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The north facing courtyard was a disgrace and I felt ashamed. The gaps were crammed with weeds and the concrete slabs had settled badly, giving the overall impression of mismatched teeth. Occasionally I would trip over a wonky raised edge en route to the compost heap, causing me to drop a bucket full of weeds whilst throwing myself to the ground and extending my neighbours’ vocabulary in vulgar expressions to be used in moments of maximum distress. This can’t go on; the kids next door are fast learners and now know more dirty words than me, which is saying something.
Miniature forest
Miniature forest

The adjacent raised bed was an impoverished home to a few scratty Bergenias and shit loads of jack-by-the-hedge. I had simply plonked the tubs of Acers on top and left them to fight it out. I re-homed the small containers and re-sited precious specimens, including inherited troughs and sentimental plants. The paving contractors shifted the rest, trolleying huge weights of greenery all over the garden. The old blocks were levered out and re-laid down the side, where no-one will see them except me. This was hard labour and I dispensed gallons of strong tea and packets of jammy biscuits, to keep the workers happy. They covered the remaining area with sand underlay. When the compacter got busy on that, the whole house vibrated. Sitting at my computer, racking my brain for inspiration, the tremors rose through my feet and up the swivel chair. It was more fun than sitting on the washing machine, without the risk of falling off.
Cucurbita pepo (courgette or zucchini)
Cucurbita pepo (courgette or zucchini)

Clouds of dust floated over the adjoining houses. The noise of the brick cutter penetrated like a dentist’s drill, filling my head to the exclusion of all else. When I could bear no more, I lured Attila into the car with a promise of coffee to the more soothing soundtrack of children’s sawmill screams and incontinent infant whining at a local café. On the way back, we saw the signs for the first of the autumn sales, touting shade loving species, all at half price. I bought loads for the new patio and accidentally purchased Achillia, Eryngium and Persicaria, all of which require lots of sunshine. Don’t worry, I’ll find a pitch for them somewhere suitable. Not sure where yet, but that’s part of the fun.
Achillea ptarmica (sneezewort) 'The Pearl'
Achillea ptarmica (sneezewort) ‘The Pearl’

I paid the workmen when they had finished bricking my back passage, having done a beautiful job. They promised to turn up the next day, to help me to move my forest of fancy sycamores and bonsai oak, larch and chestnut. You wouldn’t believe that I could reach this age and still be so trusting. After their desertion became plain, I got my poor knackered husband to help me with the heavy lifting. It soon became evident that the hired hands had placed the biggest pots with great care, in order to crush the maximum number of treasures in the borders beneath. I emptied the raised bed of uninvited squatters as thoroughly as possible and packed the soil with homemade compost, bone meal and chicken manure pellets. The planting of Schizophragma (Japanese moonbeam hydrangea vine) and Crinodendron hookerianum (Chilean lantern bush) with ferns and Hostas at their feet, looks lovely. The notable stink of fertilizer means that it will be a while before we take tea in their company.

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