I had the pleasure of wandering around a very well known garden the other week. I was actually helping at the big house, acting as a room steward and visitor guide. The garden is famous in its own right, and partiularly so for its dahlia collection. Amid all the blooms were somewhat rickety old fences and bench seating – I think the theme was meant to reflect a forgotten era from the 1920s. What appealed to me as much as the floral displays behind the wonderful old greenhouses and peeking behind the walled garden were a fantastic selection of garden sheds. These looked as though they’d been there forever. These sheds were every shape and size – not manufactured in a smart factory – no these were made lovingly of planks of oak and other woods – two have really old., fragile windows and two had rudimentary thatched roofs. Perhaps a obby craft taken up but abandoned before anyone became expert!
Having a greenhouse gives me a sweaty anxious feeling – and tht perhaps anyone who knows I have one is going to expect me to produce tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and every other exotic vegetable. The truth be told, I am not a very good vegetable gardener. They need so much attention with constant watering and then feeding when the fruit arrives. There has been such a shortage of water lately that it could be time for all of us to reconsider our shoices for growing stuff in gardens. In the meantime, I do have a need to use a wonderful grden shed. the peace and solitude that this space offers me is quite wonderful. I do have space in the ouse, but my quiet zone and shut off space is that lovely wooden structurre down the garden – with my flask of coffee and deck chair. What more could I possibly need?!
I love going round the allotments near me. They are reall old, probably one of the first allotment associations in the country still run the operation like a tightly controlled army exercise. We used to have a half plot, but we didn’t rally make the most of it as it was in a heck of a state when we took it over for a grand £6.00 per annum. We couldn’t control the infestation of ghastly nightmare weeds and I didn’t particularly want to use harsh chemicals on a plot where I planned to sew salad and vegetable items. We struggled with the digging up of old materials and I damaged my right knee by overdoing the manual stuff. We did like having our own shed there though. Ours was very useful for sitting sipping tea; sipping morning coffee, eating lunch, chatting to neighbours – all at much the same level of ineptitude. We never handled much produce in it but would have done if we’d managed to grow any!
I have recently been involved in a volunteeering project at a large country house. Strangely it’s one that has not had an aristocractic family installed. Over the years since the very first house was built in 1618, ther have been only three families owning it. In these 400 years, there has been one major change – from being a rather attractive and very large looking tudor E shaped house, in the 1700s, to the palladian red brick splendour we see today. The current property is very attractive, small by normal stately home standards – but it does have the massive advantage of being set in a breath takingly peautiful landscape with excellent views from front and back. This inspired generations to make something spectacular of the gardens. Together with the victorian greenhouses are some fantastic working sheds. Some hold garden design courses and the others are now the Education centre for local students.
In these days of having to use every single scrap of space for housing and community living, it is no surprise that many families are running out of this precious commodity. The houses we have today are much brighter, more fitted, more comfortable but with growing families, they seem smaller than ever. I say this but when I was growing up and visiting grandparents, their house must have seemed very big to us but thinking back, remembering their awfully cramped scullery kitchen, and the absolutely tiny bathroom, it wasn’t at all palacial. Today’s families expect bigger and better all the time and new fitted kitchens are in fact bigger than the entire floor space of grandad’s house. This is where the amazing family shed makes an entrance – it is fantastic to be able to have a shed for living – relaxing, careers, hobbies, storage (!). A shed is for life’s supplementary luxuries.