Monday, June 03, 2013

Gardens big and small

This is the house where my aunt lives in Norfolk. Isn't it wonderful? Why she lives there is a long story, but the latter part of it is that she and three friends - one other unmarried lady and one married couple - the man of the couple being very much younger than any of the women - retired here 31 years ago. My aunt and the married couple bought the house between them but because the much-younger-husband would probably outlive them all, he gradually paid my aunt back for her part of it. So (alas!) the wonderful house will never be my inheritance. But that's all right because every two years since Son was a toddler we have come here for a holiday, which has been such a blessing and joy. The inhabitants of the house all have flats upstairs and the downstairs part has always been communal - for visitors and village activities.

Now two of them have died and my aunt (88 and a half) and the widower of her friend and owner of the house (now 71) still live there. It's lovely for her because, though they live separate lives in separate flats, he keeps an eye on her and does all the stuff she can't do - speaking on the phone (she's very deaf), technical things and anything requiring a lot of muscle.

The garden is large and lovely. My aunt works in it almost every afternoon. Gardening keeps you young. Or at least I'm hoping it does.

That tree in the middle is a pine - grown from seed by one of the friends from a cone picked up in Spain. It's now about 30 feet high.

To the side of the main garden is a walled garden, of which this is part.

It has fruit trees, herbaceous plants and lots of shrubs.

Perfect for strolling round...

 ... and catching glimpses of the house...

... and meeting ducks, woodpigeons, cats and (this year) muntjac deer - all of which clearly think that it's their garden.

But now we're home and I have been battling with nature in my relatively small garden. One flowerbed, as I've said, is infested with little allium bulbs. I foolishly bought, years ago, some of those little bulbs that have mildly decorative small white flowers and though I immediately decided that they weren't worth having, it's impossible to get rid of them. Somehow they root themselves quite deeply and they have lots and lots of little bulblets. Extracting the parent bulb is not an easy task: you dig down and down and eventually decide that this must be far enough and so you heave your trophy in triumph to the surface only to find that the stem has shed the bulb, which is nowhere to be found. Even if, by some miracle, you get the bulb, you know that deep below, laughing at you, there are lots of teeny white bulblets the size of babies' tears just waiting to spring into life next year. These bulblets don't actually flower for some years, but just throw up little skinny grasslike leaves which look really messy. So you dig down, down, down to try to extract them... and so your life ebbs away.

I also have problems with bluebells, as I've mentioned, but at least they're pretty. On the other hand, they seed all over the place if you don't descend on them like a wolf on the fold and remove the fading flowers. And then there's lily of the valley - lovely, with the fragrance you would hope to meet in heaven but (in my garden) evil underground roots that spread sideways and pop up shoots that can pierce concrete. Well, cracks between paving stones. And, worse, they tangle themselves up in other plants that are supposed to be there.

I like gardening really. Most of the time.


  1. What a fabulous old home and garden. The living arrangement sounds very sensible, so several people could share such a lovely place.
    I wish I could grow lily of the valley. Too warm here I think. When I was a girl we had it growing on the farm. I remember it in a big clump on one side of quite wide concrete steps going up to a front verandah. After a few years it appeared by itself on the other side of the steps - it had spread at least 8 -10 feet behind the steps.
    I have the same problem as you with ixia bulbs - the more I remove the more I seem to have.( the cerise coloured one )I like the white one.

  2. How beautiful. There are such lovely gardens. Makes you think about the beneficence of the Gulf Stream. Here in my inner suburban house, I tink wistfully of large gardens, and think perhaps I would not mind the bluebells...

  3. What a gorgeous garden! Your little plant sounds like onion weed, long strappy leaves and small white flowers.....and a pain to get rid of......

  4. How forward thinking of your Aunt, and how lovely that you have been able to enjoy visiting such gardens....I suspect you would be horrified by my garden....if I like something I leave it, weed or flower...

  5. Perhaps you should look into buying your Aunt's flat?
    As to the bluebells - ours eventually died out, or was pushed out by that damned lily of the valley. Yes a lovely scent, but the entire rock garden is absolutely infested! And it looks so awful in the fall. I literally dig out shovelfuls and burn it. The same with day lilies. I almost have the orange day lilies gone from the center of the rock garden. I do want some, just not a garden of day lilies.

  6. What a wonderful holiday option, anyway, even if it will leave the family eventually.