Yes folks, despite the miserable weather yesterday, and the coldness of Monday, today we were up to the giddy heights of 20 degrees, cor, 21 is 70 in old money, and that's hot!
Not knowing what the forecast was - well, I stopped paying attention some years ago: if I listened to the forecasts I would never get out of bed - I went out in long-sleeved tee, fleece, and jacket. Within ten minutes the jacket was off, and ten minutes after that, off came the fleece, up went the sleeves.
And what glorious job did I have to do, on this glorious morning? Digging out an old, dead, ceanothus stump. Oh joy. It's been looking increasingly sickly over the last couple of years, despite being planted in a sheltered little spot that, technically, is a south-facing wall. Two years ago I gave it a major chop to encourage it, and it budded lower down in the approved fashion.
But last year it all went brown at the Time of the Snow, and it just hasn't recovered. So today my client instructed me to dig it out.
First I chopped off all the branches, working my way down from the tips, in the hopes of finding some good live wood. Nope. Then I dug, terrier-like, all round the base of it.
You can't quite see it in this photo, but I have dug about a foot and a half down.... my technique for things like this, where it's impossible to get at it from all sides, is to scuff away the soil from one side at a time, and cut through as many of the roots as can be reached.
Ideally, they are cut twice: one as close as possible to the main body of the plant, and again as close as possible to the edge of the planting hole.
This allows room to rock the root, and room to get a trowel in to remove loose soil.
I say "cut" but sometimes it means sawing, with the pruning saw, or in worst cases, with a bowsaw.
I can't get all the roots out, as you would normally do, as they run under the gravelled area, way beyond the planting hole.
You can see from the cut-off branches and the cut-off roots that it was quite a substantial plant, in it's day.
Alas, no more.
And I think I found the reason for the decay and death:
I'm not quite sure if you can see that clearly - the white fungus-ey stuff under the bark is, I think, honey fungus. It would be referred to as the scourge of South Oxfordshire, but Muscari (grape hyacinth) already has that title.
After all that hard work, it was back to the Woodland Bed for more weeding, including removal of Pear suckers, of which there are a mighty number every year.
Generally I try to pull or wrench them off, rather than cutting, as cutting gives the same result as coppicing: you get lots more suckers next year!
Pulling them off the roots is a much better option, but only works if they are fairly small suckers.
Also in the woodland bed, remember a while ago I mentioned Epimedium versicolour, and the option of pruning away the old leaves so as to display the delicate new flowers?
23rd March, that was, and now look! A fortnight later, we have masses of flowers, and fresh new leaves as well.
It is well worth the effort of carefully snipping out the old bronzey leaves, to get this sort of display.
Incidentally, taking photos for this blog has made me realise how hard it is to take photos of plants! Too far away and all you get is an impression of greenery. Too close and it's out of focus (quickest of quick shots with a camera phone, nothing fancy) or you can't really see the effect at which I am aiming. But hey, at least they are real photos, of real plants and real gardens.
The afternoon was equally hard work but shows promise: I did the final "moving of the plants" around the quadrant beds - at last, they are all in the right places. I re-cut the edges for the first time this year, (which improved the look of it no end) and next week I will be finishing the weed-round, and it'll be nice to see them looking really spick and span.
Actually, no I won't, next week the client will be there, so we will have a rare opportunity to discuss the design and the planting, so there might not be time to get all the way round. Ah, especially as I have just remembered that I also have to edge the backs of the beds, where the meadow grass is currently encroaching.
I have persuaded the owners that they really need to put some sort of hard edging around the back edges of these beds, to keep the grass out and make it easier to mow, and to trim the hedges. Not to mention reducing my weeding! It's a big job, these beds must be - do you know, I have no idea how big they are.
Excuse me while I rush off to Google Earth to measure them:
So, you can clearly see the circle, it measures 80' across, which means I have an outside circumference of 251 feet (minus the three openings, minus the patio and planting area) to dig out, and clear of couch grass.
Ouch, that could take some time! Perhaps I'll concentrate on doing one quadrant each week.
Having been playing about on Google earth, here are the famous Crescent beds, featuring the Prairie Planting as has been mentioned.
The shadow obscures pretty much all of the left-hand crescent, but you can clearly see the right hand one.
In this case, they measure 60' across the middle, as we look at it, and about 70' from top to bottom. This surprised me: I mean, they are clearly crescents not semi-circular beds, and I would have thought the overall shape would have been more oval than that.
Amazing what you can see on Google Earth, isn't it?