Linda Uses Her Sewing Skills.

Much of our spare time this year was spent on the pagoda project, so that routine garden maintenance jobs were somewhat neglected, until recently.  However we have nearly caught up now, despite the time spent clearing up the fallen conifer. The year old contents of our leaf-mould tower have been spread over our Epimediums, growing in the beds. Our large bin containing perhaps three cubic yards of homemade garden compost has been spread over beds containing other perennials.

On inclement days while I have been writing blogs or working on the aquariums, Linda has been busy with her scissors, tape measure and sewing machine, making cushions for our four triangular pagoda seats. We searched for a considerable time on eBay for an oriental fabric suitable for upholstery, and the final choice was one depicting koi carp.

We purchased this and foam as well as lining fabric to go under the koi material.   We tried them out today and they certainly make the seats more comfortable and warmer on a day when hail is falling!

Walls and Finishing Touches

The sides were to be of two sheets of 6mm ply separated an inch or so by wooded battens. Having had problems with painting the white on the fencing boards, we set up our front room as a paint shop with polythene sheeting everywhere. The ply was cut out with a square window in each of the four ply panels, turned through 45°. The inside facing panels were painted whitewash whilst outside ones were Fire Engine Red.

Battens were screwed to the upright posts and horizontal beams, and flooring and the painted ply glued and screwed to the battens with small stainless steel screws. I used these rather than panel pins which seem to rust eventually and produce brown staining in the wood.

I made window frame profile wood using the table saw again, to make an L profile to take glass with the addition of a strip of wood to retain it.

We took a short trip to Brentwood Glass to choose a patterned glazing of some description. We nearly chose a geometric type to mirror the fancy woodwork of the handrail. When we were offered bamboo embossed glass we immediately new this was the best choice.

One of my earliest design ideas for the pagoda was to somehow build a moon-gate entrance to it. This was partly fuelled by having two 13ft long pieces of 3” by 1/4” meranti wood left from last year’s bridge project. I reasoned that these two cut longitudinally making four strips when glued together, would make timber in scale with the batten wood we had used on the bridge and the decorative woodwork of this project.

Using what I could remember of my O level geometry, I worked out what could be done with a circumference length of 13ft plus a reasonable gap for an entrance. Again I drew several sketches before we decided an agreed decorative wood work design.  The saw table was used once again to cut up the meranti strips.

Having calculated a radius which used the wood for the best, we made a square of batten which fitted nicely inside the front timbers of the pagoda. Then using scrap ply made a temporary support for the decorative woodwork and the moon-gate to come. A vertical batten was fitted halfway across the front so that a central point could be found and used to draw a circle on the ply to represent the outside of the moon-gate. The decorative woodwork was fixed temporarily to the ply and screwed and glued to the outside square.

In the meantime I puzzled about how to steam the strips of meranti for bending. I bought a square plastic down pipe fitting and boiled it in a saucepan of water, but it went out of shape I then bought some thin wood and built a two piece square steamer box that just accommodated the wood strips diagonally.

I had read that a wallpaper steamer would produce adequate steam for our needs.

When the batten work was completed we set up the steamer in the pagoda and the steamer box on the walkway and steamed each strip for 15to 20 minutes as recommended on the internet.

The wood bent fairly easily but had a tendency to twist. The first strip was glued and screwed to the ready shaped angles of the battens. The temporary ply was removed at this stage so that clamps could be used to secure the second strip.

The second strip was glued and clamped with all the carpentry clamps I possess, but it wasn’t enough to keep the strips tightly held together. Fortunately we had kept the short lengths of 2”x1” we had used with screws as clamps on the bridge handrail. These worked well but took time to fit. Strips three and four followed on, each a day apart, giving the glue time to harden.

When the glue had hardened, we took the square moon-gate decorative front out and prepared it for painting by sanding the wood and filling screw holes with plastic-wood filler and sanding them down. The front was transported up the garden and again painted in the front room. It received multiple coats of fire engine red followed by a ‘tough’ transparent coat. When dry we fixed it into the front of the pagoda with stainless steel screws.

