And now I need more tea (or the End of the Month View, February 2012)

I’m shattered. When I look round the garden I am simply staggered at how much we’ve done (and at how much rubbish now needs to be disposed of). It’s been something of a winter of work this year. And vile weather. Not snow like last year – in fact, we’ve barely had a frost – but mist. Fog. Drizzle. Low cloud. Bleagh:

But it’s been very odd. Drive a few miles up or down the coast, and it’s often been fine. Some things are just not fair.

Anyway, weather or no weather, the Rosa rugosa hedges have been cleared out (couch grass, agh, see what we have to put up with):

And then they were pruned by the fine old expedient of taking the tops off with a hedge trimmer. A few years ago there was an RHS trial on pruning rose hedges, and the hedge trimmer gave the best result – miles ahead of being careful and doing it ‘properly’. I’m glad to have justification, because there had been some muttering when I first did this. Not from me, nor from anybody who had any involvement with flipping Rosa rugosa hedges, mind.

Slash and burn, it’s the only way. And then tea.

There’s only one small bijou problemette with all this activity – and the huge eschallonia by the bottom gate has been brutally attacked as well, plus one of the overgrown hedges – and that’s the debris.

The bonfire pile is now much taller than I am, and it is truly enormous. But there’s another small problem with having a bonfire right now: the meadow is really getting going. The bonfire patch sits in the middle of primroses, daffodils, anemones. So it was time to find the incinerator.

You will note the slight discrepancy between the size of the incinerator – a perfectly standard size, not a dwarf one, honest – and the giant heap in the background which needs burning. And then there were all the clippings from the rose hedges too. But I never give up; I am still the person who, when given a doll you could dress and undress at the age of two, tried for the whole of Christmas Day to get her clothes off and back on again without help. Apparently I growled during this process.

I growled during this one, too. You may just be able to spot a slight weakness in my plans, and in the incinerator:

it’s like something out of a cartoon…

So let me drag myself away from the unedifying top garden and the Great Heap of Doom (only some of it is rooting, after all). We’ve been busy elsewhere too.

The new bed is gradually filling up, mostly with things I’ve decided to move from elsewhere. The brown collection of sticks just off centre is a fuchsia, a magellanica alba, but the one with the variegated foliage. It was badly cut back by the snow last year but I let it grow on to see if it would recover. It did, though there was a lot of dead wood – so I cut this out (it fought back, resulting in a huge plaster on one hand) – and seized the chance to move it as well. Also in here are a couple of tiarellas, some primroses, three clumps of garlic chives that seem to have disappeared but which will be back, a silver posie thyme (in the foreground), a white parahebe, an Echinops ritro, some Anthericum, an Adenophora… and then it’s going to be padded out with some stuff from seed. The overall colour theme is white with blue, lavender, purple and definite pinks. No baby pinks – I’d better tell the tiarellas.

While it was so grey and gloomy, I spread out the seeds:

I don’t think that’s excessive. The broad beans are already in, of course. And I have  a new toy, anyway.

I can’t quite believe that I’ve got this far in my gardening life without a heated propagator. I think that’s probably because my last place had a small lean-to Victorian conservatory, which made quite a good substitute, or maybe I was just being mean. Anyway, I’ve got it now and in here are the tomatoes – Cuor di Bue, Princese Borgehese and Black Russians. They’ve just been joined by cerinthes, and some pennisetums which are going into the greenhouse soon. Another windowsill is full of spuds, and that leaves three more to fill up.

I’ve begun chucking stuff out of the greenhouse to harden off before planting out,

and I’m amazed by the colours of this Melianthus major. I know it will lose that lovely red, but for the moment I’m just enjoying it. And, despite the gloomth, there are plenty of other things to enjoy. Admittedly they’ll be even better in a few weeks, but hey:

(I have to leave the sign in, otherwise I lose track of where they are. It can come out now.)

And then the sun comes out – albeit briefly – and the whole garden lights up, especially the meadow. Happy St David’s Day / Gwyl Dewi Sant hapus!

(No, I will not be wearing a stovepipe hat, wrap-round shawl and big skirt to work tomorrow. Nor will I, as Wikipedia assures me I will, be eating an especially prepared bowl of cawl. Or pinning a leek in my hat – how is that even possible?)

