By Victoria Plum
The Reepham & District Gardening Club recently enjoyed a fascinating talk from Barbara Somerville about her dream of creating a garden completely from scratch.
This was an interesting challenge and something we gardeners dream of but rarely are able to do.
While her working life (as an academic in biology) was at Cambridge, Barbara found her required plot at Oxburgh, Norfolk.
Only when she delved deep did she discover the plot was an old sandpit and the sand was windblown and would not hold water or nutrients.
Her remedy was to buy in tons of washed-off soil waste from a sugar beet factory – varied, and valued, because it came from many farms benefitting from a variety of soil types.
She had to build artificial enclosures or pits to fill with useful soil just to make anything grow.
Marauding cattle, oblivious to hedges, did not help her plans, and the rabbits were unwitting design consultants because their presence demanded specific strategies to exclude them.
So rabbit fencing was incorporated and buried horizontally just below the turf and only a few inches deep, and out about six inches from the fence.
This is apparently is enough to deter them because when they feel the wire with their noses they are easily deterred. (I always thought rabbit fencing had to be about two feet deep.)
Meanwhile, the presence of hungry voles demanded yet smaller gauge wire netting to safeguard bulbs, so attractive and clever fencing had to be installed because who wants to enjoy a garden full of wire netting or one that looks like a prison compound?
Twenty years on and the garden looks beautiful, and it is only when you are told that you understand the colossal amount of sweat and effort, and more to the point, lateral thinking, that has been behind it.
The creation of this garden was certainly nothing like the easy and whimsical notion of a return from the garden centre with the car full and digging a few holes in perfect weed-free and fertile soil to achieve instant effect.
A book, Against All Odds: The Story of a Norfolk Garden, by Barbara Sommerville is a quietly witty and charming account of the trials and tribulations of radical garden creation. The gardening club has a copy you can borrow.
- Don’t forget the Reepham & District Gardening Club Christmas party at 7 pm on Tuesday 12 December in Reepham Town Hall, Church Street, Reepham. This will include a light-hearted talk on the history of Christmas by Simon Partridge of the How Hill Trust. Visitors and new members welcome. For further information, contact: Jeff Johnson 01362 680066 or firstname.lastname@example.org