Monday, July 10, 2017

Garden Visits: Wendy's, in York . . .

This is the first in a series of posts, in which I will knock on the gate of various gardens maintained by readers within our blogging community.  I've already finagled an invitation to a splendid English garden -- come on through with me, and I'll tell you how that came about and introduce you to the gardener. Some of you will already be on a nodding acquaintance with Wendy (of York) through her comments here and elsewhere in our virtual vicinity, but she's graciously agreed to tell us a bit more about herself while describing the stunning transformation she and her husband have made to their property over forty years.


 Can you imagine strolling through this beautiful garden?
 Let's wander a bit, shall we? And perhaps we could sit on the bench for a few minutes, and I'll tell you how this post evolved, and what I'm planning for the future in a short series.
 First of all, thanks to Patricia, another regular commenter (whom I had the pleasure of meeting for lunch in Ottawa last year) for wondering if Wendy might share some photos of her garden.
A flurry of emails went back and forth, I received photographs of this glorious space, and at some point one of those cartoon lightbulbs went on, right above my head -- I swear, I'm sure my husband must have noticed it flashing!
 So I came up with a list of questions, emailed them to Wendy, and she emailed me back her answers.


Before I share those with you, check out the Before photos taken some forty years ago.
Imagine transforming a space like this through four decades.  . .

Never mind imagining, though. Let's let Wendy tell us what it was like:


--> Thank you so much, Wendy,  for sharing your garden with us.  Could you give us a rough idea of where it is and what the gardening conditions are?
My garden is on the outskirts of York, a small city in the north of England. It is a temperate climate with annual rainfall of 24 inches or 600 millimeters. In area it is between a quarter & half an acre which is a pretty good size for the U.K. The front garden is quite big  but not as densely planted as we need a gravel area for parking .

Our garden has sandy soil -  dig down two feet & it's pure river sand. The soil was impoverished when we moved in & although years of manure & compost heaps have made a vast difference, there are some plants, like the acid & moisture lovers , which are only possible for us in pots. The plus side is that the soil is easy to work. I'm not sure we could have managed this area if it were clay soil. The back garden faces south so we appreciate the  trees we have planted. They protect our poor soil & cut the wind from the west.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm a retired public servant, hubby was an accountant in a chocolate factory & we struggled to keep on top of the garden whilst we were at work . We had lots of energy then but not enough time. We now have lots of time & just enough energy. Soon, I expect we will have plenty of time & no energy! We've altered a few things with that in mind. We have two dogs, Lurchers, & because of them we don't travel as much as we used to do but we were lucky enough to see a fair bit of the world when we were younger. We visited some fine gardens on our travels & in the U.K. we have a scheme where people open their gardens to visitors, charging a small fee for charity. So we  visit gardens in our area, big & small .

How long have you cared for this garden, and what did you bring to it in terms of gardening experience?
We have lived here for forty one years. We had a very small garden at our previous house but we enjoyed improving it. My dad was a landscape gardener, so as a child I would make miniature gardens & I've always loved plants. So much so I can't bear to cut flowers for the house. Whilst growing they are alive, once cut they are dying. I don't  buy cut flowers either & only cut mine if a storm is coming to damage them. Too much empathy?

I asked Wendy a series of questions about how she and her husband planned their garden, and then how they executed their plans, how they maintain the garden now. 
I'm not one for big, bright, showy plants, perhaps it's our cool northern light that makes them too much for me. I prefer interesting shapes & foliage. We have some quite unusual plants dotted around  -  Astrantias, Pratias & various Euphorbias. I like to have some subtle little plants that you need to search for in the border &  I prefer flowering plants with lots of small flowers like potentillas & perennial geraniums. 
The climbing roses are not straightforward, lots of tying in needed & they fight back. I don't like pesticides or chemicals so they get tatty as the year goes on but I love them in June when the center trellis is a mass of different roses. Old roses don't keep flowering but they smell wonderful &, along with the hawthorn & privet hedges, they are all we have from the previous owners . 
Scent is important so we have honeysuckles too. All the  pots need watering but hubby seems to enjoy that - I think he finds it therapeutic.

