Grand Designs

Ardivachar croft house 2007
Croft House 2007

We have come a long way from a run-down croft house in a tussocky field to a refurbished cottage with a working vegetable garden, fruit cages and a polytunnel. However, the dream of spending my winters by the fireside with bulb and seed catalogues remains ephemeral, as once again I’ll be out and about in my wellies with my squeaky wheelbarrow.

When it comes to garden design, I belong to the slow evolutionary school. Fortunately the Head Gardener is a man of practical vision, otherwise I’d still be standing in the field dreaming about where to put the tattie patch! However, along with the practical genius comes the 5 YEAR PLAN. This might sound like a hang-over from the cold war, collective farms and the communist manifesto, but I’m sure it has its equivalent in Harvard business speak. After 35 years I still need to go and lie down in a darkened room when I see the twinkle in the eye that indicates that a new project is about to be announced. I realised long ago that a 5 year plan is never completed as it is part of the 10 year rolling programme which is integral to the 15 year strategic action review………….!

Life in the Outer Isles may be quiet and slow but it is never boring. In the last 5 years we have experienced two unusually cold winters, winds gusting over 80 mph and drought. I wouldn’t be surprised if a plague of locusts arrived at some stage. There are times when we still rage at the weather but adversity makes the small successes all the sweeter. Gardening is challenging and although we can now grow fruit and vegetables with a degree of success we could of course do better. Oh dear, that really does sound like a Stalinist slogan to motivate the workers!

Initially the vegetable garden comprised three rectangular beds with a wind break  along the drive and in front of the cottage. Over time the height of the fence between the hedge and the vegetable garden has doubled and the width of the hedge increased. After numerous setbacks the serendipitous choice of Olearia traversii has proved a phenomenal success and the original plants are almost 6 feet tall. (It is rumoured that we might be the first crofters on the island to buy a hedge cutter). The vegetable garden is now relatively sheltered, although a stiff gale can still inflict damage and produce a grumpy apprentice gardener.

As the end of the first 5 year plan was growing to a close, I was hoping that, apart from extending the planting of the Olearia hedge along the roadside boundary and dividing the last section of cultivated ground into smaller fenced beds, the end was in sight.  Ever optimistic, but classically deluded.

In September the Head Gardener was to be seen with a tape measure, clipboard, pencil behind the ear and a pensive expression. Finally the new project was revealed. I considered having a fit of the vapours, but as neither a nervous collapse, sullen rebellion nor hysterics would have any effect I went off to find my wheelbarrow and shovel.

The original three large, rectangular beds are now to be split into individual beds separated by gravel paths thus creating an array of 9  beds. There is also a new tall fence between the polytunnel so completing the enclosure of the vegetable growing area.

A change in the weather has reduced our rate of progress, so you will have to wait a while before I reveal part two the new project, particularly as you can no longer peer over the hedge.

Olearia hedge

17 thoughts on “Grand Designs

  1. The hedge looks good and I look forward to the reveal of part two. Your weather challenges certainly but mine into perspective.
    If locusts should appear at least you will have gulls nearby to take care of the problem.

    • We’re really pleased with the hedge and the rate of growth has taken us by surprise. It also grows really easily from hardwood cuttings.
      AS for the weather, I’m sure I’d struggle with your high temperatures and lack of rain, but I do like looking at your wonderful plants.

  2. Looking forward to hearing of the new plans…

    • I think part 2 will come as a surprise all we need is some decent weather so that we can start.

  3. Brilliant! Planning and well just getting on with it. I’m with you on the slow progress side of things, When I took on my allotment I had a rough 3 year plan, which of course got extended to 5 years and now I’m adding another 2 for a “new area” – it’s the way it goes, slowly but surely with the out frantic burst of energy in the midst.

    • Our plans are always subject to “tweaking” and the basic scheme always changes as we go along. Gardens are never finished and I think that is why I garden, always new challenges and new schemes.

  4. Oh Christine – I have got it! You are going to be the first crofters on the island to have a hot tub!! No? Oh, but your propitiously tall and thick hedge would give you some advisable privacy as well as screening out some of the 80mph winds which might otherwise freeze your extremities….

    • Now there’s an idea! I think a sauna might be better, although the birch twigs and snow (for rolling in) might be a problem.

      • You could have an oleander walkway to the sea and have a nice cold dip instead perhaps?

  5. The amount of work you have put into your property absolutely astounds me! It’s incredible. And you reap the rewards of that hard work by having delicious, home grown vegetables to feast on. You got it pretty good 🙂

    • I think all gardeners work hard, but somehow don’t see it as work if they really enjoy it. I’d much rather garden in a gale than go to the gym!

  6. Love your style of writing! I feel your pain, yet giggle at the humor. You are indeed brave to take up home so close to the mighty water! Enjoy the upcoming fireside sips and reads.

    • Thank you, there’s usually a wry smile somewhere. I love living by the sea, even on stormy days!

  7. Oh it is coming along beautifully. I understand about the perpetual 5 year plan though- keeps us young, right?

    • Absolutely, I dread to think what happens when the rolling programme stops

  8. At least when the time comes and your garden is providing everything that you need, you’ll have earned the right to sit by the fire looking through seed catalogues :o)

    • Thank you, but I fear that we are not about to run out of projects in the near future. However, I’ll hang on to my dreams.

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