Monday, 28 February 2011

Fedges, gloves and Designers

Cor, it was officially 5 degrees out there today, but the wind had knives in it, and it felt a great deal colder.

I managed two hours first thing, I was giving an annual prune to some Living Willow fedge that I installed two years ago. It's thickening up really nicely, although the variation between the various pieces is quite interesting.

For instance, I installed one run at the edge of the drive, facing north, onto a road: that one is growing, well, in a mediocre fashion. (We are talking "willow", and I expect it to get on and grow!) I thought it would get the rain run-off from the road, but that appears not to be the case, as they say.

The second fedge (right) is alongside the composty bins, and is predictably HUGE and strong - I could only just get my loppers through some of the new growth. Nearly had to go back and get Mr Orange, my huge ratchet loppers that get through pretty much anything. I suspect that this fedge is sucking the goodness out from the bottom of the compost! Mind you, it's in the best position, having a solid wooden wall behind it - thus giving support and shelter - and it catches all the rain running down towards the stream.

The third section runs along behind the composty bins, and was very hard to install, as I had a narrow aisle barely 2' wide between the solid back of the composty bins, and the chicken-wire fence. I know, I know, I left detailed instructions about the construction of the composty bins but workmen, huh, can't follow a simple diagram.  So I was hard-pressed to get the willow in very deeply, and it is correspondingly less vigorous.

Section four is the difficult section, it runs downhill to the stream, and is therefore very very well drained - and willow likes it's water.  It was also the last section to be installed, way after the other fedges up by the house, and I used the leftovers from the main jobs. A lot of it didn't "take", and last year I used the cuttings from the main jobs to replace some of the dead wands. This worked well, and it's taking shape, but is not as vigorous as I would like.

I always feel it reflects well on me as a gardener, if my installations and plantings grow well... and it's always a bit down-heartening if they fail.

After two hours of basically standing still, my toes, fingers and backside were frozen, so I called it a day and went home to warm up. And yes, I was fully thermalled: long-sleeved tee, gloves and socks, inside my fur-lined waterproof boots.

Normally the gloves are brilliant - I use these ones, Winter Touch by Goldleaf - but I had to keep taking them off to re-do the ties.

They aren't cheap - just over £21 - but they really are the warmest, most waterproof winter gardening gloves I have ever found. I'm on my fourth pair - they get very, very hard use.

The company are brilliant, I wrote to them last year when I first found these gloves, and I had gone through the middle finger on the left hand - the usual place - and I asked if they could see me a "pair" of two left gloves, as I was sure that I would end up with the usual pile of spare rights. They sent me a free spare left! How nice, and they said yes, they'd be delighted to sell me a "pair" of two left gloves, for the same price as a normal pair.

Anyway, came home, got warm, had lunch, went out again to an extra catch-up session at what is usually my Thursday morning job. We are ripping out a whole bed which has proved to be more trouble than the rest of the garden put together, and replacing it with a paved sitting area. Mary Ann Le May is in charge of the redesign, I've worked with her before, she's very nice!

But it means that the Client and I are on a timescale to retrieve as many of the plants as we want to rehome, before the bed is razed by Mary Ann's contractor. So for the last fortnight, any spare sessions have been used in digging up clumps of interesting things...

Luckily a lot of people in the village have accepted the offer of free plants, which is great, as it means that we have the option of getting cuttings back later, if there is a change of plan! Some of them have kindly dug up their own choices, and between them and me, we are nearly done. There are still quite a few plants in the area, but we've lifted all the "valuables", as it were.

An hour and a half into that session, the rain started, and I was already making a mess of the grass, so I packed up and headed for home.

I made a call to Frances,  who might be my next mentoring - er, what do  you call someone who you mentor? A mentoree? Anyway, she wants to talk to me about starting as a gardener - actually I think she's going to be a garden designer rather than a gardener, but a lot of my experience will be relevant.  I've mentored a couple of people now, and it's demanding, but very enjoyable, particularly if they are successful.  Anyway, Frances couldn't make it today, but we'll meet up soon, hopefully some time this week. I bet she's praying for rain!


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Friday, 25 February 2011

Fri: Prairie Pruning again

Today I was back in the Prairie Beds garden: I still have a huge amount of grasses to cut down, but the weeds were taking over so I decided to do one hour cutting back, three hours weeding.

Ooh my aching back! Actually I'm only saying that to get sympathy. I find my back aches less from gardening than it does when I spend a day sitting in front of the computer....

This is the time of year to get at those big grasses: chop 'em off as low to the ground as you comfortably can, making sure that they haven't already started sprouting.

If they have, no problem, just chop them off slightly above the height of the new tips. New growth quickly hides the old stems.  If you have time, you can go in with  your secateurs and cut each stem individually, as low as you can, going carefully around the new growth. I don't usually have time to do this, bearing in mind that I am paid, as it were, by the minute..... so I try to catch them early, before the new growth, so I can chop them quickly.

Last year, in this garden, I wasn't early enough, so I have last year's stems to cope with, and they are a foot tall, and sharp-edged. Of course. Perfect for garotting the knuckles. After a second year, these old stems rot and can be pulled away.. so they  won't be a problem for ever. Just for this time.

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