We Are Eli And Kate...

and this is our garden

Extending a flower bed and adding a path

It’s been forever since we did any major jobs in the garden, I think replacing the raised beds might have been the only big job for a few years now. We managed to get things how we wanted them quite early on, so it’s meant we didn’t really have to think about it. But, as the regulars here will know, we have unfortunately had to start thinking about replacing our big rowan as it’s dying and the trunk has become rotten. This in turn has then meant we have started to think about the space it occupies and what we’ll do with it.

The rowan sits in a flower bed butted up against the fence between our house and our neighbour, which is how this problem has come about. Unfortunately, a new fence turned out to have been erected just a little bit too close to the trunk and when the wind picked up, the poor tree was rubbing against the fence. In turn, this has damaged the trunk which allowed rot to take hold. The tree is technically still alive at the moment and producing berries which the birds are loving, but the rot is meaning we are having to keep a close eye on things as at some point it will be a danger to leave the tree standing.

Now, this is where our thoughts on changing things up came from because although we don’t technically have to change anything when we remove the tree, we are worrying that losing a big tree like this will really make us feel exposed. It will change the view from the house and the garden and we think it will just be a bit shocking. So we’ve been talking about how we’ll do things. We’d love to straight-up replace the tree, but it’s not that simple to get a tree of that maturity (as a replacement) so a new tree would be quite a bit smaller. Also, a straight-up replacement would require digging out the roots and trunk of the rowan which I’m sorry but I just don’t think we are up for anything that physical and destructive. So we thought we could replace the tree, cut the original back to soil level and then move the replacement forward slightly. Not now though, this will be a winter job, for two reasons. Firstly at the moment, the tree is providing food for the birds and secondly, if we were planting a new tree, we’d do this when it was dormant.

But, silver lining and all, that got us thinking about alternatives and opportunities and one of the things we both agreed on was that the original bed was quite thin AND there is a paving path next to it that we just don’t use because the plants from the bed tend to hang over it. So we were cutting across the lawn instead. Given this is the route to the greenhouse, I was cutting across the lawn a lot. So the silver lining is that we took this as an opportunity to extend the flower bed and move the path.

Before: note the path and bed along the fence

It’s ok, this sounds like a way bigger job than it actually was. Come on, it’s us, we’re not daft. Basically it went like this.

We knew were only going to extend the flower bed to the size that the path took up, so this would pretty much double it. To do this, it was a case of lifting the paving slabs that made up the path, then digging over this area, adding in some lovely organic matter in the form of our compost bin goodies. Feeding this soil as it was bound to be depleted of nutrients and then replacing the old edging that was around the bed. This edging wasn’t such a huge deal originally as the bed was bordered by the path, but now it was going to be bordered by the lawn and you know, nice, tidy edging! Important people!

So is it sounding sensible so far? Good. Next bit then is to create a new path. Now one of the biggest annoyances I have with this garden is that instead of sensible paths leading to the areas of the garden you want to get to – greenhouse, shed, raised beds etc… instead we have a kind of frame around the lawn. So theoretically you walk around the perimeter of the garden to get anywhere. This was our chance to fix this.

Now, calm down. I know right now there are a bunch of you hyperventilating about laying a path and getting things level etc. A massive job. Ha, I laugh in your face. 🙂

What we did, was to layout the paving slabs we bought (nicer than the ones we’d lifted), across the lawn in a direct path to the greenhouse. Now, we didn’t make it a straight path with the slabs butted against each other, nope, we set them as diamonds, cause you know – pretty!!!! Lmao, and I know I am joking with you here but this bit was probably the only important and very precise bit we did, we measured my stride to make sure I was easily and naturally striking each slab as I walked. The last thing I needed was slipping and doing myself a mischief because I had to over stride. So with slabs adjusted to make the perfect Eli path, we simply cut around these with a sharp blade and lifted that piece of turf. That case us a perfect indent so that the slabs could be inserted into the lawn. This makes it much easier for mowing the lawn as the lawnmower goes right over the top. We’ve done this before and we know that the lawn will grow back and make this look really natural and embedded.

This leads us nicely onto a wee bit of advice we want to give here. We know because we’ve been there. Gardening and changing the design etc like this can be really daunting. It can feel like a huge job and if you don’t have the confidence then expensive too as you have to “get someone in”. But it doesn’t have to be. Over the years, we’ve learned that perfection isn’t really an option in the garden, simply, nature doesn’t roll like that. So if your slabs aren’t perfectly level, or symmetrical, you know what… call it rustic, pour a G&T and relax and just enjoy your garden. That’s the point, isn’t it? The garden is something for you to enjoy?

Now that the beg was dug over and fed and the new path was in place. This let us think about planting. Now again, we have learned not to overcrowd a new bed, because plants will grow into their space and things can become over crowded very quickly. So we tried to keep things low key. The priority was to move anything we felt would benefit. You know, like those title plants that were getting mugged by the shrubs? We brought those forward and added a few primula, dianthus and a couple of tiny shrubs with variegated leaves. And, the best bit in my opinion, we planted up loads of spring bulbs. I love spring bulbs….

So there we go…. just this little bit has made a huge difference to the garden, it’s completely changed how things look from our living room windows.

Oh and if you are wondering what we did with the paving slabs we lifted from the path… Kate made fantastic use of these and paved the area around the compost bin and raised beds, just enough to give me a bit of better footing when I’m working. She’s a good soul really 🙂

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