This year, Jane Simmonds make the big move and left London for a spot of garden-sitting in the West Country. We’ve caught up with her to find out how she’s getting on…
A month or so into our country garden-sitting, and I’m hooked. The garden is all in the front, sloping down from the road to the house. Mostly it’s lawn, with a boundary of all sorts of trees, including willow, apples, elder and leylandii, and a stream down one side – which turns into a muddy torrent from time to time. There’s a deep border running across the garden below the house with roses, herbaceous perennials and the occasional shrub. Some might call it overgrown, but it does look appropriately wild in its valley setting.
London feels a long way away – there seems so much more of the garden here, not so much in terms of size, though it is a fair bit larger, but in abundance. In my London garden, every plant had its place, much of my gardening time was spent simply cutting back, and even the area that was an attempt at a ‘wild’ garden was carefully monitored so that one plant didn’t swamp the others. Here, each plant seems to spread out and take the space it wants to. Crocosmias thrive in this wet, sunny valley, reaching a huge size. Pulmonarias and nasturtiums, which I could never grow in London due to snails and blackfly, sprawl about happily here. The sounds in the garden are different, too. The stream is the constant, with wind in the trees and cries of buzzards and crows as the other regulars, and each passing car or tractor is audible – an exact reversal of London, where the traffic was the background hum, and sounds of birds, plants or weather were an extra.
Much of the gardening so far has been trying to find out what is planted and growing here. The apple trees seem to be a remnant of the plot’s former incarnation as a cottage garden – most are cider apples, but one russet-coloured, ovoid apple is apparently a ‘Sheep’s Nose’ – an old, West Country variety. I’ve cut back herbaceous plants for the winter, and have cleared some brambles and nettles around some fruit bushes and pruned them.
Work on the terrace is going at a steady place, having slowed down after the initial destructive stage of dismantling what was there. The muddy quagmire that replaced the old, weedy, uneven surface between the road and the front door was not popular with the postman, but we’re slowly getting back into his good books…