Over our many adventure I have lost the photos of our old house in Kent in England. I loved that house, it was my heart house, until life came along and indicated that I should not stay there forever. You would have to read my other blog to understand why.
The love I had for the house showed in so many ways and not least in the small courtyard garden so often found in Victorian Villas by the sea. It was bare when we first moved there and in the twelve years we lived there I turned it into the garden in the photo. It was small but it was a little oasis of calm.
When we moved to France we originally wanted three acres, until someone told us that we really didn’t. So we ended up with Montaigu, with just under an acre! The first day I stood in my garden I looked around and thought ’this is all mine’, and it was, and over time I came to realise that it was overwhelming.
It was a difficult garden with one part in front of and to the side of house …
Then we had a chemin (lane) dividing the garden into two parts, it had been used by the farmer who had built the house to drive up to his fields.
Leaving us the a huge chunk of land behind the barn the size of a small field. In all honesty, we never used it, because the only access was to walk up the chemin and up a Steep slope. We tried to use it, we even put a little bistro table and chairs over there, promising ourselves we would go over there with candles in jars and have aperitifs. But of course we never did.
I wanted to build a bridge across the chemin to the little field, but we never had the funds. The things we wished for, but in reality they were never going to come to fruition.
The garden was south facing, so the sun beat down relentlessly in the hot French summers, to the point that you couldn’t sit on the terrace. I took my pots over with me from the UK and I tried to create my little idyll again, but it wasn’t possible it was just too big; and eventually it just became a chore. The space was just too vast to fill it.
I bought shrubs, hydrangeas and peonies, planted a camelia, planted some of my clematis I had brought over from the UK, but they were all lost in the vastness of the garden.
I never realised until now just how much I missed my enclosed courtyard garden, I missed that feeling of security, I missed being able to create a small idyll. Looking back now I should have embraced the vastness of the garden, but it was not me, I wanted to be able to see the beautiful things around me. I suppose I have always been a ’pot’ gardener.
There was one point when for some unknown reason we thought we would create a little seating area at the side of Montaigu in the access way to the chemin, but it never worked. The space was too enclosed with the high hedge that I had always detested.
So when we came here to Ireland we didn’t want a big garden. Despite that we ended up with the garden surrounding our house and a half acre paddock!! But the beauty of this garden is that it is manageable, even the paddock, in which we will plant cherry trees, and cut a path and areas to sit in the grass, the rest we are going to turn into meadow, throw seed bombs, embrace nature and welcome the bees.
We have a courtyard behind the house, and this is the area we have decided to focus on this year.
When we arrived just a year ago our little courtyard looked like this..
The house had been rented, and it really hadn’t been loved. In fact when we arrived it’s energy had been so sad, because it had been loved once, by people who had put down a lovely patio in the little sun trap out the back. But arsehole who rented it wrecked it, and all there was were weeds and rubble when we arrived.
We have learned from moving country twice that you have to do things in small steps. So last year we cleared the weeds and tried to salvage as much of the patio as we could. But where it wasn’t possible we laid soil and seeded it.
This year we have decided to focus on our little sun-trap, despite our fantastic view, and have started to put some pots around the courtyard. We have created a haven for the birds, with bird boxes and feeders, although to start with the mirror drove what is now our resident chaffinch, mad.
Our garage is not pretty, but we have created the bird sanctuary on the garage, and I have started to replace the climbing plants that I have sadly lost in all my adventures. My beautiful blue pots all got left in France, I have to start again.
I have realised just how much I missed my courtyard garden, I like enclosed places, I’m just lucky that we this garden we can have both. But when I started this blog over four weeks ago the wall was staying. Now after sitting in the courtyard many evenings, we are going to embrace the paddock, and the wall is coming down before it falls down. I suppose you can’t go back, well in fact I know it, so I will combine the gardens of Selsea and Montaigu and meet them somewhere in the middle.
We love sitting there now, with all the birds fluttering down, despite the Welshies barking at them. They have become quite tame whilst they feed from the fat-balls, and peanut butter birdhouse (who even knew there was such a thing?) The little Chaffinch has even found himself a mate, which filled me with joy when I saw her today.
I can see now that we can create a little courtyard haven again, whilst being able to look across our land, and easily enjoy it this time, no big hills and chemins!
It has all made me realise how we wish for thinks like huge expanses of land, but we don’t ask ourselves: To do what with exactly?