Over the following two years, our cottage garden continued to evolve. With an increasing desire to be able to host social gatherings and not have our chairs sink into the sandy soil over the course of a few hours (lol…and yes, it was the sandy soil and not my weight, before anyone suggests it!), we realised that what was needed was a garden patio. We sought the permission of our wonderful landlords, for us to install a small and simple patio, outside our kitchen/garden door. They kindly gave us permission.
This was when Kevin called in the help of our dear friend, John. In what was still late winter/early spring; hence it was very cold, the two worked at digging out and laying the patio. It was a real game changer, for it immediately made life so much easier. Having a dedicated and stable place for garden furniture worked a treat. It became, and still is today, very much the heart of our cottage garden. Oscar and Digby seem to enjoy the space, as well.
The hedgerow continued to flourish and easily reached ten feet in height if left untended. That was beyond my capability to cope with. My symptoms had started to restrict the height I could raise my arms to. My muscles would routinely become as rigid as rock and I was starting to fear that my ability to participate in gardening was at risk, long term. I had started to suffer falls, too. This was certainly not helped by a mis-diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I gained some relief from medication in terms of reducing pain, but the medication had no impact on that my symptoms were happening and escalating. This was a very troubling period of time, health wise, as I sought repeatedly to get a diagnosis from a neurologist.
I knew that my symptoms were neurological in orgin. I went time and again to seek a referral to a neurologist but my GP, at that time in Saxmundham, simply refused a referral and repeatedly told me that I must be suffering from depression! This was an extraordinarily poor service and caused me unnecessary suffering. All the while, I did my best to continue with the daily tasks of life. The joy of working in my garden was gradually replaced by an increasing sense of burden and challenge. That said, I never lost my love for the garden.
To manage this, Kevin started to make a mid season cut using hedge clippers (being sure never to do so during the protected period that prohibits hedge cutting, so that hedge dwelling birds can produce and rear their young). We just cut the hedge to a desired height and depth once per year. I will go into detail about other types of planting in separate posts. For now, I would add that any planting of flowers and shrubs was all about providing something for the wildlife. I would ensure that there would be new flowers growing every month; no gaps.
I began a new vegetable patch, having let the earlier veg patch’s diminish. This time, given the worsening of my health, as symptoms increased for what would eventually turn out to be Parkinson’s, I decided to keep a small veg patch and cram it with as much planting as possible. It worked wonderfully. I initially bought some horse manure and dug that in and then set about planting runner beans, courgettes, tomatoes, squash, onions and herbs, to name but a few. I was able to draw so much produce from this little veg patch and I have kept it going until this day.
If you would like to make a veg patch but are worried that you do not have enough space, then I can tell you that a patch of just four feet by five feet will give you ample growing space. Just be sure to dig in some good, rich manure before you start planting and repeat this once per year before spring growing season. This will ensure the soil remains rich in nutrients. I also placed the patch in a space which ensures some shade during the hottest parts of the day; stopping the veg plants from drying out.
From the varied wildlife through to the beautiful barn owl that flies past our garden each day, from friends to family and from season to season, the patio, the wildlife attracting planting and our little veg patch had, by this point, given our little cottage garden a sense of character and a sense of the garden as a lush and comfortable place to simply be.
As with all gardens, our cottage garden would continue to evolve. I will write more about that in further posts. Do you keep a veg patch? Have you designed a garden with planting aimed at attracting in wildlife? If you would like to, please feel free to describe your garden in the comments for this post.
(c) Deano Parsons. 2020.