Monday, 5 July 2010

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences, Gaze at the moon until I lose my senses, I Can't look at cobbles and I can't stand fences - Don't fence me in

Finally the fence is finished... almost, we are one trellis piece short due to a miscalculation by the Landscapers and it is now on order. When the Bedsock first caught sight of the fenced in garden he uttered one word 'Colditz'.   The fences aren't much taller than the neighbours original ones but because they were on the other side of our (now removed) 4ft high walls it gave the garden a feeling of being wider and more open.  After a few days we have already become used to the height and when the fences have weathered a bit they should lose their initial brightness and fade into the background. They will also provide a new challenge finding the right climbers to soften them.

We have spent the weekend shovelling the rubble-filled top layer of the small borders into my new purple and green plastic trugs and transporting it through the house to fill the already mountainous skip, returning back with trugs filled with new lovely compost, half a ton of Premium Blend from Brighton's Compost Co-op.  Astonishing how such a small growing space has absorbed so much compost.

The plants which were removed from the borders months ago have been languishing in pots and watering them in this dry, hot, period has been a huge task in itself.  Happily the 'Matthew Wilson' caryopteris* has survived and is now back in position, one of the surviving 'Cleve West' lupins is now thrusting up a flowering spike.  It has come true to colour from the seeds I harvested from my original Lupinus Masterpiece two years ago. Out of the original Cleve West babies**, five have survived in pots but look a bit mildewed and one is now living up a mountain in France where it is about to reveal its true (or not true) colours.  Fascinating though the Cleve West lupin experience has been, they have honestly been more trouble than they are worth and if they don't flower this year they are off to the dump.  Two heucheras have made it through - they are happy but I am less so.  The pretty peach flambĂ© 'd colours of spring are scorched, their bleached, faded and crispy leaves like old-lady knickers washed in with a red sock. 

Overall both the garden and I have survived the onslaught. Despite the fact Landscapers No.2 were very well mannered and hard working I was glad to see the last of them and get my house and garden back. Although I had referred to one (with a certain amount of poetic licence) as a BradPittalike, the Bedsock, in a rather snitty manner, suggested he looked more like Jason Donovan (hopefully from Neighbours days rather than when he was Celebing in the Jungle).  Whatever... they have done a very good job as far as I can see...

..and this is where the bad news starts.. as far as I could see was just my side of the fence.

The day after the Fencers left I was wandering peacefully around the garden, tidying bits and pieces and planning the weekends action, when a slightly querulous whine came over the fence from the elderly man next door "Have they gone... because they've left my side a real mess..".  My heart totally sank.  The neighbours on both sides had suggested that we get rid of their ageing fences and use our new fence as the boundary. It was with some reluctance I agreed to this as we had already been left with the responsibility and expense of removing the dangerously crumbling boundary walls and didn't want to get involved with 'matters on their side of  our new fence'.  However, as it was going to leave the boundaries looking much neater and as Landscapers No.2 said they could easily remove the old fences and it would make their job easier, we agreed.  So we paid for the removal and clearance of the old walls and fences on both sides (all of which was taken through our house so as not to disturb the neighbours too much) and the installation of an expensive and robust brand new fence. This was our choice and we didn't feel we could ask either lot of neighbours for a contribution as they are all elderly and relatively impecunious.

Before I can sort out the topside neighbours problems the doorbell goes and it is the rather odd old lady from next door lowerside.  "Are your builders going to put a fence panel in over the bit of wall still extending from my house because it looks a mess?"  The answer to this is no - the new fence starts at the end of a 6ft high, 4ft long wall extending from the house which on our side is rendered and painted white.  I had warned her that removing the decaying fence panel on her side as requested would leave an unsightly mess of this wall as she has never maintained her side of it.  Unfortunately she appears not to have taken this on board and was clearly expecting me to provide a panel to cover it despite the fact it will not be in my garden and is of no benefit to me to do so.  I stay calm and get rid of her and then go and lie on the bed and cry for a few hours.We have forked out £5000 in labour and materials plus all the upset and aggro and both neighbours have benefited from a free new fence - I wasn't expecting gratitude but I wasn't expecting hassle either.

Because I am about to have a nasty little operation on my lip, the thought of which has been stressing me for months and leaving me in a state of permanent anxiety, I cannot cope with worrying about the neighbours.  The Bedsock and I spend some of our precious weekend, when we had hoped to sort out our own garden, sorting out the old man next doors.  I have told the lowerside neighbour that I will get Landscaper No.2. to fix a panel over her bit of bare wall when he comes to fix the last bit of trellis. We will pay for all this because it not worth having any bad feelings emanating from the neighbours who are in general pretty quiet and unproblematic.  Nobody seems to care about our feelings but that is about par for the course - it is always me and the Bedsock against the world. Part of me wishes the 'Colditz' fences had been built even higher.

* First mentioned in this post

** Mentioned in this post


NewShoot said...

The fences look really smart. Sometimes it's nice to have a protective enclosure against the world isn't it?

I think you have been a wonderful neighbour sorting out everybody's boundaries this this - and there aren't many people who would pay for a fence panel they couldn't see!

Have lots of fun choosing your climbers - there are all sorts of good and unusual things to try. I still drool over old copies of the fabulous catalogue from The Plantsman Nursery that specialised in climbers. They relocated to France - anyone know if they still trade?

Hope the operation goes smoothly. Hugs!

Weeping Sore said...

