Deck the halls

In the week running up to Christmas, when most were decking the halls with boughs of holly… we were decking.

Seating area

Seating area

When I first moved to Chook cottage, my friend helped me build a seating area at the bottom of the garden, as this was a perfect place to soak up the very last rays of sun for the day. Last year, many an afternoon was spent out in the garden, lounging, listening to music, chilling out and enjoying the odd glass of something cold and crisp. It became apparent that although the seating area was lovely and quaint… it was just a tad too small – and they say that size doesn’t matter 😉

So we decided to replace it with a more robust chill out area, which would be great for hosting barbecues and having friends over. So, last weekend we set to work dismantling the old seating area, and I have to say, we worked like troopers. I was chief gravel shoveller, and lovely man was chief gravel redistributor. Not one piece of the old area went to waste… the slabs will be relaid into a small entrance path, and the gravel smartened up the side entrance a treat.

Garden cleared

Garden cleared.

I’ve been busily digging up plants to save and replant in the spring – current count I have about 45!

Base for decking laid

Base for decking laid

This then left the area nice and free for our chap to come and work his magic. Just two days later, and what a transformation. Yes, the garden looks grotty at this time of year, but that’s par for the course.

 

Hang on in, and you watch how lovely this will look later in the year when everything comes back to life!

The finished decking

The finished decking

Happy with that 🙂

So, another job out of the way, and it’s officially time to hang up my trusty trowel until the New Year. Have a fabulous Christmas, everyone 🙂

Operation Autumn

We’ve decided to take on another garden project – and you all know how we love a good project!

At the bottom of the garden is a little seating area… perfect for the last rays of the sun, and planted all around with an assortment of perennials. This little area is lovely, but really needs to be a tad bigger. This year, weekends in the garden have mostly consisted of lounging, laughing, sunbathing and  reading the papers – all to the backdrop of a rather nice glass or two of something yummy. The simple fact is, the little seating area is not quite big enough, so we’re going large. We’re going decking. We’re going now!

Our ‘man who can’ came along, measured up and produced the quote, which we are quite happy with. Only thing is, the area where the new decking will be placed is still chock a block with plants. So this weekend, while my lovely man whizzed up and down with the mower, I set to work in digging some out. Happily it’s the right time of year to move and divide plants, and If I’m careful enough, they should survive quite nicely in pots, to be replanted in the spring.

Still plenty of colour in the garden

Still plenty of colour in the garden

Amazingly, when I moved to Chook Cottage a couple of years back, there wasn’t a single plant in the garden… and now I’m at the point of splitting and dividing them! With not a moment to lose, I shot off down the garden with my trusty spade and trowel, plus an assortment of pots, and set to work. Any plants with a good clump could be divided, just by gently teasing the clump apart – making sure that each new clump had a decent rooot system still. These were duly potted up and labelled. In no time at all, from just one tiny bit of garden, I’d amassed 23 new plants. Yes… 23 – and I haven’t even touched the area yet!

Splitting and dividing plants

Splitting and dividing plants

By spring, I will have more than enough plants to fill the garden around the new decking – plus I’ll be able to make a feature of my tiny front garden. Roll on spring…. gotta love a project!

Red mystery plant

Red mystery plant

I’m not actually sure what this little mystery plant is, but I’m on a mission to save it for next year… it’s been absolutely gorgeous for a good few months now!

Decking – part 4

Once all the planks were laid, it was finally time to fix them to the base. LFC (lovely fit chap) and I soon swung into action, measuring, sawing, drilling pilot holes and screwing the sections together. I have to say when we get onto a job, we are like an absolute MACHINE!

After a couple of hours working in the blazing sun, the progress was amazing – the thing was taking shape before our very eyes. By decking on the three levels of the old wonky patio, we’d created a whole new area for seating, which was previously sloping concrete.

With two areas complete, I whizzed off to get some wood stain and happily set to work. The stain went on like a dream, and the final product is about to be unveiled. When we lifted the decking from LFC’s house, two panels also came along. Wanting to waste nothing, I racked my brains on where we could use them. Then it came to me – at the entrance! They would perfectly frame the area, and make the whole thing feel a bit continental. The pics below are what it would look like with and without the panels – We think it looks fab with them, but we’re open to ideas 🙂

Decking – part 2

As I mentioned before, my chap is having his garden decking redone, and the plan is to upcycle this to my house. Last weekend was spent lathering up a sweat, lifting his wood up to make space for his workmen. Said wood is currently stacked in the garden ready to sort and ship across to Chook Cottage. It’s all very exciting…

Decking base down

I can think of worse views…

With the work over there taking care of itself, this weekend we decided to hit my base. No – that’s not some kind of ‘hip DJ speak’… it’s literally to hit the base of the decking.

