Adding some colour to the garden

A big project for us this year has been our garden. Regular readers will know all about Operation Garden Renovation and the time and effort we have put into turning our garden from this:


(although at this point we had already removed the approx. 15 conifer trees that covered the perimeter of the garden) to this:


The work is still ongoing though and we have started planting the garden… and we have been looking at some other ways of adding some colour to the garden! There is a trend at the moment for using some non-traditional colours to paint fences and woodwork, and, well, both hubby and I love it! So we decided we would go for it and add some colour to the garden.

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Operation Garden Renovation #7 The Landscaping is finished!

Yep this is it, big reveal time! Although the garden is far from finished and we still have a lot of work to do, the landscaping work has now been done.

First of all a reminder at what the garden looked like before. Huge ugly conifers, shed and arbour off to one side and a dodgy uneven patio.

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Now though, we have opened it all up! We have a lovely wavy patio out the back doors and round behind the conservatory.


With a tree in the corner this is the only area of the garden that ever gets any shade, which is why we thought we would use it for the patio. We will (eventually) buy a nice new patio table and chairs out there as ours is a hand me down hubby got from a friend before we even met! It’ll do for now though!


The best thing about our lovely new garden is our new huge bit of lawn. We knew that the layout of the old garden made it feel smaller than it is, but in truth we had no idea quite how big the garden would look with everything gone. It’s huge! Yay!



Its still very new so we can’t walk on the turf at the moment, but when we can I know Monkey is going to love playing out there! We’ve deliberately not put any beds on that side of the garden so that he can have a big expanse to play on. I think the garage wall could do with a nice colourful mural at some point too! We will see what we can come up with!

So there we have it, the big work has been done, and thank goodness, Monkey and I have already been out there with his sand table and bubbles, we are going to have so much fun out there this summer, and I am dead excited about it!!

The landscapers have been great and done an amazing job, but there is still a lot more that we want to do to make it ours, Operation Garden Renovation is far from over!

The fences need painting, we have tons of plants to buy, soil to dig over and then the actual planting all of the plants. We want to buy some planters and some outdoor play toys for Monkey. But, well, we can’t afford to everything all in one go, getting the landscaping done has been expensive enough! So the rest of it will be done in bits and bobs, probably over the next few years, though we hope to get some more done this year.

So what do you think?

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Operation Garden Renovation #6 – Work begins!

Regular readers will know that we have been renovating our garden. It has been a real labour of love and we spent about 5 weeks on the clearance side. We decided to get landscapers in to do the actual um… rebuilding of the garden as we know our limits! We couldn’t get booked in quite as early as we would have liked and a few rainy days put them a bit behind schedule (boo :() but we have now started and they are making excellent progress!

They started by digging out where the patio is going to be. It’s amazing how much dirt they have removed from just that area – basically an entire huge skip just of soil! Sadly we don’t have any pictures of the skip so you’ll have to take my word for it! One of neighbours did ask if they could have some of the soil for their garden, and of course I said yes! Why not?


Then they laid stones down for the foundation of the patio, and flattened with a very noisy vibrating machine.


WP_20140409_19_20_35_ProThey then re-rotivated the old lawn, as the grass had re-seeded itself since we did it! Their machine was much more heavy duty than ours so it is milled a bit finer than when we rotivated it. They also dug an edge, as they are going to be lining the edge of the lawn with blocks too, to keep things neat and tidy. then they brought some big piles of sand in and we were under strict instructions not to let Monkey loose in the garden while we waited for the stones to arrive!




So then it was a matter of waiting for the stones to arrive so they can get laying! Eek! It’s so great to see some progress finally! With the combination of the arrival of warmer weather, and all the problems with my pelvis, I can’t wait to be able to just go in the garden with Monkey! Thankfully we’ve been spending some time in my neighbour’s garden but I am so looking forward to a summer of fun in the back garden!!

And just quickly, in other garden news, we have buds on the bluebells! Woohoo! Very excited Hello beautiful bluebells outside my kitchen window 🙂



Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Operation Garden Renovation #5 Bringing in the Big Guns

So far we have pruned, chopped, broken, burned and disposed of almost everything in the garden. After last weekend we had a pile of rubbish and broken slabs that wouldn’t fit into the skip, so we agreed we would need another. Another skip wasn’t the only thing we knew we would need though, oh no. We also hired some big machines to help us with the final clearance stage of Operation Garden Renovation!

A few of the stumps

A few of the stumps


A Stump Grinder, for all the tree stumps left from the huge conifers we had to tear down, and a Cultivator to churn up all of the soil and hopefully bring up any plant roots and Ivy! Hubby was pretty excited about the arrival of the awesome machines, boys and their toys!!

The stump grinder looked pretty terrifying to me though and very dangerous. with lovely warnings on the back about how bad the fumes are we decided I very much had to keep Monkey indoors while they were using it. Thankfully we got yet more help from our brothers, as it really was a two man job to use it.


