Winter jobs (sigh)

All right, I admit it. It’s not that far away. The garden is covered in leaves, logs are chopped and stored in part of the greenhouse and I haven’t seen Next Door’s Cat for a bit (he’s gone to ground, possibly in a duvet, possibly at his actual owners, though not necessarily). We’ve had the semi-annual Bonfire of Irritation though this time, owing to a lack of planning on my part, without the equally traditional baked potatoes on which to burn our hands.

Time to do the rounds of the garden and work out what needs doing. Lots, is the answer. This is the point I feel a sudden urge to run away to sea.

There’s this:


which is allegedly a flower bed. It’s right in front of the house and contains hardy geraniums, a huge osteospermum, a parahebe and various other things. In actual fact it’s a couch grass bed, and I’m going to break with organic gardening to try and deal with it. I’ve been trying to be organic for the past ahem, ahem years – about ten? – and I’ve given up. I’ve tried mulch, I’ve tried black plastic, I’ve tried everything (though I did refuse to let P play with a flamethrower, citing health and safety and the desire to still have somewhere to live). It’s right in front of the house so it drives me bonkers every time I walk by. In the past I’ve wrestled with ground elder, I’ve had a terrible time with convolvulus, horsetail has seriously pissed me off – but none of them compare with fecking couch fecking grass. Fecking.

And there’s this:

the iris bed

This is the iris bed. Oh yes it is.

And this is also the reason why it will no longer be an iris bed. The problem, however, isn’t just that it looks good for about a month and then spends the rest of the year looking as though it’s had a rough Saturday night and just staggered downstairs for a Red Bull. The real problem is that when you confine one plant to a particular bed, disease and bugs can really get their teeth in to your precious darlings. And they predictably have.

So it’s time to sort out the good rhizomes, throw most of them out, and replant. They’ll probably go into pots first. I know you’re not supposed to do that, but I’ve always misbehaved with my irises and they’ve always been good – until I decided to clag them all in one bed, that is. They originally ended up here because it was the one place where they could really sunbathe, but since I’ve had a couple of trees down – one deliberately, one not – there’s much more light elsewhere in the garden.

Like on this bed, the bed at the gable end. South facing; huge climbing rose on the wall, plus a Parthenocissus henryii which has finally taken off.

gable end bed

Here the problem isn’t couch grass. Yet. It’s Japanese anemones. Oh, and Geranium macrorrhizum album which I’ve finally got under (nominal) control, but which constantly threatens to run amok. There are yellow flags in here and they seem to love it – strangely; it’s a bit dry – so this is one of the places where my saved irises are going. In fact they were here originally but failed to thrive because the bed was in deep shade. Not any more.

Oh yes, I also have a path to salvage:

path. honest

I do. It’s under those lavenders.

They are now over ten years old, and last winter one of them took itself off during a storm (literally: I saw it further down the hill, about to blow over the main road, when I went down to the post office). They’re magnificent, but they are on their very last legs. Cuttings have been taken, cuttings have died; more cuttings have been taken, cuttings have damped off, but I’m having one last go. I don’t mind buying new plants if I have to, but they won’t go here. I’m going to seize the chance to rework this bit of the garden, which one expert gardening friend said now ‘looked as though it belonged to a different garden’. It does; since I planted the path huge areas of lawn have turned into beds. Curving beds. The path’s staying put – it was repaired with such dedication that if the house is washed away in a tsunami the path will remain – but I’ll soften its edges. Or rather P will.

But it’s not all dead leaves and planning. It’s dahlias suddenly deciding that they are going to flower after all:

pretty pretty

Thanks goodness for that. I had to have something fab!


15 thoughts on “Winter jobs (sigh)

  1. hoehoegrow

    Ah, your posts do make me smile ! I find it most reassuring that I am not the only one with problem bed/plants/cuttings … I’m off to find a flame gun for my couch grass now …

  2. Pauline

    I know what you mean about couch grass, we have it growing under the fence from the field next door, it’s the devil to eradicate! Like you I’m organic, and have been for 50 odd years, but sometimes spraying it is the only answer for something like couch grass. This is a lovely time of year to be making new plans.

    1. kate Post author

      It’s heartening to know that I’m not alone in deciding to go unorganic with couch grass, I’ve been feeling ever so guilty – but we really have tried everything.

      Yesterday I took five bags of perfectly healthy but infested plants to the tip (cuttings have been taken and have, um, taken), and we’ve laid our plans for blasting. Keeping the montana and potentilla which grow on the wall safe is problematic as they sprawl, but we can do it… Sniffffffff….

  3. homeslip

    How exciting a new (to me) garden blog to follow. I’ve hopped here via Green Tapestry, via Rambling in the garden. I like this sort of post when everything in the garden isn’t rosy. It looks as if you have a large garden so I would be tempted to dig out and heel in elsewhere everything you wanted to keep and spray the rest. I can’t believe I’m saying this as like you I’ve been organic for ever, but sometimes life is too short to be on your hands and knees weeding. You may need to repeat the spraying in the spring in which case I would plant up lots of big pots with tulips and wallflowers so you have something pretty to look at. Your stone and slate(?) paths are gorgeous, in fact your whole garden looks a lovely place to be.

    1. kate Post author

      Hello, how nice to meet you virtually!

      It is a lovely garden (truth to tell, its potential was one if the main reasons I went mad and bought a house I couldn’t live in for six months), but it has its moments. Couch grass is a demon – I even gave up with a small border and just incorporated it into a lawn.

      Several people have told me that the meadow in the top garden doesn’t help, but that’s nothing to do with couch grass. They’re the sort of people who have no moss in their lawns and no sign of weeds… Everyone to their own!

  4. Cathy

    Hmm, can’t see the attraction in running away to sea to avoid… well, anything…I would rather face the couch grass and the bare iris bed and finding lost paths… Anyway, you will have lots of amusing stories to tell about how you tackled them all unless you do decide to take the marine option instead (but don’t forget the travel sickness pills…)

    1. kate Post author

      Oh, all right, I won’t run away to sea then. Rats.

      We’ve already cleared the bed in front of the house ready for the application of noxious chemicals – ended up taking five bin bags full of stuff to the tip due to the dustbinmen’s ability to drive straight past a brimming brown bin in the gloomth of near dawn (I must put some reflective strips on it). Plus I’ve given cuttings to everyone (including a huge bucket to one person), plus I’ve taken more. That was one big osteospermum…

        1. kate Post author

          Hah! (And yes it flipping is, grumble, grumble… Due to second home owners, mine is almost the only garden waste bin that’s put out, too…)

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