‘I’ve seen a heron, deer, a hare …’ Guardian readers’ lockdown garden transformations

Show caption The new wildlife pond in Catherine Woolfe’s Bedfordshire garden. Photograph: Catherine Woolfe How to live now ‘I’ve seen a heron, deer, a hare …’ Guardian readers’ lockdown garden transformations From wildlife ponds to private pubs with their very own toilets, here are some of your most successful pandemic projects Guardian readers Wed 30 Jun 2021 13.03 BST Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share via Email

‘The pond has become a haven for wildlife’

With time on my hands over the last 14 months, and with a growing sense that we need to nurture and support the environment, we set about creating a more productive garden for wildlife. We dug a large wildlife pond, planted it with native species, and edged it with rocks repurposed from an old rockery. The spoil heap has been shaped and sown with wildflower and grass seeds for wildlife to enjoy. The pond has become a haven for dragonflies and damselflies, diving beetles, frogs, toads, birds and other animals: so far we’ve spotted a hopeful heron, a duck, deer and a hare. It is a very tranquil place to sit and think. Catherine Woolfe, marketing director, Bedfordshire

‘I planted until it felt like a sanctuary’

Ericka Medina’s yard, inspired by Japanese and English gardens. Photograph: Ericka Medina

My small back yard has always been a toilet for my two dachshunds, and overgrown with weeds. The fence was dilapidated and, because of a defunct septic system being too close to the surface, we could not grow grass. The centre of the yard was a big dirt patch; after rain, it turned to mud. Last year, I decided to renovate our yard into a small retreat, drawing inspiration from Japanese and English gardens. I created “implied” footbridges of Japanese gardens, brought in river rocks, and planted vegetables and flowers to attract pollinators. I added some solar lights and a container pond. I cut and sanded and stained and planted until my yard felt like a sanctuary. Ericka Medina, doctoral candidate, New York

‘It has been a cathartic experience’

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

This was a project that started at the beginning of the pandemic. The walls and fence of the garden were in disrepair, the bushes and rockery plants in the wrong place, and the garden’s views over Morecambe Bay weren’t being used to our benefit. I stripped the majority of it out, gravelled the rockery and added plants to give it a Mediterranean feel. A small vegetable plot and seating area completes the garden. It has been a cathartic experience, and is doing wonders for my wellbeing. Robin Clague, retired gardener, Morecambe, Lancashire

‘I have instituted an “anything grows” policy’

Peter Spring’s longer lawn is a haven for wildflowers and insects. Photograph: Peter Spring

Last year, I noticed how the bees collected on the clover in my garden. So, this year, I have left most of the lawn to grow and have not only clover but many wildflowers. Across the garden, I have instituted an “anything grows” policy, which has proved very popular with insects, particularly bumblebees. We have an active colony of white-tailed bumblebees, whose entrance is below a railway sleeper around a border. I am astonished at how many so-called weeds, if left to grow, produce vibrant, small, jewel-like flowers of remarkable intensity. Peter Spring, retired, London

‘I’m proud of the transformation’

The transformed garden at Heidi Fitchett’s London flat. Photograph: Heidi Fitchett

When we moved to a flat in Battersea in summer 2019, having outdoor space was a great bonus. My gardening skills still have plenty of room for improvement, but I’m proud of the transformation and the garden has kept me sane through 16 months of working from home. Credit to my dad for dropping off many bags of compost! Heidi Fitchett, solicitor, London

‘The garden had come to represent my mental state’

Philly’s Bath garden is now a place of joy. Photograph: Philly

Before the first lockdown, I was all over the place. There were long periods of not leaving the house, never inviting people round because I felt so anxious, and the garden festering behind my flat had come to represent my mental state. During lockdown, I went to stay with my folks, who live in a household so full of nature and brightness and light that it brought me back to life. When I returned home, my mind felt clearer and the garden became a place of great joy. The transformation of both myself and the garden has been so extreme that a neighbour said to me one day: “Garden looks great. You ought to have seen it before you moved in. It was absolutely disgusting!” I said I agreed, but that I was also the woman with the disgusting garden. Philly, Bath

‘It feels like a secret garden’

Judith’s shady garden is surrounded by houses, but feels private. Photograph: Judith

Last spring, my husband and I decided to make over a small piece of garden that we haven’t used for 20 years. It was overgrown, but we were determined to maintain it as the wildlife haven it had become. It’s now complete and is a lovely place to sit, especially on balmy evenings with the fairy lights twinkling. Despite being surrounded by houses, it gives us privacy and the feeling that we are in the countryside. We have hung bird feeders, incorporated bug habitats, used old tree trunks as features and installed a small tin-bath pond. The garden is shady, so it’s been a challenge finding 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 to be. It was much needed. Judith, occupational therapist, London

‘Our lockdown project was a “toilet annexe”’

Diane McHugh’s new project means family and friends avoid a trek through the house. Photograph: Diane McHugh

The Bimble Inn – my shed pub – is a labour of love. The pub shed itself was built four years ago, but our lockdown project was a “toilet annexe” to avoid the trek through the house. It’s been a godsend during the pandemic. When we walk the few steps from our house to the garden, we feel as though we’re going out for real. Friday nights were still a night to look forward to – and it’s probably better stocked with beer, wines and spirits than many real pubs and restaurants. Once they were allowed to visit, our family and friends enjoyed it, too. Diane McHugh, retired civil servant, Liverpool

‘Gardening with my brother was a bonding experience’

Phil Jones’s timbered garden. Photograph: Phil Jones

I bought some clematis ‘Taiga’ last July, but didn’t have anywhere to put them. The garden was looking drab, and I wanted interesting colours, bees and lots of flowers. I was hindered by a tiny lawn and limited budget, but I did have energy and some tools. Having spent too much on plants in the past, I resolved to grow my own this time, and started last September. This allowed me to spend the money on some treated carcassing timber – more affordable and less bulky than railway sleepers, while achieving a similar look. This part of the project was mainly done with my brother, which was a nice bonding experience. Covid reminded me how fortunate I was to have a garden. Phil Jones, carer, London

‘Working from home has become more pleasurable’

Rachel’s Marrakech-inspired patio garden. Photograph: Rachel

Inspired by the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, we have painted the walls of our small yard a deep azure blue. We had a wisteria that was squashed into a corner, but is now spread across the wall. Before the leaves came out, the branches looked like a sculpture. Now, it looks incredibly lush. I’m growing hot-pink sweet peas and petunias, which look fabulous against the blue walls, and I’ve grown dahlias for the first time. The yard is north-facing, so I’ve had to move plants around as the sun has got higher over the last couple of months. This means I now know where the sun shines virtually every hour of the day. Rachel, doctor, Manchester

‘Our pandemic garden is buzzing with bees’

Elke Heckel’s coastal front garden. Photograph: Elke Heckel

Our front garden is south-west facing, and while it gets very sunny, it is often windswept, and salt and sand get blown in from the sea. I have killed quite a few plants in my time, so I decided to observe what does well in other similarly situated gardens and to start planting in spring. We bought plants, compost and seeds, and covered the area with cardboard to suppress weeds. Our pandemic garden is buzzing with bees, and has given both us and the passersby great joy. This year is even better than last, and we are delighting in two echiums, which remind me of California. Another plant I’m happy with is a euphorbia that was given to me 15 years ago as a seedling. It survived neglect and three moves, and is now settling into its new home. It has been such a pleasure to sit on the doorstep with a drink, observing the constant changes in the garden. Elke Heckel, retired midwife, Ramsgate, Kent