The Garden at Menevia House, 12 Goat Street
We bought our house in August 2001 to use as a holiday home for ourselves, friends and family but, ultimately, with a view to us moving here permanently, which we were very lucky to be able to do in January 2012.
We learnt that the house was often referred to as ‘the Mortimer House’. It had been the home of one Sidney Mortimer, whose fame lies in the story of his involvement in the rescue attempt, using his own boat, of the St Davids Lifeboat ’Gem’ and her crew in October 1910, a truly heroic but tragic episode in the history of the RNLI. As a result of the heroism displayed on the night of 13 October that year, Sidney and two Petty Officers were invited to Buckingham Palace, Sidney to receive the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal from King George V, and to have lunch with him afterwards! He subsequently became the youngest coxswain of the next St Davids Lifeboat, the youngest in the British Isles at age 18½.
Both the house and garden were in a dreadful state, having been much neglected for many years. One of the items left for us on arrival at the house on day of completion of sale was a Garden Diary which contained a hand drawn plan of the garden and plants. Unfortunately the diary wasn’t very helpful as the entries were rather sparse, and the plan might have been more of an aspiration than a record since it contained just about every shrub, perennial and annual imaginable.
The garden seemed to contain mainly shrubs but it was so overgrown that their trunks were similar in thickness to those of small trees. For example, those planted on one side of the plot had branches and leaves extending over to the other side. A path might have been there once but it was impossible to see one through the interwoven branches, and we couldn’t see any ground at all. It was a question of hacking through the centre of the ‘jungle’ to get to the other end of the plot – everything was chest height and higher, but on the way through we discovered a birdbath, a small pond and a set of steps which led nowhere but which were a physical reminder of the farmhouse that the property once was, and of the farm buildings which have now become the lovely holiday properties next to us. And we did find the path!
The garden is north-east facing so we don’t get as much sun throughout the day as would be ideal, and we think that whoever designed the garden originally did have some expertise because they had chosen plants which suited the conditions, and the colours and textures were obviously very carefully selected and placed. But, sadly, the shrubs were just too huge, other plants were not to our taste and, as we wanted to make it ‘our’ garden, they had to go. However, we have more or less kept the original shape and size of the borders and some of the shrubs on one of the boundary walls. And the icing on the cake is the gorgeous silver birch which is a beautiful feature, made even more attractive following its annual cleaning with a weak solution of washing up liquid and a hosing down around Easter time though we are a bit late doing it this year and at the time of writing, it is still a job to do.
The garden suffered very badly from a drainage problem, ie. in very wet winters (normal for us) it becomes a quagmire. However, as part of last year’s hard landscaping project, we had a land drain put in place which appears to have solved the problem.
We like to encourage birds into the garden but (and unfortunately one can’t pick and choose) we feel we have the national collection of jackdaws which cause mayhem by hanging on to the feeders and spilling the seed on the ground, flying into the feeders to deliberately knock them so that seed falls to the ground (so clever!) and then pecking up the seeds on the grass path and, in the process, destroying the grass. As if that wasn’t bad enough we have recently had several rooks or carrion crows (not sure which, but they are enormous and they temporarily scare off the jackdaws). I am actually beginning to wonder whether we are the only garden with bird feeders. But, having said that, we also welcome goldfinches, chaffinches, numerous sparrows, dunnocks, blackbirds, robins, collared doves, a lovely thrush which has been a recent visitor again this year, tits of all kinds, and occasionally some more unusual ones eg. nuthatch, blackcap, plus occasionally a woodpecker though we haven’t seen him for a while now. And we’ve even had a squirrel in the last few days, though we wouldn’t want him to be too regular a visitor. As we also have bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects we have placed two little insect hotels on one of the sheds and are thrilled to see that most of the tubes have been occupied. In the summer months, on still, warm evenings when the days have been sunny and the insects have been dancing about, we love to sit in the garden in the twilight with a glass of wine and wait for the bats to come swooping in – always exciting.
Division of labour is easy: I diddle, potter and plant and my husband does the heavy stuff! The greenhouse which has been in the planning is now in situ and is now home to a few terracotta flower pots ’artistically’ placed on one of the shelves, my granddaughter’s watering can and three thriving tomato plants! I also discovered a self seeded bit of the buddleia we removed a couple of years ago so we have planted that next to the greenhouse. A much better position for it although I’m not sure it will flower this year. I also have my own little potting shed which is a luxury and lovely to spend time in as it has windows on two sides with a good view of the garden, and from a different perspective.
We are very pleased with the hard landscaping and which fortunately was finished about a month before last year’s Open Gardens. It is all looking fairly established although there are still areas of the garden which haven’t had as much tlc as they deserve but, as mentioned earlier, it is a work in progress and I hope we are nearer the end than the beginning (but we all know, don’t we, that gardens are never finished).
So, my ideal gardening day would be dry and warm with a cornflower blue sky, a gentle breeze and sunshine and I could wander around with a trowel in one hand, a plant in the other and the prospect of a lovely al fresco lunch afterwards. I’m afraid I would own up to being a ‘fair weather gardener’. I think Mike would be happy if the lawn is mowed, the birdfeeders are full and jackdaw-free (some hopes!), the birdbath is clean and full and the promise of a pre-prandial glass of something to be enjoyed in the garden in the early evening – actually that would be the end to my ideal day in the garden too.
Mike and I very much hope you will enjoy your stroll around our very little piece of St Davids.
The garden is flat, with no steps, it has an all-weather path and lawn with stepping stones There will be some chairs dotted around and we are very dog friendly.
There may be a few plants for sale either cuttings or divisions from the garden, or plants that are surplus to requirements.