Some rather unfocused pottering today, but I tidied up the pittisporum which when I got indoors yesterday I realised was rather lopsided after my exertions. Then I pruned a few more hydrangeas which are around the place – you have to catch the right moment, after the hard frosts which the old flower heads help to protect against, but before this year’s shoots begin seriously to grow.
It does feel like everything is under starters orders for the 2015 season.
It’s been rather a dank and grey day, so the most cheerful thing was to move a self-sown pretty heather into a pot and out of harm’s way – there are upheavals to come in the week ahead ….
Today’s been crisp and sunny, and I’ve had the satisfaction of moving on to something new, and seeing a job through from start to finish.
It doesn’t show up so well in the photos, but it looks much better if it’s below the level of the pergola. Hard work to get at the branches in the middle though because they are above head height and it took some determination to keep at it and not send for reinforcements. But in the end I got there. And then I was rewarded by being able to get out the shredder – my favourite garden tool.
The mass of prunings reduced to half a bag of shreddings which I could dispose of at the back of the rhododendrons ‘where the wild things are’. A good job done.
A backed-up log jam of emails today, and a wet morning, so the garden had to wait until the afternoon. At least the days are getting longer.
Rather than move on to a new area, I decided to have a go at tidying up and tying in the Jasmine nudiflorum.
It was rather a tangled mess and I found it hard to relate to the neat diagram in my pruning and training guide. It’s probably one of those I-wouldn’t-start-from-here situations, but I did the best I could for a while and then concluded I was doing more harm than good walking on the soil in the wet conditions.
One curiosity is the way that a branch touching the soil will put down roots very rapidly – it’s intriguing that there’s a reaction that makes the stem grow roots and not leaves. Intriguing, but also a bit exasperating when the result is mini Jasmines all over the place which are surplus to requirements.
I think I’ll call that bed done, for now.
I have meetings all afternoon and evening, so the only garden task today will be the trip we made to the tip. I think there were seven bags altogether, just full of ivy.
The tip always gives me mixed feelings – I’m glad to be adding to the municipal compost, but the amount of stuff just being thrown away is dispiriting. It’s good that these days about 70% locally is recycled one way or another; but I have a suspicion that if we have a fond idea that it all goes to some useful purpose in an efficient and effective way we are probably deluding ourselves.
Not much time today, but I spent it down at soil level, tidying the bed, sweeping away the dead leaves and pulling up a few weeds. I do like the smell of the earth.
Meanwhile he who doesn’t mind getting up a ladder ascended to trim back the top of the ivy and pull it away from the garage soffits. Then finally I pruned the hydrangea which has been waiting there stoically to receive some attention.
‘Cut back last year’s flowering stems to a pair of fat buds’ says the book. So I did.
And in other news – the crocuses have started to appear outside the back door. Laus Deo.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you.
And so to the climbing rose:
Such a great Lenten metaphor for the need to clear out the unnecessary and unproductive elements of one’s life, and I was struck by the way the ‘busy-ness’ of the frothy ivy was hiding some very dead wood. It’s not easy to do, of course, because from a distance the rose can look like it’s flourishing and it feels counter-intuitive to cut off green growth just coming back to life. Also the prunings tend to fight back, the thorns catching in your clothes.
In the end I took it right back to a couple of strong stems, aiming to encourage dormant buds which looked like they would head in the right direction.
I will nourish it of course, with some rose food and a good mulch, and then train the shoots horizontally to stimulate growth and flowers – whether we are rewarded with this within one season remains to be seen!
Sunday 22 Feb
It’s the first Sunday in Lent and I have two church services to go to and so less time for the garden project. But while I was at this morning’s Holy Communion a Lenten elf took it upon himself to deal with the ivy mound! How kind he is.
Just the five bags to take to the tip now.
By the time I was able to get down to it in the afternoon, the rain and wind had arrived which made it feel more demanding to get on with the job, but I layered up and of course the weather’s never as bad once you’re out there.
I dived into the ivy from the other end and cutting away that which was growing out from the wall, revealed: another ex-nest (sorry birds!), more trellis and the fearsome prickly tangle that is an old climbing rose.
I don’t know the name of it as it was planted by our predecessor here, but it’s a good mid-pink, vigorous but not unreasonable. This rose and I have some history because its hefty thorns make it very hard to train – you can’t wear gloves to tie it in and most of our encounters have been at best a score draw.
At least now I can see what I need to do, and where it needs to be put. A bit late for it, no doubt, but I think I shall cut it right back and then be conscientious in training the new growth.
I enjoyed the service this morning. The vicar spoke to us about committing ourselves to the desert in terms of stripping away those things which we think we can’t manage without (how about a day without the mobile phone?), and creating some space to allow ourselves to acknowledge some of those real truths about us that we’d rather keep hidden, or be too busy to stop and think about. But to do all this in the context of God’s words to Jesus at his baptism: ‘You are my dear, dear child with whom I am delighted’.
Some good thoughts to take forward into this week’s tasks.
The sun shone this morning, praise the Lord, which revived my enthusiasm for ivy-tugging and also today I wasn’t working to a deadline. By the end of the morning I had revealed some long-forgotten trellis and grown the mound.
I have some qualms about the impact on the local birds, having found at least two neatly created old nests. But there are lots of other desirable corners in the garden and I’m aiming to finish before they start house-hunting in earnest. I can tell they’re chatting about me as I work and they’re waiting to dive in to investigate the insects I’ve turned up.
After a while I wanted to move on to something more constructive and rummaged around my feet to find the Jasmine nudiflorum I planted a few years ago. And there it was, sprawled over the bed, when it would really rather be trained into the newly created wall space.
It will need some drastic pruning to get it back on track, but maybe by next year it will be cheering up the mid-winter view from the back door, as originally intended.
A whole different kettle of fish today – ivy. I read somewhere that you spend the first three years wishing the attractive ivy you planted would grow a bit more, then through years five to eight it does just what you’d been hoping. Forever after that you regret you’d ever heard of the stuff. We are well beyond eight years now and it’s just taking over in too many places. Such as this wall:
After an hour’s cutting and hearty tugging I’ve liberated a small area of brickwork:
and I have an already alarming pile of stuff to be disposed of:
The garden waste bin is full after some previous activities and won’t be collected for another ten days, so the mound – and this is just the beginning – will have to be wrangled into bags to be taken to the tip. This is where the demands of Lenten discipline will come into play. I do hope it doesn’t take the rest of the Forty Days to deal with this one wall.
As this year’s Lent discipline, I have decided to spend some time each day gardening. There are many jobs to be done as it is in a state of genteel neglect, but also it will require self-discipline because generally my default position is at the computer. This blog is to bolster my commitment.
This is a very awkward corner, north facing, overshadowed by shrubs and a beech tree, and very dry so the soil is really hard to work. And it’s just at the front door, which means it hardly offers a good first impression. Alchemilla mollis is OK there in the summer, and probably it might be good for bulbs – if I had planted them in the autumn. There’s a decent pink hydrangea which the previous owner put there, growing on who knows what as it’s right against the wall.
But I cleared the dead leaves from last year’s perennials, and the few weeds that had managed to make a foothold, and spread three bags of organic compost as a mulch and soil improver. I do this most years and I can only imagine the soil would be even worse if I did not.