Utilising garden treasures of yesteryear

Visitors to our garden are always astounded by what has been achieved and go off shaking their heads in bemused admiration. The analogy I make is that creating a garden is rather like a theatre show with summer being 'showtime', while the remainder of the year is taken up with 'rehearsals'. Those same visitors often return the following year to witness our progress.
Right now, during winter, we are at our busiest. Until the garden opens at the start of May we are going 'hell for leather' to get our ambitious plans completed for the next season. At night I finally collapse exhausted through the back door after stripping my muddy clothes off and gaze open-mouthed at some garden show presenter explaining to his/her audience that the winter is the quiet time of the year when gardeners, relaxed in their armchairs, peruse the seed catalogues!
At Winsford we are not only creating a new and very different garden, we (just an ordinary family of 3), are simultaneously rediscovering the fascinating family history of the original family that first commissioned the garden around 1883. But one of the most interesting aspects of our efforts is unearthing Victorian treasures that were used then to cultivate the exotic plants of yesteryear. Those same treasures are still very much viable today as they were then. For example only this past week I was unearthing great lengths of blue slate with smooth curved tops that were around 2" thick and used for - wait for it! .........Footpath edging. Similarly, 3-4" thick pieces were unearthed after they had originally been used as heating pipe trench covers over sections which did not have elaborate gratings to allow the heat out at specific points, say, within the glass houses.
But it is the degree of preparation by hand and by horse and cart that most impresses me. Imagine having a heavy soil and digging it all out? Then laying land drains and building underground tanks for water storage during the summer. Then. adding stone to build up the ground again for drainage. And finally digging up top soil and carting it across miles and laying that in your garden before a single plant is added or greenhouse built. This was considered as just basic ground preparation! -- Regards Mike Gilmore WinsfordWalledGarden, SW England, USDA Zone9a

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