As you can see from the before photo, it was pretty much a blank canvas when we arrived. Very neglected. The old couple hadn't done any gardening for years. We did lots of rough sketches before deciding on a York stone terrace & curved path with island beds & lots of curves. I remember us laying out a hose pipe & cutting along it to make the beds. Once we'd laid out the ground plan it felt like our garden. 
We weeded & weeded - after seven years you break the seeding cycle & then it's much easier. Mares tails were a real problem but not now.  At one time we had more cottage garden flowers, herbaceous & annuals with annuals in pots too but we've gradually opted for an easier garden. More shrubs, more low ground cover with pots of sedum, sempervivum, ferns & hostas. 
We wouldn't have wanted a professional designer, we loved doing it ourselves despite the mistakes & there were plenty. We have no help with the maintenance. Hubby does lawns, hedges & serious pruning whilst I do most of the weeding & light pruning. I usually decide what goes where too :)  
In early spring we spend dozens of hours a week out there but in the summer there is less to do & hardly anything in the winter. We are always impatient for the garden to wake up so we can get going again. One day I'm sure we will need help but for now it keeps us fit, is cheaper than joining a gym & we love it . 

What frustrations or challenges do/did you face in the garden?
Our main problem is rabbits. We have laid chicken wire along the hedge bottoms which is sunk a foot into the ground but there's no keeping them out. They burrow in the light soil & kill plants from below as well as nibbling from above. We have gradually learnt which plants they dislike & protect vulnerable favorites with chicken wire. Lots of our shrubs have been  nibbled into umbrella shapes with rabbit proof ground cover around them. The dogs do chase the rabbits, scraping up the grass in the old orchard area, but they don't catch them.

What makes you happiest in the garden?
What I do like is the way some plants have jumped around to suit themselves. Things strike quickly in our soil & that's fine with me. They usually know best. Our cherry tree was originally a rose stake. We have at least thirty species of birds including woodpeckers & owls & we make food available for them all year. Lots of nesting goes on & we are inundated with baby blue tits just now. Hedgehogs, frogs, toads & foxes visit & we have had baby foxes playing on the lawn. There are nine  stone bird baths dotted around & they are usually all occupied. I also love the beauty of the stone areas after rain. 

And then I closed by asking Wendy if there were any questions she wished I'd asked.
My extra question - Does your garden hold any special memories?

Very much so. My dad, the landscape gardener had lots of ideas for us in the early days & gave us plants split from his customers gardens. I was always stubborn though, like him, & wanted it to be our own garden. I can hear him now telling me the cedar would become a nuisance & he was right. Some of the garden furniture & stone pieces were our anniversary presents to each other - better than diamonds for me. We also have three of our past dogs buried in the bottom part of the garden & I often have a little ' chat ' with them.

Again, thank you so much for the tour of your glorious garden, Wendy. No, no, don't get up, we'll find our way out (although you may have to chase a few of us out the gate if we linger too long. . . 
Wasn't that a brilliant outing? Shall I arrange another for you in the next few weeks? I thought it might be fun to learn more about some of my readers through a series of posts about their gardens. I have one possibility I'm crossing my fingers about at the moment. . .
And by all means, if you have a garden you think we'd like to see, and would be willing to share photos and answer my questions, let's talk. . .
Meanwhile, Wendy has generously agreed to answer any questions you might have and/or respond to your comments, although I'll be here to facilitate if necessary.  And I'd love to know what you think about this idea, the lightbulb Patricia switched on. . . Any interest? Over to you, now; open for comments...

EDITED TO ADD: After Ceri in Bristol wondered if we might get an overhead view of the garden so as to better picture the whole, Wendy generously responded by sending me this in an email.


42 comments:

  1. I would just like to add how much I have enjoyed this exercise . It has made me look at my garden with new eyes . I hope some of you feel encouraged to join in .
    Wendy in York

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  2. Wendy, I am completely with you about foliage and shape being the preference. So many times have tried to count just how many shades of green my garden contains and how many shapes. Find the focus on that very soothing even though I adore all flowers and fill my home with them weekly.Right before I moved to London I gifted friends many of my perennials and kept just trees, hostas ,shrubs so the garden is easier to maintain on my three times a year visits.
    I absolutely love your garden. How satisfying it must be to open the door in the morning and step out into it. Love the watering cans which look like sculpture!
    Question: Do you sit at the table in your garden for dinner or lunch or drinks everyday?
    Frances, what a fabulous idea for a series you have developed from a Patricia's suggestion. So looking forward to the next installment.
    A. in London