As they got into the swing of things they made great progress with the stumps across the two days. This was also sadly the weekend we had the nighttime A&E trip with Monkey so on Sunday after very little sleep hubby was so very tired, but they weren’t cheap to hire and we knew we had to make the most of having the equipment. So he plowed on through bless him and did an amazing job, even though he was knackered.


Before the stump grinder..

Before the stump grinder..


Part way through...

Part way through…


After!! (or nearly finished at least)

After all the stumps had been chewed to a pulp and were a good few inches below ground level, it was time to get the cultivator out to chew up the garden. Thankfully this was now a much easier job as there was not much in the way – other than a single solitary daffodil, that we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to destroy!!




Although Monkey didn’t have quite the same reservations!

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So there we have it, our garden is finally cleared and is now a big pile of mud :). There is a few bits of shrubbery still there but the guy who will be doing the hard work of giving us a nice looking garden again will have to prepare the ground anyway so I am sure he can manage those.


It has been a VERY hard 5 weeks of renovation and clearance and we couldn’t have done it without the help of our families, but we have saved ourselves a good few thousand pounds worth of labour by doing it this way. Even so the garden is still going to cost more than we want it to really but nowhere near as costly as it could have been.

The next garden renovation post should hopefully show the garden taking shape at last! It may not be for a few weeks though so stay tuned!

How does your garden grow?

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Operation Garden #4 Patio Demolition

Operation Garden Renovation is now WELL under way. So far we have cut down all of the bushes, torn down the shed and arbor, and had a big fire in the back garden to get rid of all of this wood.

This is where it starts to get a bit tough though, we now need to remove all the patio. Not an easy job, and we’ve decided the best way to get rid of it is to get a big skip. So on Friday, a big skip came, and Monkey helped me put some of the rubbish in, bless him he does like to help!


On Saturday my older brother came round and he and hubby set to the patio demolition. Unfortunately it wasn’t as easy as lifting the slabs and carried them round, as some of the slabs turned out to be much thicker than others and were far too harry for them to carry between them, or even to push in the wheel barrow.

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As they themselves admit they aren’t the brawniest specimens of man so instead had to put their brains into action to come up with a solution. They found all that long gone scientific knowledge from school days about levers and pivots to be quite useful after all, and with what brute strength they had they found a way to smash up the slabs into more manageable pieces. Which basically involved, lifting on one end and resting it on a slab, then throwing another slab onto it in order to break it. Once they got the angles it right it was pretty effective!




The wheel barrow was still seriously heavy when full though so they adopted a turkey walk to put the weight into their knees rather than backs! Brains over brawn! 🙂

They managed to get 2 1/2 of the patio areas done before my brother had to go home for the day, but thankfully my younger brother was headed over the following day to give us a hand. Though we didn’t exactly tell him what he was in for, when he arrived we made sure he knew how much work our older brother had done and how much more we expected of him ;). His lovely girlfriend came round too and had a play with Monkey while the boys got to work.


Using the technique perfected the previous day they got the rest of the patios destroyed but there was too much to go in the skip, so they had to pile up a load of it ready for another skip we assume (Not sure we could take a trip to the tip with it weighing the car down!).



Then with the help of my brother’s lovely girlfriend we cleared a lot more of the foliage and she found one of the former occupants of the shed… shall we say it was a little bit crispy?! Yuk!


Everyone was shattered at the end of the weekend but there is still more to be done! This is how it looked at the end of the weekend and it feels like there is a long way to go yet!


We can’t wait to finish the clearance now and have some more relaxing weekends for a while!

Next week we are bringing in the big guns and hiring some machinery to remove tree stumps and all the plant roots!

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Monkey is in charge of Operation Garden Renovation

With Operation Garden Renovation consuming our lives at the moment, we haven’t been out and about quite as much as usual, but Monkey has been more than happy to help us in the garden, and has very much enjoyed all the time he has been able to spend out there with his uncles.

He has been helping us load up the skip

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Doing all the heavy lifting


Pushing the wheelbarrow

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Over-seeing the bonfire


And just generally having a lot of fun and ruling the roost 🙂

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Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Word of the Week – Gardens

This week in our house it has all been about



In truth it has been all about gardens for longer than a week as we started Operation Garden Renovation a few weeks ago now, but this week I am really feeling that it is overwhelming our life!

My last post about it was all about the bonfire, but in fact I am a week behind on the progress posts and the hubby and my brothers have since filled a huge skip with rubble from the 4 bits of patio that used to be in the garden. More on that to come soon!

We have been thinking a lot about the design of the garden, whether to go for patio or deck and what else we want to achieve with the garden. We have also realised that the garden actually slopes gradually towards the house and we may need some sort of step up if we want the lawn area to be level, and a better solution for drainage to avoid getting damp problems.

