Monday, 8 June 2015

The Bee Hive Garden

In my last post, I mentioned that very inspiring garden I had fallen in love with at The Squash Court in Wimborne, Dorset.

That beehive!   Those foxgloves!  That dove cote!  That little gravel path! The galvanised dolly tub!  Need I go on?  I've been dreaming of this sort of pretty-meets-utilitarian garden for a long time.

It just so happens that we are not short of garden here at The Old Vic.  This little patch you can see below, is outside Mr HenHouse's workshop and we had decided it was surplus to requirements and we were going to hoof everything out and gravel it over to blend in with the drive.  We did not need this bed.

However, a trip to The Squash Court and the grey matter was whirring.  I had plans for this little area after all!  It had very few plants in it and the only ones I wanted to save were the rhubarb and the gooseberry bush, in fact they helped shape the idea for this garden.  What I had in mind for this space was an old-fashioned almost 1940's style garden. So there would be flowers and there would also be fruit and veg.  The soil is pretty bad here.  It's heavy clay underneath yet on the surface it's very dry and it's rock hard because we haven't really had much rain this past year (not that I am complaining).  Not a lot really seems to be flourishing.

Luckily, down at the bottom of the paddock, we have inherited a massive dung heap as our predecessors kept horses.  So off set the Mr in his swanky tractor mower complete with trailer on the back and he returned with lots of well-rotted muck!  He has worked very hard for several weeks, turning over the earth, weeding and hoofing out things we didn't want and digging in all that precious manure to improve the soil.

I meanwhile, had caught a train and headed back to my old stomping ground to find inspiration in the form of Chelsea Flower Show.  Bit further to travel now but still easily do-able in a day.  These days, I find Chelsea far too busy.  It's virtually impossible to get near many of the large show gardens without much persistence and elbowing!  As I really can't be bothered with that sort of thing, I did my best to see what I could and otherwise concentrated on the small artisan gardens and the floral marquee (not to mention the shopping, of course), which are my favourite parts, anyway.  Somehow, the smaller gardens seem a lot more attainable and therefore, for me, inspiring.  This time, the gardens which struck a chord with me were this one...

and this one...

There was some very nice planting in the large show gardens and I took a few ideas away from there, too.  Pinks, blues, lavenders and white are my favourite shades for a border.

The train home was packed, not only was it the Friday of the Bank Holiday weekend but also the start of half-term.  I shoe-horned myself into a corner and stayed there with my spiky plant supports!

The next week, we were blessed with some lovely weather and we set off for a family day out at the County Show at the Bath and West Showground.  We've never made it to this before so I was very excited!  It was a really great day out, something for all of us, not too busy, not too expensive and lots to see and do.  I was pleased to see a few more old-fashioned gardens on display which made my little heart sing.

This one was really super, that mix of veggies and flowers, a garden which was pretty yet purposeful as they were back in wartime 1940's.

Back home, Mr HenHouse had worked his magic on the little garden and I was allowed to get in there with my spade and pretty it up.  I had been stockpiling plants, mainly from Bridport, particularly the WI Market, which always has fantastic cottage garden plants at super reasonable prices.  I had also picked up some bargains from the big supermarkets and DIY stores.  They seem incapable of watering their plants and then sell them off looking half-alive (when they usually just need a good water) at rock bottom prices.  Pot of alliums reduced from £4 to £1 anyone (with an extra 15% off on the Bank Holiday weekend)?  Yes please, all four pots, at 85p each, thank you!

Something else I had long hankered after had also come our way.  I sat there one day pondering that I really really wanted a beehive.  I had a mooch on that well-known auction site but there were very very few "real" beehives, even fewer old ones and none within a reasonable distance.   I was not to be defeated though and through the power of t'internet, that very same morning I tracked down not one but two beehives to a farm relatively nearby.  An email and a 'phone call later, we piled into Delilah Disco and headed off to relieve an old lady of not one but two of her beehives as she was downsizing her bee keeping habit.  Oh happy days!  "Will we keep bees" is the oft heard question ever since?  Well never say never.  Apparently, they may find us first!

In the courtyard, I have two mini greenhouses fit-to-bursting with little plants and seeds I have been raising.  It's been a hard task this year as the weather has been pretty cold.  However, some things were ready to plant out, in particular, the sweet peas.  I wanted an old-fashioned wooden wigwam of sticks to grow them up so off we set down the meadow to find some.

We've allowed the paddock behind the house to go over and do its own thing.  The horse we had staying for a while has moved on and so we're enjoying returning things back to nature and the buttercups, clover and ox-eye daisies are romping away.  We have mowed a section at the top as we have VERY exciting plans for that (more soon).

We soon found our poles and Mr HenHouse was tasked with making the wigwams.

There you have it, the birth of our little beehive garden, created with an old-fashioned cottage utility garden in mind.  It is not quite finished yet and of course, the plants have a lot of growing to do.  I've divided and transplanted some plants from elsewhere in the gardens, including the cat mint and it didn't take a certain furry someone very long to track it down.  The rhubarb forcer is another item I have been hankering after for a long time and what do you know, there it was on the street market a few weeks ago.

In a junk shop on Saturday, I picked up this old deckchair which is ripe for a makeover.  It's lucky that I was planing to make a new (flowery, of course) sling for it as it has failed to take even the Munchkin's weight!

I'll be sharing you our little garden in the future when we've finished working our magic.


