Saturday 30 June 2012

My Four Gardens

I don’t own all four gardens, I’m just responsible for their creation and maintenance.

You may know about Bolton Percy churchyard, which has had a lot of media coverage over previous years. Anna Pavord wrote a beautiful article that describes the churchyard much more eloquently than I ever could. Please read it here.

Fifteen years ago, I took on another cemetery in Worsbrough Village near Barnsley.

Three views of Worsbrough Cemetery

There is also an acre of land in Seaton Ross, dubbed  ‘the village plot’ and my services were ‘volunteered’ six years ago to eliminate the healthiest ground elder you can imagine! I have looked after it ever since.

The Seaton Ross Village Plot

The feature common to all these gardens is that, with the use of glyphosate weedkiller and by repeated spraying, I eliminated all perennial weeds before doing any serious planting. Another day I will explain the advantages of not digging such areas, but cannot resist remarking that not digging is a very good idea in a cemetery!

I will concentrate today on Boundary Cottage. Brenda and I have lived here for more than ten years. The garden was originally a forest of Leyland cypress, overgrown hedges and 20ft sycamores.

Boundary Cottage with no boundaries!

The garden was never designed and the features were gradually introduced as we made it up as we went along.

You will see it is the opposite of the enclosed small spaces that are much beloved of garden designers, and there are views across the garden from every aspect. Boundary Cottage has no boundaries! There are inevitably the fashionable ‘nice surprises’ as you walk round. The shapes of the borders have simple outlines and no wavy margins to make you seasick.

The boggy area at the bottom of Boundary Cottage

The key aspect of how I manage my gardens is paying close attention to weed control. ‘Take care of the weeds and the plants look after themselves’ is my motto.  Keep on top by tackling the weeds little and often. It is easy that way because if you kill the weeds while they are still small, they do not need to be removed.

I rely greatly on selective spraying with glyphosate, using my knapsack sprayer, especially so at Worsbrough and Bolton Percy.  Plant Health Warning! Do not try this at home folks, unless you are already expert with a spray nozzle! I have learnt how to use glyphosate the hard way. In my own garden I spray, hoe and hand-weed. (Non-diggers tend to hoe very shallowly and only hoe the weeds, undercutting them with minimum soil disturbance.)

I like gravel, it looks good and the plants love it. As a mulch, it conserves water which filters into the soil even after light rain. Hardly relevant this year!  I liken gravel to a one-way water valve into the soil. Organic mulches, although hugely beneficial, tend to intercept light rain. I used to mischievously suggest to students that the main benefit of mulches is that they stopped the gardener from ruining his soil!


  1. So, are you going to let us all know how you learned 'the hard way' about glyphosate? :-)

  2. hello anon I'm not sure whether this is a challenge or a question-but I am grateful for it.
    The point about glyphosate is that it is not selective. It does not distinguish between a plant and a weed. It becomes selective by the way you use it- mainly in accuracy in how you spray it or the timing in the garden year when you use it eg bulbs might have died down and the ground can safely be sprayed. I will be attempting to filter out tips during the life of this blog.

  3. A bit of both really - 'learning the hard way' usually means an amusing anecdote!

  4. thanks for sticking with me. Any anecdotes would be about a long string of disasters.
    I find if you have sprayed, even a yellow leaf brings criticism. Invisible damage like killing dormant plants while digging borders brings no comment.
    I am hoping to persuade some of the gardening clubs I lecture to accept 'A lifetime of horticultural disasters' as my next lecture


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