Have you been working?

Is it just me, or is there something slightly irritating about being asked ‘have you been working?’ by folk you meet at the end of the day…? My hands are dirty, my clothes covered in a rime of grass clippings, earth and burs. Is this not some kind of clue? Similarly, gardening – yes, gardening – is actually my job, the thing I do to earn money. 

The other annoying thing at this time of year is the assumption made by many folk of my acquaintance that – my wife being a teacher, and my children both of school age – I too take 6 weeks off in the summer. In fact the summer holiday is a very busy time. Yes, I take a fortnight off for our annual family holiday (it has to be during the school holidays because three of the four of us have no option) – but the rest of the time – all of August usually – I am working harder than ever. Not having to do school drops and pick-ups gives me rather more flexibility about time than I have the rest of the year. Furthermore, August is a month with plenty to do – grass (and weeds) are still enthusiastically growing – but at the same time, the shades of autumn are already gathering and bringing deadheading and cutting-back in their train.

Enough grumbling. All is well. I have acquired a new client who wants me to work a full day each week, throughout the year. How nice to meet someone who recognises that gardening doesn’t stop when the clocks change in October – and that gardeners have to eat all winter long. And it promises to be a great job, developing and enhancing an existing mature garden to make it more interesting and colourful all year round.

Sedum spectabile is my plant of the moment. Mrs Gardener is not keen, as it always flowers just as the summer holiday ends and she has to return to the classroom. Nevertheless, we have several in our garden at home – and The Manor has lots throughout the herbaceous borders. I counted over 70 bees on one plant the other day, and it was not even fully flowering. It’s a wonderful plant at this time of year – a real ‘last hurrah’ in the perennial border.

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