gardening recycling spring gardening

Mary’s mini-garden

Towards the end of 2014 our great friend Mary gave us two old butler sinks to make into miniature alpine gardens. Soon after this a sudden illness took Mary from us. We turned the sinks into gardens just as she wanted us too, so we now think of them as Mary’s Mini-Gardens.

We gathered together a few big chunks of slate, a bag of slate pieces, a bag of John Innes No 3 compost, a bag of horticultural grit and one of horticultural sand together with a lump hammer and bolster chisel. The horticultural grit and sand were mixed with the compost in equal parts to create our growing medium.

2015 04 05_0437-1

We were lucky to have found two large pieces of slate with holes in to add a sculptural element to our mini-gardens.

2015 04 05_0435-1 2015 04 05_0436-1

One piece of slate had beautiful colour and texture to it to add further interest. It looked like a mountain range in miniature!

2015 04 05_0438-1

We added the growing medium to the sinks and put a mulch of grit on top for extra drainage around the base of the plants. We then played around with positioning the large slate pieces until we thought they formed the best arrangement we could manage.

2015 04 05_0440-1 2015 04 05_0441-1

We then began arranging the plants and once we felt they were in the best positions we planted them up.

2015 04 05_0439-1  2015 04 05_0446-1 2015 04 05_0442-1 2015 04 05_0450-1

When we opened our garden in mid-April for the National Garden Scheme they were beginning to look colourful and drew some complimentary comments from our visitors.

2015 04 17_0781-1 2015 04 20_09142015 04 05_0447-1

Here they are in mid-May. We really enjoyed the project and feel sure Mary would have enjoyed them. Good example of recycling in the garden too!

2015 05 21_1843  2015 05 21_1845 2015 05 21_1844


garden design gardening gardens outdoor sculpture

Two New Little Gardens

This summer we have added two new little gardens to our “Avocet” garden. In truth they are mini-gardens. We have created a roof garden on the wood store and a tiny alpine garden.

You may remember my post last year sharing with you how I made our log store. I built it with a roof garden in mind so it was already strong enough to take the weight. We mixed up a special mix of a lightweight multi-purpose compost and perlite. We began adapting the roof by adding a second layer of roofing felt before nailing in place strips of 6 inch wide strips of wood as an edging. We then fixed a layer of weed supressing membrane to help hold in the compost mix. Once the compost mix was added we had the pleasure of placing the plants ready for planting. After all the work building the new little garden in the air the planting was a delight. We used mostly alpines and succulents selecting those that could cope with a shallow root run. We used sedums, sempervivums, dianthus and thymes.

2014 06 12_0203-1 2014 06 12_0204-1 2014 06 12_0205-1 2014 06 12_0206-1 2014 06 12_0207-1 2014 06 12_0209-1 2014 06 12_0208-1 2014 06 12_0210-1 2014 06 12_0212-1 2014 06 12_0211-1 2014 06 12_0213-1 2014 06 12_0215-1 2014 06 12_0214-1 2014 06 12_0216-1 2014 06 12_0217-1 2014 06 12_0218-1 2014 06 12_0219-1 2014 06 12_0221-1 2014 06 12_0220-1 2014 06 12_0222-1 2014 06 12_0223-1 2014 06 12_0224-1

Our second little creation was an extra space for small alpines. We call it our “Alpine Throne” – once you see the photos you will realise why. It is situated within the “Sunken Garden”, although this garden is often now called the “Secret Garden”, in a wasted space below an arch over which our vine grows partnered by a clematis, up against the greenhouse. The space previously was home to a Euphorbia mellifera, the Honey Spurge, which we have to grow in a large container as it needs winter protection here. This beautifully scented shrub has now outgrown its allotted space and has relocated to a new home in the “Tropical Garden”.

2014 05 12_9304

So we got together our materials, some 12 foot long 8 inch by 2 inch planks, which we cut to various lengths and shaped their ends. I then drilled holes in the ends for added interest. I wanted the feature to be a piece of garden sculpture as well as an alpine garden. We also got together some large pieces of Welsh slate carefully selected for shape, texture and colour.

2014 05 12_9299 2014 05 12_9301 2014 05 12_9300 2014 05 12_9302

We needed some weed suppressing membrane and a selection of plants whose flowers complimented the slate. A few bags of fine alpine grit were required to mix with the compost and also to top-dress the finished garden.

2014 05 12_9303  2014 05 12_9305 2014 05 12_9306 2014 05 12_9283 2014 05 12_9284


2014 05 12_9285 2014 05 12_9286 2014 05 12_9287 2014 05 12_9289 2014 05 12_9290 2014 05 12_9291 2014 05 12_9292 2014 05 12_9293 2014 05 12_9294 2014 05 12_9295 2014 05 12_9296 2014 05 12_9297 2014 05 12_9288

A few months later our new little garden has settled down. It is a nice little feature to enjoy when we sit in one of our favourite sitting places. The roof garden has settled nicely too and the plants look happy and healthy.

2014 08 19_3977 2014 08 19_3978 2014 08 19_3980 2014 08 19_3981 2014 08 19_3982 2014 08 19_3983 2014 08 19_3979

garden design gardening gardens recycling

An Ugly Duckling

Remember the story of “The Ugly Duckling” one of the Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales, also a children’s song sung by Danny Kaye? We used to listen to that song on the radio when we were kids growing up in the 50’s on a programme called “Children’s Favourites”. Well, this post reminds me of it!

The least favourite part of our garden which we inherited when we first moved into our Plealey home ten years ago, is the central concrete pathway in the back garden. It consisted of a row of 3 feet by 2 feet concrete slabs with a concrete border each side about 9 inches wide. It looked so ugly, dull and grey!

2014 01 09_5890

We decided to take up every other slab and replace them with purple slate. This was hard work as the slabs were 2 inches thick concrete and were very close together making leverage more difficult than we had anticipated. Where there were any spaces between them these had been filled with mortar. So it took a while to lever up each slab with a spade. We then “walked ” them onto a porters trolley to take them away.

2014 01 09_5892 2014 01 09_5895

2014 01 09_5889

We put weed suppressing membrane down and topped it up with a good deep layer of slate.

2014 01 09_5888  2014 01 09_5886

2014 01 09_5887  

2014 01 09_5891 2014 01 09_5894 2014 01 09_5897 2014 01 09_5893

We have always wanted to get rid of it or at least change its look. We have at last got round to doing it. It was hard work but it gave us something creative to do on a cold  day when the ground was too wet to work on.

2014 01 09_5896 2014 01 10_5903

One of the added bonuses of using any form of slate in the garden is the fact that it  features different colours depending on whether it is wet or dry. The slate was wet when we put it down so in the above photos the slate is purple-black in colour and deeply glossy, but when dry it goes much paler almost white with just a hint of grey and is matt in texture.

2014 01 10_5902 2014 01 10_5901 2014 01 10_5900

So, there we have it the ugly duckling of a concrete path – turned into the beautiful swan – the new path of alternating slate and slab. We were pleased that we had managed to do this using recycled or re-used materials. The slabs were obviously our own and the slate came from the waste heaps of the old Welsh slate mines. These come from the waste heaps which until recently had no use whatsoever and they were a blot on the landscape of Snowdonia.

A good days work! An attractive new garden feature, reusing our old slabs and bringing in just one new material and that was a quarrying industry by-product.