The lament of the gardening tenant

As regular readers are no doubt aware, the lovely Kiwi and I are tenants. We rent the house we live in. We’d love to buy if we could, but right now, we can’t. So it goes for us and thousands of others like us. I mention this as a preamble because I love to garden. This always seems to surprise home-owners who wonder why I’d bother with the garden when I’m ‘only’ a tenant? (The ‘only a tenant’ thing is a rant I’ll spare you for another time). Gardening tenants aren’t all that common I grant you – so many people are ‘passing through’ properties as they climb the housing ladder. However for a long-term renter like me, it’s perfectly simple, I garden because I like to, and although our names aren’t on the mortgage deeds, right here and now this house is mine, the lovely Kiwi’s and the monkeys home – and I take a certain amount of pride in my home.

That said I clearly can’t just go yanking things out of the ground a rattling up a pergola where I fancy it – but within certain limits I can breath some new life into a garden that’s probably had precious little thought given to it in some time. I thought I’d take you through the garden that I have to work with right now and some familiar bug-bears which will be in most tenanted gardens all over the country.

  • What are we working with? A good sized but slightly mossy and weedy lawn with a path running all the way round. There are beds circling the garden and a high hedge of conifers at the back. It’s a practical garden. Plenty of space for the monkeys to run around in and a decent sized paved area. This will be great for al fresco dining later in the year. The house itself is only ten years old, my abiding first impression of the garden when we moved in last summer was that there was hardly anything in it, and what was there was madly overgrown. The soil was still full of building rubble from when the estate had been built and the soil looked a bit thin and stony to sustain much plant life. You can see at the back the brown straggly growth of long-established clematis plants. It was a revelation to me that I could dislike a clematis but I’m not fond of these. The old growth looks ugly and the actual flowers are an acid yellow which fades to looking like dusty cotton wool when they’re over. It’s also climbed all the way into the conifers above.
  • The all too common ‘why’ plants? As in ‘why stick two largeish, hungry shrubs bang on top of each other here?’ Of course I know the answer why, the idea is to fill the garden up with big plants – therefore no fuss. However I’m hoping my Dad will confirm this shrub is no longer with us so I can justify digging it out and popping some hostas and lily of the valley in instead. It’s a very shady corner here, which is clearly why the other shrub (a rhododendron maybe?) looks so miserable.

    The same thinking applies to this bed, which is full of a kind of geranium that quickly covers the ground and is a woody, deep-rooted ‘mare to dig out. It’s a shame, I think this bed looks as if it would make a perfect little veggie bed.

  • So what will I be planting? Essentially heaps of sweet peas. I love sweet peas, the fragrance, the colours, the handy way they happily clamber all over established ugly plants I’m not justified in digging up *eyes the clematis meaningfully*. I’ve germinated loads this spring having lost a good number of young plants last year to slugs and I’ve got another couple of packets of seeds as back-up if necessary. If I’m lucky with them there’ll be colour in the garden and flowers in my house from May to October.There’s also strawberries to go in and hopefully some tomatoes in pots. 


Hopefully for my next gardening update I’ll have some beautiful blooms to show. One day I’ll have my very own spot to wreak havoc/establish my own aesthetic on. In the meantime I’ll just have to make do with what I have – wherever we are.

Thanks for reading,

2 thoughts on “The lament of the gardening tenant

  1. I am so sympathetic to your ‘gardening tenant’ predicament – I’ve experienced that so many times. We had a tiny patio garden once, almost entirely shaded by a GIANT walnut tree, but I did manage to grow a few tomatoes…! All the best with your sweetpeas, it will be worth it.

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