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    1. Thank you A . The watering cans are old French ones we found in an antique market years ago but they are used regularly .In answer to your question , yes if our English weather is kind we use the that table a lot . That's where hubby always is when the test match is on ( cricket ) with the radio & a glass of beer .
      Wendy

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  3. Wendy,this is one of the most beautiful gardens I've ever seen.
    It is magical and I expect to see Alice or Peter Rabbit hiding somewhere behind the bush
    I love it,every part of it
    It emanates love and understanding of the nature
    What a brilliant idea from Patricia and you Frances,thank you for the pure pleasure
    Dottoressa

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    1. Thank you so much Dottoressa . I remember enjoying your posts about your local food too . Isn't it lovely that the internet & people like Frances can bring us together from our different little corners of the world .
      Wendy

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  4. Brilliant feature, thanks to Patricia for the idea, and to Wendy for sharing her lovely treasure, and to you Frances for the execution. Living where I do I am mentally running around emptying standing water on alternate days (mosquitos.....) but I'm trying to get over being so humdrum.....all the wonderful textures! I will be revisiting these pictures for some time to come.

    ceci

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    1. Thanks Ceci . Mosquitos aren't a problem here - it's not warm enough for them . The slugs & snails can be annoying though .
      Wendy

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  5. So lovely! Thank you both. The before and after photos really help us to see all the work that has gone into creating this beautiful space.

    (Wendy, I have trouble cutting flowers too, although I will bring double peonies in from a heavy rainstorm. Not the singles, the bees enjoy them too much.)

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    1. Thankyou Georgia , Peonies are so beautiful . I seem to remember they take some time to flower after planting & don't take kindly to being moved around .
      Wendy

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  6. Frances, thanks for following up my throw-away comment; it seemed like wishful thinking at the time. Wendy, thank you for sharing photos and words about your garden. It is truly lovely, a real labour of love and a legacy. It's so true that even though there's not much bright colour, the myriad textures and shades make it so interesting to look at - that's a good lesson in itself. I wish you and your husband many, many more years of happy gardening.

    I do hope that you can make this an occasional series Frances!

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    1. Thank you Patricia for your original suggestion . I hope we can look round some more gardens too . It would be interesting to see how our fellow gardeners cope with different climates & soil conditions etc
      Wendy

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  7. This is so inspiring, and I only wish I had the energy to do something approaching this! This is my favorite kind of space, and the love expended on it is obvious. My own yard is looking pretty ratty. Thanks to Wendy for sharing this beauty, and I hope we'll see more gardens.
    Janie in the northwest US.

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    1. Thanks Janie . We visited the northwest US some years ago & were bowled over by the natural beauty of the area . It must be lovely to live amongst it all .
      Wendy

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  8. These are lovely photos! You must really enjoy the beauty of your garden.

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    1. Thankyou Madame . I do appreciate the view when I'm busy at the kitchen sink !
      Wendy

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  9. What a fabulous idea, Frances. And how clever of Patricia to suggest it, and for you to bring it to fruition. I'm so happy to see Wendy's part of the world. Wnedy, your garden looks lovely. Perfect for sitting in with a book and a cup of tea while someone else does the work. Ha... at least that's how I garden. It's a spectator sport for me:) But I live with a died-in-the-wool gardener... so I know how engrossing it can be. Great job all of you on this post... a true team effort!

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    1. See... I was so excited by this post that I misspelled Wendy's name. Oops.

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    2. Thanks Sue . I thought this would surprise you when you got back from your trip . It all seemed to happen so quickly . There is plenty of sitting reading books goes on too - more wine than tea though ☺️
      Wendy

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  10. What a great idea for a blog post, and thanks Wendy for letting us see your wonderful garden. It makes me pine a little for our old garden which was also a blank slate many years ago. My husband built a winding lavender path and a stone circular herb garden; we planted trees and iris, California lilac hedges, lilacs, poppies, roses, and poppies in other beds and build a pergola with a fountain and hops and clematis climbing all over it. We would have long lovely meals under that pergola. It did get to be too much once my husband fell ill, so there came a time when I wanted to let go. The new owners fell in love with it and are happily gardening there now. Brenda

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    1. Your garden sounds lovely Brenda & I can see you would miss it . So often the garden only lasts as long as the gardener , so I'm glad yours is still being looked after & appreciated .
      Wendy

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  11. What a stunning, simply stunning garden!! I enjoyed this very much. My husband is like Wendy, he can't cut flowers and won't buy them cut either - he doesn't want to see them die. So no cut flowers for me, but a big heart.

