Vertically Challenged

We had a problem.

Plans for terracing, a majorly steep slope and no safe way of getting machinery into our garden. Actually that’s two problems. Our first thought was to dry stone the terraces but once we researched what was involved we quickly forgot about that. Sleepers were too big, too heavy and the wrong look. Even though we were adding huge structures to our garden we didn’t want them to be too dominating, almost impossible to avoid but sleepers went out too. Then from somewhere in the back of Glenn’s cavernous mind he remembered seeing a product on Dragon’s Den and within a couple of weeks we had designed and ordered our bespoke layout from Woodblocx. This swallowed up almost all our budget but we knew it had to be right before we could even begin to fill the garden with plants. We were anxious and still waking up at dawn pondering about logistics.

Even the delivery day caused concern as the pallet lurched down our driveway, loosely packed and wobbling. Obviously this made great TV, me hopping about being dramatic as I waited for Glenn and the delivery man to be buried under tons of giant wooden Lego.

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What followed was pure, hard graft. We had marked out where the foundations needed to go and purely and simply we had to start digging, by hand. But not yet…….we had to wait for Monty to come and help us.

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He came, he helped, he went.

Then we were left again to crack on and this time we did, quickly. Within three days we went from this;


To this;


With a lot of this in between;

Working on a slope is a serious challenge. You fall over a lot, you lose your tools as they slide away from you. Your spoil heaps become landslides, you cannot use a barrow safely. Pretty quickly you get used to the terrain however and soon we were skipping about like mountain goats on a site that would have been shut down if a risk assessment had been done. We had no practical way to move the soil out of the garden so we carefully planned how we could backfill as we went to save having to get skips in. The monotony of digging and shifting soil was beginning to set in.

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; Chalk, Chalk and more Chalk



A Bolt From the Blue (linen)

“It’s ok,” we told ourselves. “It’s just a film crew and Monty Don coming to our house this afternoon.”

We hadn’t slept. We had new clothes. The house was clean. There was cake. Something was clearly not normal.

The previous couple of weeks had seen us doing a lot of research; into garden design, Monty, what to wear on TV, what not to say or do in order look sane and likeable. Yeah, we were cool, it was fine, we weren’t nervous. The fact we hadn’t slept, couldn’t sit down all morning, kept looking at each other and grinning inanely wasn’t anything to do with anything.

The crew arrived and set up, so smooth and calm and friendly, we felt relaxed (ish). Our main worry was that we were going that get the Come Dine With Me treatment. Taking our highly sophisticated humour, wit and charm and turning it into Gogglebox material. Very sneakily they started filming us whilst we were chatting so we didn’t have a set moment when it all kicked off. A bit like being lowered into a cold swimming pool, or having a series of injections. If they keep you talking you don’t realise they are taking sweeping long shots of what you are wearing until afterwards when they have gone and you then spend months dreading the final edit (‘Glenn and Zoe have run through TKMaxx with a credit card and no taste control’).

Then there he was, in our garden, Monty Don. We had to stay inside to preserve the big first hello moment (take three). Not only that, he was admiring the view! He liked it! He was taking pictures! Of our view! Things were looking up. All we had to do now was show him around the garden, run the plans past him, get him to talk plants, easy.


OK, so what followed basically breaks down into key moments. We meet Monty, Monty is lovely. We chat comfortably and laugh. Monty drinks our tea, eats our cake, sits in our house. We film the garden with Monty, we chat, we laugh. We show Monty our plans as nervy as expectant parents who have created a new life, we wait for approval and maybe even some vaguely condescending praise.

Monty tells us we have undersold ourselves, it isn’t ambitious, we have taken the easy road that all new owners of houses take by going with the existing landscape, we can’t have the features we want, our planting is too complex, we don’t need ANY grass and we should terrace the whole plot from one side to the other with a path down the middle. Our little horticultural faces were smarting with an advice slap we hadn’t banked on. Naivety in the extreme. Do not underestimate this man, he is all smiles and crumpled artisan workwear with a calm, easy manner and boundless tales of TV gossip on the outside but underneath lurks the deeply frank and forthright cut of a gardener possessed by aesthetic ideals.

Suitably squashed, the crew and Monty left us to it with instructions to get going and they would be in touch. So we picked up our spades. Join us now on a photo montage of our first few weeks of gardening mayhem.

Our first plan, dashed to dust by the Don
Rising to the challenge. Plan B


Early stages of preparing the ground

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; Uphill Gardening