  1. Your new garden is looking wonderful, Mr. Hen deserves a medal. How exciting a bee hive, I am a gardener and love working around bees they are such gentle creatures, specially the bumble bees. One of my gardens that I look after has a little hive of Bumbles bees move into his bird box, they are fascinating to watch. Bees love the alliums and if you leave the seed heads on, they will multiply. Try Lidle, just got two hostas for £6. Take care Sharon x

  2. Oh what a pretty garden you have! It's beautiful! I'm jealous! The 40' style one at Chelsea is wonderful too. Your cat looks as if he he should be hanging on a street corner *pssst!Hey! wanna buy some nip?* haha! New follow from me :)

  3. Gosh how the munchkin has grown since the last photo of him. Your garden already looks exciting and will be amazing as it grows into its plot. Love your beehives and the rhubarb forcer. You also have a very useful Mr, well done you.

  4. He is smiling in the photo, so I guess he didn't get hurt. I love all the garden ideas and will be looking forward to seeing your chair re-do.
    Have a happy week,
    Connie :)

  5. I´m so happy that I found your blog have a new follower.It gonna take some time to read all your posts,lol.You live in such a beautiful country side. I adore your garden and what you done with it.The beehives are such a cute add on to your garden.Your cat seems to like it alot also.
    Have a great week and happy gardening.

  6. How lovely. A real treat seeing your gorgeous home evolve under the magic of The Henhouse Family.

  7. You are weaving magic at the Old Vicarage. I look forward to seeing the wonderful things that happen. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  8. I love your garden, the bee hive is wonderful. I've started to want to keep bee's since I moved last summer, not yet been brave enough and mine would be central London - not wild free country bee's.

  9. That is a lovely little garden
    Julie xxxxx

  10. I always look forward to your posts and when I saw "The Bee Hive Garden" I made myself a cuppa and couldn't wait to read it. You always have the best ideas and are always full of inspiration. Was thinking of you as I read Country Living, "A taste of the good life" this month is Bee keeping and last month was hen keeping, both right up your street! Love what you've done with that little patch of earth that would have otherwise just "mingled in" can't wait to see more pics. I'm still on the lookout for a rhubarb forcer for our garden as like you we've moved house and our garden needs filling up with "quirky" items that all tell a story. Look forward to the next instalment of "The Bee Hive Garden, x

  11. Good morning!
    I'm at our other house in Suffolk, after getting back from the Dday commemorations in Normandy, I'm about to blog about it.
    There was loads of 1940s stuff going on....the outfits were amazing!
    I'm sat with a brew just flicking through your new blog posts and enjoying your lovely new to you house!
    Have a great day!

  12. I long for a beehive too!! Might have to do some hunting of my own! Garden looks fab :)

  13. Hen, I am enjoying seeing your posts about how you and Mr H (for Hero!) are little by little making a new home, indoors and out.

    Best wishes on the bees, and on having some rain arrive to keep the plants a-growing. xo

  14. Ow, that bee garden will be so gorgeous !! So nice to make plans and look for stuff, isn't it?
    I'm following for quite a while now, and it is so nice to see how your son is growing :-). Our boy is also 13, so great to see their development ...
    Was he alright with the moving? Love to see all your house and garden pictures, beautiful as always! Love from Mirjam.

  15. I always read your blog first when I see a post in my mailbox. Your photos and message are such an antidote to all of the bad news in the world.
    I inherited an established flower garden in Alaska and am enjoying seeing what comes up every day. I loved seeing your photos. It's just too bad we don't have old textiles here--or do we? Maybe I will search a little deeper.
    Thanks again for bringing joy to my day.

  16. What a lovely post, as yours always are! Have a blessed day, and thank you for sharing. :)

  17. Your new garden is already beautiful and will only get better as the plants grow! Lovely to see your inspiration gardens as well! xx

  18. I absolutely LOVE your new garden it's gorgeous and it's given me lots of ideas for my garden too. I can't wait to see your new deck chair cover too :-)

  19. Your garden is really lovely. You will have to start keeping bees! They aren't too much trouble and think of all that honey. We are looking forward to another crop in July or maybe August.

  20. Oh what a joyful little space you are creating! I love the beehive very much and now I need one for my garden (s). You English gardeners are born with a sense of beauty, a creative spirit that translates into special gardens. I take a lot of my inspiration from sites like Sissinghurst. And now Henhouse!

  21. Your new garden loks amazing. Thank you for sharing.


  22. Your garden is just lovely Mrs Hen. We look forward to seeing more of it. Glad you have some nice summer days to enjoy it.

    Julie and Poppy Q

  23. I love beehives . My husband used to have beehives and I know it is a lot of hard work to keep them.
    Your garden looks lovely !
    Happy summer!

  24. I think it will be so sweet when it's all done. Obviously it was a good idea as everything you were hoping for was available to you!
    Good luck:)

  25. What a lovely post. Cant believe how much your boy has changed. Love the 'hunter, gatherer' sourcing his wigwam sticks and the meadow is lovely. I would have no interest in the show gardens at Chelsea but the 'artisan' ones always look wonderful and inspirational. The new garden is inspiring and I love the walls you had to work with. Hope you have long summer days to enjoy is growing. We were looking for cosmos today and the only ones we found were £3.99 each! should have been with you shopping for bargains.

  26. Oh Hen, this is Gorgeous!!! Am in love! So much potential and beauty. Love your meadow too. Enjoy the outcome of your hard work, J9x

  27. Dear Ms. HenHouse - Hello from the states - your garden plans are oh so charming. All the amazing bits and pieces that you are acquiring are perfect. I'm looking forward to seeing the progress and reading about the plans for the meadow. All the best, Kim


You are warmly encouraged to leave a comment here. Your comments are emailed directly to me so rest assured I read and treasure every one. Thank you for supporting my blog with your comment. X