I drew many sketches and even cut out scale bum and leg profiles to see if four people could feasibly sit in such a small space with the addition of a table / pedestal for our now metallic gold painted Buddha. The chosen seats are simple triangles of 6mm ply fixed to more wooden battens to mirror the handrail fancy bits. We decided to paint them white so as not to draw the eye too much from the other red decorative wood.

They work like a gate table, a triangular vertically hinged leg is swung out and the seat triangle is hinged down and is supported by the leg. I ordered two dozen 3cm long by 1cm diameter neodymium magnets on eBay from China which arrived miraculously in six days.

I subsequently ordered more and some are still to come. These were glued into 10mm holes drilled with a forstner bit into the seats supports etc to held the seats and legs in the up and down / open and shut positions. They work very well being amazingly strong.

The last additions to the construction have been a pair of slate covered concrete square planters and two ornamental warning bollards on the corners of the step.

These have proprietary fencing caps and ball finials added. Each square pot was planted with a Nandina domestica ‘Gulf Stream’ and an Epimedium ‘Tojan’.

On a recent visit to our local Wyevale Garden Centre we found a fair representation of oil lamps for £9.99 each With a £4.00 voucher, they weren’t an expensive addition to the project!

The pump which had been faithfully keeping the ground water out of the pond, was removed on Monday 4th December, and following the snow, was overflowing one week later.


When we disposed of the willow crushed shed, we kept its door for future use.

We have now used it to replace the rotted door on the Second World War air-raid shelter in the garden

. It looks pretty good for a door we reckon must be fifty years old.

My father used the shelter to store apples and we have kept homemade wine in its stable cool temperature. Now it’s just a home for our thick hoses we use to empty ponds, and the stack of buckets in which we overwinter water lilies, when we empty the ceramic water pots each autumn.

Replacement for Rotted Log Seat

Over thirty years ago we installed a log bench consisting of two whole logs for legs and a seat formed from a larger trunk split in half. Sadly, eventually one upright rotted completely above ground and the top had deteriorated beyond repair. Recently we decided to replace the rotting bench, having come across an arbour seat we liked in Roots and Shoots, a local garden centre.

Removing the old more sound log proved no easy task, for as a young man I had done jobs to last.

The log uprights were supplied around four foot long and I had concreted over half their length into the ground with concrete from the bottom of the hole to a substantial collar above ground. We also dug out a fair amount of soil and a proportion of the old flowering Chusquea couleou to create a bay for the new seat.

I assisted our friendly local builder, Brett Lomas, to pave the area and install vertical stone slabs to hold back the higher ground.

We duly collected the AFK Arbour Seat on the car roof rack and constructed it with relative ease. It is a well made flat packed kit which fits together well.

The pond in front of the seat needs de-silting, and we reckon the seat will give us somewhere to take a breather when we are carrying out this fairly unpleasant task.


Replacement For Our Crushed Shed

Some of you may have read on the old web site about the sudden disaster, that occurred during the summer of 2009, when our very large weeping willow’s tree trunk failed at about five feet from the ground. A number of trees and shrubs were damaged by the falling tree along with our ancient 8’x6′ pent shed. It might have been repairable but was not a feature of great aesthetic value.

Our daughter and her friend served drinks and cakes etc. from the shed so we thought perhaps a more attractive replacement might be used as a tea room, were we to start having open days again.

We looked on the Internet and several local garden centres and ended up buying a 9’x6′ ‘Buckingham’ summer house, from Brentwood Garden Centre.The price included erection of the building onto a prepared base.

We were completely amazed by the two guys who carried the panels one each down our long and winding paths with overhanging branches, with almost no damage to plants. From when they arrived to completing the the building including felting the roof was less than an hour and a quarter. We had to glaze the windows and door ourselves, which has taken far longer. Each panes of glass has been pressed into a bead of silicone sealant, and any excess trimmed off with a sharp knife and chisel when cured.