The chop saw came out and in no time at all, he is pacing the area, measuring up, chopping lengths and laying the base. The boy moves like a demon once he has a plan afoot! My task was to drill primer holes for the brackets at each angle joint, and we whizzed along like a dream team. In no time at all the base was down and just needed to be leveled all round.

Leveling the base involved packing bits of wood underneath the gaps to make a tight fit, so the whole thing doesn’t wobble around when you walk on it. Thinking I was being helpful (and slightly manly) I whizzed over to the chop saw to fashion some wedges to pop underneath. There I was, merrily sawing away, when disaster almost struck…

Chop saw

The killer chop saw

Evidently I was being a tad over ambitious with the size of the wedges, which were getting smaller with each cut. The last one was evidently too small to handle and the saw flicked the wood backwards, trapping my finger momentarily against the saw guide. Now this was a split second of my life… but it hurt like a bugger. And woke me up to the fact that the chop saw was indeed a mighty tool that could do some damage… and hence I kept my distance from it for the rest of the day. Note to self: Lumberjack: not a future career option.

Apart from that, the rest of the afternoon went swimmingly, and the base is now complete and level, and ready for the wood to be laid down. Now it’s taking shape, I think it’s going to look brilliant when it’s finished.

Blooms in July

This blog post needs little in the way of words… the pictures should speak for themselves 🙂

Frilly poppy

Frilly poppy

The little patio

The little patio

Poppy

Poppy

Sweet peas

Sweet peas

A lovely place to chink glasses on a summer's eve

A lovely place to chink glasses on a summer’s eve

DSC_4304

I don’t know the name of this one, but it’s beautiful

All change at Chook Cottage

Well, well, well – we’ve had a busy old time of it, here at Chook Cottage. So much so, there’s been barely time to put pen to paper, or indeed, fingers to keyboard…

The first big change is that we should purely be called ‘Cottage’ from now. The chooks are no more. Looking out on the garden a week or so back, I decided to re-home Liza and Judy, the faithful old chickens. The garden isn’t ideal for them to roam free, and they tend to trash any areas they are on rather rapidly, so I put a few feelers out and they’ve now gone off to a lovely new place with lots more chickens for company. The patch they were on would also make an ideal little vegetable plot: lovely and fertile, and close to the house. I’d originally planned to grow a few vegetables in amongst the borders, but this has failed dismally. The flower seeds planted at the beginning of the season have literally burst into life, and hence tended to smother anything in their path.

On the upside though, all the new flowers and foliage appear to have attracted insects into the garden, so we now have a thriving population of bees and ladybirds. The ladybirds are keeping the greenfly at bay, so I’m delighted to say that it’s a win, win all round.

The next change is that the little patio at the end of the garden now has seating, so we can enjoy the last rays of the sun. The first plan was to put a little bistro set on there, but I figured if you moved your chair back and fell off the edge, it could all end in disaster. So I plumped for a sturdier option: a wooden love seat – two chairs with a table attached between. This was ordered online and arrived the very next day, so without further ado I whizzed off down the garden to assemble it. After a couple of hours wrestling with numerous bits of wood, random screws and allen keys, it’s now in situ and we’re looking forward to many summer evenings out there.

I’ve also decided to install an arch at the top of the garden to frame the entrance, which should be delivered any time soon.

With the new design in mind, this weekend was spent humping slabs about and defining the borders ready for the new arch and vegetable patch. After a sweaty old afternoon digging and raking the area, a quick rummage in my seed collection produced several varieties of carrots and beetroot, some mixed salad leaves, radish, fennel and celeriac. I’ve never eaten celeriac in my life, but if they do grow, I’m sure I’ll find a good use for them.

So now, with the hard work over, it’s time to sit back and watch the fruits of my labour. Preferably with a glass of something yummy. The only big dilemma is which patio do I sit upon?

