When we moved into our house last September there was a giant cactus in the front garden.
As you’re reading the words “giant cactus” I suspect you’re imagining a large cactus in a pot. Maybe a couple of feet tall.
Nope, what I’m talking about is a giant cactus, growing straight out of the ground. About 15ft tall. Picture that. Now picture two of them. Now picture two of them, surrounded by at least 50 smaller cacti.
Now you’ve got the picture of our front garden.
The cacti – as I’ve been told by someone passing in the street at least once a day ever since we moved in – were a local landmark. Well, you can see why, can’t you? It’s not every house in South East London that’s rocking the Mojave desert look.
The people who lived here before us had been growing them for about 65 years. School children made a detour to look at them on the way home. In the winter, a giant plastic greenhouse needed to be erected over the cactus to protect it from the cold UK weather. Even the greenhouse, I soon learnt, was a “local landmark” – its arrival in October a sign that winter was arriving.
These were some famous cacti.
The trouble was, I don’t much like cacti. And I really do like sunlight. Something we had very little of, since the cacti were right against the window of our sitting room
I worried about them for ages: should we keep them, should we chop them? Was it really right to remove something that had been tenderly cared for for the best part of a century and which everyone else clearly loved just because it wasn’t my cup of tea? But then again, they were in my garden.
But the last straw came when a two inch barb found its way into the house and into my partner’s bare foot.
I won’t go into the details of the amount of time I spent trying to re-house the cacti, its final removal by chopping, nor the complaints we got from everyone walking past and the months it took us to stop being the neighbourhood pariahs.
I’ll just tell you that in its place I planted (my idea) of a beautiful London front garden.
I’ve been watching it lovingly over the winter – anticipating the first shoots of the bulbs, eagerly surveying the cherry tree to see if blossom was on its way, worrying that the long cold frosts would be killing the new plants I’d put in.
And, finally, this month, it is starting to look glorious!
I was over the moon recently to find a garden moodboard created by Bee from the Linen Cloud and even more excited to discover that I could join in with Karin A and share my own monthly moodboards. A way to both document my garden and hopefully improve my photography at the same time.
So, for my first month, here is my (cactus-free) moodboard from my front garden. You can see my main moodboard at the top of all this cactus waffle and some close ups of the flowers follow…
[I haven't only planted white flowers, by the way, but these just seem to be the earliest flowering. Mind you, it is quite a nice calming relief from the blow-your-mind colour in the back garden. Perhaps I'll show you some of that next week...]
These lovely flowers look just like snowdrops to me, but are actually Leucojum aestivum [I do apologise, I’m also doing a horticulture course at the moment, so I suddenly find Latin plant names interesting].
I’m sure I’m going to regret planting this grass, as it’s only a matter of time before it colonises the whole garden, but its seed heads are looking stunning right now…
I’m claiming this magnolia as my own, though in truth it’s in my next door neighbours’ garden, but since the cactus has been removed it’s been enjoying stretching out a little into ours. Which, of course, I encourage as it is a thing of great beauty.
Only the last few flowers are left on the stems now. I love the soft, downy bit before the flower begins:
And, finally, the most exciting thing isn’t yet in bloom. Along with all the bulbs and shrubs, I planted a morello cherry tree. It’s just coming into bud now:
Okay, okay, you don’t want to see all these tasteful white flowers, do you? You want to see the cactus…
Very well, here it is, in all its glory, before we hacked it down:
And that’s me, huddling in the doorstep. (I’m huddling because I’m eight-and-a-half months pregnant, knackered, and the estate agent is late for our second viewing… I don’t normally huddle in my doorstep, just so you know…)
So, go on, give it to me straight, do you prefer the cactus to my replacements?