|Reservoir of dreams|
In September 2018 we decided to turn our redundant reservoir (the area within the yellow rectangle in the photo below) into an exhibition garden - we will post progress here as the project unfolds...
This photo, taken during the summer 2017, clearly shows just how overgrown the reservoir was, with willow and bramble, among other invasive plant life. It has been home to a variety of wildlife, some of which we wish to continue to support. Others need to move out, such as foxes, badgers and muntjac deer.
The reservoir was dug into the ground back in the early 1980s and is far deeper than it first appears from the outside. It's only when you climb the bank do you see the pool of water at the bottom, which sits below ground level unless we have a significant amount of rain.
We want to keep some water in the bottom to help with the general moisture level but will probably build up the soil around a central channel so that we can put in a raised deck walkway, which will enter and emerge from the banks of the reservoir to allow better access to the garden.
We will also create stepped walkways up and down the banks to facilitate maintenance as well as allow visitors to get in among the planting to experience it fully.
Views from the top before work gets underway:
Replicating a natural environment
Hosta are woodland plants, naturally found growing on the lower
slopes of mountains where they form the bottom layer of vegetation.
Above them grow small trees, such as acers, so our plan is to introduce a canopy of trees to provide shade and create structure, consisting largely of varieties you would find them growing under in the wild.
It is very exciting to plan this as a giant floral marquee display after years of trying to simulate the effect in limited space. A lot of imagination is required at this stage.
A couple of months into clearance and a lot has been done. This is a panoranic shot of the south-east corner of the reservoir, nearest to the packing shed, before we began the clearing process:
This the view at the end of November 2018:
Most of what is left is growing from within the reservoir and consists largely of willow. A lot of this will need to be removed and replacement trees planted to create a shady canopy over time.
The photos below: standing on the north west corner of the reservoir bank looking north, north east along the line of poplars, then north east. The far right hand photo is looking south-west from the same spot, towards Mickfield Church (if you could see it hiding behind the trees).
January 2019: Draft layout plan
The drawing below shows the anticipated network of pathways, which will be mainly elevated within the basin of the reservoir and then shingle/sleeper combinations for when the paths rise out of the reservoir. We are planning for the majority of the walkways to be accessible by wheelchair but there will be sections where that would be impossible, due to the steep slopes. However, all the key elements of the garden should be viewable on the level.
The dotted brown line denotes the top of the reservoir banks and there will be pathways along much of the top.
The poplar trees you can see in the aerial photo at the head of the page, which form our west-facing boundary, line the left hand side of the drawing:
You can see we plan to have a number of specific types of environment among the general scheme, including rocky slopes, a darker, very shady area with ferns and jungly vegetation and a stumpery.
We want to retain a water channel in the basin of the reservoir, which is the main reason the pathways will need to be elevated. We want this water channel to rise and fall according to the weather as it wil provide a valuable habit for wildlife whilst serving the needs of the garden.
At this early stage we cannot predict how the environments will work or how different micro-climates will become established over time, but that is one of the joys of building a new garden.
June 2020: progress to date
Much of the clearance work Robin and Mel undertook at the end of 2018 was not evident by the middle of 2019. Robin's failing health meant he was unable to effectively maintain the area and there wasn't enough time for us to help him with the work. As a result we essentially needed to start over in the spring of 2020. David was unable to operate his business during the Coronavirus lockdown, which left him free to begin the work afresh and what a difference he has made. We hit a couple of milestones during June when he cleared the far north-west corner and gained access to the water in the foot of the reservoir.
He also managed to clear the entire top bank all the way round the reservoir enabling us to be able to walk a complete circuit.
You can see the clearance he has achieved as you drive into the village!
Our next job is to take down some of the trees, which have rooted inside the reservoir banks. We need to do this before we can get in the heavy equipment to start the sculpting of the banks and creating a level access. This work will need to wait until towards the end of the season, so we will keep you posted...
This element of the nursery garden
is located in the south field, near to the collection tunnels.
It is like a history of the nursery in tyres, all with a story to tell but now recycled into a hosta bed. It is an experiment to see if the tyres help isolate the plants from pests and provide a good environment in which to grow hosta, and so far it is working well:
We have recently been able to label the majority of the plants used in the rockery with some fabulously sturdy and attarctive labels from our local Plant Heritage Group.
The red-stemmed variety in the photo above is H. 'Celtic Uplands'.
More to follow as we are able to spend more time landscaping the nursery without the demands of a show season.