Front garden developments

Block paving
Block paving to replace tarmac and concrete

Tegula paving blocks

1. New driveway

In April 2013, after 28 years, we finally got rid of the tarmac drive and the broken concrete paths at the front of the house, and installed a pedestrian path to the front door. We replaced the tarmac with "tegula" paving blocks, which we had used to replace the tarmac at the rear of the house about 20 years ago. 20 years ago I did all the digging by hand, the breaking up of hardcore with a 2lb lump hammer, and the laying of all the blocks myself. I cut the blocks where required with a bolster chisel. I did hire a plate vibrator to finish off. This time we called in the builders, who dug up the tarmac and concrete with their bobcat digger, before laying the blocks, cutting all the angles with a Stihl saw. It still took a couple of weeks. Some of the old tarmac was recycled into a summerhouse base.

Privet pruning
Severe pruning of the privet hedge

Drastic pruning of the privet hedge

2. Hedge pruning

The front privet hedge had gradually widened over the years, so it was severely cut back on the drive side and the roadside - the first to give more access space on the new drive, the second to allow a small wall to be built in front of it. When this has recovered - and privet does respond well to severe pruning - then the other side of the hedge will be treated similarly. A few inches may be taken off the top as well. All this was done with secatours and loppers - hedge trimmers and shears would not go through the woody stems, nor allow as much care in selecting the correct stems to prune. I suppose a chain saw might work to similar ends.

Block paving
New block paving replaces old tarmac

New paving at the front

3. Front paving

The paving finished, box hedging was planted along all the edges. This will be clipped square and kept to about 12 inches high as it matures. 80 plants were bought bare-rooted from Castle Howard nurseries - much cheaper than buying pot grown plants, and just as easy to establish. The first picture above shows a spiral bush that has been growing for some years now, and you can see another here in the rear planting bed. Box plants were also dotted around within the edging. These will be clipped into spheres, cones and spirals in the years to come.

Privet regrowth
Regeneration from old wood on privet

New buds breaking out

4. Regeneration

Within a couple of weeks new buds were breaking out all along the pruned back branches. This kind of pruning really does reinvigorate the growth, and thicken up a hedge where all the growth had been concentrated at the end of thin twigs. It does need doing at the right time of year - spring-time, just before the sap starts to rise.

Random stone wall
Building a random stone wall

Random stone wall

5. Small stone wall

I put in 6 inch square tanalised posts for the pedestrian access, and 7 inch square for the driveway. 3 foot and 4 foot high respectively. Not sure if we will have a drive gate yet, at nearly 12 foot wide, but it seemed sensible to put in the posts to give us the option, and to provide an end to the wall. Quite a job digging 2 foot deep holes for these - after 2 inches of soil I hit stone, presumably from a previous wall. All dug out and reused in the new wall.

The stone wall is just a couple of feet high and about 15 inches wide. Built of local random stone to reflect the stone in the house. I had considered using lime mortar, again to match the house, but the builder who provided the stone advised cement and I chickened out and followed his advice.

Garth End Cottage
Random stone wall completed. Gates still to do.

Random stone wall and driveway

Garth End Cottage
Random stone wall completed. Gates still to do.

Random stone wall

6. Wall complete. Gates and hedging still to do

Finally the weather and my time coincided and I got the wall finished on a beautiful sunny autumn Thursday. Next is the gates, and then next year hard pruning of the rear of the privet hedge, letting the front grow out again to rest on top of the wall.

 

Garth End Cottage
Diamond field gates installed. January 2014

Diamond bar field gates

7. Gates installed

A large field gate with diamond bracing, and a smaller version for the pedestrian access, have now been installed by Duncombe Sawmill of Helmsley. This is the first time we have had a front gate in the 28 years we have been here, but it seemed the right thing to do to finish off the front. One step left - severe pruning of the rear of the privet hedge, narrowing it down but also encouraging it to grow forwards and overhang the low wall. And then it should just be clipping and general maintenance. Actually there is another job to do - covering the soil with pebbles or gravel to set off the box topiary.

 

 

Garth End Cottage
Scottish pebbles laid

Scottish pebbles wet

Garth End Cottage
Scottish pebbles laid

Scottish pebbles dry

8. Scottish Pebbles laid

Two tons of Scottish pebbles arrived, one ton for the front garded, the other for the bed around the bird bath at the rear. These pebbles are egg-sized and smoothly rounded, very colourful when wet, though a little too white at the moment when dry. Hopefully they will mature as the fine dust washes off them. The box will take a couple of years to extablish into a tightly clipped border and box spheres.

Garth End Cottage
Scottish pebbles laid

Box and privet

Garth End Cottage
Scottish pebbles laid

Box and privet

9. Box shaping June 2015

The new planting is beginning to thicken out and take a shape, though there is still a couple of years to go before they can take a well defined shape, and a few years more before the balls reach the kind of size they are intended to be. Virtually all the box was clipped with a pair of hand shears this year - like sheep shears, but made for gardening. Slow work but very satisfying, allowing more control of the shape than with ordinary hand shears, and certainly more than with the electric hedgetrimmer used on the privet. The privet has, as usual, completely regenerated now with none of the bare stems pictured above now showing.

The spiral balls in the middle of each bed were planted around 10-12 years ago.