Saturday, September 18, 2010

The garden

To complement the previous posting, here are a few shots of the garden as a whole. You may want to compare these with the photos taken last year (see Progress Report 23 - Then and Now) which shows how the garden has progressed since the beginnings of the railway.

I've tried to achieve a natural look in the garden, choosing plants which are appropriate for the railway with small leaves and an appropriate shape - heathers, dwarf conifers, hebes, a few alpines and a mix of Mind you own Business and Corisican mint for ground-cover. The back garden faces North and for much of the year is in the shade of the house. Also, the subsoil is clay and as I had to dig down in places to subsoil layer to landscape the garden, some plants struggle to survive. I tend to buy (or am given) plants and grow them on the Darwinian principle - the fittest (ie best fitted for the environment) survive. I am not a confident gardener and maybe some of the plants and shrubs now need to be removed and replaced as they are beginning to dominate. However, in the summer when the sun shines it is quite a pleasant and tranquil retreat. A friend commented that he felt it was a garden with a railway rather than the alternative, which I took to be a compliment.

In this photo, Beeston Market Station is to the left, looking along the laurel hedge (which was trimmed to accommodate the extension). The hedge was established over 25 years ago when a belt of large trees overhung the garden and very little else would grow there. One day I might consider replacing it with something more in keeping with the railway such as box or lonicera, which can be trimmed to represent the landscape. When the line is in operation the lurid green plastic tarp is removed (this corner gets very little sun and so the track tends to accumulate a slimy gunge of rotting leaves if left uncovered), and the swing bridge is swung out across the sheds in the background.
Looking back the opposite way, with Beeston Market Station in the distance and the Copper Mine in the middle distance. The new veg raised beds are on the left as is the greenhouse which can just be seen behind the runner bean plants.
From the same position, turning to the left, looking across the back garden, Peckforton Station is in the middle distance, Bulkeley Station is on the left, behind the clump of silver foliage (Alyssum?). This is heavily pruned each autumn but as you can see it bounces back with enthusiasm.

A closer view of the patio around which the railway runs, with Peckforton Station to the right. The silver foliage here is lavender. I experimented with different types of lavender, hoping that one of the dwarf varieties would take a hold - unfortunately the only one which took is a vigorous woody stemmed vareity which buries the station in the summer. Again, this is pruned back in the winter.Between the two conifers is a dwarf rhodedendron. I now have a couple of these around the garden and am impressed. They are very slow growing and have delicate bell shaped flowers. The leaves and structure of the plants are highly appropriate for garden railways.The conservatory doubles as a workshop which I find extermely handy during operating sessions. Inevitably I have to carry out a few running repairs, tweaking couplings, realigning wheels, etc..

Swinging round to the left, a view of the end of the garden. Beeston Castle Station is just behind the conifer in to the right of the clothes airer. The elaborate looking bird feeding station was necessary to foil the local squirrels which used to demolish any feeders which I put up in the trees. The domed 'squirrel baffle' certainly lives up to its name. The feeders are constantly visited by the local birdlife to the extent the feeders need replenishing every two to three days. Among the regular vistors are goldfinches, tree creepers and from time to time a lesser spotted woodpecker. The bed on the left is problematical. During the summer it is in full sun and the roots from the hedge behind draw the moisture from the soil very quickly. I have tried various apline plants assuming they would thrive in this environment but the only ones which have survived have been campanula and a type of house leek (sempervivum). I've coaxed a couple of heathers but they are somewhat gangly specimens. I may try digging this the whole bed out and laying down some manure to see if that improves water retention.

A closer look inside the workshop which occasionally doubles as a conservatory - and this is after I have tidied it up! All I can say is my wife is very tolerant. Although it tends to get overly hot in the summer and cold in the winter, I can open the doors or put on a heater and quite happily whittle away and make a mess without upsetting the whole house. The workbench was a dressing table chucked out by my daughter and the spray booth (on the left) is a cardboard box with the top and one side removed. It's positioned by the door so the fumes can escape. When I've finished spraying, it folds up and tucks in behind the bench. I'd love to have a purpose made workshop, but there isn't really anywhere it can go.


Tim Lockley said...

Box and lonicera are good "tools" for lineside planting and I've made use of both. Each has qualities which are both advantage and disadvantage, depending on how you look at it.

Box I found to be slightly more delicate, and of variable quality. One hedge I placed as a viewblocker to separate 2 stations 6' apart in the garden and 2.5 miles apart on the map illustrated this beautifully. I needed nine plants, but the DIY shed only had six so I went to a more upmarket garden centre for the last 3. The 3 survived, but four out of the six died and had to be replaced. Guess where I went for the replacements. Box is also very slow growing, which means it takes quite a while to reach a useful size (if it lives), but once there only needs a gentle shave once or twice a season.

Lonicera's growth habits are the other extreme, as after a year or two to become properly established it takes off like a rocket. This is good, in that it takes shape and fills space quickly, but bad in that it needs a lot more frequent and aggressive pruning. Drooping branches will even root. I've taken advantage of this to create a couple of "green tunnels" which do look very nice, but do need looking after. Lying horizontally on the grass reaching awkwardly with the secateurs can be awkward, but it is worth it for the stunning visual effect.

Ge Rik said...

Lonicera seems bullet proof. Not only is it dead easy to propagate, it also seems to propagate itselt. I've now got a few 'trees' which are self seeded in places where I wouldn't have thought of planting - and if I had, they probably wouldn't have taken. I'm getting to the stage where I'm going to have to start thinning out some areas. I've never really liked the laurel hedge where the Copper Mine and Beeston Market are located but, when I laid out the garden, it was the only thing which would grow under the overhanging trees. The council have now taken down all the overhanging trees (after one blew down in a storm) and so I'm now beginning the process of replacing the laurel with lonicera - which has leaves which will be more in keeping with the railway and is much easier to sculpt into 'landscape'.