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    1. Melanie thankyou - good to know I'm not the only softie where flowers are concerned
      Wendy

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  12. What a delightful garden & garden post (pun intended)! I would love to see more of these in the future. Books and gardens just seem to go hand in hand. Well done!

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    1. Thanks Indigo Dragonfly ( lovely name ) . Great thanks to Frances too for making this possible , I know she is a very busy lady just now .
      Wendy

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  13. What a beautiful garden, Wendy. Thank you for letting us take a peek at it. Is there any chance you could add a photo or two taken from the same vantage point as the 40 year old ones so I could get my head around the changes you have made. It all looks so lovely and so natural that it is difficult to understand that it wasn't always there and has indeed been carefully planned by you and your husband.

    Thank you for sharing your lovely space with us all. (And I cannot cut flowers for vases either. Maybe if I had a spare acre or two...)

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    1. Thanks Ceri & you are right , I should have included a picture from the landing window for comparison , To be honest , I got rather carried away & took so many photos that I got confused about what I had actually sent to Frances ! I can mail her an overhead shot but I know she has a lot on just now . So it could take a little while to appear . I used to want a spare acre or two but not now
      Wendy

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    2. Don't worry the on the ground photos are lovely as they are. I really admire the way your borders look full and lush without looking crammed or overgrown. It's a style I aspire to but I seem to end up with either bare patches or jungle.

      I shall keep going inspired by your beautifully calm space...

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  14. What a lovely space! So lush. And I love seeing how it was transformed by the planting over many years.

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    1. Thankyou K.Line . Sometimes it is a little too lush these days then hacking & slashing has to be done
      Wendy

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  15. Fabulous Frances. Love this idea. Wendy's garden is magical and gorgeous. It's inspiring to see what it looked like before Wendy and her husband began work on it. It was fascinating to read that Wendy's father was a landscape gardener, that she made miniature gardens as a child, and that—unlike me—she is not a fan of cut flowers. I'm enchanted by her nine stone bird baths, and the habitat she has created for a host of creatures, including those voracious, swift rabbits. This would make a wonderful series. I hope you continue it.

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    1. Thankyou Katherine . Of course it wasn't our intention to create such a perfect habitat for rabbits , but being a gardener means taking the rough with the smooth
      Wendy

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  16. Thank you Wendy. Your garden makes me want to know you better. It is so peaceful and feels quite magical. I believe that creating a garden is one of the most satisfying forms of self expression. You and your husband have done a great job. I also have a hard time cutting anything from the garden for the house. I tend to go in the forest and fields and ditches and make wild bouquets always with Salal of which we have an
    abundance.
    Thank you Frances...this is a great idea.
    Ali

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    1. That's a very nice thing to say Ali . You might not feel the same if you saw me screeching at the rabbits ! I agree about the self expression though - Monets garden being the perfect example . You've introduced me to Salal for the first time . How nice to have it available for your lovely wild bouquets
      Wendy

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  17. Thank you Wendy and Frances - such a beautiful inspiring garden to wake up to this morning.
    Ceri in London

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    1. Thanks a lot Ceri
      Wendy

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  18. What a lovely garden! I particularly like the stone terrace and the path - it is so nice when you can use a local stone.
    As my garden is mainly a holiday and weekend affair, I sometimes cut flowers before going away to take some of the holiday feeling with me.
    Thank you Patricia for the idea, Wendy for the beautiful photos and the stories, and Frances for organizing it all.

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    1. Thankyou Eleonore . I can understand you cutting flowers in that situation , I sometimes do take a bunch of our garden flowers with me on holiday . Usually Lily of the Valley in the spring . The scent fills the car .
      Wendy

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  19. Love this series. Beautiful garden. As a gardener myself, who is always behind and never has everything finished, I enjoy seeing what others are doInch in their gardens. Thank you!

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    1. Should be: doing in their gardens!

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    2. Thanks Jeannine . I know what you mean about never getting to the end of Garden jobs . Looking at my pictures now , I can see plenty of work I should have done before taking the photos !
      Wendy

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  20. frances .. this is such a wonderfull idea .. please do carry on ..
    and much thanks to wendy for sharing her beautifull and very mature garden ..

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    1. Thank you Jane . I'm looking forward to admiring other gardens .
      Wendy

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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