Lots of Ivy

I am really enjoying this weather… mildish by night, overcast by day – but, most importantly of all, it is dry. The earth is still warm, despite a frosty morning or two a week or so ago, but damp and friable in most of my gardens, easy to work, and easy to weed.

People keep asking ‘are you winding down now?’ – to which my answer is a relieved ‘No!’. There is plenty of work still to be done in most clients’ gardens, and it’s a good time to deal with some of the more ‘structural’ work, free from the warm weather routine of weeding and mowing. I hope that I can keep working outdoors for a good while yet, getting ahead in readiness for next season, and to allow for the more-or-less inevitable spell of proper wintery weather which will come at some point between now and Easter.

Yesterday I spent a very happy couple of hours planting Tulips in a client’s garden. They’d agreed to spend proper money on a good number and variety of bulbs, so there was an opportunity to go for big impact in both volume and colour. Yes, you can pick up ‘mixed’ bags of bulbs from the supermarket or garden centre for under a fiver – but it’s good to be able to select properly, and create a palette of colour combinations. Quality not quantity. Come the spring, the display should be great, filling in spaces in between the herbaceous perennials until they start to get going in earnest.

Earlier in the week I had a ‘channel tunnel’ moment – by which I mean, working my way through a border full of massively entangled shrubs and small trees I finally met my own work coming from the other end of the garden. Minor – and silent – rejoicing followed. At last this long border in Mrs P’s garden has been reduced to its bare elements: a row of four decent Holly trees, one Forsythia (now much reduced in size), two resasonable Malus – and the superannuated apple tree I spoke of in a previous post. No ‘family decision’ has yet been taken on the apple: but to be fair, now that all the other surrounding nonsense has been removed, it looks better than it did. It still needs some proper pruning, and I will attend to that in January, but it could be redeemed. Everything else – numerous self-set Holly bushes, more nettles and brambles than you would ever dream of, masses of Ivy – has gone. There is now an enormous pile of debris awaiting the arrival of a truck to remove it.Then I will try something new. Cardboard. Apparently bicycle shops are a good source of large sheets of cardboard, in which shiny new bikes arrive from the manufacturer. Laid down over the soil it provides a biodegradable mulch, which can in turn be covered with compost or manure to enrich and improve the soil beneath. Cardboard is permeable, and as it rots down it is easy to plant through. I believe bulbs will even push up through the layer, as long as it is soggy enough. So, rather than resorting to black plastic membrane, I will cover the cleared border in cardboard, and trust that this will suppress any remaining perennial nasties sufficiently to allow the new shrubs to establish. Which reminds me, I need to get on and order them…

Another big Ivy clearing job followed the next day, removing a great mass of the stuff which had climbed up and completely smothered a conifer hedge, carrying on to reach a height of about 15 feet, and about 10 feet deep overhanging into the garden. This, of course, created a ‘rain shadow’ beneath which nothing could ever grow (apart from more Ivy), and made the garden smaller and darker than it should be. Well, it’s gone now, cut back hard to the wall behind. Without the Ivy to support them, the dead conifers are now completely loose, and I will get those out. But what will remain is an extra yard or so of useable garden. The plan is to get some climbers in which will grow up the attractive old brick wall, and make a pleasure of what was an eyesore.

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