Wednesday, 13 July 2016

all fall down

I spent part of this morning digging a fairly large hole, and then filling it in again.  You could say that this was an emblem in miniature of what gardening is like.  You cut the grass, you pull up weeds, they grow again.  The purpose of this hole was to bury and anchor the legs of a five foot tall iron obelisk which had blown over under the weight and windage of the clematis growing on it.

I have four tripods in the herb bed, two on each side of the diagonal path running across it.  I am rather proud of the path, a design of square slabs laid diamond-wise infilled with cobbles, which I laid myself.  I am pretty keen on the tripods as well, which I bought from Room in the Garden before their prices rose into the stratosphere.  Other rusted iron plant supports are available, though Room in the Garden's were actually particularly nice.  Some plant supports are a touch on the flimsy side, while others use unnecessarily heavy rods or the iron balls topping them are crucially too large or too small.  The Room in the Garden ones were just right, but they kept hiking their prices until they became ludicrously expensive.

I planted the tripods with varieties of Clematis alpina because I'd read that they coped well with lighter and drier soils.  That was before I discovered that there is dry and light soil, and then there is our soil, a material so dry and so light that even classic dry garden grey woolly things like Ballota shrivel and die in it.  I have planted many more than four Clematis alpina on my four tripods over the years, and would have given up on the project if it were not that one of them was doing so extraordinarily well.  My notes have got a bit scrambled and so I am not entirely sure I know what it is, indeed I am not convinced that everything I bought was correctly labelled, since the only other survivor doesn't look like anything I planted according to my records.  I think the one doing well is 'Ruby'.  At any rate it is pink, as is the other remaining plant, and it has made a lot of growth, with an extra spurt this summer after June's rain.

And then the tripod blew over.  It was the second time it has happened.  Firms that manufacture plant supports ought to give more thought to how their customers are supposed to stick them into the ground so that they'll stay up.  Some you see for sale have such a short length of leg below the bottom hoop that if you were to bury them as far as you need to the lowest tier would be virtually at ground level.  And there are some enormously expensive wooden ones around that I don't see how you are supposed to use at all, since if you buried the wood it would rot so they would need to be mounted using something like a Metpost, only garden centres don't sell them with metal fixing posts or any instructions about fixing them.

You have to bury quite a lot of a tripod for it to be stable in a high wind, once it's covered in plant growth.  I made that mistake with the tripods in the herb bed, which is exposed, and with the vertical sided circular rose supports in the back garden, some of which have sagged in random directions in the past couple of years.  I cannot blame any of this on Room in the Garden, who did endow their products with long enough legs.  I simply didn't realise how deeply I ought to bury them.  It isn't very easy to rectify the mistake with the rose supports after the event, since they are about three feet across and the roses are now growing up through the middle of them.  To bury them deeper you have to scrabble under each leg in turn, digging out a little hole with a trowel and freeing up or pruning off any branches that catch as the support very gradually sinks, leaning first this way and then that like an erratic tower of Pisa.

Fortunately I planted the clematis alongside the herb bed tripods rather than under them, so could excavate a single large, round hole just big enough to drop the legs of the tripod down into before refilling it.  The loose soil of the backfill doesn't offer much resistance to it tipping again, though. I could do with something growing there to consolidate the ground.  Chives?  They seed like mad around the bed, but by now it's getting quite dark under the clematis.

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