“I saw a heron, a deer, a hare…” Garden transformations of Guardian readers’ lockdown | Gardens

“The pond has become a refuge for wildlife”

With free time over the past 14 months, and with a growing sense that we need to nurture and support the environment, we set out to create a more productive garden for wildlife. We dug a large wildlife pond, planted it with native species and lined it with recycled rocks from an old rockery. The spoil pile was shaped and sown with wildflower and grass seeds for wildlife to enjoy. The pond has become a paradise for dragonflies and damselflies, diving beetles, frogs, toads, birds and other animals: so far we have spotted a hopeful heron, a duck, a deer and a hare. It is a very quiet place to sit and think. Catherine Woolfe, Marketing Director, Bedfordshire

“I planted until it looks like a shrine”

The courtyard of Ericka Medina, inspired by Japanese and English gardens. Photography: Ericka Médina

My little backyard has always been a toilet for my two dachshunds and overgrown with weeds. The fence was dilapidated and, due to an old septic tank being too close to the surface, we couldn’t grow any grass. The center of the yard was a large patch of dirt; after the rain it turned to mud. Last year I decided to renovate our yard into a small retreat, taking inspiration from Japanese and English gardens. I created “implicit” Japanese garden gateways, brought river stones, and planted vegetables and flowers to attract pollinators. I added solar lights and a container basin. I cut, sanded, stained and planted until my garden looked like a sanctuary. Ericka Medina, doctoral student, New York

“It was a cathartic experience”

Robin Clague has created a new seating area in his garden in Morecambe.
Robin Clague has created a new seating area in his garden in Morecambe. Photography: Robin Clague

It is a project that began at the start of the pandemic. The garden walls and fence were in poor condition, the bushes and rockeries in the wrong place and the view from the garden over Morecambe Bay was not used to our advantage. I removed most of it, graveled the rockery and added plants to give it a Mediterranean feel. A small vegetable garden and a lounge area complete the garden. It was a cathartic experience and worked wonders for my well-being. Robin Clague, retired gardener, Morecambe, Lancashire

“I have implemented an” everything grows “policy”

Peter Spring's lawn is now a wildflower and insect haven
Peter Spring’s longer lawn is a haven for wildflowers and insects. Photography: Peter Spring

Last year I noticed how bees were collecting clover in my garden. So this year I let most of the lawn grow and not only have clover but lots of wildflowers. Throughout the garden, I instituted an “everything grows” policy, which has proven to be very popular with insects, especially bumblebees. We have an active colony of white tail bumblebees, whose entrance is under a railroad tie around a border. I am amazed at how many so-called weeds, if they grow, produce small, vibrant, jewel-like flowers of remarkable intensity. Spring Stone, retired, London

“I am proud of the transformation”

The transformed garden of Heidi Fitchett's London apartment
The transformed garden of Heidi Fitchett’s London apartment. Photography: Heidi Fitchett

When we moved into an apartment in Battersea in the summer of 2019 having outdoor space was a big plus. My gardening skills can still be improved, but I am proud of the transformation and the garden has kept me sane during 16 months of working from home. Thanks to my dad for dropping off so many bags of compost! Heidi Fitchett, canvasser, London

“The garden had come to represent my mental state”

Philly's Bath garden is now a place of joy
The garden of Philly’s Bath is now a place of joy. Photography: Philly

Before the first confinement, I was everywhere. There were long periods of time without leaving the house, never inviting people over because I felt so anxious, and the garden that festered behind my apartment had come to represent my mental state. During confinement, I went to my parents, who live in a house so full of nature and brightness and light that it brought me back to life. When I returned home, my mind was clearer and the garden became a place of great joy. The transformation of myself and the garden has been so extreme that a neighbor once said to me: “The garden looks great. You should have seen him before you moved in. It was absolutely disgusting! I said I was okay with it, but I was also the disgusting garden woman. Philly, Bath

“It looks like a secret garden”

Judith's Shaded Garden
Judith’s shady garden is surrounded by houses, but feels private. Photography: Judith

Last spring my husband and I decided to build a little piece of garden that we haven’t used for 20 years. It was overgrown, but we were determined to maintain it as the wildlife refuge it had become. It’s now over and it’s a nice place to sit, especially on the balmy evenings with the sparkling fairy lights. Despite being surrounded by houses, it gives us privacy and the feeling that we are in the countryside. We hung bird feeders, incorporated insect habitats, used old tree trunks as elements, and installed a small tin bath pond. The garden is shaded, so it was a challenge to find the right plants; ferns seem to work well. I was working for the NHS during the first wave of the pandemic, so the project was a welcome distraction, resulting in a calming place. It was very necessary. Judith, occupational therapist, London

“Our containment project was a” toilet annex “”

Diane McHugh's new project keeps family and friends out of the house.
Diane McHugh’s new project keeps family and friends out of the house. Photography: Diane McHugh

The Bimble Inn – my pub shed – is a labor of love. The pub shed itself was built four years ago, but our lockdown project was a ‘toilet annex’ to avoid going through the house. It was a godsend during the pandemic. When we take the few steps from our house to the garden, we have the impression of going out for real. Friday nights were still an evening to look forward to – and it’s probably better stocked with beer, wine, and spirits than many real pubs and restaurants. Once they were cleared to visit, our family and friends also appreciated. Diane McHugh, retired civil servant, Liverpool

“Gardening with my brother was an enriching experience”

Phil Jones' half-timbered garden.
Phil Jones’ half-timbered garden. Photography: Phil Jones

I bought some clematis ‘Taiga’ last July, but had nowhere to put them. The garden looked drab and I wanted some interesting colors, bees, and lots of flowers. I was embarrassed by a tiny lawn and a limited budget, but I had energy and a few tools. Having spent too much on plants in the past, I decided to grow my own this time around and started last September. This allowed me to spend money on treated carcass lumber – more affordable and less bulky than railroad ties, while still getting a similar look. This part of the project was mainly done with my brother, which was a great bonding experience. Covid reminded me of how lucky I was to have a garden. Phil jonescaregiver, London

“Working from home has become more pleasant”

Rachel's patio-garden inspired by Marrakech.
Rachel’s patio-garden inspired by Marrakech. Photography: Rachel

Inspired by the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech, we painted the walls of our little courtyard a deep azure blue. We had a wisteria that was crushed in a corner, but is now spread out on the wall. Before the leaves came out, the branches looked like a sculpture. Now he looks incredibly lush. I’m growing sweet peas and hot pink petunias, which look great on blue walls, and I grew dahlias for the first time. The yard faces north so I had to move plants around as the sun has gotten higher over the past couple of months. This means that I now know where the sun is shining practically every hour of the day. Rachel, doctor, Manchester

“Our pandemic garden is buzzing with bees”

Elke Heckel's coastal front garden.
Elke Heckel’s coastal front garden. Photography: Elke Heckel

Our front garden faces south-west, and although it is very sunny, it is often windswept, and the salt and sand are blown by the sea. I have killed quite a few plants in my house. period, so I decided to see what works well in other gardens in the same situation and start planting in the spring. We bought plants, compost and seeds and covered the area with cardboard to control the weeds. Our pandemic garden is full of bees and has given us and passers-by great joy. This year is even better than the last and we look forward to two echiums, which reminds me of California. Another plant I’m happy with is a spurge that was given to me 15 years ago as a seedling. He survived neglect and three moves, and is now moving to his new home. It was such a pleasure to sit on the doorstep with a drink, watching the constant changes in the garden. Elke Heckel, retired midwife, Ramsgate, Kent

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