Big Dreams, Small Spaces Diary 3: Summer (June – August)

June was a pretty great month for the garden. All of the ground work was done, things were on track and many plants were starting to flower.

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Rumbles was happy – although he’d by this point set his sights on destroying the Buddleia in the background.

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Peas and radishes I’d grown in the local community garden were ready to eat

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Our first sweet peas were looking very pretty

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One Dahlia couldn’t wait to start flowering

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Rumbles was helping me revise for my final RHS Level 2 exams – which were consuming most of my time by this point.

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The tomatoes I’d sown in February were ready

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In fact, everything was looking pretty cool 😀

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And for the record, the seed grown front ‘Sissinghurst white garden’ did exist… for one day.

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Then reality hit and our other major project began at the end of June – our complete flat renovation works.

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lol! At the end of June, all of our ex-rental furniture was thrown out, our remaining belongings put into storage and we moved into the front living room where we lived for four months. We were actually really excited at this point.

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We were literally gutting the entire flat, changing the layout and knocking two massive new doors out into the garden. While living there.

Our builders were absolutely, totally amazing at helping us maintain the Big Dreams, Small Spaces garden. Despite all of the odds, they went out of their way to protect every single plant. It was incredible. In fact, Rumbles our cat destroyed more plants than the builders as they didn’t harm a single one! And ultimately, they delivered a brilliant flat renovation for us.

However, the reality of living in a small flat with a tiny garden while loads of other people are trying to work in it and doing construction work was a bit silly of us. It was difficult and I won’t lie, it took its toll on both Chris and I.

The garden became a weird ballet of Dahlias in pots being shuffled around construction equipment.

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Back in came the front ‘white garden’.

July and the garden hit its peak, actually looking its most beautiful at this point. Although I think only Chris, I and the builders were the ones to really see it as scaffolding went up and our small space became no space… oh, and Rumbles our cat who loved it!

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The hardest part was watering and trying to make sure plants had enough sunlight

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In July, we decided to get away from it all for a week and went on holiday to East Sussex and Kent, visiting more inspirational gardens (both Victorian and otherwise) on the way.

It was a nice moral booster, visiting Sissinghurst, Nymans, Great Dixter, Wakehurst Place, Monk’s House and many others in one week.

Sissinghurst's famous white garden
Sissinghurst’s famous white garden
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The inspirational Great Dixter
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Echiums and topiary at Nymans

Towards the end of August, we made a last ditch attempt to complete the fern wall, going shopping. We’d given ourselves the deadline of Chris’ birthday in September – and we’d invited Monty to it.

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We wanted to stick to the date. However, with such a monster of a task ahead to get the main back doors in, we just didn’t think it was possible at this point.

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With only days to go, the pressure was immense and it simply didn’t feel possible for the building team to complete such a complex piece of work, and remove everything from the garden. While we faffed around them trying to water plants and keep them looking good in the summer heat.

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I was secretly chuffed at the amount of flowers being churned out, although equally disappointed no one was seeing them.

Chris’ birthday was looming, flat renovations were in full swing and – of all the crazy coincidences – my final exam results were due out on the same day as the garden party and reveal. We were days away, nothing seemed ready and the pressure was all too much. I really felt like I was going to let everyone down.

Part 4: finished garden >>

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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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