Over the last four years we have worked on our land and transformed it from a bare field full of creeping buttercups to the productive and sustainable garden it is today. Although we have added decorative elements to many parts of it most of the planting has been put in to serve a practical purpose. Fruit trees, berry bushes and many perennial and annual food crops jostle for space with plants that support wildlife, nitrogen fixers, plants for weaving and supports and many medicinal and culinary herbs.
We have now reached the last few places in the garden for planting, with the slope next to our conservatory being one. We have kept all our Japanese acers in pots for this area, some of them since before we moved in and it has been very rewarding to finally plant them and create a mainly decorative and contemplative space to enjoy.
One thing we came to realise soon after moving in is that wherever you dig a hole in our garden, you will find a stone, or five or ten. Sometimes they are huge and need the aid of a metal bar to pry them from their places where they have rested for thousands of years. More often they are small and they come in many different colours and shapes. All over the garden we ended up with piles of rocks and stones and now we wanted to put the remaining ones to use. In front of our conservatory we have created a flat area, with winding stone paths and quite a few large rocks acting as planting ground for our favourite small trees. Many of them will remain small as they are planted in a surround of stones, almost like a pot that will contain their roots.
Further up the slope we have built stone walls and terraces for planting more trees and shrubs, along with some ferns and flowers.
We built up the terraces with lots of soil and well rotted manure and put down a permeable weed suppressing membrane as a cover. We have not done this in any other part of the garden, but because we wish for the stones to be in contrast with the trees here, we needed something to stop all the other plants growing around them. There will of course be some plants germinating from seeds, but they will be much easier to remove than the couchgrass, bindweed, docks and nettles that would otherwise start to grow.
For each tree we cut an X in the membrane and folded in the flaps. We dug a hole in the soil underneath and planted our small trees, adding some compost to fill in any gaps. Around the trees we built a landscape with boulders, rocks, and smaller stones. We planted mainly Japanese acers, but also oak, beech, larch, pine, hawthorn, red oak and horse chestnut. Some cultivars have very dissected leaves and many of them have foliage that changes colour throughout the growing season. We will write about them in more detail at a later date.
We are by no means finished, but we are hoping the new stone garden will look beautiful for our open day for Amnesty, that takes place in a couple of weeks. We hope you can come and see it for yourself, along with the rest of the garden. Read more about it here.