I love the wall and finished garden! I can also see the picture you painted about how the walls will age to a graceful grey, expanding the garden's borders as it does.
Sorry about your experience with neighbors. Your experience persuades me of the validity of the maxim that good fences make good neighbors. Too bad the costs aren't proportional, but you are buying long term peace - something I'm sure you will enjoy.

Denise said...

It looks as though your garden survived the ordeal beautifully, but what ongoing misery with the neighbors. Hoping all outstanding nuisances are gone by the time the surgery is done and you're home recouping and planting in your lovely garden. Really, what a trial you've been through!

pinkgin12 said...

Sadly it is human nature that even when you have given them the world, people still want more. I think you have been very generous to these neighbours, giving them a new fence that will improve the appearance and increase the value of their properties. Get those climbers in and don't answer the door to them anymore! Your garden looks fabulous, you have done well!

Victoria said...

i wanted to say something really sympathetic about your neighbours, but I think it would be bleeped out. So I'll settle for nil carborundum illegitimi.
I think the new fences and trellis look fantastic. They always look really when they first go up, in my experience, but you'll soon get used to them. And as New Shoot says, what a planting opportunity!
I have five gardens backing on to the lefthand side of mine, who technically are all responsible for their back boundary.
The previous owner decided she was fed up with this row of decrepit fences - "like a row of rotten teeth" - and asked them if she could build one fence all the way along at her own expense.
They agreed of course, but they're still moaning about it 10 years later.
The most vociferous moaner complained that it blocked the light (it's the standard 6ft fencing plus trellis). She's now built a huge garden studio across the back of her garden. Presumably to let more light in...

Victoria said...

PS: Sorry, that should have said "look really HIGH when they etc". I feel so sorry for you, Arabella. Patientgardener and I are going to Hidcote next Monday (12 July) and you'd be incredibly welcome to join us. Bring Ms B too!

Plant Mad Nige said...

Hard luck, about the neighbours! Sorry you've got to cope with that. The thought of a weeping sock fills me with misery, so please cheer up.

Your new fence/garden looks marvellous. If you weren't so vulnerable, just now, I might have made a bitchy comment about your heucheras, but you are, so I won't.

I've been visiting Terra Botanica, today, in Angers, Anjou, and have to say that the gabions they've deployed, with cunning colour patterns in the rubble they contain, work rather well.

No doubt there'll be lots of wonderful new climbers and fence or wall plants at the sockery, soon??!!

Roland Paterson said...

Well done on getting through it all relatively unscathed.....! I remember the initial worry of it all, and it seems to have been nearly as bad as expected. The fences are stark and new, but before long will feel as though they've always been there. They frame the garden nicely and with some nice climbers, they'll soften soon. Try some Holboellia (available I know from Crug) for evergreen coverage.
We all have a neighbour story. Without going into great detail, ours involved us paying for an enormous tree to be removed from our neighbours garden, only for them to say that we had the wrong tree removed and for the buggers to claim the logs, as if they had the right to them. I know they probably did have the right, but the fact that they didn't have the decency to check with us about the logs as we paid for all the work...what's the song? I've never met a nice South African.....
You seem like you'd be nice neighbours...maybe we should move in next door.
Do you think the fences are too high for fish finger assualts?

Arabella Sock said...

Thank you for your good wishes and sympathy. My neighbours aren't bad people - just a bit trying at times and we consider ourselves lucky that they are quiet and we don't have noisy kids or annoying teenagers on either side. So I guess it is worth a bit of investment in keeping them happy.

Hi Victoria, I would love to join you and Patientgardener at Hidcote but unfortunately I am not too well at the moment. I had my lip operation done yesterday and whilst it is a relief that it is over it has left me really very tired and depressed. I'm afraid the part of me that is 'the Sock' has deserted me for the moment so I won't be around for a while until Arabella comes back.

Arabella Sock said...

Roland, thanks for the climber recommendation - very useful and I do need some inspiration.

As for the fishfinger throwing - we shall see.. Spook is very taken with the old man next door (and vice versa) but the neighbour might not be so pleased when Spook has been in his kitchen stealing food! I have warned him.

Yan said...

Oh, Arabella, I hope you feel better soon. Things can only improve now!

I like the fence, it's v classy - only to be expected from 100% cashmere, of course. When it silvers down (?up) or whatever the right term is, you will hardly notice it but it will be a beautiful background for climbers and the rest of your goodies.

Courage, Chaussette!

Juliet said...

The fences do look a bit stark at the moment, but they're obviously really good ones and will look great once you've got some climbers growing up them. I fell for Ribes speciosum in a garden I visited recently (frost-hardy in UK if grown in a sunny sheltered spot) if you want a slightly unusual one, and Chaenomeles speciosa nivalis is great for shade, or anywhere really. Just don't plant a rambling rose - ours is pulling the fence down.

Glad you've got the op over and done with and are at least up to posting comments. I hope you recover rapidly - but don't try to do too much too soon :-*

Roland Paterson said...

Worse still, Spook may deploy her secret weapon, Hebe, to poo in his tea.....

Arabella Sock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The new fences are wonderful and the gardens look perfection, Arabella. May your lip surgery go well and I believe you are doing the exact right thing about the neighbors, taking the high road. You won't be sorry about it, no need to give it another thought. Onward.

Rob Clack said...

Your garden looks great and it sounds as though you've achieved superhuman patience with your neighbours. Impressed!

We've just bought a Trachelospermum jasminoides to grow up our defoliated 'blue' tree, but I think at 10m it's a bit rampant for you to consider.

The link is to an online catalogue, but is so you can take a look, in case you don't know what I'm talking about.

The plan is for it to be covered with deliciously-scented white flowers all summer...