How to really enjoy your garden

In a ‘normal’  year, Geoff Stonebanks opens his summer garden to hundreds of visitors, offering copious refreshments including tea, cakes and even lunch and afternoon teas. This year, the garden has been closed, giving Geoff a time to stand back and take stock.

Ok, it’s August already! I can’t believe we’ve been isolated here in the house and garden now since mid-March, making sure my 93-year old Mum, who lives with us, is kept safe and well. Thank goodness for the garden. The only thing missing are visitors as we usually open Driftwood in June and July. This year, due to the lockdown, we have had no open days and no visitors. It has all seemed a little strange but has certainly given me the chance to rethink, and plan a way forward for future years. I’ve really felt on a treadmill since we first started opening the garden back in 2009 and being a very competitive individual (even with myself) I’ve always wanted each year to be better than the previous. I set myself deadlines all through the summer months to ensure the garden looked its very best for open days and “spur of the minute” booked visitors, so 2020 has definitely been a summer of reflection and contemplation for me.

But there have been five things I’ve really enjoyed doing in the garden this very quiet summer.

Ideas and inspiration

I’ve certainly had more opportunity to sit down and write my articles and blogs for various media sources and keep my social media accounts more up to date, this obviously requires me to be in my office at my computer. I can tell you that is no hardship, with my desk located right by an amazing balcony window in the loft extension, to sit and gaze across the garden for inspiration. I’ve needed more rest periods this summer too, following my Achilles tendon injury back in February. Perfect!

What a view! Geoff can keep an eye on the garden from his office
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Taking stock

This year I have had many fewer plants in the garden. I usually spend upwards of £800 on annuals to look good for visitors. This year I have spent about £150. The net result is I have fewer containers on show and lots of empty ones stored in the alley at the side of the house! So, I’ve been able to enjoy the garden more without all associated panic of feeding and watering to a deadline. That said, I do enjoy both of these activities in moderation. It can be quite therapeutic to go around feeding plants and checking on them at the same time. The area around the pond usually has the largest number of containers but they have not been packed to the gunnels as in previous years, just 2 or 3 in each pot but providing them with a great food like Flower Power, they have soon filled out as you can see.

Geoff hasn’t stopped gardening even though his garden has been closed
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Rest and relax

With more time on my hands this year there has been more time to relax and sit in the garden, there has even bit a bit of sunbathing as the weather through early June was amazing, sorry no pictures of this. I don’t have a lot of room for a sunbed, so I have a folding one I can get out and use when needed! I saw a gorgeous bistro set in a friends’ social media post and decided I had to have one for the back of the house. It looks beautiful in among the planting as you can see. It is also a great spot to sit and have breakfast in the morning in the early morning sunlight!

Early morning coffee or breakfast is now possible with the new bistro set
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Plant hunting

I’ve also had more time this year to look into acquiring new and different plants by searching online. This was virtually impossible when open, as I just did not have any spare time. I think my three favourites that I’ve found and bought are Jacaranda “bonsai blue”, a gorgeous mangave and recently the beautiful sedum atlantis. All three are great additions to my garden as the images reveal.

There are a few new plants in the garden, including this potted Mangave
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Mindfulness

I know it’s a laborious task but nonetheless essential and, if I’m being honest, I do enjoy doing it! What am I referring to? Well, dead-heading off course. You can’t expect to keep a garden looking good, either with or without visitors, if you don’t dead-head regularly. A bit like watering and feeding, it is something you either enjoy doing or you don’t, but think of the therapeutic impact. It gives me great satisfaction to see an array of containers with no dead flowers in and I confess to finding the whole task relaxing now I have more time to do it. This year has been a bonus too, as our new rescue dog Chester wants to be involved! The question is, is he a help or a hinderance? I’ll let you, the reader, decide.

Geoff has a little helper when deadheading. His rescue dog Chester
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

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