Diverting a water course . . . (episode 73)

Garden snail.  Image by Simon Howden. http:freedigitalphotos.net

Garden snail. Image by Simon Howden.

August 1 1999

My Dear Harriet

I am so proud of you darling. To grow into your own woman is an achievement in its own right. And all too often it is an attainment unrecognized, and unappreciated, by the majority.

I myself have been engaged in renovating a water garden which, for many years, has lain – hidden – beneath a carpet of trumpet-flowering bindweed. And, just recently (and rather annoyingly) a Spring has found its way to the top of its steep slope. I have been tramping, in my steel-capped wellingtons, through a soggy morass and, this week, I have sat on a stone, retaining, wall to examine the situation – and work out what to do.

The Spring appeared to be seeping – in measurable drips – from two places at the base of the wall. It was threatening to overwhelm a Yucca and I had, already, removed the Skimmias from a sopping pit. I have long been longing to create a waterfall – albeit one which water trickled over – and some way beneath me, on the slope, and beneath the paths, was a pile of large, tumbled, rocks. It was to there that I decided to divert the water.

First of all I created a simple, rustic, path across one half of the garden, at the top. I toiled across it with small rocks, and parts of paving stones, until I could hop from rock to rock. And then I laboured across again, with bucket after bucket of driveway gravel. I stationed this between the paving stones. The result was satisfactory. I could now get across the slope without sloshing through the mud.

And then I turned my attention to the watercourse. I decided to divert it – in two channels – around the roots of a long-dead Hebe (what is Hebe doing in a water garden, after all?). Assisted by the fact that the sub-soil is a solid yellow clay, I dug a small pond, lower down, to collect the water in. Most satisfyingly, water started to trickle towards it. I think about 8m then separated the new pond from the ‘waterfall’ stones beneath it. So I dug a trench: across my path, and then across another, low, retaining wall, and then across another path, and down the slope – until it reached the fall. I used the topsoil – comprising, in a large part, clay – to make a high bank on either side of the new waterway. It was wonderful dear, to be able to accomplish all this, despite nearly four hours elapsing and feelings of prostration setting in!

I studied the result from the top retaining wall. It looks aesthetic and – as good as that – it looks functional. I am now intending to suggest to the garden owners that we plant Iris sibirica (a water iris) on the bank which I have created. And then we could lay cobble stones amongst the irises, which would make the whole side of this water garden look landscaped. As, indeed, it is.

Yours, ever



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