Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how did your garden grow?

(My middle name is Mary…)

I saw my garden for the first time in May 2005. I never thought I would/could tame it…

The grass and weeds were so tall that we didn’t discover some things for weeks, months, even years! A few flowers had prevailed (like the blue VeronicaEhrenpreis – here), but most of the rockery had suffocated under layers and layers of ivy, and under the shade of huge conifers (most of which had already been cut down in this photo).

The lawn was a mass of moon daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare), but since this area is notorious for ticks they had to be mown down with the grass.

I did not dare dream of a garden when we moved in.


In 2006 I started clearing the ground and decided which area was workable. I didn’t document what I did, since I had no visions, no ambitions. I simply worked.

The ivy had to go, and after days of pulling and tugging, breaking numerous tools, and making my muscles ache, I developed a strong dislike of the stuff…

All the heavy evergreens were removed… great firewood!

The steep slope of the rockery didn’t make life easy, and the soil was compact and full of tree roots. I couldn’t get a spade in parts.

There was a lot of dry and stony bare earth for a year…

I began to see that there was potential. And began visiting nurseries and garden fairs.

Two years and a lot of compost later…

Look at these wonderful rocks I uncovered! And all those ugly, thirsty conifers have gone. A few small shrubs such as the yellow potentilla were rescued and allowed to stay… after all, they had proved their worth by surviving years – no, decades of neglect.

We also uncovered a water feature as well as a huge white rock at the end of the garden that we hadn’t known was there.

Neighbours were generous with cuttings and tubers, giving me the basis for structuring a garden – definitely the best way to start out as the plants have proved they can thrive in your soil or climate. An excellent online nursery supplied me with many of my plants, but as all gardeners know, a plant will not do well if in the wrong position. My rockery is open to the wind and faces south, so it gets frozen in winter and baked in summer. My soil is extremely well-drained. And I don’t ever water (except for my pots) unless I have a recently set plant. So there have been many losses…

Still, by 2010 I had this…

It has been a fair bit of work, but was manageable AND is relatively low-maintenance.

And I have enjoyed every moment spent on it.

I consider myself very lucky to have so many green companions willing to stick out the tough conditions!

By the way, see the Veronica still there in the same place as 2005?