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Total Neophyte

Hi there. 
First of all, hello! I am a newcomer to both the forum and to gardening more generally. I'd like to take the opportunity to apologise in advance to all you seasoned gardeners for my total ignorance (and I mean TOTAL ignorance) when it comes to all things horticultural. 

I am looking to mine you lovely people for some advice. We moved into a rental property about a year ago. It's in a rural setting, and has a good-sized south-facing, exposed mature garden, but unfortunately it has been neglected for quite a while. This morning I asked my husband 'What would Monty do?' He said 'Move house.' So far all we've managed to do is tread water: we've given the overgrown trees a brutal haircut and just about kept on top of the grass. We want this year to be the year we get on top of it (and pick up some new skills and a lovely new hobby in the process). This week we intend to go out there and clear out all of the old leaves etc that are lying about and dig up the weeds in the borders. We've found out how to build a compost heap, so that's on the to do list too. 

We have a few problem areas that we'd like to get sorted: lots of clover and dandelions in the lawn; a very, very uneven lawn surface (I'm talking ankle-twisting uneven!), moss all over the path and a big pest problem in the form of wild rabbits. 

If any of you have any advice on hardy perennials that will withstand the weather, the rabbits and my garden idiocy, and how to even out a lawn that looks like the surface of the moon I'd be incredibly grateful. 

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  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 8,820
    vjwilsonhead said:
    We have a few problem areas that we'd like to get sorted: lots of clover and dandelions in the lawn; a very, very uneven lawn surface (I'm talking ankle-twisting uneven!), moss all over the path and a big pest problem in the form of wild rabbits.
    Can we swap? That sounds like my idea garden. :)
    Do you know what's causing the unevenness in the lawn? Sometimes if it's been neglected it'll just be big tussocks of grass but other times it can be ant hills or mole hills that have grassed over. A bit of exploring with a sharp spade might answer that.


    Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people
  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 10,989
    Welcome to the forum :)
    Your OH's reply made me laugh ! I'm assuming that as tenants, you've had the go ahead to make changes.
    I'm guessing from what you say that there are existing borders and normally l would suggest waiting for a year to see what appears, but l see you have already been there 12 months.  Do you have any idea what (if any) existing plants are there ?
    Personally it would help if you could post a couple of photos just to give an idea of the layout. There are many perennials that survive my garden idiocy and l have a sunny garden, salvias, lavender, penstemon are just three that spring to mind, but l don't have rabbits to contend with  :)
  • AnniD said:
    Welcome to the forum :)
    Your OH's reply made me laugh ! I'm assuming that as tenants, you've had the go ahead to make changes.
    I'm guessing from what you say that there are existing borders and normally l would suggest waiting for a year to see what appears, but l see you have already been there 12 months.  Do you have any idea what (if any) existing plants are there ?
    Thank you so much for your reply. We have a beautiful peony and some small rose bushes that have done quite well, some crocosmia that are stunning when they get out. We have some forget-me-nots which I'm very fond of, and a cornflower plant too. Snowdrops and daffodils pop up each year which I love. Tree-wise we have an elder, a hazel and a few laurel bushes, all of which are well-established (the laurel is a little too well-established, frankly!) We also have a white feathery chap who is very pretty in springtime. See, it almost sounded like I know what I'm talking about for a little while there! 

    I love ferns and ornamental grasses, but would dearly love a cottage-style garden that looks a little wild, since it would fit in with the style of property (16th Century farmhouse). I'd love some lupins or something of a similar height, since the garden is surrounded by a beautiful wall all the way around. I also like flowering plants that tend to give a good amount of ground cover. 
  • As far as the lawn is concerned, the above advice will certainly be the best start. Going much further could depend on your budget ( rental property ?  long term or short term ? ) and whether you are after a perfect lawn or would be happy with a green area ?  Clover makes a good cover and the flowers are attractive both to the eye and insect life.
    Oh we're very happy with just an area of green for our little boy to play on - even marginally more level would be better than now! We plan to be here for quite a while (at least ten years), so we're happy to put a bit of money into it, though not so much that the landlord can charge double the rent to the next tenant (though they're very nice people, so I'm sure they wouldn't do that). To be honest we just want to do the house and garden justice - they both have such potential. 
  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 10,989
    edited January 2020
    It does sound beautiful, and obviously over the years the garden has evolved as people have added to and changed it. Some photos would really help (at least for me), maybe take a couple from the upstairs window (s) if that's possible. 
    As you have a long term plan, then my advice would also be don't go mad and try and do it all at once (l really should listen to my own advice !), and concentrate on the areas that you a. Use the most and b. Look out of the windows at.
    Another of my usual tips is to visit your local garden centre/nursery at different times of the year to see what's in flower, and get their advice. If it's South facing and exposed, ferns may well struggle but there's usually an alternative. Grasses such as miscanthus would be fine.

  • Do you know what's causing the unevenness in the lawn? Sometimes if it's been neglected it'll just be big tussocks of grass but other times it can be ant hills or mole hills that have grassed over. A bit of exploring with a sharp spade might answer that.


    That's great advice. Thank you. We've not seen any evidence of ants or moles or anything, so I'll have a little dig. If it turns out to be tussocks of grass is the best way forward to dig the bumpiest bits out and even them then reseed? 

    (I have to admit I love that it is a little wild out there. I definitely am not the manicured garden sort. I figure that we're part of the garden's history rather than it being part of ours - it was here long before I was and will likely be here long after I'm gone!)
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