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So here we are then, at the turn of another year; and so I took a look back at what things were like this time last year (one of the many benefits of following the End of Month View meme kindly hosted by Helen at The Patient Gardener).

This may become an annual event: I see that last year, the first time I did this, I was also comparing and contrasting, though on that occasion I was monitoring change over a mere three or four months; this time it’s a whole year’s worth.

I had thought I’d hardly achieved anything during the year – the frustration of competing and always, it seems, more urgent claims from small children, animals, work and the running of a somewhat chaotic household.

But from comparing these photos I discover things have actually, in some bits of the garden at least, changed quite a lot.

They say the longest journeys start with a single step. Perhaps I should just stop beating myself up about how little progress I’ve made towards the dream garden in my head; and start celebrating the fact that I’ve made any progress at all. Because as long as you make just a little progress every day, before you know it you’ve changed your little corner of the world more than you ever thought possible.

And besides, just think what I could achieve by January 2013!

The Vegetable Garden:

This time last year it looked like this…

And now….
Actually I’m rather regretting having taken this picture so far back: the shot I took last year is taken standing just behind the far tree in this picture. I cannot believe that just a year ago I was looking at bare ground here.
In just a single year I have dug over all that scrubby-looking grass and turned it into an incredibly productive vegetable patch that has fed my family almost completely: I have only had to start buying veg from the shops this month for the first time since last March, and that’s only because I didn’t get around to planting my kale out early enough.
The patch of black-polythene-covered veg patch you can see in the distance (the whole of the 2011 picture) is about 80ft of veg garden; the grassy bit in the foreground is the bit I’m going to expand into this year, I hope. I’ve just got a greenhouse to move, then I can start the same old routine of cutting back hedges, putting in rabbit fencing and opening up the ground. Can’t wait.
The Fruit Garden:
In 2011:
 ..and now:
Not a lot of change here, then, apart from a lot more grass (and some optimistic scaffold boards). But there is much planning afoot in the background and I’m just about to start work on this bit too: in fact this week should see me cutting back those hedges and covering the grass with black plastic ahead of a serious bit of fruit cage construction and path layout. If you want to know the details: there’s more on t’other blog.
The Herb Garden:
in 2011:
and now:
This is one of the areas I’ve been working really hard on, though there’s not anything too spectacular to show for it yet: I find when you’re developing gardens that things tend to get a whole lot worse before they start looking better.
This rocky bed is slowly being transformed into a herb garden, and this year it’s been comprehensively cleared. I’ve dug out two out of the three grandma roses planted incongruously and entirely pointlessly in the middle of the equally pointless lawn at the top of the slope: this lawn also has its days numbered, as in April I’m planning on replacing it with chamomile.
The big hairy fuchsia bush in the top picture is long gone, as are about four large stumps (crowbar and fencer’s graft and a lot of sweat) a skip load of Anemone x japonica ‘Honorine Jobert’ (sounds like vandalism but, believe me, this was invasive beyond the call of duty – and besides, I’ve kept one small clump at the far end for digging up and moving somewhere it can be better behaved).
So all in all the whole thing looks a great deal tidier, if rather empty at the moment. But I am stewing up the plant order to end all plant orders this spring as I will be packing this space with every kind of herb you can think of: hundreds of them, in the most wonderful planting fest. It’s going to make my year.
The Pot-Pourri Garden:
in 2011:
and now:
This is another area that has required an awful lot of clearing before I can do anything with it. I’ve still only got around halfway around the circle – around as far as that big bush in the background (it’s a Philadelphus and I am in a dilemma about it: it looks rather lovely in the summer as it’s an ‘Aureus’ with pretty golden foliage, but appearances are deceptive as it’s previously outgrown its welcome at some stage and been hacked down to a stump which has then regrown. It looks very, very ugly at this time of year and I can’t help wanting it out: but it’s so nice in the summer…. ack. Cannot decide.)
This bit was actually one of the nicest areas of the garden last summer as I filled it with annuals – cosmos, nicotiana and marigolds mostly – so it was exuberant with colour. Now it’s filling up with bulbs: I have planted half of my 200 tulips in here, although rather worryingly there’s no sign of them yet and I’m fretting about mouse attack. We’ll find out in a month or two, I suppose….

The Tropical Garden:
in 2011:
and now:
Still feeling a bit of a fraud (and slightly silly) calling this a tropical garden as it looks anything but tropical in January frosts. But though you can’t quite make it out unless you know what you’re looking at, there’s a small loquat tree establishing itself in front of the bank, and a Pawlonia getting its feet down a little further along.
There are also major earthworks going on here: I’ve dug out the border in front of the path, partly so I could plant the other half of my 200 tulip bulbs and partly so I had somewhere to put all the wonderful things I want to grow here this year. I have gingers and yacon and lots and lots of taro root (that’s Colocasia esculenta to you, mate) as well as non-edibles like Geranium maderense and cycads. I’m also going to experiment here with growing large-leaved things that aren’t really tropical but look it: so we’re talking squashes and courgettes and pumpkins and rhubarb. And maybe some Cavolo Nero kale.
Another area where the plans are racing ahead of the actual work, then….
The Hill:
in 2011:
and now:
The one bit of the garden that’s looking, if anything, scruffier than it did last year (though can you see how well the snowdrops have spread? Nothing to do with me, honest guv).
Not so much as a slight shuffle towards the nuttery I hope this will become one day. It’s the far end of the garden, so I reckon will probably be the last to get the treatment. In my defence, though, I have been doing a lot of work on the hedge, or rather the hazels perched precariously on top of the vertiginous bank here (as was I, pruning saw in hand, while hacking away at them):
Just to give you an idea of how high this is, my head reaches up to that first patch of leaves on the right.
The grass has carried on growing on the hill right through autumn into early winter thanks to all that warm weather, and it’s been so wet we haven’t got the mower anywhere near it. So in a sudden flash of inspiration brought on by my dilemma over what to do about my sheep who have run out of grass in the field where they’re currently living, I put the two together and have decided that this is going to become a sheep paddock for the next month or two.
Sheep = mobile lawnmowers = job done. Plus I get well-fed sheep and a lot of natural fertiliser too. I may have to fence off those snowdrops though…