Alex James: So how does my garden grow? Badly

Rural Notebook
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Poking around behind the garden wall with Daphne. Daphne knows more about gardens than anybody I’ve ever met. Gardens take a lot of understanding, too. There came a point recently when it dawned on me that, after five years of making mistakes, I pretty much know how buildings work. Buildings are quite simple, but gardens are really complex by comparison. They’re alive for starters. I’ve already made some big mistakes in the garden and I have only just started, but it is probably the only way to learn. People say swimming pools are the worst, but I must say gardens are pretty exasperating.

Shortly after we moved in we took advice from a garden designer to plant a belt of trees behind the garden wall. A tree expert came and planted thousands of the things. I had no idea how trees worked at that time, and both people seemed to be giving good advice. It is now apparent that the trees were planted too close together and too close to the wall. It couldn’t have been done more wrongly, and by two people who came highly recommended. Asking one gardener to comment on another is a bit like asking one band what they think of another: if they don’t know each other, they tend to be quite rude about them.

I was about to scream at my own stupidity when it occurred to me that I was looking at a row of established oaks that the previous owner had planted. They were also far too close to the wall. Same mistake. For that matter, next to the tiny goldfish pond is a mature giant sequoia, or Wellingtonia, that dwarfs the house and is legacy of the owner before that. Even bigger mistake. Some solace in the stupidity of others.

Under the radar

Went out to buy chickens on Sunday. We were all quite excited. Couldn’t find the chicken shop (or shack, or shed, or place). I knew roughly where it was, but there was nothing about it on the internet. The best places to buy chickens don’t tend to be the ones with the best websites. They are two different worlds that are yet to meet, the nerd and bird. Long may it last.

Caught by the mob

Chickenless, we thought we’d take the kids to the maze at Bourton-on-the-Water. Both the car parks were full of coaches and the place was absolutely mobbed. Horrendous. It’s always busy in summer – but this was February; surely they should all be skiing? It’s the weak pound. There goes the neighbourhood.