It was drizzling faintly when I woke up. By the time I'd had breakfast it had stopped, so I hot-footed it into the garden to get at least something done before it could start again. I pulled out a lot of small goosegrass seedlings and tufts of annual grass that had sprung up in the sloping bed that runs along our boundary, and made a mental note that I must buy some more Strulch very soon. I cut unsightly old leaves off the hellebores, a job I should have done before, and trimmed the odd stalks of Japanese anemone that escaped the main tidying up session I did sometime before Christmas.
The expensive named varieties of Helleborus x hybridus that I bought from Ashwood Nurseries are looking exceptionally lux. I hope that this season they will present me with exciting seedlings that I can spread around the garden. Further up the slope, not at all lux but very cheerful, the mixed collection of primula built up over the years are starting to open. Some I bought, some I raised from seed, some were presents. There is no colour scheme, and they would not pass muster with a really tasteful gardener, but I like them. They remind me of my childhood, and at this time of the year a patch of bright colour is welcome. The borders around the bottom lawn are all given over to plants that are true species, or hybrids in refined, pale colours, but up the hill the mixed polyanthus are free to be vulgar. I added a dark purple one with nice long stems, for luck.
I pick-axed out the remains of the Hydrangea quercifolia that suddenly died last year. I have a replacement ready to plant, but for that I need more mushroom compost. I am slightly in a dither where to put the new one, since I also need to find room for a poor shrubby peony that is living on much too dry soil at the top of the garden, and needs to move, and the sloping bed is really getting rather full. I am not sure that moving shrub peonies is recommended, but I met a customer once who said he had done it successfully, and as the plant is doing no good where it is I have nothing to lose by trying.
As I was working in that part of the bed I checked in the pruning book, took a deep breath and lopped the whole top off a badly shaped Hydrangea paniculata. The book advises that they make much better specimens with regular pruning. This one had never been pruned, and had sent up one great shoot which formed a tuft of branches on top. It was not quite a standard, and in any case I do not want a standard Hydrangea paniculata. The books says they normally respond well to hard renewal pruning, done before they start into active growth, and I removed the entire bushy top to leave one bald upright stem about sixty centimetres tall, and a single side shoot, which I reduced as well since it looked silly.
Then I pruned the hybrid tea roses, a job that should have been done a couple of weeks ago, since their buds were just starting to break, but I reckon they'll be all right, though I must feed them. The Systems Administrator had a great desire for some modern roses, so I found space for a square bed and edged it with box hedging. The roses have been a mixed success, since the soil there is really too light for them, and the catalogue that said they all grew to the same height was wrong. Some have proved much stronger growers than others, and sod's law dictated that the tallest ones were at the front. The box hedging has grown vast and fat, and I need to reduce it. I am not disciplined about pruning.
After that it really was raining too much, and I did all my ironing, and then made a start on the beekeepers accounts. I have been keeping them so far in 2012 by carefully putting all related paperwork in a large cardboard box, and checking that there is nothing untoward on the bank statement, but that approach will only get you so far. It's not as though I can give the contents of the box to my accountant at the end of the year, since I am the accountant. Having now had the experience of writing up the 2012 accounts and submitting them to the County Treasurer and our own AGM I now have a much better idea of what information I'm going to need later in the year, and am trying to set up all the spreadsheets in such a way that come the first week of January 2014 the desired totals and subtotals will simply drop out of them. The 2012 accounts took an entire day to complete, and the atmosphere was so tense that the SA was afraid to come into the room.
This evening we are going for an evening out in Brightlingsea. There is a very good curry house which serves food from southern India, rather out of the ordinary, and according to the CAMRA guide there is a good pub. We haven't visited the pub before, and I don't know if it's the sort of pub where the whole room falls silent in the presence of people who are not from Brightlingsea, when a non-local walks in.