It is but a week since we experienced a rather odd and extremely unusual disturbance in The Force as the Six on Saturday crew found themselves passing through a strange aberration in the space-time continuum. Sales of breakfast cereals plummeted as people thought it was well past time for afternoon tea. There was panic in the streets! Shop shelves emptied as frantic customers bought everything they could fit into their shopping trolleys in preparation for the coming apocalypse, indicated by the position of the sun (when it could be seen through the cloud cover) being totally wrong. It was “over there” when, in the afternoon it should have been “over there”! People looked to the Heavens, studying the Book of Revelation and continually praying for deliverance from The End! And the people of Ilfracombe looked on in wonder as a strange apparition wandered the streets. Turned out that people were worried about the wrong Heavens. Gill Heavens had somehow managed to get out of bed early on a Saturday! This may have been due to the influence of the magic mushroom that she mentioned in her post. Or the rumblings of an errant pasty. But the mystery had been solved and things slowly got back to normal.
I have been unable to get decent odds at the bookies for a bet on whether this will happen two weeks in a row so we’ll just have to wait and see. Meanwhile, I (who am woken up pretty reliably by resident cat at 6.30 every morning) am sticking to my normal routine out of consideration for the nerves of other participants, to whose contributions to the day’s festivities of thankfulness links will be found at the point where our very own deity, Mr Prop, ends his blog of the day and falls to his knees in prayers of gratitude (or probably doesn’t, his knees being reserved for close tending of his beds and borders). [Aside: Long sentence! You can breathe now.] Anyone who has not yet made the pilgrimage to join the ever-expanding group of SoS disciples should read the Gospel According to The Prop for the Ten Commandments (yes, there are ten!) on how to go about it.
Meanwhile, after due tearing of clothes and exclamations of “I am not worthy”, here is my
Sermon Six of the day. I take my text from the Book of Job:
Therefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes.
Job 1: The North Border (half thereof)
Sometimes things get on top of you. Last year, when most people enjoyed that heatwave, I had flu. I mean, in the summer? “Get in touch if you don’t feel better in a week,” said the doc. After a week I felt worse. So the doc suggested I donate some blood and he’d come to the house to collect it. “Please don’t come to the surgery,” was the ominous message! A few days later and some miracle-worker in some lab somewhere had deduced I had Australian flu. I mean, in the northern hemisphere? “Take things easy,” was rather unnecessary advice as I barely had the energy to move from the bed to the bathroom. But at least I had company as, after debating whether I should become a resident at the local hospital, it was decided that I should receive a few visits from a nurse at home. This went on through the second and then the third week. Half way through the fourth week, my temperature had come down. Along with my weight and waistline. And my energy level. It was another two months before I my get up and go decided to come back, aided by some restorative potions which had the texture of runny mud. Yuk!
I’d sorted half of this border but the other half had been largely lying fallow for a year as I’d been trying to eradicate an overgrown Acanthus spinosus. It had seemed daft to replant until I’d managed to remove all the roving roots that were morphing into continually emerging shoots. The onset of flu sort of coincided with my plan to give it a final dig over and then bring it back to life. And so it remained dormant. OK, it remained a complete mess. And it still remains.
But now I have no excuses. All the in-the-house jobs that also got delayed, and which I decided to tackle through the autumn and winter, are done and now I can get outdoors properly. So transforming this is my first job. Once I get rid of the still-emerging shoots of the damned Acanthus which took advantage of the situation to keep roaming and shooting. And remove that badger barrier, which you may notice at the back of the far end, and replace it with a more permanent one, hidden behind the fence, just in case. Badger is now dead and no more badgers have come a-visiting during the two years I was told to leave the barrier in place.
Job 2: The Tree Bed
Sometimes things get on top of you. You know, you look around and see so much that needs to be done that you end up spending all your time looking and despairing; never actually getting round to actually doing something. Cue repeat of the flu excuse.
I call this the “tree bed” because it’s (a) next to a tree and (b) can be viewed from three sides so isn’t a border. This was freshly planted in the spring of last year and, as the flu struck, I was in the process of extending my irrigation system into it. You can see the pipes curling up into the air. Well, did I tell you I got laid low for three months by flu? And there was a heatwave. And young plants need watering, especially in a bed whose residual moisture will be sucked out by the tree. And they didn’t get it. So they died. Meanwhile all sorts of things that can do fine without help from me decided to do fine. Brambles and other weeds took over, fighting the encroaching grass. An established rose went rampant and is now tall and leggy and in need of major surgery; possibly removal. Things need cutting back. At least some Hellebores and Heuchera managed to survive but otherwise the bed needs clearing and replanting. So this is my second job.
Job 3: The Pond Border
This is a ridiculous little strip about a foot wide around the front of the pond. Stupid little thing. It is a border because you can only view it from one side without falling into the water. There’s healthy heather and a Prunus Kojo-no-mai there but the rest of the planting is, well, dead on the one side. On the other side there are some pretty decent Dierama and, somewhere in there a Saxifraga ‘London Pride’, leading to some other stuff and some roses and some weeds. But it’s generally overrun with grass. And it’s too b****y narrow. So this will be “bubbled” out to create a deeper border, say two or three feet deep at it’s maximum bubble. I need to bubble it to retain access to the pond so will leave the existing opening.
That, and tackling the pond behind it, which needs dredging (!) will be the third job. Someone at the National Trust told me that ducks eat duckweed. I need a duck!
