Late last year I organised a project to redefine a garden area at the school where I'm a Governor. I was very lucky to have the help of Almondsbury Garden Centre, who were brilliant, generously donating loads of materials and designing a low maintenance, tactile, visual area, that really appealed to the senses. Here is the 'before and after' picture, so you can see what I mean...
The basic idea was a weed-supressing membrane, with coloured slate chippings over the top, which made an attractive and tidy feature, without the need for lots of tidying visits later on. Perfect for a school, where everyone is constantly busy and time and money is scarce. What I loved most about the design, though, is the addition of the colourful, sensory alpines and herbs, that are strategically positioned throughout the space. I had never done this before, but it's relatively easy. Once you've got your membrane in place, you can cut a cross in the fabric, allowing you to peel it back a little and access enough of the soil beneath to dig a small plant-sized hole and squeeze in a little splash of colour. The pictures don't actually do the space justice, it looked really pretty when it was finished, and the children loved it!
I love gardening, don't get me wrong, but my health is a bit hit and miss, and the garden has always suffered. The problems with my back mean that I can only do so much, so I wanted borders that were manageable and would be happy with whatever level of care I could provide. I also live on one of those wonderful 'new build' sites (albeit six years old) where the gardens are basically landfill covered in grass. Most of the gardening I have done over the last few years, seems to have mainly involved mining gigantic rocks and other debris out of the soil, and replacing it with whatever cheap compost I could lay my hands on!
So, I also needed plants that didn't mind too much where they grew, as well as being able to handle a bit of neglect. I remembered that the garden at school was also very rocky, and those plants are still going strong, so off I went to the Garden Centre, armed with a list. I couldn't quite stretch to slate chippings, which was kind of sad, but we opted for a much cheaper bark covering, with a view to adding chippings in a year or two, when the garden needs less spending on it.
I chose various grasses and lavender and thyme for fragrance. I'm so pleased with the result. It's such a relief that it finally looks tidy and should stay that way for a while. The membrane, bark (we've got tons left over), and plants cost around £60, which I think is an investment, as it will be a long time before it needs any more money spending on it.