This is quite a neat shape, in that it's almost a perfect square, and it has the spectacular advantage of a big mature winter-flowering cherry (Prunus x subhirtella 'Autumnalis') in the middle (one of my most-prized plants). But it's always been a bit of a pain - we have a nominally gravel drive which wasn't very well laid by the previous occupants of the house, and the rather odd layout meant there was a whole awkward wasted corner of it which was getting progressively colonised by weeds.
Anyway, so I've spent much of the weekend digging up the drive and laying out a mildly funky new design I came up with at college the other week.
Trouble is it involves two concentric circles - all very cool and all that, but it suddenly occurred to me I'd never actually tried to lay out a circle on the ground before.
Well, there's a first time for everything - so this is what I did:
First, find your centre point: I drew this all out on graph paper to scale first, which may seem fiddly but it's very worth the extra time as drawing with a ruler on paper is a whole lot easier than drawing on the ground, especially if you have to rub it out a lot. That's a long bit of string looped loosely around the cane, knotted at the outer edge of the circle - a bit Heath Robinson, but it works.
I discovered that they don't sell those nifty but probably highly un-environmentally sound marking-out sprays in garden centres, so I had a go at the old-fashioned sand-and-drinks-bottle method with a bit of sand I found behind the shed. You basically fill a drinks bottle with the stuff (a lot more difficult than it seems), upend it and hold it upside down at the end of the string with sand pouring out in a steady stream while you mark out a circle. Sounds great in theory, doesn't it? Well - I think a) the sand needs to be very dry, unlike this stuff, which was nearly frozen and full of old leaves, and b) you need to have a funnel or something to get the sand in the bottle as otherwise you end up with half of it all over the kitchen floor. Like I did.
Then the sand ran out (I didn't tell you this was going to turn into a bit of a saga) and I discovered a whole new scale of messiness. House ash, from our fire and kicking around waiting to be chucked out, turns out to show up a lot better against gravel, and pours easier, too. But oh my goodness, I was covered with the stuff by the end of it.
Anyway - many hours of happy messing around later and this was the result. You can see what I mean about the weedy patch...
Final stage - a lot more straightforward, just dig a trench along the line of the sand/ash and sink log-roll edging into it so that the circles are permanently marked out. This, I hasten to add, is not the finished result: the eventual idea is that the logrolls will be hidden under some nifty low box hedges and there will be some truly lovely planting (including a few little surprises) filling the gaps between them.
It may not be award-winning garden design, but it's pepped up my front garden no end, and it only took a couple of days. Can't wait to plant it up now!