We've recently finished this beautiful wall in our garden!
One of the downsides to winning our legal battle is the increased level in tourism. It's not all bad - it's good that people can come and see how we live, see what we do - it's helps us and our lifestyle to become more acceptable within mainstream society.
But with that increased interest comes a lack of privacy. We don't have boundaries in the traditional sense, no gates or fences, and our plots appear intermingled and organic. These factors lead people to not consider our privacy, because in many minds the lack of visible boundaries equates to everything being open and accessible.
And so we've been getting creative in ways to put that privacy back into place. One problem area for us is the path that runs from the top of the plot down to the bus door - it's a long straight line, visible from the public areas of the Yard - and people are constantly walking down it, seemingly oblivious to all the other indicators that this is a private area.
With my love of using old tyres and growing hardy succulent plants, we decided to build a tyre wall. A tyre wall would be in keeping with the plot, and wouldn't be as hard or aggressive as a more traditional wall or fence. It would let light through, and I could use the space as a vertical garden, as well as reuse and upcycle a while bunch of tyres destined for disposal.
The best tyres for this job are small motorcycle or moped tyres - their inner circle is smaller, and less see-through.
These kind of tyres take a bit of hunting, they're not as abundant as car tyres. Once found though, they'll make a much more interesting feature and useful wall than car tyres.
If you're working with tyres that are all the same size, slotting them together so that all the tyres touch and connect is pretty easy. You're more than likely however to have odd-sized tyres, and they take a bit of juggling to get right. I also think odd tyres looks better, too - they're more interesting, visually.
Structurally, those tyres all need to connect - they all have to be bolted together in as many places as possible to ensure the wall is stable - any gaps between tyres is going to cause problems.
Once you've got the layout just right, you'll want to screw them together temporarily to allow the rest of the structure to be built around them.
Maintaining the circular pattern was important to us, and we didn't want to reinforce the structure with metal going right across the tyres. Instead, Tom used steel rods that could be bent around the tyres and connected, to help hold them all in place. Mig welding is required for this bit, but it's an easy project to manage.
The rods are curved so they sit around the tyres, with the structure appearing on both sides of the wall. The rods are then joined with bars to ensure a stronger skeletal structure.
There are lots of different ways you could do this, and a frame built from scaff would also be a good choice, especially if the tyres are all similar in size.
Once this part is done and the metal skeleton is all in place, those temporary screws were then replaced with nuts and bolts and small flat pieces of aluminium within the tyres to make those connections rigid, and the tyres less likely to tear.
From there, the next dilemma was triangulation - the wall is strong but flexible in and off itself, but it needs support vertically against the container it will be connected to.
Again, this was managed discreetly with steel rods, and I don't think I managed to get a photo of this bit, sorry! Anyone building something like this should already know about triangulation but if they don't, Google is your friend.
In terms of metal choices - these steel rods are flexible and easy to bend, and they will also rust over time and blend in to the general environment. We're lovers of rusty metal; it ages and changes and tells a story all it's own - constantly shiny can get a bit boring ;)
And with the wall securely in place, the next task was planting!
When it comes to plants, I really wouldn't recommend anything other than succulents (including cacti). They have a very small root structure, store water in their leaves, and *love* the heat and sunshine. The tyres will get hot and most plants wouldn't handle a small, hot root space.
I grow a fair few winter hardy succulents on the plot, and they're something I've grown and collected for many, many years - I know pretty well how they behave.
For instance - quite a few of the moveable planters in our garden are old washing machine drums. Most plants suffer with the heat and dehydration in these metal containers, and die. However all of the cacti and succulents - whether they be the Opuntias, Aloes or Delospermas - thrive. The heat at their roots doesn't bother them. And the lack of root space really isn't a problem, either - the Opuntias in the washing machine drums are a good size!
For our tyre wall I wanted a mix of small bushy succulents and trailers. Most of these I had around the garden already and know their hardiness, but I did buy a couple of Delospermas at the local nursery, as their flowers are beautiful and I fancied some colour amongst that structural greenery.
These plants (known as Ice Plants in their native South Africa) are slightly more tender then most of the Sedums, Echeverias or Crassulas I've planted in the wall - they tend to dislike too much frost or lack of sunshine in the winter. The positioning of the wall however should mean they get sun most of the day, even in winter, and they should be fine. The plants I bought were too big for the tyre space so I split them and have spares, just in case.
And that's pretty much it, really! I haven't yet got full photos of the wall, as the sun is over exposing everything if I step back to fill the frame, and the shade Tom put up to work under is still up. Until then, here's a section of the wall, in its freshly planted glory.
I can't wait to see how this wall grows and develops! And before Tom had finished building the wall, it was already serving it's purpose - the line of sight is broken and it's given visitors to the Yard something much more interesting to look at than our garden path.