In clearing out my computer hard drive, I found some photos of the garden that Mark & I cleared out and made into something useable. Mark did a lot of the hard work, and I did the design and most of the planting. It was from our first flat together, on Wimbart Road in Brixton. The photos are from 1999, and I am not sure that I had a digital camera back then… which is a shame because the only photos I could find on the hard drive were low resolution, so unfortunately you can’t see a lot of the detail.
We worked really hard on the garden, which was an overgrown wasteland when we moved into the flat. It was a rental flat, and it looked like it hadn’t been used in years. There were thistles that had grown to 7feet high, discarded toys & furniture, and weeds everywhere. It took us AGES to clear it all out, prepare the soil, and plant it up. But what took the longest was the mosaic.
We were new to London and neither of us was working in a well-paying job, so we had to do the whole thing on the cheap. So I decided that we would build our own ‘mosaic deck’ out of marine plywood and paint. So we cut 2 hemispheres out of marine ply, laid footings to support it, and then got to work on the paint. Little did I know how long it would take to sponge-paint 1inch x 1inch squares onto a circle of around 8 feet in diameter. Well, you can do the math and guess. It was the longest most tedious project I think I have ever done – with Mark’s help, of course. The pair of us must have spent about a week off & on out there in the garden, with our little plates of paint and tiny sponges, dabbing away at this massive white circle. Because the circle was huge & white, it reflected the sun so we both suffered from sunburn. But I think it turned out really well in the end, and we got lots of pleasure sitting out there on our own masterpiece.
During the course of digging and mixing compost in with the topsoil, we ended up with a big pile of builder’s rubble and stony soil that we didn’t know what to do with. We couldn’t really afford a skip, so I had a MacGyver inspiration and decided to make use of our mound, by turning it into a raised bed. Instead of doing something more conventional, I had the crazy idea of using cheap plastic plumbing pipes as the barrier to hold all the soil back, and wanted to make a curved bed that would flow around the mosaic. I cut the pipe into pieces, spray painted it with car paint so it wouldn’t chip, and then set about planting the bed and inside the pipes with rockery plants. The end result looked pretty cool, kind of like a big pipe organ buried in our garden (see picture left). And the ‘mind your own business’ plants absolutely loved the pipes, and were spilling over the edge in no time.
One of the things I remember best was that when we were digging we found a set of false teeth! I wonder how they got into the ground, or what their owner must have thought when they went missing. We also found a tricycle, some wicker shelving, loads of broken pots, as well as several tables and chairs, which I reupholstered and painted. In fact we still have 2 of the chairs and one coffee table to this day.
I often wonder what happened to the garden after we moved out, just a year after the makeover. I remember the estate agents were over the moon when they came round to view the place as we were leaving, because they hadn’t seen it since it was a big wasteland (when we moved in). Of course I had asked them if we could tidy up the garden and make use of it, but they hadn’t yet seen the change until we were moving out. We took a few of the plants, but left most of them in situ, so I wonder how they have grown. I also wonder how well our mosaic and pipe-organ stood up to the weather over the years. Who knows; it may now look just as much a mess as when we first moved in, but I like to think it stayed beautiful.
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