More than he could chew?

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So I’m finally getting it! Yeah! The greenhouse that I’ve been longing for.

However, as with most things in our life, it’s a long, slow process. The actual greenhouse arrived back on 25 October 2016. It was a present from me to me (courtesy of my mother) to celebrate my 60th birthday. Here it is, arriving all the way from England.

The man that drove the lorry was held up overnight by the clearance of the migrant camp at Sangatte, Calais. What an awful thing to drive into accidentally.

And yes – how else would the Bon Viveur celebrate the occasion? In fairness, I forced the glass of wine on him, because I was overcome with happiness …


An awful lot of money for just a few little boxes! It is a little Eden Orangery that we plan to paint pale blue (not the dark, experimental blue that is shown in my pictures, more like the blue of the pergola above it).

Only time and experience will prove whether this attempt to paint an aluminium greenhouse will work.


In the autumn last year the garden looked lovely. I was even quite proud of the vegetable garden (for once).

As soon as the greenhouse arrived I was kept busy moving the enormous heap of compost and material for the shredder that had been standing there since the spring of 2012 when I first started gardening the adjacent Rose Walk.



Here’s the heap. It took days – make that weeks – to shift it. It was bigger than it looks!


In March this year I was joined on the last leg by the Bon Viveur whose job it was/is to actually put the thing up. We were nearly at the finishing line! (I thought … )


But progress has been painfully slow. The measuring … well, I don’t even want to talk about it. This is a tricky (uneven and rocky) space. Come to think of it, all our spaces are rocky and uneven.


As with anything, the foundations are crucial. And we are fitting the greenhouse into a corner of the garden edged by the old village ramparts. Plus it has to line up with the planting already done in the Rose Walk.



The BV’s tasks have involved cutting away (safely) stone to fit the greenhouse into the corner and building a small wall on which it will rest.


The wall has been the most problematic factor in the whole operation. The BV had to cut each stone by hand (and I had to nod understandingly over the trials and tribulations involved). My oven was taken over for several days to dry stone and sand. And then the kitchen table was fully occupied to weigh said stone and sand.

The point was to achieve the perfect lime mortar mix for the wall. Apparently you have to assess the absorption level of your stone (ours is very absorbent) and the quality of your sand before you can arrive at the correct lime/sand ratio that will withstand the test of time. The standard advice is a mix of 1:3. In times gone past they used a 1:1.5/2 ratio – apparently more suitable for our absorbent walls. The water ratio to this is also important, but I’m told it’s like Easter – very variable.

Although the precise explanations of this process leave me yawning, I’ve only got to look around me to see the disastrous effect of much of the concrete pointing that has been done on our walls here. Concrete has no natural ‘give’ and during the winter it will be the stone (very soft and porous in our case) that takes the strain and cracks, rather than the mortar which is supposed to take up the strain.


He is now the world expert on mortar. I shake in my shoes when he describes the hours he intends to spend in the future righting the wrongs done on our many walls.

He’s got other stuff to do (of which more at a later date) …

I tried to focus on Narcissus ‘Jenny’ flowering in the Rose Walk instead.


For the time being the much promised ‘grand opening’ on Easter Sunday is a just a precious dream. I kind of wish I hadn’t sown those tomatoes after all. When all my carefully raised plants died of the blight last year – with barely a crop – I swore I’d never plant them in the open ground again. This was actually the fourth year of tomato misery. Something to do with the soil (the ghosts of many potatoes, perhaps?) and morning mist over the river.

Here he is, bless him. Head full of ratios and huge, huge plans for palm houses that will never materialise.


This blog isn’t called ‘Garden Dreaming’ for nothing.

In front of him is rather a decent show of tulips in the future Knot Garden. You may remember that I planted this from cuttings. The box plants were clipped in March last year and were immediately struck by the worst blight I’ve ever seen.


Tulips ‘Aladdin’ (red) and ‘Ballerina’ (orange)

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Tulip ‘Green Triumphator’ completes the colour scheme

This year I’m keeping the little box plants wild and woolly. Box plants in nature rarely suffer from blight, it’s the tight clipping that makes them susceptible – I think! And so, until the knot is of a better thickness and health I’m letting it grow (so far no sign of the wretched caterpillar in the garden).

The tulips are not thickly enough planted – I’m going to have to double the quantities in future.


This will been my main tulip area in the garden eventually. I’ll replace them every year and plant the current bulbs elsewhere in the garden.


But they are pretty in the evening sun, after a hard day’s work …

Hope to see you again next week? Meanwhile – have a wonderful, flowery Easter, full of hope for the garden in 2017.

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Tulip ‘Flaming Artist’ in the Long Border

18 thoughts on “More than he could chew?

  1. woodlandgnome

    Garden dreaming requires great courage and determination . …. not to mention more resources than one ever anticipates . Your greenhouse will be delightful once completed . The stone foundation gives it so much character and will help in winter to hold the heat. Are you plumbing and wiring it? A greenhouse has long been my dream , too. We originally hoped for one on this property , then realized there is no suitable safe spot. So I look forward to watching the progress of yours ! Happy Easter !

    1. Cathy Post author

      We hope to lay a ‘services pipe’ in there. Although recently Nick has mentioned converting it into a cat door! Happy Easter to you too!

  2. Linda B.

    My husband has built and rebuilt stone walls so I know how critical all the scientific concerns are. I also know that we gardeners just want to enjoy our completed project. He’s spent ten years building a Japanese teahouse which included teaching himself how to stucco. Your garden looks gorgeous with all those spring bulbs. And your comment on my blog was fine. For some reason my blog doesn’t tell you anything so you can see that it worked and I can’t seem to fix it!

    1. Cathy Post author

      It sounds like he could teach my husband a few tricks! But maybe best to learn oneself. Thanks for the comment about the garden – much appreciated.

  3. Chloris

    Oh my, just reading about the work involved makes me feel tired. Who knew that cement was such a complex problem? But it will be wonderful when it is finished.
    A lovely choice of tulips, how ever many you order it is never enough.

  4. Cathy

    Oh what an exciting project – and what an undertaking! It will be such an achievement having done it yourselves – and although a dab hand at mortar and bricklaying myself it is nothing compared to your (the BV’s) task! Painting the aluminium should be fine (with a metal paint) and any future wear would give an appropriately shabby chic look anyway. Writing this comment on Easter Day I wonder if it is on target for a reveal today…?

    1. Cathy Post author

      No reveal forecast for at least a week, Cathy. We are due for some minus temperatures in the next few days and I’m told it’s bad for mortar. I am learning more patience!

  5. AlisonC

    It’s going to be brilliant! and what an amazing place. You don’t need to tell me about things becoming more complicated and and taking longer than expected. Not to mention more expensive. I know. Your tulips look so bright and cheerful. Ballerina is one of my favourites.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks for commenting Alison – its such a relief to hear that we are not the only ones this ever-increasing complexity happens to!


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