The beginnings of the zigzags are emerging at the far end: that’s my first asparagus bed on the left there, planted this spring
We have been here three seasons now: and what better time to start recording the garden that’s emerging slowly, painfully, from 30 years’ worth of indifference.
It is a humbling thing to create a garden. You come in with all kinds of grand ideas: you try to impose your own character on the soil but it turns around and says, no, this is me, I am this way and you cannot change my nature.
This garden has been far wilder than any I have made before. Nature insists on being taken account of: the great, woolly ancient Somerset hedgerows that surround us, for example, defining the space, and though we can cut them back to their bounds they are a physical, boisterous, living presence we can’t ignore.
And then there’s the growth: the exuberant, fecund, joyous speed with which greenery thrusts from the ground into the kind, West Country air. That’s great from a gardener’s point of view: I have never grown such lush, huge, wonderful plants. And exhausting, too: it includes hogweed above your head, bindweed sprinting madly up flower stems, cow parsley romping through borders and nettles thick as forests.
The previous owners dealt with the rampancy by mowing it within an inch of its life. They did little other gardening, in fact: it probably took all their time to get round the place with hedgetrimmers and ride-ons.
The veg plot was a long, thin lawn between looming hedges when we moved in. Very neat, very pleasant, very dull. There were four fruit trees: the remains, I think, of an orchard but sadly clogged with lichen and moss, the air still and heavy inside the bulging, overgrown hedges that left a narrow strip just 8ft wide down the middle.
At the near end it’s more chaotic but I laid out the zigzags with canes and string last winter. I love growing in big triangles: so much more creative than four-by-ten beds.
I change my mind more about where I grow my vegetables than anywhere else in the garden, probably because this is the beating heart of the place where I spend most of my time: it’s no coincidence that this is the first part of the garden I tackled.
So this bit has undergone a few reincarnations since its hedge-choked early days: at first, fresh from my allotment, I laid out the beds in a practical line of sensible, not-too-wide raised beds, the path down the right-hand side, smaller paths between each bed.
But I got so bored: sooo bored of looking at those straight lines, and though I tried to shoehorn a little imagination in there – frothy ‘Salad Bowl’ lettuces at the feet of my Telephone peas, that kind of thing – it wasn’t the inspiring space I wanted it to be.
Cue triangles: big ones, hugely impractical, possibly verging on the perverse, but ah! so beautiful. I weave peas among the feet of my beans, and march lettuces along the edges; I froth nasturtiums over the boards and draw zigzags in beetroot leaves. Every time I go in here my soul sings and I get so excited about what becomes possible when you throw out the rulebooks and follow your heart.
Here’s what it looked like in 2010 when we moved in: