Weeding at Lughnasa – End of the Month View, July 2012

This is bonkers. Tomorrow, 1 August, is Lughnasa. It’s supposed to be hot. You’re supposed to climb mountains and pick bilberries. The downside of this is that a)  climbing mountains this year would be more like bog snorkelling than climbling and b) bet the bilberries won’t be ripe, as my blueberries aren’t and they usually ripen first. Grumble.

But it’s not all grumbling. We had some nice days; we even had some days when it didn’t rain. And I’ll ‘fess up: the shots for this post were taken yesterday, because the sun actually shone. And we had a – hmm, eventful – day in the garden.

First, the Looming Bonfire Heap of Horror is no more. It was astonishingly dry and burned really fast, revealing the true ground surface under one of my ash trees:

For scale, the wall is about 5ft high; the heap was higher than the wall, and stretched out to the bottom of the slope, keeping the height consistent. Once it had gone, we seized the opportunity to clear out a year’s worth of crap beside it: brambles, nettles, suckered damsons, an torn superman top, several takeaway containers, cans, one clog (that’s CLOG, not dog, by the way – CLOG, pink, plastic, not breathing and furry) and a small model car.

And, incidentally, this clear-out revealed a higher view out over the village (and over An Artist’s Garden) towards the sea. The corner is the only possible heap location so the view will be inaccessible again soon, but I’m enjoying getting a few feet higher than is usually possible.

While the mother of all bonfires was roaring away I attacked the giant skimmia which you can see in the left of the top photo, clearing out some of the lower branches. They were virtually incinerated on contact, and we shifted our attention to the middle garden; P is a master bonfire-builder, and we were quite confident in moving away from it slightly.

It was vital to get down here as there are some huge changes coming up – well, one huge change – and we needed to do some more clearing. Specifically, we needed to remove a huge overgrown hebe which was around the base of the Western Red Cedar, because the tree will be coming out.

I couldn’t see the trunk before – the hebe reached out onto the grass about two metres, and was almost that high.

The hebe itself had never been the same since the bad winter a couple of years ago so I didn’t feel too guilty, and the change is enormous. I just love the long, straight trunk punctuating the garden… If it wasn’t for the fact that the tree seems intent on bringing the house down eventually, I’d consider leaving it in.

Yes, I know it’s beautiful, architectural, etc., and yes, I did spend a lot of money having work done on it last year, but it’s not stopped its quest for world domination.

See what it’s done to the path? The house is just out of view at the right – very close. This is why it has to go. And, as the tree surgeon said, it’s not as though it’s the only one I’ve got. The other is right at the top of the top garden, and it’s well away from any buildings. On the positive side, the difference in light levels from removing the hebe was huge; taking the tree out will make a vast difference. And it should help with damp, as well.

(Doesn’t stop me being sad, though. I keep going out and hugging it. Of course, the tree surgeon’s quote might be vast, in which case I shall construct a tree house in it and just move over.)

Just across the path from it is a holly which I cut to the ground every few years. I’m going to let that grow up a bit – a suggestion from Katen of Artist’s Garden who had to come round because I was traumatised by the sudden feeling of exposure – and possibly put a tamarix and some perovskia where the tree now is. Possibly.

Away from the trauma and the wholesale ground clearance is the calm of the bottom garden. Hm.

The new bed I’ve just posted about, so I’ll leave that for now – but its success has inspired me to tackle the curving bed in the background behind it.

This has become something of a dumping ground, dominated by a great sprawling clethra – the disorganised paler green heap in the right/middle – which even overshadows the ginkgo, the real star. It’s coming up (yup, got another of those, too) and I am finally sorting this bed out.

I don’t regret starting, but this is a really nasty job, involving removing huge mats of primroses and putting them somewhere else (er, in my new dumping ground underneath the camellias). It will be worth it; the huge hedge behind is a great backdrop, and there are some good plants in there somewhere. It’s the only place where the Acer will survive, so that’s staying, for one, as is the acid green euphorbia.

This bed is going to be essentially yellow, gold, orange and red, shading into more muted tones and whites and finally blues to tie in with the new bed – or at least that’s the plan. Ish. Maybe.

In all of this work I am still managing to take a bit of time to enjoy the meadow where the hogweeds are flowering,

though I must admit that it feels rather like September there. Still, one hint of sun and it’s teeming with insects – but not as many bees as usual….

I don’t suppose it will be long before it gets cut. What a bizarre year this is.

And I’m not mentioning vegetables.

There are some surprises to console me, though. I’d forgotten about the Astrantia down in the darkest bit of the garden, the fernery (sounds posh but I’ve given up on everything else; happily I love ferns).

It had one flower head last year but it was spreading on the quiet. Pretty.

And I’ve had another surprise, not quite what I was expecting.

This is a black hollyhock. Oh yes it is. Because the label said so, that’s why…


16 thoughts on “Weeding at Lughnasa – End of the Month View, July 2012

  1. paulinemulligan

    First of all, bilberries, that takes me back to when we lived in N.Wales and used to go bilberry picking on Moel Fammau, that was over 40 yrs ago! Then I started reading about your bonfire and thought you had burnt a dog, thank goodness it was a clog!
    It is sad when you lose a tree which is an old friend, do you know someone who could make something out of it for you, a wood turner or carver?

    1. kate Post author

      I must dispose of the dog delusion first – a plastic clog, one of those Croc things! In fact it has been in the garden before, I think it must be on a long piece of elastic. Have returned it to the car park, from whence it will doubtless return…

      (Mind you, dog is perfectly possible. I certainly had a very large – and very dead – rat recently.)

      Bilberries on Moel Fammau – I’ve a friend who walks up there regularly; I must get her to look. I know one person who’d like some of the wood, and I’m going to ask him to carve something for me, but I’m afraid I intend to burn most of it. Eventually.

  2. Dobby

    I admit, I read dog instead of clog as well!
    Are you going to get someone to chop the tree up into Badger (you will understand) sized logs and store them? Taking the tree out will make a huge difference. Just think how many slugs it and the hebe were giving sanctuary to. See, there is an upside.
    Garden is looking fab.

    1. kate Post author

      CLOG. CLOG. CLOG. Pink clog (Maybe I should have added the adjective – but it does raise the question of whether I’d have noticed if it had been a dog, until I discovered it a year later, that is. Methinks we should never let the bonfire heap build up enough to test that idea. Ick.)

      Yes, most of the tree is indeed destined for the wood stove. IT won’t be ready to burn for a bit, but the tree surgeon says not as long as you’d think, providing the logs are split. And I’ll have a lot of chip pings, which always come in handy (this garden is acid enough anyway – no point worrying about it becoming more so).

  3. wellywoman

    We were out looking for bilberries on Saturday in the Brecon Beacon National Park. Hubby found one. It was ripe but there weren’t any others. Don’t know whether it was a bad year or they’ve been got. Your garden is beautiful and a view of the sea. Oh I can dream!!! Your hollyhock is like my terracotta achillea which turned out to be baby pink. Not quite the look I was trying to achieve 😉

    1. kate Post author

      Interesting about the lack of bilberries down south… my blueberries have been in a state of unripened suspended animation for a month now, so that might be applying to the bilberries. I must admit to being a wimp and not wanting to trek all the way to – oopps, nearly revealed secret picking spot – as it really is very boggy, and I’m a bog seeker. Vast dry mountainside, teeny patch of bog in most inaccessible place, and I’ll fall in it.

      Maybe your achillea and my hollyhock should get together. Sounds a though they might go… sigh.

    1. kate Post author

      Ho ho…. I’ve another five from the same batch of seed which should flower next year – I’m tempted to let them happen and just see if I do get some black, or if the whole lot were wrong. It must be working on my mind, because I’m starting to find the colour attractive…

  4. easygardener

    Perhaps the rain has washed the colour out of the Hollyhock 🙂
    I find that removing something large from the garden creates space which is almost as tangible as the thing removed. Very peculiar until you get used to it…then of course it becomes a planting opportunity.

    1. kate Post author

      You are so right about the space. That’s it exactly – and it’s quite disturbing. At least I’m prepared for it when the tree goes… sort of…

  5. hillwards

    My beetroot campanula punctata seedlings have all turned out to be white. Pretty, but not the right colour!
    Sympathise with the loss of your tree, but you’ll gain so much space and light – and firewood. 🙂 Though you’ll be digging against tree roots in unexpected places for the rest of your days, our latest semi-circular border by the house is plagued with ’em from the birch we had to take down for similar house-destroying reasons.
    Lovely sea view. Couldn’t you build a tree house above the heap (not to be burned too, of course!) so that you could sit there and gaze at the sea from time to time?
    I probably shouldn’t mention that we’ve had a big crop of blueberries from our one plant. It’s in a pot on the path, sheltered by the greenhouse, who knows its bounty may have been a swansong before it gives up the ghost due to negligence. Or perhaps we’ve just been a bit luckier with the weather in our microclimate.
    Ah CLOG. I was there with the others envisaging you revealing a dog in your heap for a few minutes… 🙂 The brain is strange landscape.

    1. kate Post author

      CLOG… I’m going to have to stick an edit in the post! Actually, it does look a bit like ‘dog’ in lower case, don’t it? Must make it clearer – don’t want all my dog-owning friends round here staging protests…

      Your blueberry clearly needs to talk to my blueberry. We netted it as soon as the berries filled out – maybe a month ago now – and they still look exactly as they did then. Rats. I don’t think we’ll ever get the tree roots out, so I’m going to be looking for things to put there which are shallow rooted yet capable of withstanding howling gales, and are also resistant to salt, rain, snow, wind from the other direction, rosa rugosa spread, mowing accidents, barbecues – oh, and which also look pretty.

  6. patientgardener

    Thanks for joining in again this month. I do love a bonfire but we are too built up here to have one! I am sure if I piled all my compost heaps up they would be a similar size.

    Lets hope that August sees the start of an indian summer

  7. elaine

    Goodness you do sound as if you have been working hard and still loads to do – I love a good bonfire myself but don’t have as many since I burnt the fence down. It is always a shame to cut a tree down but sometimes it is just so necessary.

    1. kate Post author

      Er – burnt the fence down? That must have been quite some bonfire! The worst we have ever done is set light to an ash tree – no, that’s an exaggeration. P. realised what was likely to happen and climbed the tree with a saw before it did. I had visions of a burnt bum, but that didn’t happen either.


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