Sunday, March 13, 2011

Apple Pear Plum

The back of my garden - pre pruning

Yesterday I saw my first Spring butterfly, a glimpse of acid lemon in the dappled light of my garden. It was a Brimstone, one of our longest lived species; the adults survive the winter by roosting in woods  before breeding in spring. This one flew strongly, spiralling above the trees then heading to the park.

I came to this house last October and have not felt entirely at home since. Jane loves the Edwardian feel, the period doors and leaded windows; my bigger boys like the extra space; Dylan, his room with a secret cupboard. As for me, I was happy where we were, felt no need for any of these things - but I have always liked the garden. When we came to view, I spent more time outside than in. There's a raised fish pond, two walnut trees, a wisteria over the entrance. The day I agreed to the move, I counted twenty butterflies on the buddleia.

But the garden was overgrown. If I was kind I'd say the previous owners had a wilderness approach; more likely, they couldn't be arsed or it all became too much. It took four truck loads to clear the first pruning, I found enough soil down the side of the garage to fill a raised bed; now the borders are cleared we have all manner of shoots and bulbs responding to the light.

I'm too impatient to be a proper gardener. At least that's what Jane says. I ought to wait a year, see what comes through and plan it properly. She's right I'm sure, but this winter I needed progress. I wanted to clear the debris, establish a scheme and reverse the neglect. So in four months we've rebuilt walls, cleared the ivy, dug out dead trees and finally, last week, I went to buy some plants.

I chose three fruit trees - an espalier apple, a matching pear and a prolific plum. They are for the rear lawn, the one area our predecessors had cleared, because in so doing, they were able to create a building plot. What they left was a blank canvass and a twenty metre fence with three climbing ivy (as if they didn't have enough). It will take years to mature. When the borders are sorted I plan to add a cherry, perhaps a damson too, eventually I'll have my own little orchard.

In the meantime, I've press-ganged the teenagers into helping. Yesterday I watched the two of them, six feet tall now, laughing as one sprayed the panels and the other dabbed his brush with a practiced incompetence. Dylan rushed amongst them, fighting monsters and insisting they hurry. Me and Dad are going to camp here tonight, he saidAre you sure, his brothers asked?  Of course we are, Dylan cried, we're going to camp hear for years and years, aren't we Dad?

As I write this post Dylan is asleep in his bag and my back is easing from eight hours on a thin mat. In the tent we read stories, listened to the rain, and talked of how one day he'll be as big as his brothers. But it was only as I tiptoed past the new the trees that I made the connection.

I could have bought something easier: faster growing, less expensive, simpler to mange -  plants with a more instant gratification. These trees will take years, I thought; I'll be in my dotage before they're at their best. What's more, I know next to nothing about growing fruit. My dark side said, I'll probably get it all wrong...

But it can't be that difficult surely? They are pretty robust things are fruit trees. No doubt, they'll need some pruning, the espalier especially, and I expect I'll be as frustrated by their progress as I'm delighted by their blossom. Frankly, fruit will be a bonus. More than anything I know they'll take time, care, and a commitment to place that I hadn't expected to make.

And with that thought, I felt more at home than I have for months.


  1. A delightful garden,full of writing inspiration and natural light. I'll be there by Wednesday.

  2. I love fruit trees and have planted six here, along with all sorts of other trees. They went in three years ago and are already looking more established, small still, granted, but becoming trees rather than sticks. Espaliers will be quicker! Great choice.

  3. Don't worry, you've already taken the most difficult steps - what to choose and making a start.

    Don't let them fruit in their first year: they need to get their roots established.

  4. Good choices Mark...what a lot of work you have done already. Does your fountain work? The pond looks so peaceful and reflective. I actually think impatient gardeners are very good quality because... ahem..."we" want it now and not later and so work extra hard to make it happen)))). Have never liked those words.."all in good time". Pooh I say...

    You will likely be very surprised how quickly your Dylan and yourself will be able to pick fruit from your very own trees...honest!!

    Watch that ivy though...thugs sometimes.

  5. Glad that you are feeling more at home now Mark...

    Ref the backpack w/e. Do you mean April 1-3 in Wiltshire? If so- Yes I will be there. Dave Topley is leading a walking route and I am leading a short cycling route.


  6. Happily when we plant and sow and grow things we do it in partnership with nature who always supplies a comforting hand. Possibly there is a metaphor in there for the wider universe.

  7. When we moved here I must have known it was for keeps as I didn't rush to clear the garden. Twenty years ago and the folk who lived here, an acupuncturist and his family, were ahead of the game, with green manures planted, totally organic with rain water collection and compost heaps. The garden was a wilderness, but we left it, and were rewarded with mature Bramley apples, gooseberries and rhubarb, various different colours of buddleia.... lots of bulbs and flowers emerged as time went on. Since then, it has been altered countless times, now in its final incarnation as regards layout, but always with new plantings. Patience is one virtue a gardener must have I discovered... and it's the one place I exercised it!
    Yours looks very tidy and formal... ours, though tidier than it was, still looks a bit dishevelled, but we love it, and that's what counts.

  8. It sounds a super garden space to have 'inherited'...I would have loved to have found a raised fish pond in any of the wildernesses we took on when moving house.
    I hope that bees have not been wiped out in your area, as happened to us in France. So frustrating to see trees full of blossom...and very little fruit.
    Have you checked what varieties you need for cross fertilisation...or is this something else that modern science has made redundant?

  9. urgh, this all sounds horribly familiar..I am with Jane on this one.
    I was wondering if i could adopt s couple of sheep to get rid of the ivy, elder, nettles, sedges,brambles...

  10. From the pics it looks like you have some really beautiful outdoor space. I only have a small garden but have three fruit trees; two apple and a plum. They always fruit really well and I'm a haphazard gardener. :)

  11. I tried my hand at a bit of gardening once. Pruned the wardens prized orchid, when he wasnt looking. My parole board just reminded me about it. What's another ten years, between crooks?

    Re your 'word verification' thingy...When I put a spell check on it - it goes all funny on me. Got any suggestions? or is it just me?

  12. I hope you get to see that butterfly this year. I thank you for stopping and looking at the Zebra Butterfly I had up.

  13. What lovely space you have, Mark. I hope you'll have many happy years to enjoy it with Dylan and your older boys.

  14. Your garden looks lovely. I'm sure it will attract lots of butterflies and birds. It is a garden with memories already - Dylan's first camp out with his dad in the garden may be a life long memory for him. There are tastes and smells that to this day take me instantly back to my parents and grandparent's garden. Long may you enjoy yours!

  15. I'm just not a garden person...don't get me wrong, I love gardens and being out in them I just know absolutely bugger all about plants and am not green fingered in the slightest! The house we're in at the moment has a huge garden which my Hubby and I just don't know what to do with. We keep it fairly tidy but that's about it...mind you, we're renting at the moment...perhaps I would feel different if it were our own.

    It's funny isn't can live somewhere for years and it never really feels like home and other places you walk in the door and that homely feeling is intantly there.

    C x

  16. I'm so out of touch with your (and everyone's) blog that I had not realised you had moved. Edwardian sounds lovely though and I know that you are so artistic that I bet the space is just lovely - garden or no garden.

    I liked the analogy between the sapling trees and Dylan too.

  17. Following all our building work we are left with a blank canvas for a garden. All we have really retained are the apple trees, which hopefully will crop this year although they may have suffered badly from the abuse over the last year. The designing of it gives me a bit of a headache - I'm not really sure what size and shape things will grow to - but I know that plants are easily replaceable. Good job too: we're also very good at killing them...!