The hedge round our front garden was higher than I could reach when we first moved into this house. Leylandii. Need I say more…
30 metres long, probably more than 8 feet tall. Nothing grew near it, not even weeds, and some parts of the garden were permanently in shade because of it.
It used to take me four full days to cut it – one day for the inside, one day for the outside, one day for the top from the inside and one day for the top from the outside. Cutting, clearing up and taking to the tip. It needed to be cut twice a year. And of course the chances of getting 4 days straight with no rain and nothing else happening is pretty slim.
Or, alternatively, I could pay someone to cut it and take it away for £50.
So, when we noticed that the size of the hedge was damaging the retaining wall, that was all the excuse we needed. Time to get the hedge taken out.
There are two parts to taking a hedge out – first is cutting it down and getting rid of it. That was easy enough. The landscape gardner turned up with a humongous chipper machine, and set to.
The next part was getting the stumps out. There were 38 stumps (I counted them). I rang a guy who specialises in that sort of thing, and he came round for a look. He has a special stump getter-outer, but it’s a big bit of equipment, and it wouldn’t fit through our garden gate. ‘I’ll send the big lads’ he said.
The big lads turned up, and fuelled with lots of cups of tea, they attacked. It took them less than a day to get them all out. That makes it sound like quite an easy job – it wasn’t. It involved picks, shovels, sledge hammers and a lot of grunt.
Then we got someone to come and re-build the retaining wall, and while they were at it we decided to get rid of the elderly decking which was rotten, and slippery when wet. We replaced it with paving slabs, and because the hedge had been taking up so much room, the paved area was much bigger than the decking had been.
But of course, without the hedge, everyone could see straight into the garden.
The next step was to put a fence up instead of the hedge.
Simple enough – I’d even chosen the fence that I fancied. Because we live on a main road, we needed planning permission, so I filled in all the forms and sent them off with the appropriate fee.
We were refused planning permission.
After a lot of coming and going, and me arguing that we needed the fence for privacy, that people going up and down the main road didn’t need to see my washing on the line, and that we needed the fence for safety and security when the grandchildren came to visit, we were getting nowhere.
I asked the planning department what they would allow us to do? Railings. They would allow us to have railings. OK, that would give us the safety and security, but didn’t really provide much in the way of privacy, but it was a start.
I found someone who could make the railings for us. The wall that goes round our garden, that the railings would be fastened to, is curved, on a slope, and has a step in it. Off-the-shelf railings weren’t going to work for us. He also made us a new gate with our house number set into it.
The final task was to plant climbers that would eventually cover the railings and provide us with a bit of privacy. I planted Clematis Armanii and honeysuckle.
That was three years ago. The plants are just coming into their fourth season, and they are looking fab. I’ve spent a lot of time training them around the railings, and they’ve been putting all of their strength into growing long stems, which is exactly what I wanted. I’ve woven them in and out of the railings, and the garden now feels quite private.
This spring, for the first time, the clematis is in full flower. Not just a few flowers here and there, but an actual abundance. It looks amazing.
And it won’t be long before it’s warm enough to sit out and enjoy it.
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