The Big Push


There is nothing like a deadline to get you seriously in gear. Don’t get us wrong, we had worked on the garden every single day. We had discussed it at every opportunity, planned, shopped, researched and yet somehow it all went into overdrive. There was still a lot to do, several little spaces that had gone un-loved in the grand terrace building. So we swiftly built;

  • a dry stone retaining wall (pictured above)
  • a floating deck/viewing platform
  • a paved seating area
  • a rubble filled gabion which cunningly doubled up as a seat
  • a small seating area at the top of the garden
  • a sink garden
  • a stone sculpture

All of which were made with existing materials apart from the floating deck which we made with reclaimed scaffold boards. Smug? You bet. When we started this project we didn’t think we had anything to work with in the garden and neither did Monty. We were partly right but we didn’t have to look far for plenty of materials which we could reuse.

And so to plant. Lots had gone in already and we had been feeding everything like mad. Guess what? It works. The tiny specimens we had planted were now romping away thanks to the blue powdery stuff we were watering on in large doses. We had also imported a lot of very juicy compost courtesy of the council. Having bought many bags of organic compost from garden centres we had found that our local council sells their own compost for £1 a bag. All you need are the bags and a shovel. It made a considerable difference to the beds and they continue to be rich and most importantly, easy to dig.

We were fortunate in that by now, every plant shop in the area was trying to get rid of stock and we were trying to fill in the gaps. Lots and lots of bargain plants found their way into our garden. The seeds we had sown were doing well but we lost quite a lot due to either not having the space for them to grow enough at the right time or in the case of the sweet peas, just not had much love despite Monty forcing me to pinch them out. This year I have planted three times the amount in an attempt to prove I can nurture them into long blooming loveliness.

Oh yes and then we had to accommodate everyone for the reveal day, which was in effect two days. We had family arriving from afar, we had friends who had helped in the garden with Monty. We had a larger film crew than usual and they came the day before to film all the quiet bits. So a lot of cake was needed and biscuits and more cake and cups of tea and champagne. It was feeling like a wedding already.


Next time on Sowing Growing and Cups of Tea; Glenn & Zoe Reveal It All – On Camera


It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like a Garden


Several factors were helping us through July; the WoodBlocx were giving our garden structure and we could finally see our plans becoming a reality; the advice from Sarah Raven meant we could push on with sowing seeds and buying plants; Lion TV who kept in close contact and were now pushing for a finish date and our friends and family who were all good listeners as we rambled on and on about what we had done so far.

The weather was also on our side. I am pretty sure we only lost three days due to rain which was a huge bonus. With the ground so exposed, all would have become a bit Amazonian had we had a downpour. Glenn was a complete devotee of all things wood and every angle and level was checked and double checked. The WoodBlocx were turning out far better than we had imagined. We had designed the layout and it had all been delivered with very clear instructions. We did have to make a few adjustments which took into account the gradient and the height we had estimated. We hadn’t considered just how much soil we would need to remove in order to build our terraces and at one point it was easier to adjust the WoodBlocx than dig down yet further.

This meant we had something I adore, leftovers. Glenn is a creative type with an engineering background and one morning he announced he was making steps and making them out of WoodBlocx and not only that we had enough leftovers to make an entire run the length of the garden. Hip hoorah! It is possible that this next part was harder than building the terraces but it happened and they work and they are as sturdy as anything.

The best part for me was that each WoodBlocx section has predrilled holes. They needed filling. We considered lights but time was against us. What luck, more leftovers to the rescue in the form of small blue glass containers which my sister had given me. They happened to fit exactly into the holes. More cheering! We were able to reuse some cobbles from another part of the garden to fill in one side of the steps. Things were coming together nicely.

Now all we needed were plants, lots and lots of plants. Our plan was to have a colour theme in each bed, hot colours at the top in the sunshine. Cooler colours half way down in the dappled shade and a woodland area at the bottom which would naturalise over time and run wild (ish). Monty had suggested limiting the number of varieties we used and we could see the sense in this but it is the hardest thing to do when faced with oceans of beautiful plants to choose from. I am not sure we limited ourselves that much in the end.

We shopped every garden centre and nursery in the area but our top favourites are

  • Wilton Garden Centre
  • Haskins Garden Centre
  • Wyevale Garden Centre
  • Stewarts Garden Centre
  • New Forest Lavender Farm
  • Courtens Garden Centre
  • Longstock Nursery
  • Gilberts Nursery

Also great for unexpected purchases were Tesco, Lidl, B&Q and Waitrose which yielded fabulous end of season bargains. The last week in July saw us prowling these places with a plant hungry look in our eye and a serious shopping list.

Longstock Nursery, probably the poshest plant place in the world.

New Forest Lavender Farm, meadow and a lavender cream tea

Then all of a sudden it was August and we had two weeks left until the film crew were coming back with Monty for the big reveal. Could we assemble a group of friends please, some refreshments and could I make a wedding cake?

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; The Big Push


A Floral Fantasy


Perch Hill in Sussex is the home and empire of the divine Sarah Raven. Rather glamorously we met her just after we had been to the loo. It was a long long way to her place from ours.

