A simple permaculture principle is to ‘obtain a yield’. I think of this in terms of providing food or shelter for other species, as well as ourselves. Bearing this in mind, I had long been frustrated with the border of hydrangeas which we inherited when we bought the house. Whilst they do flower in shade (and our back garden is indeed shady), the flowers don’t seem to attract any pollinator activity, and the shrubs are not dense enough for birds to nest in. The border was also rather uninteresting to look at:
Meanwhile, I have had a constant struggle with safely storing seedlings as I try to establish new perennial edible plants from seed. Slugs are tremendously agile and versatile, and are experts at finding young seedlings – whether you put them ‘up high’ or not. The only thing that worked was to put seedlings on a table with its feet in water. Other solutions, such as shelving, ended in tears as the shelves invariably blew over in the strong gales which we are now prone to. What I really needed was a greenhouse; a safe space for my seedlings and a place to grow winter salads. With any luck, we might get tomatoes to ripen in there as well, as our season in the North West of the UK is short.
We had a battered collection of shade-loving shrubs in the back corner of the garden, which is the lightest corner available for a greenhouse:
So we had a rethink about the space. This decision was a difficult one, as I prefer to leave things alone. However, I had a whole border of unproductive space, and an opportunity to redesign it with a range of more productive and visually interesting plants, providing nectar and berries for wildlife, and prickly habitat for birds. So in January this year, we took out the hydrangeas, chopped them up, and used the woody material to beef up the ‘path’ at the back (I will write more about this later). We (the royal ‘we’; my husband did the digging) moved the shrubs to the hydrangea border:
In its place, we planned to put a greenhouse. The decision to do this was, in itself, full of contradictions, as I will explain in my next post.