Job 4: The South Border
Everything has a name. It helps me to keep records. Our beloved Mr Prop produces a monthly “Border Patrol”. He numbers his borders. Similar system save that I give mine a name. The so-called “south border” is in two parts, dissected by a path. There’s the bit beside the lawn, about two feet wide and running around two sides of the grass. Just adequate. And there’s the bit on the other side. This is a bit over a foot wide. It used to be two feet wide but a replacement fence was erected while I was at work, managed by the neighbours, who weren’t aware of history, and executed by a precise contractor who didn’t appreciate why the fence had a bend in it (I’d donated a patch to the previous neighbours to allow them to create a garden gate where they only had a bit over a foot of ground beside their house). Couldn’t be bothered to moan, though I looked lovingly at a nice row of Gladiolus that was now on the other side of the fence.
Still, again because of those months of inactivity (did I mention flu?) the planting in the narrow bit across the path has been overcome by ivy invading from next door and the ubiquitous brambles. So it needs a touch of renovation. Nothing more as what is planted in it is happy in a foot deep border. On the lawn side, though, something was needed. And I had marked out the needings but hadn’t got round to digging out. So all of this will be the fourth on my list.
Job 5: Round the Back
This is everything behind the pond. A lot of the work will be cosmetic. This area includes the very first, the original, Edifice 1. When I built this I had plans. Then I had other plans. I should have stood back and thought a bit. And then I would have realised that my original plans were best. Still, you learn from your mistakes.
The ground area won’t involve much. Simply digging out and extending at one end to match my expansion of the pond border. Some time back, a visitor to the garden, in the days when the ground area looked a lot better, said it felt like a woodland. So I’ll now name this the “woodland area” so I’ll remember. Sounds better than “behind the pond,” eh? I’ll restrain the Epimedium, cut back the (cultivated) ivy, prune the Lonicera and introduce some more shade lovers.
Most of Ed1 is OK but one large area needs renovation. The mini-ed to the right of it needs a tidy-up. The Mahonia needs hard pruning, the Laurel needs decapitating. Sorted. So that’s job the fifth.
Job 6: Edifice 3
Ed3 looked like this last October. It still looks like this though I’ve been working on plan adaptation in the meantime. That’s my excuse anyhow. No need to blame a belligerent pasty. I’m leaving this till last simply because it’s actually the easiest task of all. Building the rest will take hours, not weeks. I’ll spend more time on the bits of pre-installation that I’ve decided on. This involves adding to the fence face – I’ve referred to this in earlier posts. Then on with the motley (I Pagliacci for those who like a musical reference).
Once this is done, the grass in front of Ed will need sorting. Then I will face another dilemma. Half of me says remove the grass and make a gravel garden. The other half says I need to justify that lawn mower I bought not that long ago. I think the answer lies somewhere in between. So watch this space.
That’s six jobs. And also six admissions. Admissions of failure? Nah! It’s so easy in sixes to focus on plants and to make sure you’re pointing the camera in the right direction. You know, highlight the plant, hide the surroundings. Faff with the focal length. But I’m not admitting anything other than a determination to get this mess sorted out. And knowing that you critical lot will be watching my every move provides motivation. As does the fact that I have a party of even more critical gardeners due to visit the garden in the summer.
But, now I have a plan (call me Baldrick), things aren’t as daunting. And each completed job will add to the impetus to complete the next. Semper sursum, as they say, whoever they are!
And that’s not all of the garden! But I’m only allowed six things. The rest can wait. For which I’m eternally grateful to the Prop for writing his rulebook. I have enough to make another six but that won’t be till I’ve finished this one!
In the meantime, of course, any photos will be of the best bits.
Bonus: Do Keep Up!
How many of you plant Cineraria maritima in your gardens – that silvery-white-leaved bedding plant? Well you won’t be planting it any more. Henceforth you will be planting Jacobaea maritima. And if any of you grow that lovely red annual climber Senecio confusus, please remember to re-label it with its new name: Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides. Confususing, eh? Senecios have been given the Aster treatment. Some are still Senecio but a lot have been split up into (I lost count) a lot of different bits.
Bye for now. I’m off to buy Angus Gardner a few pints of Brains bitter. He needs to understand the necessity of sending off half-a-dozen Irishmen this afternoon. Seriously, though, we like the Irish. It’ll be a good game. And, of course, the Irish know that, if they beat us today, England could win the Six Nations Championship. And no-one (except the English) wants that.
PS: It’s surprising what you learn from SoS. I discovered last week that the above-mentioned, illustrious, Gill Heavens, of dodgy pasty fame, hails from St Ives. I shall henceforth view Cornish pasties with the same suspicion as meats served in Spanish buffets. I’ll stick to oggies (which often come in threes in Wales). That is until Gill tells me she’s had a dodgy Welsh pasty! 🙂
PPS: A word that sounds like “oggie”, but is spelt “oggy” reputedly originates from Cornwall. And, of course, Cornish and Welsh do share the same Celtic roots. A Cornish speaker will get by fairly well in Welsh Wales and vice versa. And both will find it easy to communicate in Brittany! That’s the bit on the map the roving onion sellers on bicycles come from.
PPPS: A Cornish oggy (now generally referred to as a Cornish pasty) contains beef. A Welsh oggie (now generally referred to as an oggie) does not. It’s lamb.
PPPPS: For the avoidance of doubt, the Welsh chant “oggie, oggie, oggie” whereas the Cornish chant “oggy, oggy, oggy”. So they are not the same thing. Unless you happen to be a Welsh person who cannot spell correctly.