Sunday, 28 August 2011

Gardening leave

Hello there, we have been working hard inside and outside the house. The garden was so overgrown it has taken me weeks to tidy but despite lots of hours spent outdoors it's not finished yet! My partner has been busy indoors devising storage solutions as we have much less storage than in our previous house - the downstairs toilet is very nice to have but I miss the understairs cupboard!

How to plant when your soil is as hard as rock

The soil in my garden is not poor but it's hard to dig as it has been drier than usual and there is a congestion of roots of trees, ivy and various shrubs. After clearing and trimming various shrubs and trees, I dampened the soil for a few days then deployed a pickaxe to break the earth and roots. I dug holes for small plants with one of those toothed metal funnels you normally use for planting bulbs and used a sharp-end spade for digging bigger holes. The pickaxe worked a treat, I'm not provided with good muscles like Charlie Dimmock but I am getting some!

Garden makeover - phase one

Here are five photos of what the garden looked like. The grass was quite tall as you can see and the summer house was chocked by various trees and shrubs.

Below, a butterfly bush is dominating the border. As I have discovered at my other house, if you don't trim your buddleia, it grows to six foot tall in a summer!

Opposite the buddleia is a photo of the back garden, the bit after that nice arch I showed on a previous post. It's not as pretty as the first half and it was seriously overgrown with less attractive specimens (bramble, creepers, ivy, the lot!). You can just spot some espalier apple trees chocked by greenery.

We go back to the front with the next picture, which is quite close to the house on the garage's side. Another fast grower is taking lots of space here, it's an elderflower tree in the making. I had a huge one in my previous house and I'm not letting this one grow like a monster.

This last pic is by the greenhouse. There a few attractive plants at the front but the rest is bramble and nettles. Keep scrolling and you will see a transformation!

First of all, see below a picture of the whole first half of the garden, now a great space for entertaining. The greenhouse will be tackled next year (it needs re-roofing, painting and making into a pretty place to while away sunny days!).

The overall garden, trimmed, planted and grass cut

I might have to trim the tops of some trees in winter but most of the hard work is done. After the greenhouse there is the other half of the garden, which was designed as kitchen garden and has been the greatest challenge due to widespread bramble and nettles - I can understand why people ran away after a quick look at it.

The next photo shows some young plants I planted after pickaxing a very congested area full of brambles. These were the only brambles in the first half of the garden. I let the fruit ripen, picked it then cut the plants down. The blackberries that were not eaten are in the freezer, earmarked for jam.  I planted two butterfly bushes, one with purple and one with yellow flowers. They will fill the gap and I can control them through pruning. There are also a fern, some primroses and sundry other small plants at the front of the flower bed.

The next photo is of the bit near the house, where an elderflower and some weeds lorded over the flower bed. Again, a few pretty plants, including some pelargonium, violets and a forsythia.

Next to that flower bed was one with two huge bushes, they were so overgrown that one had a bird's nest inside, complete with pretty but empty blue egg.

And the photo with the fence shows the espalier apples free from all climbers and invasive bushes... There is even a pear tree among them.

And the last photo of the garden (below) is opposite the apples, by the greenhouse. The bramble has been cut back so it is trailing along the fence again, as the previous owner intended. It also climbs one side of the greenhouse but it's much neater and contained. The blackberries were so delicious I decided to keep some of the bramble bushes. It's a good complement to the blackcurrant and raspberries bushes I found among the bramble and planted myself.

In this photo you can see one of the two big apple trees, which are a bit diseased but laden with fruit. You can also spot a rhododendron just after the currant bush, there are several all over the gardens, which alongside plenty of bulbs I have found means the garden will look wonderful in spring.

Inside the 1930s house - where to hang coats...

We had a lovely coat rack in our previous house, which we left behind and now they don't sell that model anymore! We soon realised that the choice of coat racks and coat stands is very limited. If you don't want to pay over the odds, what is up for sale in most stores is just hideous or inadequate!

As my partner was buying some wood to increase storage in our alcoves and bedroom closets, he came up with the idea of buying a piece of wood and attaching the 1930s hook we found in the bedroom closets. The top rack is for us, the lower one is for our daughter. We plan to stain them dark to match the wooden bookshelf opposite. I must take a photo as it's a really impressive piece of furniture my dad made for me. The hooks had a brass coating but it has been eroded, so after we removed years of grime, we ended up with this kind of hook....

Last but not least, here are some apples from our big trees, one is a quaint golden variety I have never seen, check out the oval shape... They will be used to make bramble and apple jam, which I have already made when living in Rugby where we had brambles at the bottom of the garden and two apple trees.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Slow progress at the 1930s house

Hello again... Before we venture inside, do visit my overgrown but charming garden. Here are a few before photos - I will keep you posted on my progress with the mower, secateurs and loppers.
Long grass, extra long branches and a weedy pond

A big pine dwarfing the shed, which needs re-roofing

Bold and beautiful, I don't have the heart to cut this down or reduce its height

The greenhouse at the back - 'has seen better days' in the words of the surveyor

The summerhouse, needs painting and re-roofing, a project for next year

The weedy, smelly pond, awaiting cleaning - the previous owner left me a sieve with long handle!


Please wipe your feet and come in! I have been asked to post more photos of the house, so below are a few. Apologies about the gap between the first hopeful post and this one - we have been massively delayed by an unforeseen problem. Despite measuring and remeasuring to reassure ourselves that all our bedroom furniture would go upstairs, the removal men couldn't get two wardrobes and a double bed up the stairs. So instead of getting on with the many jobs that need doing, my partner has been dismantling the wardrobes bit by bit. One has been rebuilt upstairs and another one is awaiting in the garage. We are talking old wardrobes, not flat-pack furniture, so it has been a labour of love. A rather smelly labour of love as I had to paint them with Cuprinol woodworm before they entered the house. I do this every few years to keep the woodworm under control... Oh, the joys of antiques and vintage pieces!

Above is the photo of the staircase, you can see that the turn is not helpful and because two of the steps were broken (notice the dip in the carpet), we had to wait until a carpenter fixed them before taking heavy stuff upstairs. Of course whatever the age of a house, you are bound to find a few things that need fixing, so we had the wiring checked and an old electric fire disconnected, which turned out to be an original feature (so it's still in situ). We also disconnected (and removed) a dodgy gas fireplace and discovered we had an original fireplace behind. Looking at the before and after pictures you'd notice a change of paint on the walls and bookcase. My partner found a killer deal at B&Q for Dulux Magic White, a paint that fades from pink to white so you can easily spot where you missed a bit! One coat was enough as the walls were magnolia (the choice paint of rental houses).

The surround of the fireplace looks like green marble and there is a chrome trim, very 1930s! We were lucky that behind the panel and ugly gas fire the original fireplace had not been ripped out. The bookshelf was painted with Dulux white eggshell, which is less shiny than gloss and easier to deal with. We are keeping the walls plain for the time being as I have a lot of dark furniture, but will mention the 1930s colour palette at some point.

We have a second original fireplace in the dining room. The before and after picture show a change of paint, again Dulux Magic White. How do I know that this fireplace is original? Because I have a few reference books at hand and I found this fireplace photographed in one. I will be mentioning my reference books for this exciting renovation project in a future post and there will be a book up for grabs for a lucky reader.

Come back to see me, for more photos, the chance of winning a beautiful book and a few tips!