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When we saw this house first, I was struck by the limitless possibilities. Without the “For Sale” sign, titanic privet hedge, concrete covered front garden and the lavish pigeon poop from the birds nesting in the gutters, this could be a pretty home. The owners opened the door and stepping cautiously past the heaps of guano, bid us welcome. Once in the hall, I noticed the sculpted plaster work and the all pervasive stench of damp and pet pee. We walked around admiring the stained glass and worrying about the crumbling roof. We couldn’t ignore the evident subsidence and rickety window frames. There was not one room that wouldn’t need gutting and possibly fumigation. Intimidated, we wandered through the lounge and I clapped eyes the conservatory.
Acacia dealbata (mimosa)
Acacia dealbata (mimosa)

Do you recognise that feeling when you know that your heart is no longer your own? I was lost and thus besotted turned to my husband, not even seeing the fear in his face. The corrugated plastic covering was in shreds, the wall ties had blown and the plaster was in pieces. The doors were hanging off their hinges and beneath the junk piled floor, the joists had rotted. The flower beds comprised only dust, cigarette butts and dog doo. I didn’t see a single defect because in my head, I could envisage the garden room as a perfectly finished sanctuary. I imagined a flawless retreat, safe from winter wind and summer rain, where I could wander around snipping at a few stems when the weather made me stir crazy. To further the dream, today I hoicked Attila away from his rest and chased him up a ladder.
Palms & MagnoliasPalms & Magnolias

In my view, if you don’t like the job someone else does, then you should take up the tools and get busy. I could no more climb stepladders to a height of sixteen feet (5 metres) than push out petals and call myself blossom. Thus, I had to watch my one man demolition team swing about the rafters, giving my precious plants a tidy. He never does anything by halves, so we all knew that we were in for a right good sorting. The Acacia dealbata (mimosa) was the first tree that I put in fourteen years ago, little thinking that it would grow so well in newly installed soil. I threaded it through with Delairea odorata (cape ivy), Asparagus falcatus (sickle thorn asparagus fern) and several Passifloras. The climbers are under planted with Hedychium flavum (butterfly ginger). After several months of chill with no sunshine to speak of, the whole lot looked tatty, tired and in need of attention.
Collage of leaves
Collage of leaves

He moaned about my pots of scrot impeding his path, being unimpressed with my assurances that a little warmth will see luscious blooms decorating tenants therein from Agapanthus (Nile lily) to Zantedeschia (calla). He complained about high altitude attacks from ropes of creeper and nooses of vines which threatened his precarious hold on his wobbling scaffolding. When the lethally barbed asparagus fern slashed his skin, he had to be soothed, cosseted and glued back together using my entire supply of sticking plaster. Every time that he cut the wrong branch, upended a container, or threw rubbish all over the bit I had just swept, I wittered, bleated and bitched. Now all looks completely chastened, apart from the yellow puffs of the mimosa flowers which show to their best advantage. It’s airy and lovely, without any overcrowded growth or brown sticks remaining. Thank you Honey, you are a hero. I couldn’t have done it better myself.

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