is currently only on one side of the garden

And then we had to tackle the area outside the shed. This has been one of the problem areas in our garden, along with the area in front of the lilac (on the right of the picture). It's not obvious from the photo but there's a distinct change in level from the grass to the paving, and just where our pile of leaf composting black sacks are, there's quite a dip.

The before shot of the greenhouse and the shed

So in an attempt to avoid the rest of our free time picking up slate from the path and putting it back where it should be, we installed a piece of the edging as a retaining boundary. Then the membrane, and finally the slate.

And a look at the shed corner now it's decked out with slate, it makes such a difference

And fingers-crossed this will sort one of our problem areas once and for all. I've got a post coming up soon on how we plan to fix the problem area by the lilac too, it's more work (obviously) but I'm quite excited about our plans and how they've come about.

So we need to buy some more slate, I think we can easily use the same amount again, especially as I think we'll need a fair bit by the stone circle and pizza oven area, and I'm resigned to many more trips carrying slate through the house, but at least this time we'll be able to decant them to their final position (she says hopefully!)  - although I suspect this job won't reach the top of our list for a month or two.

So circles and slate - we're almost there - and it was well worth the bravery it took to make those cuts in our lawn last summer.  What do you think?

A garden update

We've had a few days off work, which spaced over the Bank Holiday has meant we've had a prolonged spell to tackle the garden, so I thought now would be a good time to share where we've got too. You'll remember we started to add edging - or circles - to our garden last summer, removing lots of earth, some turf and adding some definition to the grass. But it's been a long slow job, and the plan for our time off was to really make some progress here as if I'm honest, we're both a bit bored of digging a ten centimetre trench around the edge of our lawn, adding a chunk of metal and then filling it back in.

Which in summary, is what we're doing.  I know our garden will benefit from it, but digging a stony garden with a trowel is hard work. Of course me being me, meant I'd lots of other things planned for our time off too. Those activities also included a day trip to France, a visit to Grand Designs and an early celebratory meal in a fancy restaurant. Actually reading that list back it's amazing that we got anything done in the garden!

Before we get to the circle progress, let's share some of the prettier parts. Remember those tulips which I forgot? Well, despite the odds they've started to flower, they're on the miniature side, some might say stunted, but there's flowers. They've also had to contend with the local squirrel population who took a shine to them, and preferred to leave them around the garden rather than in the pots I planted them in.

miniature tulips - but at least they tried, despite all odds

I found one growing a good six metres away and that was doing much better than the one I've shown above.  That is until MOH got it with the strimmer, although he denies all knowledge of that, but I know it was him. Mostly because the poor tulip was severed, the strimmer was out and I didn't see the squirrel anywhere in sight.  Maybe I'll have better luck with these bulbs next year, I certainly intend to treat them better.

The wallflowers though have done much better. I've rich velvety orange and a deep dark almost black red flowers and I like these rich colours against the fresh blue of the forget me nots.

Zingy and rich coloured wallflowers

And while the forget me nots are pretty, they are close to reaching "treat like weeds" status which we need to do or otherwise we'll only have these pretty blue flowers in our garden.

the forget me nots are pretty but already getting to the "treat as a weed" stage

In between circling I've been doing some pruning. In one impromptu pruning session I managed to fill two green wheelie bins which the council will collect as green waste. The result was a much slimmer, but better shaped pear tree - and despite this photo, it really does look better.

Some impromptu pruning for the pear tree, which despite this photo is looking a much better shape for it

The berberis got the better of me though, with its prickles. Foolishly I donned my new gardening gloves - yes another pair, I'm trying a different type this time round, and I think there may still be some prickles in them. After pruning the berberis back to around five foot I pulled out at least three splinters which had gone through the gloves.

Ironically I only started to prune the berberis because it was a case of now or never. It's behind the three peony bushes, which for the first time are all in bud. I wanted to get the pruning done before I disturbed the peonies too much. I still need to stake them, having learnt from previous years, when the flowers just get too heavy for the plant to hold up, but I think I've a little time to do that yet.

All of my three peonies are in bud for the first time - yay!

Nearer the house the laburnum tree is starting to flower, and it's beautiful - I'm glad it's one of the trees that we can see from the house, because for the few weeks it flowers it's a great thing to see.

The laburnum tree is starting to flower

The little black and white cat that's adopted our garden likes to sit under the fatsia. To start with we thought that was because it was a good bird hunting hiding place, and it could be that, but he doesn't seem to be so interested in the birds. I've seen him chase insects and hunting isn't this cats key skills. Looking cute and rolling in dirt - under the fatsia - appears to be much more of a strength. The fatsia seems happy enough with this arrangement too.

new leaves on the fatsia

You can see in the picture below just how much space - and dirt - the adoptive cat has to roll in. I wonder if when the slate is down if we'll be as popular and visited quite so much, we'll see. 

Adding edging, completing circles backfilling and grass seed

After a few tricky pieces it seems we raced down towards the house and slowing a little back up the other side of the lawn.  When the fitting gets to its trickiest I head off to do some pruning, fill in some of the gaps in the circles or other kind of faffing, sometimes in the greenhouse, sometimes somewhere else entirely, as MOH is the one with the patience - and the hacksaw - to get the edging fitting just so.

He has done a great job, and this is a clear time when we'll play to each of our strengths. His for finessing the details, mine for ploughing on and getting things done.  

The kinks and curves have been testing at times

But we're close to the end of the circles.  I'm another pair of gardening gloves down, and I now have some gardening shoes, which are a little muddy from all the time I've spent kneeling down.  

muddy shoes, but worth it for almost finishing those circles, now for the next project

And once the circles are done - there's just one and a bit lengths to go, where there's a very large bag of slate on top of it - it's time for laying down the membrane and moving the tonne of slate into place. 

a look up the garden with my traffic light garden trugs

I still can't help but think that it looks as if we've put one of those extendable cake tins around the grass!