Finding the Vision

Creating a Garden 1

New house

In the beginning there was a house in a coastal meadow, then there was a shed and then there was a garden. Originally, I thought that the house sitting amongst wildflowers with panoramic views required nothing more. Unfortunately this was a romantic illusion. In winter there are no wildflowers, the sunny days are replaced by winter storms and if the practical demands of life requires sheds and fences, you might as well have a garden. We started the garden in 2013, just after we had built the big shed and installed the solar panels.

The garden site on the east side of the house

Most of us inherit a garden and, even if it is mature and developed, there is usually scope to tweak it a little here and there, or take more radical steps, to impose our own style and personality. We are usually constrained by boundaries: physical, climatic, topographical, geological, spatial, temporal and financial, but the heart and soul of the garden is always a reflection of the gardener. This is my third garden on the croft – I still own the vegetable garden, but the cottage garden is now in the care of the new owners of Croft Garden Cottage, and it is the most challenging.

I was given a blank canvas, as much land as I wished, stunning views for borrowed landscapes and an impossible site. It is exposed to storm force, salt laden winds from every direction, there is no shelter or shade and just below the tussock grass is granite bedrock and sand. Fortunately we had learnt a how to build fences that would withstand the strong winds, to use marine grade stainless steel fixings and I had a long list of plants that I knew would not tolerate our soil and climate. All I needed was a vision.

I knew I couldn’t compete with the magnificent natural flora, so “prairie” planting was not an option, but at the same time, I wanted something that was soft and natural that would merge with the landscape beyond. First we had to get the structure right and include all the elements to make the garden and our domestic life work. A garden needs “good bones”, this is the framework for the planting, and it can be hard to correct if you get it wrong.

The garden has evolved over the last 7 years and grown in a number of unexpected directions. We have mixed tons of concrete, shovelled sand and gravel, moved turf, shifted stones and driftwood, built sheds, greenhouses and raised beds, erected fences and put in gates. I have grown plants, watched them die and put them on the compost, weeded and mulched, moved plants and planted-up pots. I have sat in the garden, watched the bumblebees, butterflies and beetles, removed slugs and snails, and listened to the skylarks. There are still some changes to be made and jobs to be completed, but at last I am beginning to understand my garden. Last year I sat on the garden bench on sunny evenings and quiet mornings and looked, not at the plants and the weeds and the ever growing list of jobs, but at the structure and the landscape beyond. I can now see what I want to achieve, I have finally found my vision.

12 thoughts on “Finding the Vision

  1. Luffy

    This is such a heartening post. It gives me hope for our steep, stony, exposed site with no shelter. It will probably also take us ten or twenty years but I hope that we have even a degree of the success that you’ve had. ❤️

    • It wouldn’t be so interesting if you had the perfect site. At least you can grow trees on Skye. I will be watching your progress with interest – I’m almost as excited as you are!

      • Luffy

        It’s going to be an interesting challenge, and a slow process, that’s for sure 😊

  2. This is a lovely and inspirational post! I am where you were 7 years ago and while I was able to transplant some perennials from my previous location and get a quick start on a cottage garden, creating a wildflower meadow out of a mess of stumps and new growth just seems so daunting! But I have a vision and a passion to succeed! So, while the ground is frozen and blanketed with snow, I will study and plan, and when the spring thaw eventually comes (that will be May in Maine)…I’ll be ready to get out there!

    • The winter is the perfect time to dream and plan. Nature will give you all the clues you need and the rest is just instinct and hard work. Creating a garden is a wonderful journey and the travelling can be as interesting as the end result.

  3. You need a different analogy to ‘sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees’ on Uist!
    and ps that’s a lovely clump of iris in your header – is it Katherine Hodkin?

    • Well spotted it is Katharine Hodgkin shivering away in a sheltered corner of the fruit cage.

      • And way way ahead of mine!

        • She is a littel late this year, quite often beats the snowdrops in January.

          • I note from my records that mine were flowering at this time last year!

  4. What a lovely post Christine. This will be heartening for gardeners facing far fewer difficulties I am sure. A vision is good. I hope you will share the changes you wish to make!

    • Thank you Cathy. I’m not sure whether my gardening adventures should carry a health warning. The garden tour is scheduled for later this week, but you will need to wrap up, we have a very cold easterly wind.

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