Hopefully we will all be enjoying plenty of hot summer weather this year, outside in our gardens without the need for waterproofs. However, every garden includes weather related challenges, and here I share a soggy story. I recently revisited this particular garden, designed in 2006, so I know the tale has a happy ending.
The small family garden had been largely concreted over by previous owners, the front and side gardens entirely, for car parking and driveway, while behind the house an area of patio had been laid on a solid bed of concrete. My proposed design would tastefully replace or ‘soften’ the garden’s hard landscape elements, with climbing plants twining over free-standing trellis panels increasing privacy while creating a secure area for young children to play.
The clients were pleased with my proposals, and landscape contractors began work in winter 2007. Excavation and removal of the old concrete surface revealed the site’s underlying challenge: a water table so high that ultimately, new land drains would be needed to reclaim dry ground from the newly discovered ‘moat’. After
rising to the challenge of laying new paved paths into this garden mudscape the contractors installed trellis panels and prepared planting beds with new topsoil.
With the heavy work completed, planting plans were finalised. As the year advanced, the topsoil remained unusually soggy. Monitoring the garden’s rainfall and groundwater confirmed more water in the soil than had fallen directly from the sky, so drainage and soil texture were improved before planting.
The warmer months approached, and carefully selected shrubs and perennials were planted on arrival, soon followed by recordbreaking deluges of summer rainfall. Parts of the garden disappeared under water and much of the trellis planting gradually drowned. The usual soil drainage measures were increased, and extended, until finally, the local authority connected a new interceptor land drain under the street. The surviving new planting slowly recovered, and as root systems extended through soil, the garden could begin to absorb rainfall normally.
Some climbing plants have been replaced twice, but perseverance has been justified. Two years later the garden is looking good, with shallow rooted and moisture-loving plants performing particularly well. My clients are delighted with their new garden, and I have acquired experience in a range of techniques for dealing with poorly drained sites.
I’ll finish this soggy tale with a quote from my client, “Yes, we’re looking forward to seeing you too. I hope the clematis over the gate is still in fl ower when you come. The irises by the apple tree are just about to bloom so your timing should be good for those. We love our garden!’
© Douglas Dalgleish Garden Design 2009