Ground Force(ish)

A while ago, to my surprise my younger son expressed an interest in "doing something" to the garden in his student rented house in Bath. He described the garden as "Pretty small; there is raised bit, a very cracked path which we could put plants in, lots of shrubs I think, so not much room to put anything". We took a walk round our garden and I wrote a long list of plants that Richard liked, these were mainly architectural with big leaves or small plants like houseleeks. I vetoed large numbers of suggestions as their main period of interest was late June - September (student holiday time) I then did the usual of digging up some bits, putting them in pots and completely ignoring them!

A few weeks later on arrival complete with plants, tools and a couple of bags of homemade compost, I saw dandelions as you have never seen them, well it must be fertile to support them; vast quantities of a narrow leaved plant, not iris, not crocosmia or red hot poker, nothing could be that good, most of that had to go, a cornus with suckers coming up everywhere and a large cotoneaster horizontalis - the only decent plant in the garden - (can't understand why they all said - "well that needs pruning"). The house is a typical Victorian terrace with small open sunny gardens separated by low walls and a path at the end of the garden dividing it from the next terrace, in one direction this was a dumping ground and in the other direction a path to the road. To give you an idea of the level of mess,we found a supermarket trolley completely hidden under nettles and brambles.

Well, to continue, several hours later and about 20 bags of rubbish later (including 3 bags of dandelion roots) we had an area to create a garden in, Richard had acquired a plastic pond liner and we managed to salvage enough stones from the back path to make a pretty feature, each of the students bought a paving slab to act as a seat on the raised garden. I spoke to one of the neighbours who was watering and discovered that the soil in the area was very alkaline, one or two of the plants would have to come home.

One of the lads helping me with the planting, came from Palma, Spain and was totally bemused by the whole procedure, he admitted he couldn't see the difference between any of the plants, they were just green to him. But he was willing and we devised a routine where I dug the hole and put the plant by it, he then added some compost and planted the plant.

On the second day, we had a ceremony when we placed 3 tiny fish from home in the pond , they will probably feed the local cats but never mind.

So from dump to garden in 2 days, a bit like Ground Force except it didn't rain and we didn't spend any money. I do feel that Ground Force has had a lot of criticism from the gardening community but they do produce presentable gardens in a very short time and it isn't that easy.

The best part for me was the enthusiastic reaction of the neighbours, "we have never had any students doing anything in the garden before" (well mainly student's mum) and also the slightly embarrassed looks as we unearthed some of their rubbish. I hope they will use the garden even if only to hang out the washing and the occasional barbecue. They have already received gifts of strawberry plants and an indoor scented geranium and the threat of Mum coming occasionally may spur them on.
Pauline Little

NGS open days in 2021:

Sunday February 21st (11.00am-3.00pm) - Hot Soup may be available (hopefully!)
Monday May 31st (12.00pm-5.00pm)

Sunday July 11th (12.00pm-5.00pm)

Thursday September 9th (12.00pm-5.00pm) - A midweek opening

Delicious home-made cakes with tea or coffee available.

Entrance £4 children free, all takings (entry, teas and plants) to the NGS.

We are also open for the NGS by arrangement, (for groups of 10 or more - adm £7 incl home-made teas and guided tour)

Thank you for your visit

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