Imagine if you will a very long and quite thin bit of land along the edge of a lane, south-facing but aligned more or less east-west, and about the shape of an aeroplane wing. It is tapered at each end and has a broader bit (to about 50ft wide) in the middle. Now plonk a house in the middle of the broader bit and divide the whole thing into three by means of a footpath running through a third from one end, and a garage interrupting another third from the other end, and you have the basic layout.
We have three main 'gardens' (though one is actually a field with pretensions - in my head anyway - to become an orchard): the first bit is my fledgling veg garden and I've already shown visitors to m'other blog around so you'll have to go have a look there if you're interested.
The next bit is the main garden: the bit that wraps around the house and is about a third of an acre, give or take a bit.
In my head it is already a beautifully-crafted, well planned and exquisitely planted garden of various different parts, so come with me in my imagination and contemplate:
By this I mean the back half of the back garden, which slopes gently upwards towards the footpath between it and what we call the top field. In this photo you'll have to avert your eyes from the large blue monstrosity in the middle: essential for keeping small children distracted, but a total eyesore. We have ambitious plans which involve terracing a bit just in front of the hill so we can move it back and to the side, and well out of the way.
Incidentally the 'lawn' (I use the term advisedly) is probably staying for a while at least, as there are rumours in the village of a spectacular display of sheets of snowdrops bringing admirers from miles around. Not so sure about the admirers, but rather fancy the snowdrops.
Anyway, to take this photo you'd be standing with your back to the trampoline, looking west up the hill: a space of about 50ft wide by 60ft long. What you are seeing is not in fact a somewhat daunting and rather shady slope full of weeds and overhung with neglected trees: it is in fact a choice woodland garden, dotted here and there by pretty birches and hazels and underplanted with lovely woodlanders like trilliums, ferns and bluebells. A path zigzags its way artlessly up the slope to the back, with occasional flights of wooden steps for those wishing to take a more direct route. At the top, to the left, is a rustic-style playhouse and den, made by my rather talented garden carpenter hubby and nestling into the corner and providing a perfect retreat for small children and later sulky teenagers, as well as being a nice little focal point when you get to the top of the slope and emerge into its clearing.
See? You've got to have imagination to look at this lot. Plenty of fairly colourful imagination.
Elsewhere in this section: this is a quarry, which has the great advantage of being superbly sheltered, and the rather daunting prospect of very high chalk banks at either side. Where the arrow is - that's just about where the bank stops and the hedge starts. The top of the hedge is another 8ft or so above that. We are thinking scaffolding.
The opposite side of the garden, on the lane side (which is also the shady side). Another bank, this time more gently sloped, and therefore offering some intriguing possibilities for terraces up towards the foot of hedge this side. I'm thinking zigzag paths again, and a rather spectacular collection of ferns, podyphyllums, astilboides.... I have Keith Wiley's gorgeous and inspirational book on gardening in shade on my bookshelf and I shall plunder it shamelessly.
There are actually some quite nice plants here already. Someone way back in the dim and distant past (not, I'm sorry to say, our immediate predecessors here) was a pretty good and knowledgeable gardener: although he/she didn't quite cotton on to the fact that roses don't like chalk and therefore there are a lot of rather sick rose bushes cluttering the place up. Not this one, though, which is some sort of Rosa alba I think and therefore tough enough to scoff in the face of non-ideal soil types.
Clematis are everywhere: this is much to my delight as I have always rather struggled to grow clematis before. This one is in the main garden but I now also have a monster hedge (as if we didn't have enough hedges) of a pink C. montana - either 'Elizabeth' or var. rubens, not sure yet - on the front wall which promises spectacular sights in spring.
And my pride and joy, and if I'm honest, one of the reasons I bought the house; this is of course Ginkgo biloba, a plant I have always wanted to grow as I just adore those leaves. Now instead of struggling to persuade a stringly little sapling to grow into a proper plant, I have all to myself a really big, mature tree, maybe 30ft high, and as hale and hearty as they come. What's more - this picture was taken a few weeks ago and now all those leaves have turned the most vivid shade of butter yellow you can imagine. What a tree.