The Story of Our Drive
scrubby grass
The drive was 2003's big project. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what we started with.
mismatched drive
The council came and did their stuff and we now have a second crossover ready for the in and out drive - we were very impressed with their efficiency
cross over being done
Having thought about a metal fence, we then thought we were decided on a brick wall at the front and side with metal gates but I'm was never too keen on the idea of gates (barriers!) and the quote for the wall was far too high for our liking so we're going to have a wooden fence and no gates (for now)!
large flower bed started
We started our part of the work on 18 January taking full advantage of the fact that the rain stopped at dinner time. I dug out the outline of the new beds (which will also mark the edge of the new drive) and Jonathon knocked most of the old wall down.
jc knocking down wall
It's a great idea to put everything on graph paper but an even better one to get outside with string, 6 inch nails and a spade and start looking at the practicalities. Jonathon had to drive across the new drive area a few times to make sure I'd got the angles right and I was delighted that I could have a bit more garden area!
marking out the curves

For the drive itself, we moved away from paviours to gravel, then to pebbles and finally settled on Indian Mixed Brown Cobbles with Arran pebbles on the non-drve/non-flowerbed bits. Thanks to Chris at Rock-Unique in Sundridge for his help.

large flower bed now dug over
We had the quote, swallowed hard and spoke nicely to our Building Society - work started in June and I'd done a lot of digging for the beds.
window bed marked out and dug
Digging the beds was hard work - the ground is full of stones, roots and rubbish - no goodness in the soil at all. Jonathon was therefore duly despatched to the Polhill (garden centre) to get some "mature stable compost" - very good it was too.
Nik and his team from Langdale Landscapes did the real work - there were be a lot of cobbles, all laid by hand! It has transformed the front of our property so much so that Klaus (Shirley's boss) drove straight past the other day as he didn't recognise it!
The bed in front of the house had to wait until the scaffolding was taken away before I could do anything with it!
In the meantime, we went to Plaxtol Nurseries (thanks to them for all their help) and bought the shrubs etc. for the main new bed. For the horticulturalists among you, I've added a plant list on the right. The sorbus tree has been around for a while - hopefully all my digging (and Nik's to follow) won't have disturbed it too much.
large bed planted

Alstroemeria Princess Ragna
Alstroemeria Orange Glory
Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea nana
Cornus stolonifera flaviramea
Cornus alba spaethii
Cornus florida rainbow
Kniphofia Brimstone
Kniphofia Nancy's Red
Kniphofia Jenny Bloom
Paeonia lactiflora Duchese de Nemours
Spiraea Japonica Candlelight
Spiraea Firelight

plants begin to look established
What a difference a month makes - the bed was planted in May 2003 (above) and everything was looking fairly established by June (left). Some of the plants were even flowering (as you can see below).
spiraea bush
orange glory alstro
white peony
princess ragna alstro
Nik and his team started work as soon as we went on holiday and got on quite well until the rain came! Seeing the pictures below, I think to stay out of the way (even to leave the country) was one of our more sensible decisions!
nick starts work
diggers move in
flatten it all down
We came home to the following relative normality, compared to what had happened while we were away. I'm surprised any of the plants survived at all!
beginning to lay the cobbles
entrance blocked
so many cobbles!
By 17 July 2003) we were just about finished, Shaun (car) was back where he belongs (instead of next door's drive) and we could walk to our front door without feeling like we're going over an obstacle course! Jonathon was very busy setting up an irrigation system for the flower beds and I'm pleased to say that the soil gets better every time I dig it over/dig more muck in.
view across drive
view towards big trees
large bed in summer flower
crysanths into window bed
The thinking for the bed under the windows was daffodils for Spring, roses for Summer and crocosmia for late Summer/Autumn but I've been out and bought some chrysanths (Carnival White, Carnival Yellow and Carnival Orange) and some gazanias (Summer Glory) today to give the bed some colour for this season.
view of window bed
We had some lights installed and have lit up the fir trees for Christmas rather than having a tree inside - believe it or not there are 600 lights on these trees! They will come down by the 6th of January but the rest of the lighting is permanent (but movable!) depending on what I want to light up.
big trees lit up for Christmas
front of house lights
tree lit up
close up of blossom
Moving on from Winter into Spring, the bulbs I planted in 2003 are showing well and the blossom on the prunus is a picture (Feb 2004). Of course, now we have a posh drive, we had to have a posh car so to introduce him ... here's Ajax.
The shrubs we planted last year seem to be doing reasonably well and the tulips are lovely.
Summer 2004 has seen the garden maturing nicely. The alstro. orange glory has been particularly lovely with a second flowering as an added bonus.
The chrysanths have grown like mad - they'll need a good prune later in the year. The yellow ones are in flower (Sept 2004) but the orange ones are only just budding up - they'll probably be in full flower while we're away!
As for the sorbus, it clearly likes being in a bed rather than scrubby grass - I've never seen so many berries on it before - hope the branches don't break.

Finally, the pictures to the right give you a good "before" and "soon after" comparison.

We are really pleased with the end result.

before picture
after picture

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