Pals, lately with a charming, but garden-less, house in a village in the Luberon, now have a house, plus garden, in Leicestershire. An acre! Lucky sods. An acre…. sigh. They are busy folk, and wonder what on earth to do with such space. What a marvellous problem to have!
Well, it’s far, far too much to garden intensely. One of our pals dreams of lupins and delphiniums all doing a Jekyll, without realising perhaps that she gardened eighteen hours a day, and had several energetic gardeners too.
But vast pleasure isn’t much to do with high maintenance. Would that we had the opportunity to plant a rough grass orchard, no pruning of fruit trees (a daft idea if you are not after a commercial yield and show quality fruit). With a mow in late summer, once the drifts of white narcissi, or the cheapskate but so beautiful bluebells, or drifts of fritillaries (so easy from seed), have safely stowed away the substance of their leaves). In three years they could easily have more apples than they could easily store (with with a press, they could make perfectly quaffable wine), more plums than could be eaten, frozen, pickled, chutnied, and for mirabelles, greengages, quinces, pears the same. Depending on their bit of territory, if warm enough, they might even manage some of the new varieties of peach and nectarine bred for short northern seasons. If they could wait another season or two, they could have crops from a nut walk – filberts and hazels, so delicious in a few weeks time, when the nut shells are still pale jade green, and the nut flesh crisp and so fresh-tasting. In a few seasons, the nut trees could be coppiced, giving poles up which to grow beans or sweet peas, or even timber for the fire….
And elsewhere, a piece of new woodland. In general, they’re hard to make work visually in a few seasons. Were that acre mine, I’d go for a single species, say thirty trees, perhaps aspen or the silver-leafed willow, (both easy from cuttings), or native birch (easy from seed). Again, rough grass beneath, with primulas and cowslips, and a scatter of easily naturalised bulbs – perhaps violet blue camassia, even some tulips (surprisingly, posh things like the lily-flowered White Triumphator, and double pink Peachblossom, and scarlet ‘Fusilier’ last well)…
And as for hedges and boundaries… well, what better than sloe and myrobalan, huge clouds of white almond-scented flowers in spring, and gallons of sloe gin all winter, bround together with bramle (there are some new varieties with pale pink and semi-double flowers, and spineless stems), eglantine roses (leaves smell of apple pie in spring, and hips make delicious jelly in autumn). My pals need hardly lift a finger once planting is done.
And, OK, near the house, a few yards of herbaceous border, with, of course, lupins, verbenas, delphinums, asters and the rest. Oh, and a tiny veg patch for a few orange pumkins to remind them of the Luberon