Because we think now that we would like a patio we have realised this is all getting beyond our skill level and have contacted loads of landscape gardeners to see how much it costs, timeframes etc. Of all of those we contacted, only one has come back to us! I don’t understand? Do people not want the work? Seems crazy to me! The one that has comes to us seems very good but it is looking likely to be more expensive than we had hoped and that it won’t be done as quickly as we had hoped. The deadline of a birthday bbq at the end of April is looking extremely unlikely.

On the recommendation of my friend’s fiancee (who is a carpenter himself) we have contacted another guy who is coming at the weekend and I really hope he can give us some good news!

We have more work planned for this weekend – another huge skip is coming tomorrow along with some heavy duty equipment. We are hiring a stump grinder  to hopefully make light(er) work of the 20ish conifer tree stumps in the garden, and cultivator coming to try and dig up as many of the roots of Ivy and other bushes so that it doesn’t all just come back again immediately through whatever we decide or manage to get down.

Hopefully by the end of this weekend the majority of the work we can do will have been done, and we will have a better of idea of who will be doing the rest, and when that will be! Then my life (and blog) can get a bit back to normal and less garden focussed! It’s exciting but draining as we want to be happy with it. We hope to live here for many years and don’t want to regret the choices we make in the garden and have to go through this all again at some point!

What is your word of the week?

The Reading Residence

Operation Garden Renovation #3 The Bonfire!

Operation Garden Renovation is now well under way and with the help of hubby’s brothers we made some fantastic progress last weekend, though I have to say I never realised before that my hubby’s family was a family of pyromaniacs!!

They started off the day by comparing their ‘man’ tools and then set about demolishing the shed.

shed demolition

It may have been an idea to take the stuff out of the shed first, but I don’t think anyone wanted to go in there – you know what sheds are like for spiders and bugs and we had an inkling there was mice in there…. and we were right! Once the shed was down the boys found a lot of evidence of mice. When we moved in we had put some bird food in there and the mice had scoffed the lot. They had also scoffed through cushions, boxes and all sorts and there was a LOT of poo etc. No actual mice to be found though!

evidence of mice

After the removal of the shed there was a lot of discussion over what to do with the mountains of rubbish we were creating. Hubby and I cut down a lot of bushes and foliage last week and there was all the wood of the arbor to be removed too. Hubby had mentioned to me the idea of a fire, but to be honest I was very nervous of that idea and wasn’t sure it was very sensible to have a bonfire in the garden.

But, hubby and his brothers decided it was a good idea, and persuaded me that it would be a very small, contained fire, and it would go nowhere near the fences, and they assured me that they would not burn down any of our neighbours houses or gardens. So, I was overruled! They called in Granddad as apparently he loves fire and would have been most miffed to miss out on the action!

bonfire start

I have to say I was quite impressed with the fire starting skills, and it started off small, but soon we had quite a fire going!

Then came the arbor’s turn to be pulled down, and though it looked like it was fairly rotten, it actually turned out to be a lot stronger than we thought!


This was Monkey’s first experience of fire, and of course we kept him at a very safe distance, and there was always one of us watching over him to make sure he went nowhere near the flames. He loves his uncles very much so had lots of cuddles from them. He also had a real treat as we never have cans of drink, but thought it was a good idea for all the outdoor work, and well, Monkey was obsessed with them and had one in his hands almost at all times! It’s sugar free lilt so thankfully no crazy sugar rush later!


We started to burn some of the cardboard from the shed, but it was sending off the huge sheets of ash and I didn’t want it to end up in all the neighbour’s gardens so we stuck to wood and foliage after that, though we definitely had enough of that to be going on with. The ‘small’ fire I was promised turned into a raging inferno! Well not quite, as it was controlled and a safe distance from fences etc. but it definitely end up being a lot larger than we originally planned. ( I will point out Monkey had gone for his nap by this point!)


It was a very successful day and we managed to clear a lot of the rubbish without needing a trip to the dump or the hiring of a skip, though I am sure we will need to do both of those over the coming weeks! The garden looks so much bigger now too. We knew that the shed and arbor were making the garden feel smaller than it is, but we didn’t realise quite how much bigger it would feel once they are gone!


Now it looks like a wasteland or rubbish dump, but you can at least really get a feel for the width of the garden for the first time!

We went out again in the evening to burn some of the ends of logs or bits that had not fully burned, and I love this picture Daddy took of Monkey watching the flames while sitting in the trike 🙂


I’m linking this post with the lovely Annie at Mammasaurus Blog for How Does Your Garden Grow – though I am aware this post isn’t really about anything growing! Hope that is ok!

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Design Ideas for Operation Garden Renovation – Our Spring Project

You may have read that we have started Operation Garden Renovation this Spring. We had it in mind that we would get going with this project this year and with the sunny weather arriving, we have made the most of it and got out there nice and early.

