I realise that I like gardens that are inward-looking. I’ll enjoy a view if there is one to exploit, but if the view is of next door’s trampoline, or old air-raid shelter I’d prefer boundaries. Impenetrable ones. I don’t mind the odd Sunday chat over the garden fence or the jovial throwing back of stray footballs, but generally I’m of Mirabel Osler’s opinion, that despite our urban setting, we crave privacy.
‘But at the back? Ah that’s another thing. There is something infinitely mysterious about back gardens. Though they are never private, especially those in cities where there is a terrace of high houses, yet there is that curious quality that lulls you into feeling secluded. Logic makes it obvious that we are each overlooked, but the strange thing is that sitting in the back garden gives you a sense of privacy’.
Mirabel Osler: A Gentle Plea for Chaos
So shortly after the wall was built, I started researching pleached hornbeams. I calculated that I needed between six and eight trees with clear stems of about 1.5m. This, I believed, would provide a dense and beautiful hedge on stilts, floating above the new brick wall. It would be green and verdant during the months the garden is habitable, and provide a lacy structural silhouette, against the winter sky during the months it is not.
I had originally opted for the slightly cheaper limes, but was deterred by the associated sticky aphid deposit. So my search led me to Seagrave Nurseries which was one of the few online providers offering hornbeams with stems of the right height. They arrived at the end of September and we planted them immediately, our task made easier by the soft earth, recently disturbed from the construction of the wall. My concern then was that we were about to enter the six months of the year when their leaves would be missing, and I wouldn’t know until the following spring whether they had died or were simply doing what they’re supposed to do.