Garden patio with love seat

Garden patio with love seat

Rose arches

Now the lawn has been sown and I’m waiting for my cottage-garden seeds to germinate, it was time to turn my attention to elsewhere in the garden. The borders are a bit of a no-go area at the moment – I don’t want to be pulling out any emerging flower seedlings by accident, so I’m staying well away until it’s apparent what pops up.

Last year a friend and I created a little patio area at the end of the garden, where the last of the sun’s rays shone each evening. It was to be the ideal spot to relax of an evening, but at the moment it looks a bit out on a limb. I wanted to create some height around the area, without closing it off completely – so I pitched for some garden arches along the bottom edges. There should prove ideal for some ross to scramble over, providing a semi-screen, with the added bonus of some gorgeous flowers and scents.

Off I trotted into town, where the shops are increasing their garden ranges by the day it seems, and purchased two cheap metal arches. Assembling them quickly, they were soon in place at the end of the patio. Now for plants. I’d bought some bar rooted roses a week or so back, and I was itching to get these into the ground. I’d plumped for old-fashioned varieties to match the emerging theme, and the roses of choice were ‘Albertine’ a rambling variety, and two climbers: ‘Clementine’ and ‘Paul’s Scarlet’.

Bare rooted plants are much less expensive than plants for sale in pots, but they do need a little extra tender loving care. First you need to carefully remove any packaging they arrive in, and then give the roots a really good soak in a bucket of water. The hole you dig should be big enough to spread the roots around in, and the soil should be replaced firmly, to help the plants get a hold and stop them rocking around. That all done, give them a jolly good water in, re-firm the soil, and they should soon romp away. I’m happy to report that my plants have begun to show signs of life after only a week in the ground.

With any further gardening in the borders on hold for the moment, I thought I’d give the shed a quick slash of colour. The fence outside the back door is painted a lovely sage green, so off I popped to the hardware store to get the same for the shed. A most enjoyable afternoon was spent painting, and although it will need another coat (why is there always another job?), I’m happy with the result.

Little by little my patch of garden is beginning to take shape, and I have to say, it’s all rather exciting.

Rose arches

Rose arches

Project patio

Now that the greenhouse has gone to pastures new, the space I’d earmarked for it stood barren, neglected and bare.

A rootle around the garden soon produced an odd assortment of reddish-coloured slabs, so I thought, “Aha! I’ll build myself a patio”. It made perfect sense. The area gets the last bit of sun in the garden, and already I was imagining myself sitting upon it, floaty dress and floppy hat at the ready; trashy novel in one hand, chilled white wine in the other.

With that image in mind, I weeded the area, then levelled it off the best I could and chucked the slabs down in a rough diamond shape. “Sorted”. I thought, as I stood back to admire my handiwork. All it needs now is something to sit on, and Bob’s your uncle. I proudly shared my newly acquired slab laying skills to all my friends on Facebook, and one of them replied back, “Err… it’s a bit wonky”.

slabs chucked down on the ground

The wonky patio

“A bit wonky?”  I countered. “No, I think the word you’re looking for is ‘rustic’”

Standing firm, the reply came back “I’ll help you level it”. He continued, “I’ll have a think, and bring some stuff round at the weekend”.

The weekend came, and the stuff duly arrived, namely four thick planks of wood, weed suppressing membrane, an assortment of tools and numerous bags of pea shingle. He’d obviously had a think, and meant business.

The first task was to fetch up my wonky assortment of slabs, then level the area properly. We then sawed the planks into six foot lengths and I happily screwed them together with my woman-drill to form a square frame. After digging the same shape in the garden, the frame plopped in, and we performed a bit of last minute levelling off.

Patio frame

Patio frame

Next we lined the frame with the membrane and put a good layer of pea shingle inside. The slabs were then put on top, and spaced out so it looked like we’d actually planned it out like a dream. Another layer of pea shingle went over the top and I merrily set to work sweeping this into the gaps.

A good watering over the top cleaned it off nicely, and brought out the colours of the shingle beautifully. Standing back to admire our afternoon’s work , I had to say that it did look remarkably good. And I grudgingly had to admit to myself that, yes, it did look more inviting than my assortment of ‘slabs chucked on soil’ arrangement.

I’ve since planted an assortment of cottage garden plants around the back, including delphiniums, lupins and poppies, which should add a bit of height and look great when they all fill out.

So, for little cost, a bit of effort and a lot of sweat and toil in the blazing sun, I have myself a lovely little area to soak up the last rays and enjoy a glass of something yummy.

The finished patio

The finished patio