At the moment it is all about clearance and creating a blank canvas we can work with. It was so higgledy piggeldy before and felt a lot smaller than it is. We had an idea in our head of how we wanted it to end up looking, but honestly, as the clearance has progressed we have changed our minds and are now uncertain of how we would like it to look.


Love cottage gardens

We have to think about how we are going to use the garden. While I would love a cottage style garden or an abundance of wildflowers, that look doesn’t really fit with the space we have, or what we want to use it for. We have a child and hope to have another. We need space for them to run and play and explore as they grow. We want them to learn to ride trikes and bikes in the garden. We’d love them to play football, or have a swingball in the garden. I love the idea of waterfights in the summer.

We need open spaces. A mix of deck/patio and lawn. With some beds of trees and bushes and flowers too.

We originally thought that we would like a large decked area, pretty much where the existing patio was but going off diagonally rather than squared. However we realised that that area is hugely sunny, and actually it may be better to have the seating area in the one slightly shady bit of the garden, which is under the tree, behind the conservatory.

We’re also wondering whether decking is the way to go, or to go for a patio. Not like the rubbish patio that was there before, but perhaps a curved path starting from the garage door, curving round past the conservatory doors, and opening out onto a large curved patio area. There are so many different designs of patios, with a variety of colours and shapes and sizes of stones.

Hubby really likes this circular design, and I do like it, but I’ not sure how you then lead that into a path around the house…


This is quite nice too:


 (Both the above Patio images come from Rose Landscapes in Peterborough)

We want most of the area to be lawned and then will have a few beds, and we would love to plant a few young trees, sort of spread around the edges of the garden, for a bit of privacy as they grow over the years. (Plus I have a hammock and I would love to be able to have a couple of trees to attach it to again! :))

We’d like some trees to give us some lovely colour and texture throughout the year. I’d love some beautiful blossom in spring, and some gorgeous russet or golden leaves in the autumn.

Perhaps a Japanese Dogwood for some nice blossom?

and a Chinese Tupelo, or Oriental Sweet Gum for autumn colours?


These are obviously rather large specimens and we will be starting off with much smaller versions of these!

Then we will think about bushes (love a nice hebe), get some spring bulbs in for next year and plan some summer flowers too.

LOTS to think about with this garden renovation. We are doing well on the clearance front (more to come on that on Wednesday) but I think we will need to get an expert in to help us decide on patio/deck and the designs etc. as we hope this renovation will be the only renovation on the garden and last for many many years to come. We don’t want to make a hasty decision and then regret it within a few years (or months!).

It is good fun though, we have got a real project to sink our teeth into, and a blank canvas so we can make our garden exactly how we want it to be… if we can figure out what that is!!

I am linking this post up with Iona and Jocelyn for The Theme Game, as this week’s theme is Gardens.

The Reading Residence

I am also linking up to the lovely Sara for The Prompt, which this week is all about Spring Projects, and this is very much our Spring Project!

All of the above images (bar one) were obtained from a Google Image search, I do not have copyright for any of these images and are merely using them for illustration purposes

Operation Garden Renovation #2 Starting the Clearance

If you read last week’s post, you’ll know that we have a whole load of clearance to do in this garden, and that one post is not really going to cover it. It is probably going to take quite a few weeks to just get it cleared so it feels like quite a daunting task to undertake.

We are planning a bbq for my birthday at the end of April so that has lit a fire under us and given us the push we need to really get going with it. We have asked for help from our brothers and they are all coming to give us a hand over the next few weeks, but for the first weekend we are on our own – but still determined to make a start!


Hubby and I thought that as it was just the two of us we would start with the simple stuff and cut down the existing bushes. We have some of the prickliest bushes in existence, seriously one of these bushes has spines about 2 inches long, terrifying, and fricking painful when you get stabbed by it!


The garden is also FULL of junk. The previous owners seemed to use it as their personal dumping ground. Anything they didn’t want or didn’t know what to do with, it just got dumped in the garden. We found so much stuff in the early days, such as rusted rakes and loads of other old, broken garden tools. We thought we had got rid of it all, but no, we found some other hidden gems during our lopping. Including:

A sock


A plate


Loads of bricks


An old clock.


Some hosepipe.


Just in and around the bushes. I mean why? We also found loads of old bike tyres and lots of balls in various shapes and conditions, which monkey had fun with for a bit.

Monkey initially had a lot of fun entertaining himself in his little car (I got it from ebay for a fiver last summer!)


and then had some fun rolling around in the garden..

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But he did get bored after a while, and we realised we need a wheelbarrow and to actually figure out what to do with the growing pile of garden waste, so we left it for another day.

Next week we have hubby’s brothers round to help and we should get this clearance well under way!!

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?