Shared garden spaces can be tricky areas, divided by property boundaries and subject to different gardening styles. But plants are not bothered by boundaries and they can be a great way to forge links, cross gaps and bring both gardens and gardeners together. The front of our property has a side garden strip of about 2m x 10m bisected by the property boundary. When we bought the house 6 years ago the garden strip was overgrown with hollies, dwarf conifers and weeds. Initially all we did was cut back the weeds to reveal an extra 50cm of driveway. Then, earlier this year we were finally ready to make the space into a garden.
Our friendly neighbour was more than happy to get rid of the overgrown shrubs and trees so we could plan a more attractive garden. I drafted a design based on a gravelled area like our front garden but with a more Mediterranean feel to fit in with the style my neighbour wanted to establish in her front garden. In this way the side bed aims to blend the two gardens, creating continuity and harmony.
We removed the existing plants and dug over the area ready for new plants to go in. I laid semi-permeable membrane so that the weeding wouldn’t get out of hand and then we were ready for the fun part – laying out the plants.
I’d chosen a quince tree (Cydonia oblonga ‘Meeches Prolific’) to go at the back as we’d always wanted one and never had room. It adds some height in front of the new binstore and lovely spring blossom. It had far too many fruits this year for a new tree, so I reluctantly thinned them, keeping only 7. Even this might well prove to be too many for it, only time will tell. But I’m deriving an enormous amount of pleasure from watching the furry fruit grow and thinking about the stewed apple with quince and quince jelly we’ll be able to make in the autumn.
The rest of the border is edged with lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’) underplanted with aubretia. I’ve found in the back garden that these two plants work really well together. Just as the aubretia is ending the lavender takes over, ensuring a colourful hedge for several months in spring and summer.
Edging of aubretia and lavandula with permanent colour through spring and summer
This is interspersed with Potentilla x tonguei – a lovely ground cover plant with delicate orange flowers and Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ to link to our front garden and create winter interest.
I’ve added Choisya ternata Sundance, Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’ and Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’ for evergreen backdrop colour and then continued the orange and blue/purple colour theme with the beautiful Verbascum ‘Clementine’, Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ and Echinops ritro. Now the garden is beginning to develop and the colour shines out, attracting lots of positive attention from passing neighbours and happy pollinators.
We went out a few days ago and there were so many bees and butterflies on the flowers that my youngest renamed it the pollinator garden… and the name has stuck.
Our pollinator garden
We share the watering and the weeding with our neighbour and her children. Just as the planting was shared without prior discussion, so tending for the garden happens without negotiation. Every few days I look out to see next door’s kids watering the plants and we do the same. We’ve had some lovely chats about the plants and wildlife outside in the sunshine. This small garden has done what good gardens should – it has brought pleasure and developed relationships with people and nature.
Now we can all look forward to the pleasure that new gardens bring as it develops over the coming months and years.
From dark and overgrown to colourful and uplifting
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I’d love to hear what you have transformed in your garden and whether shared gardens have been easy to design and manage. Have you had a positive experience sharing gardening with your neighbours? If so, please do leave me a comment and let me know about your experiences… Thanks.