The first thing she asked us what which colours we wanted in our wedding flowers. Totally thrown as we hadn’t even thought about this up until now,  we suggested purples and blues and off she went. Our job today was to film a section for our episode which involved us getting ‘inspiration’ for our own garden. The film crew had kept our day out as a secret but we had worked it out and had been secretly thrilled for weeks. Sarah Raven has been a gardening icon for me personally for many years. She was the main reason I got an allotment, to grow cut flowers. I was envious of her lifestyle as it appeared to me, wafting around fields of pretty flowers picking them for the house. Of course, Sarah Raven the business is a different matter. However, we were charmed and delighted and simply blown away by her home and gardens. She generously chatted to us despite having several other commitments that day and was ultimately calm and cheerful.

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We filmed all day, we talked flowers, annuals, choosing things to grow, pinching out cosmos. Firstly we were amazed by what she had to tell us about growing annuals. We honestly thought we had missed the boat for October as it was now late June. Not at all; big piece of news is you can sow seed anytime you like, just work backwards from when you want the flowers. This revelation meant we had a whole world of varieties to choose from which would just about make it to the first frosts. Sarah gave us a list and we scrabbled to remember it all. Second huge revelation is the more you pick annuals, the more you get. Again, we felt like floral dunces but so happy to realise that our wedding would be colourful and vibrant not seed head city.

We filmed some varieties that Sarah had picked for us based on our colour choices and then we were whisked into her greenhouse, well, green palace really. And then, Sarah Raven showed us how to tie the perfect bouquet. First she did it, perfectly, then she took it all apart and I had a go, almost perfectly. It was a real confidence boost. The varieties we used were; euphorbia oblongata; rose Rhapsody in Blue; penstemon Heavenly Blue; geranium Attar of Roses; salvia Amistad and cerinthe.

Then, Sarah Raven MADE US A CUP OF TEA. Well, she probably asked someone else to make it but she went and got it. So we stood around, drinking tea, looking at the beautiful view, watching the film crew fussing over shots and just soaking it all up in all its perfectness.

We had the most delicious picnic lunch sitting on Sarah’s lawn, talking and laughing with the crew and spent the rest of the afternoon filming more plant know how. We were given a tray of amazing plants to take home with us, the euphorbia and the stunningly scented geranium, enough to get us started. Both are still going strong in the garden, the euphorbia is superb and is the backbone of all my bouquets and the geranium has overwintered well in the greenhouse smelling stupendous.

We had a lovely chat with Sarah’s husband Adam Nicholson who asked after ‘Montague’ and asked us to pass on his best. We said we would of course. It wasn’t until we were well on our way home we realised who Adam Nicolson is (historian, Sackville-West stock, so well connected it’s painful).

However, we were empowered. Despite the chaos at home, we had plants to grow, flowers to find and a real structure to our garden as far as planting went. The bouquet we made was so beautiful we decided to use all the varieties in our garden and work around them. We needed to get on with making the beds so we could get some annuals on the go, and fast.


Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; It’s Beginning to Feel A Lot Like a Garden

Chalk, Chalk and more Chalk


‘What shall we do today?’ asked Glenn as we claimed our first tea hit of the day.

‘I’ve got a great idea,’ I replied with cynical charm ‘Let’s spend the next eight hours digging out a cliff face and shifting rubble in buckets whilst trying not to break our necks!’

‘Wow! Do you really think we could?’

‘Of course we can darling, anything for you’

It was getting to be a habit. Every spare moment we were digging. We would get home from work and dig, Glenn took time off work to dig, entire weekends we dug. Once the first terrace was in place, the steepest part of the garden had to be removed. There was about a foot of soil before we hit a thick seam of chalk which we had to break through and remove.

The soil itself was reasonable and so we sieved it and kept it whilst we got rid of as much chalk as we could in our neighbour’s garden. They knew about this of course. They didn’t wake up one morning to find a glowing white version of Silbury Hill outside. They have a similar slope and luckily for us they actually asked if they could have our rubbish. Fence panel quickly removed and more shovelling took place.IMG_3852

It seemed as though all we were doing was digging which is exactly right, we were. The planting plans were waiting in the wings, we were holding back from buying too much because we had nowhere to put it. Our nursery on the patio was needing a lot of attention. Things were growing and needed repotting and then there was the self inflicted pressure of growing flowers for our wedding. We had some annuals on the go but it didn’t look enough.

The film crew were in constant contact asking for updates and planning more filming dates. Would we like to go plant shopping with Monty? Would we give them a list of exactly what we were doing in the garden and when? Had we thought about having a hen party they could film? Could they film our wedding? Would we like to go on a day trip to a mystery location to get some inspiration? We were grateful for all the chats and emails, it felt like a support team though at times I am not sure they actually comprehended the work we were doing. However, this would be quickly dispelled when they came to film and saw for themselves the change. We felt proud and smug and it made all the aching backs and blisters fade away.

And then there was the treasure. We live in an archaeologically rich part of the world. Our house is at the same height as Old Sarum which is five minutes from us. We started finding artefacts which added a sense of mystery about the land we were digging. Lots of pieces of clay pipe, lots of pottery, some animal teeth, bone, nails and a human tooth. At least I convinced myself it was human. We were told that our land was once a burial site for WW2 casualties from the nearby Old Sarum airfield. What? Dead bodies in our garden? Having watched many episodes of Time Team we quickly built over everything before anyone declared our garden an SSSI and got the geophys guys in. After all, we had a deadline to meet and Monty would not be pleased.

Glenn finds a (human) tooth.

Just at the right time, after we had reduced the garden to a white powdery bombsite we got a call asking us to please drive to Sussex for the day. We had a postcode. Luckily we also had the internet so we looked up our destination and got seriously excited.

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea;  A Floral Fantasy