Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Planting for the Sun Terrace

While the Sun Terrace is designed to blend in with the garden it is also intended to have a Mediterranean theme inside.

On that basis, it provides a sunny and sheltered spot for a fig tree (Brown Turkey variety) and a dwarf Apricot (Goldcot) which flowers later so hopefully will avoid any frosts. It's not planted in a frost trap though, with a south facing wall behind it and a gentle south sloping terrace ahead of it.

There are also three diamond shaped gaps in the paving for me to plant low, clump forming plants - I'm not sure what they'll be yet though.

There is also a border between the terrace and the lawn with a couple of thyme plants, loads of lavender (Hidcote), rosemary and space for nasturtiums to come.

I also - against some advice - planted a Sumach tree (Rhus typhina). Though not from the Mediterranean but North America, it will provide an exotic architectural element and great autumn colour. I will doubtless have to contend with roots rising up around it in the border and lawn. Regular weeding and the mower ought to take care of them.

Around it I planted three "dwarf fuchsias" with tiny pink flowers. The nurseryman at Gardeners' World Live told me they were Mrs Popple but in fact they have turned out to be Lottie Hobby and have performed brilliantly - more about them in a later post.

Building the Sun Terrace and lawn

Building the Sun Terrace was a laborious job. With the footings dug in April 2012, the ground had not even been levelled before it started to rain. And then it rained some more, and some more and finally, in October, it stopped.

So nothing really happened that first six months except that we trampled mud around the place and got far too used to living on a building site.

But then I managed to get the building materials delivered – not to where I wanted them but as close as we could get them up a slippery slope.

I got the retaining wall – built of concrete blocks in place before the winter arrived and, as the weather allowed, I levelled the ground surprisingly quickly for the new lawn.

The winter was very long and cold and building the stone wall that would cover the concrete blocks was a long, slow task. I was, however, pleased with the finished result.

While I waited for spring to arrive before sowing the lawn, I started on the Sun Terrace, building a concrete block wall - not a retaining wall but a shelter - up to four-and-a-half feet high.

I sourced the natural sandstone paving very cheaply from off-cuts of circular stone patios. And I laid them on mortar on a hardcore surface I’d hammered with a whacker plate.

The shelter block wall was rendered on the side facing the sun terrace with a coloured one-coat render (Weber) and another stone wall was built to cover the outside of the concrete wall.

It only took me about a third of the time to build the second wall, with longer, warmer days and more experience under my belt.

And, again, I’m pleased with the results. With all the stone for the wall coming out of the ground that had been levelled, it still looks like a genuine rustic construction, just like the old stone walls in and around the garden and the dry stone walls that boundary the fields above us.