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28 thoughts on “And now I need more tea (or the End of the Month View, February 2012)

  1. islandthreads

    Kate thanks for the info re RR my newly planted last ones are fine but the alba that is big has more grass than your around it but good to know I can wizz over it with the hedge trimmer which I have hardly used, your pile will take some time to burn in the incinertater, the new bed sounds good look forward to see it as the seasons roll on,
    a lovely batch of seeds, love the Daffodil for David, Happy St Davids day, Frances

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Hiya Frances – oh yes, do use hedge trimmers on your RRs, otherwise you will go INSANE. I know… it used to take us days, result in vast amounts of swearing and injuries and lead me to think of grubbing them out completely. Now P brings his big trimmer to bear on them and it’s done in 20 minutes. No swearing, few injuries (well, until you pick the bits up). Good luck!

      Oh – don’t get carried away or they won’t put on enough growth to do their windbreak job. It’s easy to take off too much.

      Reply
  2. Christina

    Great post Kate, you really made me smile. I don’t usually burn anything, but shred and make compost or mulch – not with couch grass though! We have a version of that with roots like convolulous, can you imagine? Love the shape of the new bed. Christina

    Reply
  3. Pauline Mulligan

    Growing RR from seed at the moment, now I know what to do to prune them in the future, thanks!
    Like the sound of your new bed, like the shape too,look forward to seeing it planted up.
    Lost my Melianthus major 2 winters ago, the colour of yours is stunning, is that due to the cold?

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I thought I’d lost my melianthus in the bad winter, but there were a couple of tiny sprouts that appeared. This one was grown from seed (!) by Karen at the Artist’s Garden and I kept it in the greenhouse because it was its first winter and it was just a baby. I’m baffled by the colour, which has come on comparatively recently, but I was assuming it was that cold snap we had a couple of weeks ago. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was actually going to stay that colour?

      Reply
  4. Dobby

    Your incinerator looks like Dusty Bin! Although only those of a certain age will know who he is.
    I will take your hellebores over to Karen’s this weekend. I put them by the gate last Sunday and then forgot them. (See, I’m old enough to remember Dusty Bin but forget every day things).
    I should think you feel very smug after all that work. Have another well deserved cup of tea.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I’ve googled Dusty Bin, and you are so right! More tea is a great idea… (and thanks for the hellebores, guess where they’re going?)

      Reply
    1. kate Post author

      It’s the only chance, really – once things get going we’re galloping around like eejits trying to keep up. And it can’t be long before lawns need cutting – eek!

      Reply
  5. wellywoman

    We’ve had a similarly busy weekend. It feels good to get so much done, doesn’t it. I’m envious of your heated propagator. I thought about getting one but we’re bursting at the seams in this house with all my garden paraphenalia so I thought it was one thing I could do without.
    The picture of your incinerator did make me smile. It looks like it’s got an evil grin. Happy St.David’s Day.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I’d previously considered my space problems too, but then I thought it might actually help (I can persuade myself of all sorts of things when I’ve made my mind up). Help by speeding the process up, that is – so that my windowsills are freed up more quickly and the next batch can be processed. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. Hmm.

      The incinerator has a certain smug air, as though it’s deliberately thwarted my plans. Probably because I demeaned its more important role by using it as a barbecue stand last summer. I haven’t told it, but it’s heading for the tip.

      Reply
  6. hillwards

    Happy St David’s Day! I’m glad it’s not just us that has a rusty old incinerator bin, although ours is in full view from the house, in the middle of the lawn, so begging to be relocated while not in use! We finally seem to have levelled or lost all our heaps of soil or stuff for burning, hurrah, the incinerator has only been used for weeds in recent times.
    You’ve had a very productive winter, good work! The erythronium shoots must be such a welcome sight, and the red colouring of your melianthus is really stunning – long may it stay that way!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      I’m not speaking to you – levelled your heap, indeed! (If you want any more – just to keep your hand in – I know where you can get some. Bet of a trek, but there you go.)

      My incinerator usually lurks behind my single camellia, which may have something to do with its terrible condition. It’s in full view at the moment, though, because if I hide it away I’ll never remember to take it to the tip…

      Reply
      1. hillwards

        Heh. Might pass this time! We’ve had some pretty impressive bonfires in the past year or two. Over-zealous husband + bonfire = scorched hedge and holly tree. Ah well, everything survived the blaze! I’m wondering if I can persuade our incinerator to take a similar trip to the tip, surely we won’t need to be doing such monumental work again, right? We can shred or compost usual waste… hmm.

        Reply
        1. kate Post author

          What is this thing with men and fires? Above my bonfire site is a large ash tree, and P managed to produce a bonfire so insane one time that he had to clamber up into the tree with a chainsaw (!!!!!) and remove a branch deliberately before it – ah – removed itself. The only explanation I could come up with was that there were two of them involved, and one bloke + fire = bad enough, but two blokes + fire = imminent disaster. Is it a caveman thing?

