Meanwhile, over at The Gulf Stream, Kristi Vogel talks about re-planting a Lantana horrida in her garden in San Antonio, Texas, the more to achieve a native ‘xeriscape’ – in keeping with the environs and, hopefully, easier to maintain than an array of carefully nurtured plants from alien shores. Kristi’s gardening is scrutinized at every stage by her horse, with an intense scrute.
We’re trying to do something similar, or at least analogous, at the Jardin Des Girrafes – that is, landscaping our garden for a specific purpose. When we arrived here three winters since, the J. des Gs was a pleasant lawn with an apple tree in the middle and a dilapidated shed at the end. The first thing we did was demolish and replace the shed. Then we had built a conservatory and a nice brick-weave patio.
And then came the chickens, the G-pigs, Canis cromercroxorum and Beelzebun Demon Bunny of DOOM. It is now clear that the lawn in our garden, which doesn’t get too much sunshine (the south elevation being largely obscured by buildings), was fine provided that people rarely walked on it, let alone ate it or tried to dig holes in it… the result being that it now looks more like Flanders c. 1916 than a garden anyone might wish to enjoy.
Our task, from here on in, is to create a garden that looks good all year round even though populated by G-pigs, Canis cromercroxorum and Beelzebun Demon Bunny of DOOM. The first thing we did was powerhose the chickenshit off the patio.
Then, one of my neighbours, who happens to be a super builder (who’d built the conservatory and the patio) has started to lay a brickweave path down the garden, following the muddy ruts made by our regular passage to the chicken run, the shed, the compost heap and so on.
My next task, when the builder has finished, will be to replace most of the lawn with shrubs. Chickens, being descendants of Asian jungle fowl, love hiding under shrubs, and if the shrubs are big and robust enough, nobody can see all the holes and junk and stuff that accumulate beneath them. Apart from the shade issue, getting things to grow here won’t be a problem: in the course of digging out the soil to make the path, the builder has found it to be packed full of worms. All that chickenshit (and G-pig shit) has done wonders for the soil’s fertility.
Therefore, at the moment, while taking Canis cromercroxorum for walks round the ‘hood, I’m checking out those plants that grow in local gardens that might also thrive in the demanding environment of the Jardin des Girrafes. We already have Forsythia and flowering currants growing like anything. But what we need are the kinds of plants that local authorities put in parks, requiring little maintenance and are proof against abuse and neglect – things like Hebe, Cotoneaster, winter jasmine, Eleagnus (very good near the coast, apparently) laurels, Pyracantha,
prostate prostrate conifers and so on. By the end of the year I should have a garden that should please the eyes of all the species that live in it: the sorry remains of the lawn will be largely replaced by hard landscaping and shrubs.
As Kristi’s gardening is supervised by her horse, so ours is by the chickens and Beelzebun Demon Bunny of DOOM. The builder works alongside a retinue of small furry and feathery creatures: Beelzebun Demon Bunny of DOOM appears to enjoy their company and has become quite tame, though I really shouldn’t talk about it, as she has a reputation to maintain.