          (I’d better stop this chain of speculation now, I think… 😉

  7. The Sage Butterfly

    You are very busy in the garden, and with our early spring it seems I will be as well. I have some beds I need to work, and soon it will be time to plant more in the veggie garden.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Isn’t it amazing how quickly it comes round again? I’ve just been prodding away at the soil wondering if the shallots can go in soon…

      Reply
  8. croftgarden

    I await the day when I can prune my RR! They sulked for two years, some even gave up the ghost. Last year they were given the last rites and several tons of seaweed and lo and behold we even had a few hips by the end of the year. They’ve just started shooting and I promised them as much seaweed as they can digest. Just goes to show that one woman’s thug is anothers cherished darling!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Gave up the ghost????? Do they grow naturally round you at all? They’re almost like weeds here – in fact, the National Park caused a bit of a ruckus a couple of years ago when they decided to rip them out of the dunes. Mind you, I do quite like my thugs for all that I moan about them and spend ages ripping suckers out of the meadow (sorry). They can be quite bizarre – last year, for instance, I suddenly seemed to have more white ones. Why? They felt like it, I guess.

      Reply
  9. patientgardener

    The disparity between the pile to burn and your incinerator had me in stitches 🙂 My Melianthus major also has wonderful colours. Having grown three of them to a similar size as yours I am wondering where to plant them out.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      It’s sad, isn’t it? I think I’ve just got to recognise that there’s no point worrying about the Heap until the daffs die back and I can set fire to it properly. In about – oh – August…

      My original Meliantus was immense and even flowered (revealing itself as actually being a triffid, except it didn’t walk about). Happily I don’t have to make that decision because Big Boy died off, and was in a great place – so this is going back in there. But they can get very big indeed…

      Reply
  10. Lyn

    Your Great Heap of Doom has me giggling, but I do feel sympathy, honestly. It’s just that it’s nice to know other people have this problem too. I constantly have heaps of couch grass, kikuyu and other weeds that can’t be safely composted dotted around the place. They kill off the lawn underneath, and, as you say, start to take root. I usually wait until they collapse and get as small as they’re going to and then put more on, thinking I’ll deal with it later. Yes, Denial is my hometown. I have been wanting a Melianthus major for a long time, and now I’ve seen that winter colour, I want one even more. But it ocurred to me that maybe the colour is because it’s in a pot. I know some plants colour up better if their roots are restricted and a bit starved. Have you seen this beautiful colour in the garden too?

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Am resident of Denial also… The Heap got even bigger yesterday. Sigh.

      I’ve not suffered from kikuyu, which sounds rather nasty, but I HATE couch grass. I once thought that I would never hate anything as much as I hated convolvulus with its horrible white wormy roots, but my convolvulous-loathing was nothing compared to be deep loathing of feckin’ couch grass. Coach grass and cockroaches – only survivors after nuclear attack. Need I say more?

      I must admit that my outdoor / planted in the ground Melianthus never went that colour, or at least not to the same extent. But it did have other compensations, because it was vast and the leaves were so beautiful anyway. I just adore that misty green (and the weird flowering was an added bonus/talking point).

      Reply
  11. Anna

    Exhausted after reading your post Kate 🙂 There is a melianthus with a purple tinge to the leaf – just trying to remember where I saw it. Hope that the tiarellas heed your words.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      And still the work goes on (I’ve learned by now that I have a very brief window of opportunity, now just beginning to close – but it has been a busy winter). I must investigate that Melianthus – maybe that’s what I’ve got? I do hope so!!

      Reply
  12. welshhillsagain

    We have a huge fire site here. Every now and then I plot to take it over for growing purposes but then I turn my back and it is twelve feet high and twelve feet across. I have been trying to grow huge stands (heaps? prickles?) of rosa rugosa for a couple of years. They just keep being twiggy sticks. The idea of having so much growth you would want to prune makes me yearn a bit.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Only twelve feet??? Actually, I think mine is probably about the same size but it seems to be growing all by itself (which is maybe what is going on, down there in the depths).

      I’d no idea Rosa rugosa could be so temperamental, and you’re not the only one who needs to cosset it. But round here, keeping it under control is the difficult thing. It suckers everywhere and I spend ages later in the season wandering around the meadow in thick gloves trying to rip the little sods out… sorry….

      Reply

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